The subtle feature that drove Thuringia sheet past $22,000 at Schlegel auction

May 3, 2021, 3 AM
Schlegel Auctions, during its April 3-4 sale in Berlin, served up this 1946 imperforate souvenir sheet from the central German state of Thuringia. Featuring a rare reversed watermark, it realized $22,250.

Auction Roundup — By Matthew Healey

In Berlin, Schlegel Auctions held a sale of German and worldwide material April 3-4. One of the top items was a postwar souvenir sheet from the eastern state of Thuringia with a rare watermark variety.

The Allied occupation and subsequent division of Germany at the end of World War II resulted in several German states briefly issuing their own stamps prior to the formal establishment of East and West Germany in 1949.

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Among them was Thuringia (Thuringen), in central Germany. As the onetime home of Bach, Goethe, and other cultural luminaries of the past, the state turned to these figures as ideal, apolitical subjects for a stamp issue.

An imperforate souvenir sheet issued in 1946 (German Democratic Republic Scott 16N9) shows Schiller, Goethe, Liszt, Wieland, and the German National Theater in Weimar. It has a watermark consisting of diagonal zigzag lines that resemble ascending stairs, and was issued without gum.

A tiny quantity of the sheet instead has the watermark reversed, so the stairs appear to be descending (or ascending when viewed from the back). Listed in the German-published Michel catalog as block XIIb, only a few examples are known, and it is considered one of the great rarities of the Soviet Occupation Zone.

The sheet sold for about $22,250, including the 19 percent buyer’s premium charged by Schlegel.