Feldman to auction Japan 1871 Dragons invert rarity June 3 in Geneva, Switzerland

May 22, 2023, 12 PM
During its June 1-3 auction series, the David Feldman firm will sell the unique Japan 1871 500-mon blue green type I Dragon stamp with the vignette showing the Japanese characters of value inverted. The famous error was expertized as genuine in 1973.

By Charles Snee

A great philatelic rarity of Japan will be sold June 3 by David Feldman, the auction firm based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The stamp is the 1871 500-mon blue green type I Dragon stamp with the vignette showing the Japanese characters of value inverted (Scott 4h). Type I Dragon stamps have solid dots in the inner border surrounding the two dragons and the characters.

Scott 4h is valued at $175,000 in the Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940. The value is in italics to indicate an item that can be difficult to value accurately because it appears in the marketplace infrequently.

The 500m type I Dragon was printed in sheets of 40 arranged in five rows of eight stamps. The invert error, which is unique and only known used, is from position 33 in the original error sheet (if the sheet was turned upside down before the vignette was printed), which corresponds to position 8 in a normal pane.

This famous error resides in the Meiji Property of Japan, which Feldman calls “one of the most significant and comprehensive properties of Japanese stamps and covers ever formed.”

Part 1 of the Meiji property collection will cross the auction block June 3, during Feldman’s June 1-3 auction series. The second part will be sold in December.

Feldman is offering the Meiji property collection in partnership with Stampedia Auction in Japan.

In preparation for the June 3 sale, Feldman produced a detailed and well-illustrated catalog for the 1871 Dragons invert error.

“The stamp is acknowledged as Asia’s most valuable stamp and the auction result should see it placed among the recognized most valuable stamps in the world, joining the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, the Sweden Treskilling Yellow, and the Mauritius ‘Post Office’ One and Two Pence,” Feldman said.

According to Feldman, the renowned error was discovered in the collection of J.C. Linsley sometime between 1953 and 1973.

According to Feldman’s summary of the stamp’s history, Linsley “was never sure of its status and it fell on Mark E. Weber, his adopted son, to send it in 1973 to Dr. Varro E. Tyler, Expert Committee Chairman of the International Society for Japanese Philately (I.S.J.P.) for expertization.”

“Believing it to be authentic but requiring a more credible certification, Tyler sent the stamp to the Expert Committee of the All Japan Philatelic Federation,” Feldman said.

“Fearing that registered mail would attract theft, he surprisingly sent the great rarity by regular mail. It thankfully arrived safely into the hands of Dr. Tani Takashi who couldn’t quite believe his eyes when he saw the center inverted. He immediately rushed to showed it to Dr. Ichida Soichi, the most renowned expert of the time, who, after careful examination declared its absolute authenticity, which has never been questioned since.”

According to Feldman, this is the first time this error is coming to auction since it became publicly known in 1973.

Against a Scott Classic Specialized catalog value of $175,000, Feldman is offering the unique 1871 500-mon blue green type I Dragon stamp with the denomination inverted with an estimate of €4 million to €5 million, approximately $4.3 million to $5.4 million in mid-May.

On June 1, Feldman will offer an extensive array of stamps and covers from Latin America.

Part 8 of the Joe Chalhoub collection of Egypt will be up for bids on June 2.

Four separate catalogs have been prepared for the June 1-3 auction series and are available for viewing and download on the Feldman website. To access the catalogs, click on “Auctions” on the home page and select “Upcoming Auctions” from the drop-down menu.

For more information, including options for online bidding, contact David Feldman SA, Chemin du Pavillon 2, Building C, Fourth Floor, 1218 Le Grand-Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland.

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