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Stamp Market Commentary

Commentary No. 85 - 17 July, 2006

Reflections on Sir Gawaine Baillie’s BNA Collection

It seems clear to us that Sotheby’s auction of Sir Gawaine Baillie’s BNA stamps in New York on May 10, 2006 was one of the most significant sales of BNA material in years. We have spent hours reviewing the catalogue trying to absorb the huge amount of information it contained. This record of Sir Gawaine’s accomplishments will be an important reference for years to come.

Many of the stamps he acquired came from other well known collections and it is to his credit that he had the determination to always go for the best. We tracked one example back over 45 years to at least two earlier owners:

Lot 980
Scott 27
Estimate $18,000 – $20,000
Realized $115,500

In July 1977, R.Maresch & Son offered the above block as lot 117 in a private treaty sale for a price of $12,500. Bill Maresch described it as ex-Jarrett. Fortunately, we had the bound catalogues from the Fred Jarrett sales that took place at J.N. Sissons in Toronto between 1959 and 1961. There, the block appeared as lot 287 on February 3, 1960 and sold for $3,300. Thus, to summarize:



Record Prices

The Sotheby’s sale in New York of Sir Gawaine’s material resulted in 30 record prices. While this is impressive, we believe that it was only scratching the surface. We do not keep records of prices paid for large blocks such as the 6¢ Large Queen block shown above. There were literally hundreds of such blocks in the sale, many selling for outstanding prices.

We also could not identify the prices realized for many of the individual items because they had been grouped together in single lots. Take Sir Gawaine’s collection of air post semi-official issues. These were all offered as one lot with an estimate of $20,000-$25,000. They sold for $43,700. Or, take his Admirals, stamps that regularly sell for record after record. His collection of individual Admirals had an estimate of $3,500-$4,000 and sold as a group for $17,250

We do not keep records of the prices realized for the stamps of Canada’s provinces. Did some of their realizations represent new record prices? We have no idea, but consider the following:


Lot 308
Scott 15
Catalogue $25,000
Realized $48,300
Nova Scotia

Lot 160
Scott 7
Catalogue $20,000
Realized $48,300

We hope we have correctly identified the above stamps. One of the difficulties we faced in reviewing this sale was that Sotheby’s identified most of the stamps and their varieties in accordance with the Stanley Gibbons catalogue. This is understandable as this is what the Sotheby’s stamp experts are used to and the standard that Sir Gawaine would undoubtedly have used. But for most North American collectors, this presents a problem as we are used to the Scott’s catalogue for most stamps and the Unitrade catalogue for the varieties. To give Sotheby’s credit, they did use Unitrade for many of the modern Canadian varieties and this was very helpful.

Early Canada favoured

It is clear from the results that this sale favored the earlier Canadian stamps, say from Scott 1 to 140. This is probably a reflection of Sir Gawaine’s interests. In the early Canada there were many new records achieved, many unique pieces offered. The prices were notable.

By contrast, after Scott 140 the prices are generally not notable, The bidders are far less aggressive, few single stamps were offered, whole groups were offered as one lot, there are few new record prices.

The lots for early Canada take up 139 pages in the catalogue, while the subsequent stamps containing the modern varieties take up only 51 pages. Not that the modern varieties are ignored. Far from it, there are varieties galore and many of them are quite rare. Sir Gawaine never went for half measures. He never bought a block of 4 when he could get one of 10 or 20.

In retrospect, we’re very appreciative that he concentrated on early Canada. These are stamps that are rarely seen and seldom offered. To have them all in one beautiful catalogue is a clear bonus, one to be treasured for its strengths.

These comments were written on Canada Day, July 1, 2006. This is the day we Canadians celebrate our heritage and, with the help of Sir Gawaine, we can happily share it with our fellow collectors in the UK, the U.S. and in many other countries.

Sir Gawaine has left us a very special gift. We salute his accomplishments!

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©2006, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada