Pair of unissued King George V designs top $129,000 at Mossgreen sale in Melbourne

Dec 12, 2015, 8 AM

By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent

In Melbourne, Mossgreen auctioned the Arthur Gray collection of Australia on Oct. 30. The sale was previewed on the front page of Linn’s issue of Oct. 26.

Gray, an international exhibitor who died earlier this year, had built a collection that the auction firm called “the most extraordinary collection of Australian stamps of this generation, or any other.”

The highlights were a pair of unissued designs for King George V definitives: a 2-penny design in purple-black showing the king’s profile, and a 1-shilling in purple-brown depicting a black swan.

The two stamps were printed by intaglio (line-engraved or recess printing), but this method was abandoned in favor of more economical letterpress printing before they were issued. Only two examples of each denomination have survived, and one of each is in the Australia Post archival collection, making the Gray examples unique in collector hands.

The 2d stamp was sold for the equivalent of US$48,475, while the 1sh stamp fetched $80,790 — both figures inclusive of the 22 percent premium Mossgreen charges on all lots.

Errors and varieties of issued stamps included a 1d violet King George V stamp with “OS” perforated initials for Official Service and watermark inverted (variety of Scott OB22). This unique variety, which wasn’t discovered until 1966, sold for $32,210. A marginal pair of the regular 1d violet stamp, imperforate on three sides (variety of Scott 22), went for $42,380.

A 2d scarlet King George V stamp with the “OS” overprint inverted was offered as one of only two examples in private hands and the only one off-paper. It sold for $38,990.

At the less expensive end of the spectrum were some used examples of Australia’s 1932 Sydney Harbor Bridge 5sh commemorative (Scott 132).

The Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue notes that the used value for this stamp is for examples canceled-to-order (CTO, postmarked as a favor to collectors, rather than having been postally used). “Our guesstimate is that for every 100 CTO stamps, there may be two or three postally used examples,” wrote Mossgreen in the sale catalog. “CTO stamps routinely sell for around $200.”

A commercially postmarked example of the Sydney Harbor Bridge stamp, dated March 15, 1932, the second day of issue, sold for the equivalent of US$466, while a well-centered, socked-on-the-nose “gem” used the following year went for $550.