Canadian Stamp Auctions

Stamp market commentary

Commentary No. 37 - 17 September, 2002

The Half-Cent Small Queen
(Scott 34)

The Small Queens are without doubt one of the favorite sets of Canadian collectors. The first stamps in the set were issued in 1870 to replace the Large Queens. However, the half-cent was only issued 12 years later, in 1882, at the time the "Montreal printings" began. The set itself lasted 27 years from 1870 to 1897 when it was replaced by the Jubilee issue. Varieties of paper, colour, cancellations and perforations abound and, because so many used copies can be easily and inexpensively obtained, it is an area available to all collectors.

Two outstanding copies

Lot 132
June 13, 1998

Lot 249
Dec 11, 2001

The half-cent is smaller than the other stamps in the set and measures only 15x18¼ mm. The stamps were black and had only one size of perforation (perf 12) throughout their history. Their purpose was to prepay the postage on newspapers or periodicals weighing less than one ounce each when posted singly. There was only one plate used in printing the stamp over the entire period and it contained two panes of 100 images. The plates were re-entered on occasion when they became worn. At the top of the pane were not one but two plate numbers,
nos. 1 & 2.

You can see examples of both the half-cent on a cover and as a full sheet by clicking on the buttons below.

Half-cent on cover
Full Sheet

Please have a look at the full sheet as this will help explain and illustrate many of the comments which follow.

Black and gray black (Unitrade 34i)
The two recognized shades for the half-cent are black and the gray black.


Lot 402
Oct 25, 2000
Grey Black

Lot 403
Oct 25, 2000
  These two examples come from the same Maresch sale in 2000 and illustrate perfectly the two shades.

These shades are also found in the imperforate copies of the stamp.

Thick white paper (Unitrade 34ii)

No Image Available

Lot 509
Feb 3, 1982
  We were hard pressed to find an example of this scarce variety, but finally found one in a 1982 Maresch sale. We realize that no image can really illustrate the thickness of the paper and in fact the auction catalogue did not have one.But our search certainly did show us how rare this variety is.

Re-entries (Unitrade 34iv & 34vi)

Major re-entry

Lot 2008
West Island Philatelics
May 7, 1995
Minor re-entries

Lot 251
Dec 11, 2001

A comment in a Maresch sale persuaded us that there were a number of re-entries made on the half-cent plate, most of them insignificant. But there are two major re-entries that are significant. Unitrade states that these are found on position 49 of the right pane and position 9 (they don't identify which pane). The above examples illustrate again the black and gray black shades.

Pre-cancelled copies (Unitrade 34xx)

Horizontal cancel

Lot 316
May 18, 1982
Vertical cancel

Lot 386
April 22, 2000
  Illustrated here are copies that have been pre-cancelled both horizontally and vertically. The Sisson's copy came from the George E.L.Manley collection.

Record prices

Lot 1707
Sept 28, 1999

Lot 1892
May 16, 2000
  The 2003 Scott Catalogue price for the half-cent is $9. It is not uncommon for very fine NH copies to appear at auction and these usually realize prices ranging from $80 to $120. However, in 1999 and again in 2000, copies of the half-cent sold for a remarkable $210.

Imprint blocks & gutter stamps
Those of you who looked at the full pane illustrated previously will have noted that there are two plate numbers at the top of the pane, Nos. 1&2. In each case, the numbers were reversed which is curious in itself. We do not know why.

Lot 313
Sept 1995
  The two plate numbers were well illustrated in these two top strips from a 1995 Hennok sale.

Lot 510
Feb 3, 1982
  This shows a gutter block of eight from the middle of the top of the pane.

Very thick "carton" paper

Lot 406
Oct 26, 2000
  At a 2000 Maresch auction, a very different variety was offered and sold for $600, a rather extraordinary price. It consisted of a single-used copy of the half-cent on very thick carton paper that measured 0.39 m

Offset transfer

Lot 102
Oct 15, 1998
  From time to time, freshly printed sheets were stacked up on top of each other by mistake with a result that the impression from the bottom sheet would be transferred to the gum side of the sheet above. The result is well illustrated in this example that shows the gummed side of a pair of half-cents with the image of Queen Victoria faintly transferred to it.

Imperforate & Part imperforate copies

The half-cent is rich in imperforate varieties. 200 pairs exist, some with and some without gum. The imperforates of the half-cent are similar to the other imperforates in the Small Queen set, but there are a number of curiosities.

White Gum

Lot 3456
Jun 24, 2000

Yellowish Gum

Saskatoon Stamp Centre Pamphlet
  The fully imperforate pairs were probably printed as favours that were given by post office officials to individuals in appreciation for services to the post office. On rare occasion they were used postally. Used copies on and off cover have appeared regularly at auction over the years.

Lot 440
Jan 27, 1988

Lot 456
Mar 21, 2001
  These pairs have unusually large borders. Do they come from the regular sheets? It is not clear. They don't seem to fit somehow.

Lot 703
Sept 30, 1981
  This variety results from the vertical perforating wheels becoming loose and slipping. This creates partially imperforate pairs of stamps separated by double perforations in the center. As can be seen, this variety seldom comes well centered.

No Perfs. on edge

Lot 479
Oct 3, 1985
Perfs. on edge

Lot 445
Jan 27, 1988
  But how can one explain the first variety on the left where there are no perforations on the two sides. One auctioneer suggested that the perforations of these partially imperforate pairs had been trimmed in order to create a false variety.

Lot 117
Oct 23, 1986
  Even more curious is this perfectly centered pair from 1986 Maresch sale. Was this simply the result of the slip of the perforated wheel or is there is some other explanation. This pair must be especially unusual because it is not listed in either Scotts or Unitrade.

Lot 404
Oct 26, 2000
  Most unusual of all is this block of 6 with the left border completely imperforate. We can find no reference to it in the catalogues or commentaries.

Lot 1147
Sept 30, 1990

Lot 8
May 14, 1996
  Next, we see the two examples where the horizontal perforating wheels have apparently slipped, thus creating vertical pairs that are imperforate horizontally.

This completes our survey of some of the more interesting varieties of the half-cent Small Queen. For those of you who would like to look at further information, we offer the following additional pages:

( We regret that the images are not uniformly of the same quality,
but they come from a number of sources)

Canada Map Logo
Return to First Page

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