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Stamp market commentary

Commentary No. 61 - 17 July, 2004

The First "New Varieties" of 2004

The appearance of new varieties of stamps in Canada is a mixed blessing. From the point of view of Canada Post and its printers, most new varieties are evidence of poor printing production and controls. Much has been written about this topic and certainly does not fill one with pride. But we must recognize that the situation has improved considerably in the past two years in Canada. In fact, for the first time since we began keeping records, we did not hear of any new varieties during the first four months of 2004.

On the other hand, collectors love new varieties. Varieties give a certain class to any collection and can distinguish a very ordinary collection from a notable one. For many collectors, the purchase of their first variety allows them to lift their head up high. Now they have "arrived". The stamp world had better pay attention!

The trouble today is the most new varieties come with a pretty hefty price tag. Some, like Canada's imperforate coil stamps, have come down in value since they were first discovered, with copies selling on occasion for under $50. But others, such as David Stein’s discovery that we wrote about last year, can command a price of over $2,000 at auction (see our special commentary dated 26th February 2004).

There are lots of lesser varieties that never make it into the catalogues because each one is so unique. It is common to see these displayed at dealers’ sales counters, including perforation shifts and colour shifts and fold-overs and the prices for these can be very reasonable.

We feature below six new varieties that have come to our attention in the past several months. As you will note, each one comes from a different source.

Saskatoon Stamp Centre - April 7 2004 - Scott 723Ab var
This is a fold-over variety

This unique block was shown on the back of Saskatoon’s April catalogue (cat no.237, lot 164). It was described as "THE 'DESERT' GHOST TOWN MISSING MAGENTA "offset" colour & dark brown intaglio inscriptions & details on UR stamp & parts of 3 others. Only yellow & blue remain. Caused by major corner fold-over. UNIQUE!"

The block was offered for sale at a price of $19,500.

Canadian Stamp News - June 1, 2004 - Scott 2007var
Missing part of design

Purchased by Jake Van Meppelen Scheppink in the mid-April 2004 and described by him in his letter to the Canadian Stamp News of the above date. He wrote in part:

"I thought you may want to know for your magazine, that I picked up a block of four of the $5 Moose stamp with the entire moose and the grass and trees missing in the printing. It just has the "$5 CANADA," the blue sky, and the blue and yellow of the grass. The moose and the vegetation got missed in the printing of the stamps."

Eastern Auctions Ltd. - June 26 2004 - Scott 1700 var
Missing perforations at top

This beautiful block was offered by Eastern at its recent public auction in Halifax. It was described as follows:

"$8.00 Grizzly Bear mint pane of four stamps, imperforate horizontally at top and partially at top of the vertical rows. A rare and eye-appealing variety.VFNH"

This lot had an estimated price of $3,500 and sold for $2,800.

Charles G. Firby - June 26, 2004 - Scott 2004a var
Imperforate booklet pane

This complete booklet pane was offered by Charles Firby as lot 299 at its recent auction in Waterford, Michigan with the following description:

"As yet unlisted 2003 48 cent Christmas booklet complete with gutter pane of 12 that is completely imperforate. Rare & the first I have seen."

The lot had an estimated price of $1000 U.S. and sold for $900 U.S..


John H. Talman Auctions - July 8, 2004 - Scott 918b
Imperforate at bottom margin

While this is not a new variety, it is the first time we have seen or recorded a copy and it is the first sheet we have seen. Scott gives a value of $1500 per block and there are five blocks at the bottom of this sheet giving a total catalogue value of $7,500. John Talman offered the full sheet in his auction at an estimated price of $12,000. We called his office in Toronto subsequent to the auction and were advised that the sheet sold for $6,250 which is just below the Scott listed price. Given the great scarcity of this variety, we would say the buyer did well.

Bill Longley Auctions -July 24, 2004 - Scott 1931 var
Missing colour variety

This variety with missing colours will be offered as lot 248 in Bill Longley's upcoming auction. The description is:

"48 cent Flag over Post Office, with missing colour variety, the building and background are pink because almost all of the blue ink is missing. Dramatic error."

The above stamp is being offered with an estimated price of $400.


It is almost a relief to get back to the situation where just a few varieties are discovered each year, but not a lot. It would be hard to believe that our postal printers could be 100% successful in stopping all errors from getting out, no matter how hard they try. It also appears the above stamps are not of the kind that has been "snuck out the back door "at the printer's plant.

We expect Canadian collectors will continue to keep their eyes open for further discoveries.

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©2004, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada