No takers for RMS Titanic parcel post slip at Mossgreen sale

May 2, 2021, 10 PM

By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent

Mossgreen offered Australia and worldwide stamps and postal history Nov. 29-30 in Melbourne.

Among the more remarkable items was an example of the 1905-10 £1 King Edward VII stamp of the state of Victoria (Scott 230). Victoria was one of the colonies that unified to form Australia in 1901, though the individual states kept producing their own stamps until 1910.

The stamp offered by Mossgreen is a rare variety with compound perforations: At the top and left sides of the stamp, the perfs are gauge 12½, while on its right and bottom they are gauge 11.

Connect with Linn’s Stamp News: 

    Sign up for our newsletter
    Like us on Facebook
    Follow us on Twitter

“Unlike many perforation varieties that need to be measured to be recognised for what they are, the different perf gauges on this stamp are immediately apparent and this visual recognition greatly adds to the stamp’s significance and desirability,” the firm noted in the sale catalog.

“If this were an American stamp — think of the 1¢ ‘Z’ Grill that can be identified only from the reverse — it could be expected to sell for $2,000,000,” the firm added.

Mossgreen called the stamp “grossly undercataloged at $5,000,” and they were right: It sold for the equivalent of U.S. $10,300, including the 20 percent buyer’s premium added by the firm to all lots.

Also in the sale was a portion of a proof sheet of the same £1 stamp, on unwatermarked paper, consisting of a block of four plus two half-stamps. It is initialed at left by J.B. Cooke, the stamp printer, with a date of May 3, 1910, and is believed to be unique.

As it happened, the king died three days afterwards, on May 6, 1910. The proof sold for about $6,000.

The most exciting item in the Mossgreen sale was a recently discovered parcel post slip addressed to the “Marconi Operator” on board the famed RMS Titanic, bearing a Great Britain 6-penny stamp of King George V (Scott 167) canceled in Chelmsford, England, with a purple datestamp “11 Apr 1912” at bottom.

But the ill-fated ocean liner had sailed from Southampton on its maiden voyage at noon the day before, and the parcel, which probably contained blank telegraph forms, never reached its recipient.

“The packet was actually handed to the first officer of Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic, with the intention of it being delivered to the Titanic in New York,” according to the sale description.

The Titanic’s mailroom and telegraph crew, as well as all mail on board, were lost when the ship struck an iceberg and sank off Newfoundland early on April 15. The heroic devotion to duty of the mail and telegraph crew in the face of certain doom is part of the Titanic’s legend.

The only postal items from the Titanic that survive are a couple of items posted on board but taken off before she left on her trans-Atlantic voyage.

“This parcel label is the most evocative and most important postal item associated with this most famous of maritime disasters,” wrote Mossgreen.

“This is the first time that it has appeared in the philatelic market, having recently been ‘discovered’ in a provincial general auction in England. It is believed to have been held since 1912 by the family to whom it was given by the First Officer of the Olympic.”

The parcel label was offered together with some related ocean-liner ephemera, including a photograph showing Alec Bagot, the Marconi wireless operator on the RMS Olympic, at his station.

Unexpectedly, the parcel label, which was estimated at about $14,000, did not find a buyer. Mossgreen confirmed that it remains available from the firm for a brief time, and anyone interested should contact Mossgreen for details.