A two-pence Fiji stamp which was printed for the Fiji Post Office 145 years ago, has been sold at an auction in New York City for US$94,000.
The stamp was part of a collection of Fiji and Samoa stamps being sold by Barry K. Schwartz, the former business partner of Calvin Klein and a prominent figure in thoroughbred horse racing.
There are only three of these stamps in the world, and two of them will never be sold because they are held by the Royal family and a British museum.
Siegel Auction Galleries in New York City says the stamp’s colour is blue, and that’s what makes it so rare and valuable.
It was the only copy in private hands.
The auction gallery says four bidders propelled the hammer price to US$80,000.
With the standard buyer’s premium that Siegel adds to all lots, the total price comes to US$94,400.
President of Siegel Auctions, Scott Trepel says the purchase price of US$94,400 for the Fiji Two-Pence Blue colour error might seem like a lot for a stamp from a small island post office in the South Pacific, but he thinks it is really a bargain.
The collector who bought the stamp in the auction yesterday possesses something that is, for all practical purposes, one-of-a-kind.
The blue colour stamp was a mistake. It was supposed to be green.
When the stamps arrived in Fiji in 1878, the government official responsible for placing the order immediately recognized the printer’s error and asked for a new shipment.
The 50,000 errors were locked up and never meant to be sold.
In 1890 all but four of the original 50,000 blue error stamps were destroyed.
What happened to the four that were released?
One found its way into King George V’s stamp album and is still part of The Royal Philatelic Collection. Another was pasted down in a book of stamps kept in the Crown Agents archives, located today in The British Library.
Those two will never become available to collectors.
As for the other two error stamps, one was acquired sometime before 1892 by the famous Parisian collector, Count Philipp la Renotiere von Ferrary. After Ferrary’s death in 1917, his copy of the error stamp was sold at auction in Paris and passed from collector to collector until 1983, when it suffered a fatal tragedy in the Ash Wednesday bush fires in Australia. It was owned at the time by a collector named John Gartner.
As the fires spread to his house, Gartner and his wife fled to the safety of the swimming pool and watched the blaze consume their home and his beloved stamp collection.
The blue error stamp turned to ashes, leaving just one in private hands.
The stamp owned by Barry Schwartz and slated for auction in New York yesterday is the sole survivor outside of the two in British institutions. That means only one private collector in the world can possess this famous stamp.
Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries was founded in 1930 in Kansas City, Missouri and moved to New York City in 1934. Over the firm’s 93 years of business, Siegel has distinguished itself as the leading philatelic auction house in the United States.
Siegel has broken multiple auction records with sales including the Inverted Jenny plate block at US$2.97 million, the Brazil Pack strip at US$2.185 million, the Hawaiian 2c Missionary cover at US$2.090 million, the Inverted Jenny single at US$2,006,000 and the 1c Z Grill at US$935,000.
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