Stunning classic Uruguay and Japan foreign mail in March 28-29 Siegel auctions

Mar 14, 2023, 9 AM

By Charles Snee

A parade of rarities will come to the philatelic marketplace during Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries’ March 28-29 sales of the Magnolia collection of classic Uruguay stamps and covers and the Magnolia collection of Japanese foreign mail and post offices.

Both auctions will take place at the Siegel office in New York City. The sales are being held in association with Charles F. Shreve, director of Siegel International.

First up will be the Magnolia Uruguay collection on March 28, followed by the Magnolia Japanese foreign mail holdings on March 29. Both collections were formed by the same owner of the Magnolia collection of United States mail in China and Japan, which Siegel sold in four sales during 2021-22.

In the introduction to the catalog for the Magnolia Uruguay collection, Siegel provided a review of Uruguay’s earliest stamps and highlights some of the spectacular rarities of the 1858 issue within the collection.

According to Siegel, the collection was put together during the past 10 years “through the acquisition of key pieces available at auction and, more significantly, in privately negotiated transactions.”

“In many areas of classic stamps, items of which a dozen or more exist are considered rare, but Uruguay’s rarities are counted in single digits,” Siegel said.

“For example, the block of six of the 120c is the only multiple known of this value, apart from the tête-bêche pairs. There are only three recorded blocks of the 180c and one strip of three.

“A handful of 240c blocks are known, and there is only one block of the 240c Brown-Red color. All of these great rarities will be found in the Magnolia collection.”

Among the unique multiples in the collection is the only known block of the 1858 120-centesimo blue stamp (Scott 4).

The unused (no gum) block of six has a “blue oval official Montevideo post office handstamp and some lightened manuscript” on the back and is thinned across the top, according to Siegel.

A few tiny black specks are seen on the block, which has clear margins all around.

Once owned by Count Philippe Ferrari, the block was eventually acquired by Alfred F. Lichtenstein, who placed it in his Uruguay exhibit at the April 1931 International Philatelic Exhibition in Montevideo, Uruguay, according to Siegel.

Lichtenstein also included the block in his “display at the May 1940 Centenary exhibition at The Collectors Club of New York,” Siegel said.

“After Lichtenstein’s death in 1947, his daughter, Louise Boyd Dale, sold the block and other Uruguay rarities to Robert Hoffmann, who featured it in his Uruguay exhibit, which captured the Grand Award at the 1956 FIPEX exhibition in New York City,” Siegel said.

The block then passed from Hoffman to a collector known pseudonymously as Gordon N. John. The Magnolia collector acquired the block from the John collection.

Siegel is offering this unused block of six of the 1858 120c blue with an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.

Siegel’s catalog for the Magnolia collection of Japanese foreign mail and post offices also includes a detailed introduction that reviews the development of the Japanese postal system following the opening of Japan to foreign countries following the 1853-54 Perry expedition.

These events ultimately resulted in the creation of many iconic items of postal history that are included in the

“The thrust of this portion of the Magnolia collection is mail handled by the French post office in Yokohama and carried either by French or British steamships,” Siegel said.

“The French government opened its first consulates in July 1859 at Yokohama and Nagasaki, and a third was opened at Hiogo in 1868. In this early period, French mail was turned over to the British Peninsular & Oriental line, or routed through the French post office in Shanghai, which opened December 19, 1862.

“In February 1863 the Messageries Imperiales extended its service from Hong Kong to Shanghai, and in September 1865 it inaugurated regular service to Japan. The post office in Yokohama opened for business on September 7, 1865, with the arrival of postmarking devices and other supplies on board the M.I. steamer Dupleix.”

One of the most visually arresting covers in the collection was mailed Oct. 19, 1874, from Yokohama, Japan, to Paris, France, and is pictured on the front cover of the Siegel catalog.

It is franked with eight (strip of five and three singles) Japan 1874 1-sen blue stamps with syllabic character 3 (Scott 33).

The syllabic character is in a small box that covers the crossed kiri branches above the word “SEN” at the bottom of the design. Scott 33 exists with 12 different syllabic characters.

The eight 1s blue stamps on the cover pay quadruple the 2s internal rate. Also affixed to the cover are 14 French 1870-72 Ceres stamps amounting to a total of 520 centimes postage, which paid quadruple the 130c rate by British packet via Brindisi, Italy, according to Siegel.

This colorful franking includes three 1872 80c rose stamps (France Scott 63), a single 1870 40c orange stamp (59), a strip of six and three single 1871 25c blue stamps (58), and a single 1871 15c bister stamp (56).

A handstamp on the back (not shown) indicates the cover arrived in Paris on Dec. 5.

“This cover was sent by Felix Frederic Georges Lebon (1845-1923), who was captain and Chief Artillery Instructor of the French Military Mission to Japan,” Siegel said.

“He arrived in Tokyo on May 17, 1872, and was employed by the Japanese Ministry of Army. Captain Lebon resided in the Instructors’ House at Nagatacho in Tokyo. His time in Japan spanned four years.”

At upper right on the cover, just below two Ceres stamps, is a boldly struck Degron-kun type I handstamp that translates as, “Mr. Degron, Chief of French Mail Ship Co. Honcho 5-chome, Yokohama.”

In its description of the cover, Siegel cites Jun Ichi Matsumoto’s book The French Post Office in Yokohama, which points out that the wording of the handstamp is incorrect.

“Degron was never ‘Chief of French Mail Ship Co.’ (Messageries Maritimes),” Siegel said. “He was the postmaster of the French post office in Yokohama, who prepared mail for French steamship packet sailings as part of his responsibilities.”

Close to 90 percent of the Degron-kun covers reported by Matsumoto bear the type I handstamp, Siegel said.

The Degron-kun handstamps came into use no later than January 1873, according to Siegel.

Siegel said that “members of the French Military Mission began using the ‘Degron-kun’ method to send letters by Japanese mail to Henri J. Degron, postmaster of the French post office in Yokohama, for entry into the international mail system. The handstamped address to Postmaster Degron identifies covers sent by this method.”

Siegel lists this 1874 cover from Yokohama to Paris with a Degron-kun type I handstamp with an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.

Individual catalogs have been prepared for the sales of the Magnolia Uruguay and Magnolia Japanese foreign mail collections. Full details of the auctions, including downloadable versions of the catalogs and online bidding options, are available on the Siegel website.

For additional information, contact Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, 6 W. 48th St., Ninth Floor, New York, NY 10036.

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