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Stamp Market Commentary

Commentary No. 101 - 17 November, 2007

Stories of Scott 3 - Canada’s 12 Penny Black

Recently while browsing through the stamp section of the Westmount Public Library in Montreal, we came across Nicholas Courtney’s “The Queen’s Stamps – The Authorized History” published in 2004. What a fascinating story it tells of the history of the Royal Collection.



What caught our immediate attention as we flipped through the pages was this beautiful and rare cover with the Canadian 12 penny black, Scott 3. It is understood that this is one of only six such covers of the stamp that exist.



But what also fascinated us were some of the stories that Mr. Courtney recounted about the stamp in its early days. Here are a few of them:

· Even in 1897, philatelists viewed Canada’s 12 penny black with a certain awe.

· The 12 penny black was only needed for a few destinations. As a result, few numbers were printed, just 51,400 in 1851. By 1857, only 1,510 had been sold, so the post office decided to destroy the remainder.

· The stamp was one of the first to be classified by collectors as a rarity. By 1865, it was changing hands for as much as £1, a considerable sum in those days.

· In the early 1900s, the Duke of York decided to acquire a copy of this rare Canadian stamp for his personal collection. It took some time but he finally succeeded in 1912 when he acquired a cover dated January 12, 1853.

· On a hot airless day, a London dealer was examining five 12 penny blacks on a desk beside an open window. He was so engrossed in the task, that he did not hear the door open. A rush of air blew the stamps out the window down to the Strand. They were never seen again.

· Another dealer bought the Lachlan Gibbs Collection of Canada which included a dozen 12 penny blacks, five on cover and the rest used. The whole lot fell unnoticed from the dealer’s desk into his wastepaper basket and was thrown out by the cleaners, never to be recovered.

These stories are almost unbelievable. Just imagine what those lost stamps would be worth today. The first London dealer’s five 12 penny blacks would have a catalogue value of $500,000 today, assuming they were used. The catalogue value of the second dealer’s five covers and seven singles would be $1,950,000, again assuming the singles were all used.

It also makes us realize that, of the 1510 stamps that were sold to the public in the 1850s, it is likely that many of them haven’t survived for one reason or another.. When we prepared our Commentary No. 88 on the 12 Penny Black, we quoted one source that estimated there may only be 100 of the stamps still in existence.

It would be our dream to one day be able to see some of the stamps in the Queen’s collection. But until that day, it is enough to read about the collection and see the beautiful examples illustrated in Mr. Courtney’s book.

There’s one more story about the 12 Penny Black we’d like our viewers to see that comes from our Commentary No. 3, dated February 17, 2000:

The Canadian Philatelist - Publishes a 70 Year Old Speech

We note a number of interesting articles in the December issue of The Canadian Philatelist, published by the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada. The magazine reprinted the text of a speech given by Charles J. Phillips in the 1930s. Mr. Phillips was the Chairman of Stanley Gibbons of London for 32 years. It is a great article and we thought you might be interested in the following comments concerning one of Canada's most sought after stamps, the 12 penny black which presently has a catalogue value of $80,000.

"Some of you will remember when the Marquis of Lorne was Governor General of Canada. I can tell you a true story about him. Many years ago, after his term had expired in Canada, a gentleman came into my shop in the Strand, London, and offered a 12d black Canada for sale, unused, full gum and as fresh as when printed. As the stamp was valuable, I went personally to contact the business and after we had agreed upon the price I asked the name of the vendor, he replied, "I am the Marquis of Lorne". During the next few years, this was repeated several times. He never sold us more than one at a time, but I had four or five copies of your most valuable stamps from him in all."

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