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Stamp Market Commentary

Commentary No. 116 - 17 February, 2009

Unbelievable Stamp Auction Prices!

We can remember a trip we made to visit the stamp dealers on Yonge Street in Toronto as a young collector. Their showcases highlighted the best they had to offer and we were delighted to see such excellent stamps.

But our delight was somewhat crushed as we surveyed the prices. They were well above catalogue. Some were two times catalogue, others four times and even ten times. We looked at the dealers behind the counters and would have had them arrested if we had the power.

Little did we know at the time about what the prices should be for investment grade stamps. It was only when we began to keep track of the prices realized at auction that we appreciated how very scarce some of the Canadian stamps truly were, even the low value ones, and consequently how fierce the competition would be to obtain them.

But nothing prepared us for some of the prices we have seen in the U.S. market. At the end of this commentary we give an example we came across recently. We have no way of verifying this information, but, knowing the auction firm involved, we have no reason to doubt it either.

What follows is a number of examples of extraordinary prices paid over the past 5 years for investment grade Canadian stamps. Next comes the above mentioned U.S. example that makes the Canadian ones look tame.

The Canadian Experience


Charles G. Firby
Nov. 1, 2007
Colonial Stamp
Nov. 15, 2007

Eastern Auctions
Mar. 1, 2008

Lot 29
Scott 4ii
Catalogue $400
Realized $2,137
Lot 350
Scott 1
Catalogue $950
Realized $6,615
Lot 1194
Scott 15
Catalogue $450
Realized $2,500

Eastern Auctions
Mar. 1, 2008

Lot 1199
Scott 17b
Catalogue $900
Realized $5,250

Large Queens

Spink Shreves Galleries
Jan. 29, 2009
Shreves Philatalic Galleries
Apr. 12, 2007

Lot 990
Scott 21
Catalogue $100
Realized $1,220
Lot 1626
Scott 29
Catalogue $75
Realized $1,661

Small Queens

R. Maresch & Son
Mar. 2, 2004
Eastern Auctions
Jun. 14, 2008

Spink Shreves Galleries
Jan. 29, 2009

Lot 1915
Scott 34
Catalogue $9
Realized $220
Lot 456
Scott 36e
Catalogue $1,800
Realized $4,000
Lot 1047
Scott 38
Catalogue $925
Realized $5,490

Charles G. Firby
Jan. 24, 2004
Shreves Philatalic Galleries
Apr. 12, 2007

Lot 239
Scott 44
Catalogue $90
Realized $1,572
Lot 1624
Scott 44b
Catalogue $180
Realized $986

Other Sets

H. R. Harmer
May 22, 2008
Shreves Philatelic Galleries
April 12, 2007

Eastern Auctions
Mar. 1, 2008

Lot 2097
Scott 53
Catalogue $45
Realized $470
Lot 1697
Scott 75
Catalogue $45
Realized $458
Lot 1304
Scott 76
Catalogue $60
Realized $425

R. Maresch & Son
Feb. 28, 2006
R. Maresch & Son
June 17, 2008

Lot 2491
Scott 89
Catalogue $37
Realized $380
Lot 842
Scott 97
Catalogue $47
Realized $525

Note: The above catalogue prices are those that were in effect in the year of sale. The prices realized for the auctions that took place in the U.S have been converted to Canadian dollars at the exchange rate prevailing on the date of sale.

Please click here if you would like to see our 10 year list of prices for over 800 investment quality Canadian Stamps

The United States Experience
(Figures below are in $U.S.)

Spink Shreves Galleries
January 29, 2009

Lot 287
Scott 236
Catalogue $215
Realized $19,000

As a general rule, we do not review the prices realized for U.S. stamp auctions and only came across this unusual price by chance. But once we saw it and realized it was not a typo, we couldn’t get it out of our mind, it was so extraordinary. It is possible U.S. collectors will tell us this happens all the time but we doubt this.

The people at Spink Shreves would certainly get passing grades for their use of flowery English when you look at the description of the stamp shown below. They heap superlative upon superlative. And who can blame them, as they go on to explain that a year ago an even better copy sold for $47,500. Perhaps someone will write to advise us that we misunderstood the whole thing, but until then we will accept things at face value and just marvel at what we have seen.

Here’s how they described the stamp:

"8c Columbian, an incomparable mint example of this value, which is widely regarded as the most difficult of the lower denomination Columbians to find in true gem quality, this spectacular copy even surpasses the gem category, being one of the very finest in existence, boasting perfect centering amid gigantic jumbo margins unlike any other one can imagine, brilliantly fresh as well, with sumptuously rich color on bright paper, immaculate o.g., never hinged, superb; a breathtakingly beautiful Eight Cent Columbian; 2001 PF certificate and a 2007 PSE certificate (Superb 98 Jumbo; SMQ $9,100.00 for 98); this is the sole example in the PSE population report to receive this exalted grade, with the only higher example being the phenomenal 100 Jumbo that was in our September 2008 auction of the Westchester Collection, where it hammered down for $47,500, plus the buyer's premium."

Well done, Spink Shreves!

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