Canadian Stamp Auctions

Stamp market commentary

Commentary No. 17 - 17 January, 2001

The Definitives of 1987 - An Exceptional Set

Part II

It is not the usual practice of Canada Post to advise collectors that certain issues will be rare and will likely increase in value faster than others.  Occasionally it might give a few hints!  It informs the public how many it will issue of each stamp, but you never hear if there are varieties nor how many of the varieties were issued!  Furthermore, it may take a few years before the scarcity of a particular stamp is recognized.

A good example of a current stamp that may have a rare variety is the Petro-Canada stamp issued last September.  At the end of this article we have the details of a recently discovered variety of this stamp that is still available at the Post Office in one of its packs.

Varieties of the Definitives of 1987:

We only became aware of the many varieties of the 1987 definitive set a year or so ago and mostly through scanning the specialized catalogues, Unitrade and Darnell.  Then, in 1999 while reviewing a Saskatoon Stamp Centre catalogue (Number 211 of November, 1999) we were surprised to see over 71 lots containing varieties of the set.  Since then we have noted many more examples that have been sold at auction.  Often, but not always, their rarity has been highlighted in the auctioneer's comments.  It took a while for us to realize the extent of the varieties that had been produced.

Examples at Auction:

A review of the auction catalogues over the past two years provides many examples of this set at auction and in the mail sales.  Here are some of the examples:

Scott 2001

Scott 1155 var.
1¢ Imperf pair
Eastern June 17, 2000
Lot 873
E $1,000

Scott 1156 var.
2¢ Imperf pair
Eastern June 17, 2000
Lot 874
E $1,000

Scott 1165c
38¢ printed on gum
Kimmerly Feb. 23, 2000
Lot 380

Scott 1171c
44¢ perf. 13½x13
Kimmerly April 2000
Lot 186

Scott 1172h
45¢ Imperf pair
Saskatoon Stamp Feb. 2000
Lot 268

Scott 1175a
61¢ perf 13x13
Kimmerly April 2000
Lot 187

Scott 1181a
$1, inscription inverted
Eastern Feb. 6, 1999
Lot 940

Admittedly, many of the above varieties are beyond the pocketbook of the average collector.  However, there is a number of the varieties that are still reasonably priced.  Some examples that could be acquired at a modest cost were given in Part I of this article. (Commentary 16, 17 December, 2000).

In the past, a number of modern Canadian stamps have jumped up in price after being issued, only to subsequently fall in price.  Take, for example, the the high value $1 and $2 stamps issued since 1950.  Their prices moved strongly upwards in the late 1970's, but then levelled off, fell and stayed down.  Only now, after perhaps 15 years in the doldrums have the top values in the "Scroll" and "Arch" sets (Scott 159 and 177) begun to attract interesting prices once again.  The problem here was an overabundance of supply of the post 1950 values.

Now that attention is being focused on the 1987 definitive set, it remains to be seen if the supply really is there or not.  We will be keeping an eye on this and will keep you posted.

The Petro-Canada Variety:

A most interesting article in the January 2, 2001 edition of the Canadian Stamp News by Ian Robertson alerted us to a variety issued a few months ago that is still available at some Post Offices.  To quote from Mr. Robertson:

    Be on the lookout for 2000 self-stick Petro-Canada 46-cent commemoratives sold with two different perforation layouts.
    Most common is the original stamp issued Sept. 13 in booklets of 12  to honour the 25th, anniversary of Canada's federally-founded, now mostly privately owned, petroleum company.
    The tough version to find is available only in the annual Collections Canada 2000 book by Canada Post and third quarter, July to September stamp packs.

Mr. Robertson speculates that the variety likely occurred when the printer's staff were preparing the album and packet versions.  They most likely turned the panes upside down, thus reversing the layout.  He expects the two versions to be listed in upcoming catalogues. 

We managed to pick up 4 of the July-to-September stamp packs at the philatelic counter in downtown Montreal on January 12.  The cost was $5.09 each, plus taxes.  Customers only pay face value for the stamps in the pack, so it's a no-lose proposition.

Canadian Postal Museum (

A week ago, we visited the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Québec, across the river from Ottawa, the Canadian Capital.  The museum is a gem; full of art and treasures to entertain the whole family.  The Canadian Postal Museum is found on the 2nd. floor.  A quick half hour tour had us fascinated with the interesting exhibits.  We left with a vow to return and dig deeper.

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