Grosvenor gavels down Falkland Islands provisional surcharge block for $54,550

Apr 30, 2021, 12 AM

By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent

Grosvenor Philatelic Auctions held a series of sales in London Nov. 9-12 to mark the firm’s 100th auction, a culmination of an 18-year run. The series reaped a total realization of more than £2 million.

A scarce, unused 1882 £1 stamp on blued paper with an anchor watermark (Great Britain Scott 92) sold for £35,612 (or about $52,750), including the 19 percent buyer’s premium levied by Grosvenor, even though the stamp lacked gum.

An 1885 £1 brown-lilac stamp, overprinted “I.R. Official” for use by the Inland Revenue (Scott O10), once belonging to King Carol of Romania and later to the American industrialist Arthur Hind (who also owned the famous British Guiana 1¢ Magenta), sold for the equivalent of $22,900.

Two letters signed by King Charles II (reigned 1660-85), sending military instructions in January 1665 and July 1666 to his “well-beloved cousin,” Horatio, Lord Townshend, lord lieutenant of Norfolk, sold for $14,900 and $6,360, respectively.

A large, 1904 registered cover from the Italian Consulate at Hudeida, Yemen, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome, bears the only known mixed franking of both Yemen and Aden stamps. It sold for $17,625.

Sovereignty over the Falkland Islands went back and forth until 1833, when Britain reasserted its control for the duration. Postal history from the islands prior to this is very scarce. The earliest recorded item, a letter sent to Massachusetts in 1800, realized $16,725 at the Grosvenor sale.

The largest known multiple of the Falkland Islands 1891 provisional ½d surcharge (Scott 19) seems at first glance to be a block of eight but is in fact a block of 16: each of the 1-penny stamps is twice handstamped with a small ½d, and the stamps were intended to be bisected before use.

One of the stamps is missing its lower surcharge, and the block has a couple of trivial faults. Nevertheless, the block has been called the “crown jewel” of Falklands philately, and it found a new owner for a record $54,550.