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Stamp Market Commentary

Commentary No. 78 - 17 December, 2005

Some of Canada’s Rarest Stamps

The Canadian postal authorities have issued many rare stamps over the years. The odd thing is that in most cases, neither they nor the philatelic community knew about it at the time! Collectors who are savvy watch carefully for anything unusual coming out of Canada Post’s current offerings, such as a change of printer or a change of perforation. They compare a regular stamp with its counterpart as a coil or booklet and look for differences. Every once in awhile there’s a “find” and when this happens it is always very exciting.

But the truly rare stamps don’t seem to be found this way. They are either the one in a million exception where something goes wrong with a printing press and the unusual item is sold over the counter at the Post Office without anyone noticing at the time, or they are sneaked out the back door of the printers despite all security precautions. Sometimes they pop up right away or, on occasion, the owner hangs onto them for years, perhaps even until his or her estate is settled. Then out it comes at auction or in a private treaty sale and the stamp community takes notice.

We have selected a fairly well known group of rare Canadian stamps to show you. Some, but not all, are recognized in the catalogues. All are unique, or almost so. At the end of the commentary we provide details of some stamps that are so rare that we could not find their image anywhere. We would appeal to you our viewers to help us find these images if you can.

Here, then, are some of Canada’s rarest stamps:

Scott 26b
There is only known copy of the rare imperforate pair of the 5¢ Large Queen. It last sold for $5,750 in 1986 when Maresch offered it as part of the well known Julian Smith Collection. It had been in the Dale-Lichtenstein Collection at one time. It currently has a value of $11,000 in Scotts Catalogue.


Scott 32
This, of course, is the 2¢ Large Queen on laid paper. There are only two copies known, both of which are used. This is the finer of the two. We have no record of these two stamps being sold at auction and therefore assume that their transfer in the past from one owner to another has been through a dealer.

Scott 37a var
This 3¢ rose imperforate single from the 1871 printing of the Small Queen set comes with a huge left margin showing traces of the next stamp. You’ll need your magnifying glass to see them. It was probably caused by a fold over as there are no recorded imperforate pairs of this shade. It sold at a Maresch sale in 1999 for $115. It is the only copy we know of.

Scott 38 var
There is no known imperforate pair of the 5¢ slate green Small Queen. Despite this, in 1976 this pair, described as an imperforate pair of the slate green stamp, Montreal printing, was offered in a Sisson’s sale. It sold for $210.

Scott 39c
This dark yellow brown imperforate strip of 3 (from a Montreal 1988 plate) is listed in the Unitrade catalogue at a value of $3,500. We have a record of it selling in a Maresch sale in 1996 at which time it sold for $1,500. According to Unitrade, this strip of 3 is unique.

Scott 90viii
According to Unitrade, there are only 2 known pairs of this variety, which consists of a vertical pair that is imperforate horizontally. Unitrade gives it a price of $5000. The pair we have illustrated here comes from a 1971 sale by Sissons and was described as “2¢ red vertical pair- imperf between, top stamp heavily hinged, fine & rare – a new discovery, possibly unique”. It sold for $360. A number of years ago, we showed this particular stamp to a well-known auctioneer in Toronto and he questioned whether it was genuine.

Scott 162ii
To the best of our knowledge, the last time this pair sold was in 1981 at a Maresch sale. It was described as “1¢ orange left bottom sheet margin strip of 3 imperforate (there is a horizontal crease in the margin only between the first and second stamp). Full o.g. This stamp is unique and to my knowledge has never been offered or recorded as existing. Est. value $5000+.” It sold for $2,300.

Scott 164i

According to Unitrade, there are 3 pairs known of this 2¢ imperforate from the Arch set. Each pair has a value of $4000. Lot 978 is described as having no gum and some black fibers on the back, otherwise very fine. When offered by Maresch at auction in 1981, it was described as a new discovery, exceedingly rare and the estimated value was $3,000. It sold for $2,700.

Lot 979 was described as imperforate pair- plus an additional imperforate single forming an imperforate gutter pair with some folding and scissor cuts in the gutter. Maresch gave it an estimated value of $4000 and it sold for $3250.

Scott 190 var
This unusual gutter block appeared in a Firby auction in 2003 and is unlisted in Unitrade. It came from the James W. Goss collection. It was described by Firby as “VF OG . very rare – the first I have seen.” It was given an estimate of $2500 US and sold for $1300 US

Scott 249i
This block first came to our attention when we were reviewing the 2006 addition of the Unitrade catalogue, which described it as “vert.pair with full horiz. gutter pair (unique)” In the catalogue, the price of the block jumped from $3500 to $8000, a rather remarkable increase in one year. We had great difficulty finding an image to illustrate this variety but were eventually able to obtain it courtesy of the Saskatoon Stamp Centre, to whom we again the express our appreciation.

Scott 294

According to Unitrade, this plate block is unique. In the last three Unitrade catalogues, its value jumped from $3500 to $5000 to $5750. We have no record of any sale at auction of this unique item. However in January, 1990, the Saskatoon Stamp Center displayed it in its catalogue where we have obtained this image and the following description:

“50¢ Oil Well - Imperforate at the Top Margin- missing the top horizontal row of perforations. Again, we know of only one sheet, an upper left pane from plate #1 from which there were 5 top margin singles showing the variety. The upper right pane would certainly have shown the same error of perforation and we recall being told that it too reached philatelic hands and was saved. Thus there are 5 singles for sure and a probable maximum of 10. The plate block is certainly still intact—it sold several years ago for $1750.”

Scott 373i
This block appeared in a catalogue of the Saskatoon Stamp Center in 2004. It was described as “Imperforate top margin in UR plate 1 imprint block of 4. Only one sheet recorded (10 top margin singles). This is the unique imprint block from that sheet. ExKutz “Untold Wealth” Mining collection VF LH Stamps”. It was offered at $4950. It is presently listed in Unitrade at $5000.

Scott 392 var
According to Unitrade, there are two vertical imperforate pairs of this 5¢ Pauline Johnson stamp. One is missing the red colour. This particular pair appeared in a 2000 Maresch sale. It was described as having full original gum, large margins and showing part of the two stamps at the left. It had a tiny stain and a gum thin; otherwise it was NH and very fine. The estimated value was $1500 and it sold for $675.

Scott 396a
This unusual variety with the light brown symbols omitted is described by Unitrade as a unique corner fold error. It gives it a value of $3,000 and this has not changed in recent catalogues. We have no record of a sale of the stamp at auction. The copy shown here comes from Ken Pugh’s book “Canadian Varieties of the Queen Elizabeth Era – Part II” issued in 1974. In his book, Ken described it as follows: “This is almost certainly a freak caused by a paper fold, preventing the light red brown ink from making contact with the paper. Only one copy has been found. No market value has been established for this variety, but my estimate for its value is $650 to $1000.”

Scott 408a
According to Unitrade:“Only two genuine imperf. pairs have been recorded. Both are poorly centred. Dangerous fakes have been seen and are well centred. A certificate of authenticity is mandatory for this item.” The only record we have a sale of this imperforate at auction was when the strip of four, shown here, was sold at a Sissons auction in 1968 and in that sale it was described as “Horiz. strip of 4, centre stamps imperf. between, NH, very fine and probably unique”

Scott 430a

This unique copy of the 8¢ surcharge appeared at an Eastern auction in 1996 and sold for $10,500. It presently has a Unitrade value of $15,000. Eastern described it as:

“Block of five containing a pair with one missing the surcharge, a spectacular error, this block is the basis for the catalogue listing and is the only known example, VF NH, unique, Greene Foundation certificate, ex: Cohen, Samos, Canada’s greatest 20th century rarity.”

Scott 430b

This copy also appeared at an Eastern auction in 1996 and it sold for $3000. Unitrade lists it at $5000 today. Eastern described it as a “sheet margin single surcharged on reverse, the only known example, VF NH, Greene Foundation certificate, ex Cohen.”

Scott 646 var

This is the only copy of this unlisted variety we have seen. It appeared in the April, 2005 auction of Montreal Stamps and Coins with the following description: “The 1974 8¢ red skating stamp, used, with left margin imperf. vertically at left. Six mm horizontal perf. skip. Possibly unique.” An estimate of $200 was put on the stamp and it realized $460.


Scott 877 var
This is a possibly unique copy of the 17¢ Lachapelle stamp with blind perforations between the stamp in its margins. VF OG NH. It was offered for sale in Firby’s October, 2005 auction with an estimate of $150 U.S. and sold for $110 U.S.

Scott 973a
Although there are many stamps shown in this sheet, there is only one full stamp shown with “all colours except the black omitted.” This fold over sheet is currently being offered by the Saskatoon Stamp Centre in its December, 2005 catalogue at a price of $29,500 for both Scott 973a & 973b. It described that one unique stamp as “The most incredible Elizabethan Error of Canada in existence! VF NH”

Scott 973b
This unique stamp comes from the same sheet as the above. Of all the stamps shown in this part of the sheet, only one complete stamp exists printed on the gum side with the black omitted. All the others are only part of a stamp. This variety is also being offered in the Saskatoon Stamp Centre catalogue of December, 2005.


Scott 1090 var
This variety was listed in Unitrade for the first time in the 2006 edition with a catalogue value of $1000. It appeared for the first time, to our knowledge, in the Firby sale of October, 2005 and sold for $400 U.S. or
$ 470 Cdn. It was described as: “ 34¢ sheet margin single imperforate at T, light crease o/w VF, used. With normal for comparison. Note that this is the only example known. An impressive variety. 1995 VG Greene Cert. #6948 accompanies.”

Scott 1174 var
This 59¢ musk-ox imperforate pair is unlisted in the catalogues. It was offered by Kimberly in 1999 at one of its auctions with an estimated value of $400 and sold for $300. Kimmerly described it as “F-VF musk-ox imperforate vertical pair, never hinged but light stain on gum and serious vertical crease, unlisted in Unitrade catalogue. A rare variety.” We know of no other examples.

Scott 1356di
There are only two copies known of this block of stamps that contain the pair, which is imperforate between the stamp and the label, according to Unitrade. It puts a catalogue value of $3,000 on the pair today. Saskatoon Stamp Centre offered this block in its September, 2004 catalogue at a price of $2495. The Unitrade value at the time was $2500.

Scott 1452a var

This is the only example we have seen of this variety. It is referred to in the Unitrade catalogue. It was offered for sale in the October, 2005 Firby auction with an estimate of $5000 U.S. and it sold for $3500 U.S. Firby described as follows:

“42¢ Christmas stamp with the umlaut placed over the O instead of the E. When this error was first discovered by Canada Post, they destroyed the entire 30 million stamps that had been printed with this error. Fortunately for stamp collectors, they missed one, which is XF, OG, NH. This example comes with 1995 VG Greene & FQP certificates. See note in UCS, which touts its uniqueness. The FTP cert. states, 'This is a genuine postage stamp in all respects….'. The Greene Foundation hedges their bet & states…. '… is printers waste before correction and not an issued stamp.' Not issued, true. It is, however, from the original run that was destroyed & these are called postage stamps. Here is an opportunity to acquire a unique major error. Note: there are 300+ Seaway inverts that sell for $8000+. A real error showpiece. First time on offer, our estimate for this rarity is undoubtedly conservative.”

Scott 1508a

According to Unitrade, only one booklet is known without die cutting. Saskatoon Stamp Centre offered this booklet in its December, 2002 catalogue with the following description:

“43¢ greetings without die cutting. Part booklet of 4 stamps & 10 labels, which can’t be removed. Light bends from purchaser’s attempt to remove stamps. Only one such booklet reported! Ex G.D. Mass collection.”

Scott 1601b

This imperforate booklet is referred to in the Unitrade catalogue. A copy was sold in Firby’s October, 2005 auction. It had an estimate of $5000 U.S. and realized $3250 U.S. Here is how Firby described it:

"The cplt Greetings Booklet of 45¢ labels with Canada at R but absent the die cutting on all stamps. A great rarity of which this is only the second example recorded of this 1996 issue. Surely not many more can exist after nearly 10 years in circulation. A great modern rarity that is listed, but not priced. This is the first of the 2 known examples, to be offered in a public forum. A great rarity that makes the Seaway invert look common.”

Scott F1c
There is only one known example of this imperforate copy of the 2¢ vermilion registration stamp. The Scott catalogue value today is $4000. At a 1973 Sissons auction, a sale of the pair took place at a time when the catalogue value was $450. The pair sold for $1300. It turned up again in the sale by Robert A. Lee of the Horace W. Harrison Registration Collection in 2003. There it was described as a “.. used imperforate horizontal pair, cork cancelled, from spring 1889 printing. Ex Dale, Lussey. (as illustrated in ‘Capex ‘96 Gems of Philately’) Unique! An estimated price of $3,000 was placed on it and it sold for $3250.

Scott F3var

Imperforate copies of the 8¢ registered stamp in imperforate form are not recognized in the catalogues. This unique block appeared at a 1998 Firby auction where it sold for $12,650 U.S. ( $19,480 Cdn.). It was taken from an original block of 17, which was broken up into pairs and this block of 8. It came from the Thomas Gillian collection of proofs, which has passed down to his family over the years. Firby offered the following comments:

“The most astounding discovery in this archive is the presence of an imperforate block of seventeen of the 8¢ registry stamp. Although the 1888 printings of the 2¢ produced a single imperforate pair (which was shown at the 1996 CAPEX Gems of Canadian Philately display) and the 5¢, 4 imperforate sheets, the 8¢ remained unknown imperforate ( probably since this value was not printed in 1888). Obviously, the printers recognized the fact that the stamps were printed on wove paper: they felt compelled to deface each copy and did so with a brush stroke in black ink. The condition leaves something to be desired but it is what it is. It was decided, since the multiple was in such an unusual configuration, to separate it into collectible pieces: 5 were created and afford all levels of collectors an opportunity to acquire a true Canadian rarity. Each sheet position is penciled in on the reverse. A copy of the unbroken block will accompany each lot.
"The above block of 8 comes from the original block of 17 and is the largest surviving block and only plate block in imperforate condition."

Here is the list of the rare stamps for which we were unable to find an image:

Scott 628i 15¢ Christmas, missing green and part of tagging
Scott 727iii $2 Kluane, black doubled at UL
Scott 840i 17¢ Christmas, gutter pair due to fold over
Scott 1059i 34¢ Fort booklet pane, imperf. at top
Scott 1081ii 42¢ Artifacts, imperf at top
Scott C5a 6¢ Airmail, horiz. pair - imperf vert.
Scott E2ii 20¢ Special delivery, imperf. at bottom margin

In the past we have written about Canada’s rarest and most valuable stamps. Here are some links that you may find of interest:

Commentary No. 71 - Canada’s 20 Most Valuable Stamps
Commentary No. 7 - Canada’s Rarest Stamp

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©2005, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada