Scarce Australian error stamp tops Harmers International auction

Apr 28, 2021, 8 PM

By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent

Worldwide auctions continued apace in July and August, with important philatelic holdings crossing the block in Hong Kong and New York, as well as at the American Philatelic Society’s annual Stampshow in Portland, Ore.

Here is one of five recent auctions we are recapping in our latest International Auction Roundup:

Harmers International held a sale at the Collectors Club of New York on June 29. The sale was previewed on on June 10.

The top seller was a scarce Australian error, a 1917 “Roo” stamp (of the long-running kangaroo-and-map series) with the “1” missing from the fraction in the 2½-penny value tablet (Scott 46a).

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This error, one of the most visually dramatic of the flyspeck varieties that specialists like to pursue on this popular series, happened when the printing plate was damaged during production but was soon caught and corrected. It is known on just 15 examples, used and unused.

The example in the Harmers International sale, well-centered and postmarked with a machine cancel, sold for $15,340, including the firm’s 18 percent buyer’s commission.

Harmers International also offered a fascinating historic cover originating in the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope, thought to be the earliest known trans-Atlantic cover from there. Datelined “Cape Francis, 21 Jan. 1786,” it was sent by an American mariner named Joseph Gerrish to his wife in Kittery, Maine. 

The cover was marked “Way 2” at the port of arrival, most likely by someone handling the mail in Portsmouth, N.H., indicating that it joined the mail on its way from Boston to Maine and was charged 2¢ in the process.

Gerrish, a 1752 graduate of Harvard College, had just arrived in South Africa and wrote the letter hastily because his ship was sailing back home the next day. Gerrish would eventually return to Maine, where he is buried on Gerrish Island.

The cover, an extraordinary artifact of pre-British South Africa, sold for $1,180.

Keep reading our International Auction Roundup:

What sold during InterAsia’s sale of largest-ever public offering of North Korea?

Czechoslovakia propaganda issue sold at Regency-Superior auction

Items spotlighting obscure World War II conflicts highlight Cherrystone sale

OSS Hitler propaganda sheet brings $17,250 at Harmer-Schau sale

Scarce Australian error stamp tops Harmers International auction