Jubilees featured on QI on BBC2

The famous tormentor of the British Post Office in the late 19th and early 20th Century, W. Reginald Bray, was featured on the BBC2 programme QI. Many of his postal experiments featured the ½d vermilion or ½d blue-green Jubilees. You can see the clip in the Youtube video below, 18 minutes and 28 seconds in. Enjoy!


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March 19, 2018 · 12:50 pm

January/February 2018 Auction Report

There may have been nothing on Ebay since the start of the year but there was plenty of material to interest a Jubilee collector which came up in the British auction houses.

Lot 1541 in Spink’s latest offering from the never ending “Lionheart” collection (part 7!) included a Bechuanaland Protectorate 4d on 1/2d with inverted surcharge, which inspired me to publish my census of all the examples I have come across. This example has a small wrinkle at the lower right, and sold for £1’100 plus 25% in fees.

Also from Spink but from their January Philatelic Collectors Series was lots 1032 and 1033, two British Levant covers with “Express D’Orient” labels.

As far as I’m aware, these labels didn’t pay for any postal service and are basically vignettes/cinderella stamps which were likely created by the enterprising Postmaster of the Constantinople office for collectors. Note that both of these envelopes come with his Post Office cachet and I believe are in his handwriting. The black label is rarer and this cover fetched £950 plus commission. The envelope with the red label was in better condition (and looked better in the flesh than it does in the scan) and sold for £850 plus commission.

Among a nice selection of Niger Coast (of which many items were ex Sacher) in Grosvenor’s March 1st sale was this attractive item. With two 2d and two 1/2d tied by orange-red Benin circular rubber cancels, I couldn’t resist bidding on it. Estimated at £500-600 I guess I was the only bidder as I got it for £500. Unfortunately it was liable to 5% import duty, so commission on the hammer price was 29% (gulp!). They also wanted to charge me £18 for submitting the bid through their website but I’m not going to be paying that!

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January/February 2018 Ebay Report

I’m sure I say this every year, but my New Year’s resolution to do more work on the website has started poorly with the blog a month behind already. Actually there has been very few items of interest on Ebay, but the first item I will talk about was quite a special item to find as I didn’t remember ever seeing one before.

This 2d green & carmine was simply described as a 2d with specimen overprint. Even at a quick glance it’s noticeable that it has been overprinted twice, and with a closer look you’ll notice that it has two different type of the specimen overprint, types 9 and 12. Listed in the SG Queen Victoria specilaised as K30sa with a catalogue value of £225 for mounted mint, I took a look at Gibbons sale catalogue of the “Aureum” Jubilee collection from 2016 to see if they had one. They did, and with the comment “the first example we have handled for over 15 years”, it had a price of £550 and evidently sold. If I could have I would a bid at the very last moment but as I was travelling I couldn’t. As a result I pushed the price from £41 to £310 but give the other bidder time to increase his bid and I lost it for £385.

Another item which realised almost the same price, but is significantly less rare as far as I’m aware was this unmounted mint 4d green and brown with inverted watermark, which sold for £388 plus postage (against a SG catalogue price of £1’500).

And I finish with the Bechuanaland Protectorate 4d on 1/2d inverted surcharge. Catalogued at £4’000, it sold for £87.72… The suspiciously poor quality image is always a red flag and it had no expertising certificate. Looking at the shape of the letters in “Fourpence”, I’m pretty sure it’s a fake. Either that or someone got an absolute bargain!

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December 2017 Auction Report

Grosvenor managed to come up with a couple of Jubilee gems in their November 29th sale, which unfortunately I got outbid on. Lot 214 was a complete pane of the Bechuanaland Protectorate overprint on the 4d. This is the third example I have seen so far (ignoring the different settings) and it sold for £500 plus commission. Lot 232 followed soon after; a complete pane of the British Levant 4pi on 10d which sold for £920 plus hammer and is the only example I have seen so far (so I should have probably bid more…).

Elsewhere, David Feldman in their Jubilee auction on December 9th had a scarce Mafeking cover (lot 60136) with a pair of the 6d on 2d green & red Jubilees which sold for £1’300 plus 20% commission.

And lot 2126 in Cavendish’s December 6th auction was a group of Boer war covers which included a scarce 1s green & carmine franking with two examples along with a 5d pair on a cover (the 83rd cover I have recorded with a 1s green & carmine franking). It realised £480 plus commission.

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November 2017 Ebay Report

Top 5 Items of the Month

November finally brought some Jubilee items of interest after a drought after 2 or 3 months of very little.

First off  is this mint 9d Jubilee. At first glance, nothing special. Take a closer look and you’ll see that it is a forgery! I slightly regret not going for it. It could well be a modern replica in which case it’s worthless, but something about it tells me it’s not. The fact that the perforations are a pretty good attempt at simulating the genuine stamp, given away by the fact that it looks like it is line perforated and not comb perforated (the corner perfs are misshapen when they should be more symmetrical). The definition of the printing isn’t great, but it doesn’t look like it’s been done a laser jet printer. I’ve not heard of any contemporary forgeries of the Jubilees, but at £4.85 it may well have been a worthwhile gamble.

Although philatelic, this 1890 Penny Postage Jubilee uprated with a 10 Jubilee and tied by the special cds is very attractive and sold to the only bidder at £99.99 plus postage.

This mixed issue franking with a 2 1/2d “Lilac & Green” and a 2d Jubilee surprised me by selling for as much as £77.93 in spite of the toning around the stamps. I’ve noticed that Jubilee usages in early 1887 are pretty uncommon and I see quite a few “Lilac & Green” usages still in this period on eBay, so it is very unusual to see both on the same cover.

And I’ll finish this month with a couple of my purchases. At the minute I’m into single frankings and multiple frankings of the same stamp. So when these two giant registered envelopes came up I couldn’t help myself. It’s exactly the type of thing you hear people saying you shouldn’t buy because you can’t display them in an exhibition. But this 1887 cover with the 3d is paying the inland rate up to 8oz, and the 1894 cover with the 1/2d vermilions is paying up to 6oz. I think they are very scarce and it’s amazing really that these big covers weren’t thrown out at the time. So I was pleased to pay £10.94 and £21.95 respectively.

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October 2017 Auction Report

It was another disappointing month again for interesting Jubilees on eBay, but the sale of the Dr Peter Young FRPSL and Iain Stephenson FRPSL collections at Grosvenor on October 25th & 26th more than made up for it.

Dr Young’s collection spanned the surface printed issued from 1879 up to the Jubilees, which featured many die proofs, colour trials and settings. The sexiest item being lot 1578, a 10d colour item bearing two colour trials in combination with two 10ds in the issued colour with one of each cancelled by a “B01” numeral. Estimated at £10’000-12’000, unfortunately it failed to sell. As did a few of the other die proofs and striking book pieces.

One group of items I had never seen before and didn’t spot until after the sale because they put it in (my opinion) the wrong place in the catalogue, was lot 641: a 1d lilac, a 1/2d vermilion, 1 1/2d and 2s Jubilees with the value printed on the reverse under the gum in black. I had seen the 1/2d and 1d before but not the other two values. Supposedly one of only 3 sets know, it sold for £5’500 plus commission.

About 1’000 lots later where the rest of the Jubilees were, my most desired item was lot 1602, a 1s green & carmine die proof of the head which sold for an impressive £2’000 plus commission which was a shame (for me). But I managed to pick up a couple of 1/2d vermilion striking book pieces pretty cheaply. And further good news is that there are more items to come from his collection in Grosvenor’s next GB sale!

From the Professor Iain Stevenson collection, items of note included his collection of 4 1/2d Jubilee usages which looked like a steal at £2’300 plus hammer. One of the better results however was lot 360, a 4d Jubilee used in combination with a 2d South Eastern & Chatham Railway stamp which sold for £480 plus hammer.

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September 2017 Auction Report

In the absence of anything worthwhile appearing on eBay, I thought I would talk about a few nice Jubilee items that have sold in auction this past month.

Starting with Grosvenor who offered the Richard Malim collection of British Levant on September 20th, including this attractive parcel labelLot 600 was this attractive albeit fragile official parcel label, with a mixed British and Turkish currency franking, for a package of acorn husks sent to Manchester. I’ve only seen a couple of these before, so I was disappointed to be the underbidder when it sold for £600 plus commission.

Spink offered another portion of the David Pitts collection, with their September 19th sale focussed on the West Indies. Not the normal place to find Jubilee items but it did throw up this cover franked with a ½ vermilion sent to the Cayman Islands. It has a backflap missing and is a bit worn, but it has a Grand Cayman arrival backstamp. It sold for £1’200 against an estimate of £1’500-1’800 and it’s the only Jubilee cover I have recorded going there.

And lot 1205 in the Argyll Etkin auction on September 29th saw this Furniss “New Century” envelope, sent from London to Paris with a 5d Jubilee sell for £400 plus 21% buyer’s premium. It was the first time I’d actually seen this envelope.

Let’s hope October brings us some more lovely Jubilee items!

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August 2017 Ebay Report

After another quiet summer on the Jubilee front on Ebay with not much of interest to talk about, I decided to go for a theme this month; beautiful circular datestamp (cds) strikes. Or as the Americans say, “socked on the nose” cancels.

Starting with the cheapest and most abundant stamp of the set, the ½d vermilion had over 13 billion printed. So it can be a little tricky to find an example as attractive as the one shown, as it takes a lot of trawling through the many, many that still exist. So the winning bidder of this stamp paid £17 instead of doing the hard graft. That’s over 14 times the catalogue price of £1.20 in Stanley Gibbons.

The 4d green and brown is hard to find nicely used because of the fugitive ink in the green is easily affected by moisture (in fact it’s the one I’m in most need of upgrading in my collection). So any that have been soaked off will have lost some of the green to a degree. You almost have to be looking for a stamp still on piece. These two appear to have been removed carefully enough to be unaffected, and sold for £12.30 (above) and £9.81 (below) against a catalogue value of £18.

The 5d dull purple and blue doesn’t often come with a cds. I think for the most part because it was used predominantly to pay the double UPU letter rate, and often duplex cancels (with the barred oval obliterating the stamp) or squared circles (collectable in their own right but undeniably less attractive) were employed. Even with a toned perf, this example sold for £15.29. Full catalogue!

And finally the 10d, which is the highest catalogued stamp (at £45 for the standard carmine shade) in this report but paradoxically, I think, one of the easiest to find with a nice cds. So I was surprised to see this one sell for a much as £26.80 as you can get equally nice examples for around £10-15. I believe the reason that the 10d (as well as the 6d, 9d and the 1s green & carmine) is easier to find socked on the nose is because it was used more often for things such as parcel labels, telegrams and the like, which were more likely to be cancelled with a cds than regular letters.

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June & July 2017 Ebay Report

I’m going to eschew the usual “Top 5 Items” for this Ebay report (partly because I’ve not being checking Ebay at all recently) and instead intend to tell a bit of a story about this postcard, concocted by the infamous Reginald Bray and addressed to Shelley Hall using a combination of postmarks and manuscript.

I managed to find out that there is not much left of Shelley Hall, and presumably there wasn’t at the time and Bray was expecting it to be undelivered (the Forest Hill return address is a give away for Bray’s philatelic curiosities). The message on the reverse continues with a mixture of cut-out postmarks and writing: “EY AM” “ANVERS” (I am envious) of you being at Shelley…” (prize of a pair of David Feldman tweezers to whoever can decipher the rest!).

Any way, I quite fancied this one so bid £55 and was slightly disappointed that it sold for £58.07. Alas, my disappointment turned to joy when two hours later I received a “Second Chance Offer”! I could buy the item for my top bid of £55. Great! I thought. I was one click away from buying it before I thought to myself. Hang on. Within two hours, the two bidders who beat me were no longer interested in buying an item that they had just bid on (either that or the vendor had an identical one…). Alarm bells rang.

So I looked at the two bidders who had bid higher than me (or at least the info eBay will let you see of the bidders). The top bidder bid on 90 lots a total of 277 times in the last 30 days. Of these bids, a staggering 53% were on lots owned by the seller of this postcard. And for this lot, in the course of 3 minutes, they increased their bid in stages 16 times from £9 to beyond the final price of £58.07 (we obviously can’t see what their actual top bid was). This screams of shill bidding to me (bidding on an item with the intent to artificially increase its price). So I thought to myself, as the Dragons so eloquently put it on their BBC show, “I’m out”.

I considered sending the vendor a message to find out why it was being re-offered so quickly, but thought that if there was an honest reason for this, a message from him/her would surely have been forthcoming. So it was with interest that I saw that the item had been re-listed after my “Second Chance” had expired after 24 hours. No chance of me bidding this time. And sure enough, the item sold for only £22 this time. Noticeably absent from bidding was the top bidder the previous time, but the second highest bidder from last time came away with the lot this time. So I’ll be keeping my eye out to see if it surfaces again…

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May 2017 Ebay Report

On a lazy Saturday afternoon I was watching Bargain Hunt when one of the teams picked up a small silver stamp box in the shape of an envelope. It reminded me of the [insert shameless plug here] phenomenal “Primrose” collection of stamp boxes which David Feldman sold in 2000, which in turn reminded me that I had seen stamp boxes in the past with enamel copies of Jubilee stamps on the lid. A quick search of eBay and bingo! This is a Sampson Mordan & Co silver and enamel stamp box, hallmarked London 1891 with a gilt interior and three enamelled stamps: a ½d vermilion, 1d lilac and 2½d purple on blue. It sold for £2670. Anyone looking for more information on stamp boxes are recommended to take a look at this site I just found: http://stampbox.org.uk/. I’ve also found a few different examples with enamel Jubilees so I’ve added a Stamp Boxes page in the Related Info section.

Next we have an important auction catalogue for the collector of overprints on the Jubilee issue. A must have and cheap at only £5.19.

The attractive cover was sent to Northern Nigeria in 1910, with a late usage of the 1887 1/2d vermilion in combination with an Edward VII 1/2d and sold for £16.95.

Another combination with Edward VII, but this time it’s a single use of the 4d Jubilee to uprate a 1d + 2d registration envelope to pay double the UPU rate to the USA in 1907. It sold for only £4.10 but I think it’s unusual combination.

And finally this was my surprise of the month. This 9d and 1/2d green paying triple UPU rate and 2d registration sold for £88.75. I’ve seen nicer ones sell for less but I think they are underrated. I should have started this a lot earlier, but I’ve begun a census of known covers bearing the 9d. I’ve only got 30 so far which I will get uploaded some time soon so any one who wants to send me some scans of frankings with the 9d will be greatly appreciated.

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