Canadian Stamp Auctions

Stamp market commentary

Commentary No. 34 - 17 June, 2002

The Half Cent Large Queen

During the past year, we have seen a fair number of half-cent Large Queen stamps appearing at auction. This has included quite a few varieties, which gives us an opportunity to look at this lowest denomination of the Large Queen set. This set, which first appeared in 1868, contained the first group of stamps to be issued in Canada after the country was formed as a Dominion under the British North America Act in 1867. The half-cent, slightly smaller than the other stamps in the set, was intended for periodicals weighing less than an ounce. We present below, some outstanding copies of the stamp:

Lot 198
Jun 21, 1997

Lot 456
May 25, 2001

Lot 195
Jun 21, 1997

Clifton A. Howes' Canadian Postage Stamps and Stationery, published in the 1911, offers some early comments on the Large Queen set:

"The paper upon which this series of 1868 was printed was in general an ordinary white wove variety which varied considerably from a very thin, almost pelure quality to a quite hard and thick variety. Laid paper also makes its appearance again in this set."
Because the ½¢ was in use for a number of years, from 1868 to 1882, it produced quite a few varieties. Most of these relate to the paper on which the stamp was printed which varied from thin to thick. For a short period of time the stamps were printed on watermarked paper. Only a few of these survived. Further varieties relate to the stamp's colour, which varied from light grey to dark black, and to the lack of colour in the Queen's hair, producing the "chignon" variety. The usual perforation for the set was 12 x 12. Many of the varieties appeared at auctions during the past year and are shown below.

Varieties of the Half Cent Large Queen

Perforated 11 1/2 x 12
Scott 21a
Horizontal Guideline
Scott 21 var

Lot 524
May 16, 2001

Lot 319
R. Maresch
Apr 3, 2001

Scott 21b

Lot 3970
Robert A. Lee
Sept. 29, 2001
Lot 680
Apr. 10, 2002

Lot 4450
Robert A. Lee
March 2, 2002

Thicker Paper
Unitrade 21i

Lot 021
Dec. 7, 2001
Spur Variety
Unitrade 21iv
Bothwell Paper
Unitrade 21vii

Lot 737
Sept. 26, 2001

Lot 87
FEb. 10, 2001

Chignon Variety
Unitrade 21 iii

Lot 76
Jan. 12, 2002

Lot 1075
Aug. 21, 2001

Highest Prices Paid
On two occasions, collectors have paid the top price of $500 to acquire outstanding copies of this stamp. This is a substantial premium over the present catalogue value of $70.

Lot 1588
R. Maresch
Sept. 28, 1999

Lot 455
May 25, 2001

Dies, Essays and Proofs
For students of philately, it is always interesting to see the material the printers prepared for the Post Office officials as they considered various designs and colour combinations before agreeing on the final product. Some of these, shown below, come from the Maresch auction held on March 5, 1997:

Lot 1050
R. Maresch
Die Essay

Lot 1051
R. Maresch
Large Die Proof

Lot 1052
R. Maresch
Plate Proof

Comments from Philatelic Writers

We're very fortunate to have the books reprinted by Quarterman Publications Inc. of Lawrence Massachusetts. These include "Canadian Postage Stamps and Stationery" by Clifton A. Howes, mentioned earlier, originally published in 1911, "Stamps of British North America" by Fred Jarrett, originally published in 1929 and "The Postage Stamps and Postal History of Canada" by Winthrop S. Boggs, originally published in 1945. These large volumes contain vast amounts of information on Canada's early stamps. Their authors had interesting comments to make about the varieties of the ½¢ Large Queen, illustrated above, from which we quote:

Horizontal Guidelines
"The horizontal and vertical guidelines were usually burnished off, but evidences are particularly strong on the two cents plate and traces may be found on the other denominations, notably the twelve and one-half cents" (Boggs p. 245)

"The ½¢ and 15¢ and all the 5¢ were perforated on two machines, one gauging 11½, the other 12. Only the ½¢ and 15¢ exist with both perforations." (Boggs p. 257)



After providing details of the watermark (illustrated above), Jarrett concludes that because of its relatively small size on the sheet, the watermark would only affect a small number of stamps printed on the Bothwell paper:

"The watermark will thus fall on 12 stamps in each sheet of one hundred. The sheets were apparently placed on the press without much care, as the letters are found reversed and inverted." (Jarrett page 54)

"The watermark was first discovered about 1923 by Dr. Reford in the stock of the Scott Stamps and Coin Company. Three specimens (of the ½¢) are known to the author" (Jarrett page 55)

Chignon Variety
"The chignon, not shaded, is found on several stamps in the central portion of some sheets. (Chignon: coil Chignon variety of hair at back of head)" (Jarrett page 55)

Bothwell Paper Variety
"1868-69, wove, medium to thick with a distinct vertical mesh and WATERMARKED "E&G BOTHWELL CLUTHA MILLS" in two lines of sans-serif letters" (Boggs page 251)

"Bothwell paper is watermarked on part of the sheet, singles without watermark (21vii) are identified by the distinct vertical weave of the paper." (2002 Unitrade Specialised Catalogue of Canadian Stamps page 30).

"The Bothwell paper copy is unlisted as mint". (Firby, 10 Feb., 2001, lot 87)

Other Large Queen Comments
Those of you who would like to read comments we have previously written about the Large Queen set can find them at the following links:

Commentary No. 2 The 5 cent Large Queen Imperforate
Commentary No. 7 Canada's Rarest Stamp- The 2¢ Large Queen
Commentary No. 15 Large Queens - Paper Varieties

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©2002, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada