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Stamp Market Commentary

Commentary No. 122 - 17 August, 2009

One of Canada’s Rarest Stamps
At the British Library

A Pair of 12p Black
(Scott 3)

Last January, a brief article in Canadian Stamp News advised all its readers that the British Library web site had been redesigned, including its philatelic collections. We put the article aside for a rainy day.

And so, on a recent rainy day, we picked it up again and had a look at the website and we were most impressed. In a section called “Philatelic Rarities”, we found this lovely copy of Canada’s Scott 3, the well-known 12-Penny Black, followed by some helpful comments from the Library’s staff, quoted below:

“The first issue of stamps for the colony of Canada was made in 1851 and comprised 3d., 6d. and 12d. values.
One shilling was not used as the face value as it had in local currency more than one meaning of value. In New England 1/- meant sixteen and two-thirds cents which was equal to 10d. In New York, shilling meant twelve and a half cents, equalling seven pence halfpenny. Thus twelve pence offered no misunderstanding.
Out of 51,000 of the 12d. black that were printed, about 130 copies are believed to exist today and only five unused pairs.”

It is interesting that the Library mentioned there are 5 pairs of the stamp in existence. If this is one of them, then there must be 4 others. In our Commentary No. 88, we did a write up of this beautiful and rare stamp and we showed 3 other pairs. For the record, here they are:

National Postal Museum, Ottawa
Lot COH 45
June 9,1978
CAPEX Exhibition

The above pair was shown at the 1978 Canadian International Philatelic Exhibition held in Toronto. It was described as a lower left mint marginal pair, imperforate, on laid paper and the only known corner pair.

Irwin Weinberg
Page 11
September 27, 1977
Offered at $200,000 US

This pair came from the 1987 private sale of the John Foxbridge Collection of British North America Imperforate Pence Issues. It had large even margins all around and original gum. An interesting note in the catalogue is that John Foxbridge was a pseudonym for a collector who in a few short years swept all international philatelic competitions. He set a standard of excellence that has seldom been equaled in history, never surpassed.

Charles G. Firby
Lot 169
October 29, 1988
Realized $150,000 US

This pair was described by Firby as the finest of the three surviving mint pairs and believed by many to be the most important philatelic treasure of Canada. A superb gem with full original gum, it came from the Sam Nickle and Dale-Lichtenstein collections.

According to a report in the January, 1989 Canadian Philatelist, the last time the pair was sold at auction which was in 1968, it was purchased jointly by Jim Sissons and Bob Lyman for $39,000 U.S., a record for any Canadian stamp. These two dealers had decided to split the pair into two singles, each to take one and go their separate ways. A last minute decision to call prominent collector, Sam Nickle, resulted in a sale, and saved the superb pair.


So far, we’ve accounted for 4 out of the 5 pairs of this stamp that are known to exist. Perhaps one of our viewers can point us in the direction of the 5th copy so we could complete this study. Now that would be a coup!

Postscript - August 21st.

Could this be the missing 5th Copy?

This pair comes from Sale 10 of the
Dale Lichtenstein Auction held
December 7, 1970.
H. R. Harmer Inc.
Realized $40,000 US

The description of this pair in the Dale Lichtenstein sale was as follows:

“Tweve Pence” black, a magnificent bottom corner pair with full sheet margins, full o.g., rich deep shade and clear sharp impression. There is a hint of a light horizontal wrinkle that does not detract from this glorious pair."

This may be the missing 5th pair we have been looking for but, for the moment, we can’t be certain. It was brought to our attention by Mr. Peter Stahl of Toronto who informed us that it is now in the hands of the Canadian Postal Museum. Our sincere thanks to Peter Stahl for giving us this tip.

We tried contacting the Museum in Ottawa to confirm this but were not successful in reaching them. Our uncertainty arises from the fact this might be the same as the second pair above. Both are described as being with the Postal Museum. Although the two pairs are not the same size, it is possible the image of the earlier pair was cropped for display purposes.

If anyone could help put us in touch with the Canadian Postal Museum so that we could resolve this uncertainty, it would be appreciated (See their comments below).

Clarification from Library and Archives Canada

We received the following message from Library and Archives Canada in Gatineau on August 31, 2009:

“Dear Sir

I read with interest your commentary on the surviving pairs of the 12p of 1851. I must point out to you that the pair sold at the Dale Lichtenstein auction in 1970 was subsequently acquired by the National Postal Museum in 1975. In 1988, it was transferred to the National Archives of Canada which are now known as Library and Archives Canada. Therefore, the numbers 2 and 5 on your list are the same pair. “

Mr. Pascal LeBlond,
Manager, Philatelic Collections
Library and Archives Canada

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