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Stamp Market Commentary

Commentary No. 118 - 17 April, 2009

The 10¢ Maple Leaf Stamp of 1897
(Scott 73)

Earlier this year, a beautiful copy of the 10¢ Maple Leaf sold for a record price of $4,270. It made us wonder how a stamp with a catalogue value of $1,250 could possibly sell for this price. So we had a look at some recent sales of this stamp and the prices they realized and here is what we found:

Some of The Finest Copies

Spink Shreves
The Collector’s Series
January, 29,2009
Lot 1106
Price $4,270

Harmer
Mount Royal Collection
May 22, 2008
Eastern
March 1, 2008
Lot 2144
Price $1,782
Lot 1301
Price $1,600

Shreves
The Dr. Tang Collection
September 30, 2006
Maresch
January 28, 2003
Lot 794
Price $1,120
Lot 1099
Price $925

(All prices are in $Canadian, converted as of the date of sale)

You will note that the copy that sold at the Spink Shreves sale came from the Dr. Tang Collection. In a space of just over two years, the auction price for this particular stamp jumped from $1,120 to $4,270. This doesn’t happen every day!

In our experience it generally takes decades for stamps to give a collector a good return on his stamp investment. Here, in just over two years, a new record price was realized in the midst of a worldwide economic downturn.


A Bit of History

In 1897, after 25 years of nothing but Small Queens, the Canadian Post Office came out with a flurry of new issues. First the Diamond Jubilee and Maple Leaf sets in 1897 and then the Numeral set in 1898.

The Jubilee set was a special issue to mark the 60th. Anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign in the United Kingdom. The number of stamps was limited and there was little demand for the high dollar stamps other than from collectors. In the end, a number of the unsold $3, $4 and $5 stamps had to be returned for destruction.

But things were happening at the Post Office and, in 1897, the American Bank Note Co. agreed, for the first time, to erect a plant in Ottawa to start printing a new set of stamps in Canada. Not wanting to be too adventuresome, and perhaps because it already had the Queen’s approval, the Post Office used the same Queen’s portrait for the Maple Leaf stamps as had been used for the Jubilee issue.

The number of new 10¢ Maple Leafs stamps issued was 500,000, but by the time they were out, there were complaints about the difficulty of distinguishing between the different values. As a result, later in1898, the Numeral set appeared and replaced the Maple Leafs. That set was almost as short lived as the Maple Leafs because Queen Victoria died in early 1901.

We enjoyed reading the details of this stamp. If we had been at the Spink auction in January, we think we would have found the moment of the winning bid very exciting not only for the observers, but for the previous owner who disposed of the stamp and, of course, for the auction house.

We would like to express our thanks to the well known stamp authors Winthrop S. Boggs, Clifton A. Howes and Fred Jarrett for providing these details in their wonderful books on the histories of the stamps of British North America.

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