My Greatest Stamp Find
I have been involved with stamps nearly my entire life. My
first collection was as a ten-year old boy collecting with my
neighborhood buddies. By the time I was done with it, I had more
than 3,000 stamps in my collection and sold it for the princely
sum of 7.50 in 1958. I don't remember what I did with the money.
I think I treated my family to supper at the neighborhood burger
I gave up on the hobby for about seven years and took it up
again as an adult. Where before I collected anything I found, I
started to look for stamps in better condition and in sets. The
first such set I bought was from Vatican City for the 1962
Christmas celebration and paid all of 50c for it.
Though a mere trifle, it was the first knowledgable purchase
and only the beginning of a career that would involve the
expenditure of many thousands of dollars. Over the years I have
bought many individual stamps and collections. The best buy I
ever made turned a hundred and fifty dollars expenditure into a
sixty-five hundred dollar sale.
My first serious interest in stamps was as a general collector
of British Colonies. Especially the stamps of Malta. This
interest led to a lifelong interest in the island and the writing
of The Cellini Masterpiece under the pen name of Raymond John.
Another of my interests was Papua New Guinea. Papua is an
enormous island in the south Pacific and the site of many battles
during World War II. In 1901 the British issued stamps for the
territory of British New Guinea.
These eight stamps showed a native ship known as a Lakatoi and
were printed on a variety of papers with a watermark called a
rosette which resembles a four-leafed flower. Early printers
didn't pay much attention to how the paper was seeded into the
printing presses, so the watermark, which has longer petals on
one side, could appear in two positions. They also used thick and
thin paper. Most of the stamps were printed on watermark
horizontal paper with the short petals pointing up. They ranged
from one-half pence to pay the postage for letters sent within
the colony to half a crown for heavy parcels sent to Australia,
Britain and the rest of the world. One stamp, the 2/6 on thick
paper and with the watermark vertical is quite scarce and an
In 1906 the British separated Papua from the rest of New
Guinea and overprinted the remaining stamps in stock with the
word "Papua" in large serifed type. Most of the thin paper stamps
apparently had been used up, leaving the vertical and horizontal
watermarks. The 2/6 with horizontal watermark and vertical thin
paper are common and sell for around a hundred dollars each. The
watermark vertical, on the other hand, is a major rarity and
catalogs for 6,000 British pounds in the Stanley Gibbons catalog.
It is the scarcest stamp of Papua and missing from most
collections. It is also a popular stamp and when offered it
brings tremendous prices.
In 1995 I was still a full-time dealer and made regular buying
trips through the midwest and the east. I happened to stop at a
stamp auction house in the midwest and went through the lots
which were arranged for viewing in small binders. I was pleased
to see the Papua overprints and I eagerly inspected the set. It
was in pristine, lightly hinged condition and as such, in top
collectible condition. I eagerly went to the 2/6 and held it up
to the light with my tongs. It was the thick paper.
A good start.
I couldn't tell if the watermark was vertical or horizontal
and I asked to borrow a dipping tray and watermark fluid. The
tray is black and when fluid is poured over the stamp, the stamp
paper becomes transparent and the watermark will appear.
I could hardly believe my eyes. I had to take another stamp
from the set to compare it, but there it was. Watermark
I looked up to find the woman who was showing the lots giving
me an inquisitive look. Would she get a copy of the Gibbons
catalog and examine the stamp, too. If so, my discovery would
come out and someone else might decide to bid on it.
I carefully replaced the stamps in their mount and handed the
book back to her. The sale was nearly three weeks away and I
couldn't wait around until then. I could either go back home and
make another trip or contact an agent to bid for me.
I decided on the agent. I gave him a bid of fifteen hundred
dollars on the lot to beat out anyone who wanted the stamps but
didn't know about the variety. My biggest concern is that one of
the biggest Papua collectors in the world was a local and if he
got a look at the stamp, I would never be able to buy it. All I
could hope was that he didn't get a copy of the catalog, or if he
did, that he wouldn't show up to view the lot.
The next twenty days were the longest of my life. The night of
the sale I called the agent. He said the starting bid was 75.00.
I didn't sleep that night and called him again early the next
morning. I had won the bid at 150 plus 10%. A collector of
British Oceania stamps had run up the price on me. The auction
house would be shipping my stamps the next day.
The parcel arrived certified mail three days later. I
contacted the Papua specialist, but he already had a copy and
didn't want another one. A day later I sent it off to the British
Philatelic Association for a certificate. From there it would be
included in a Christie's rarity sale. Four months later it sold
for 3,800 pounds or approximaterly 6,500 US.
Now you may ask why the auction house wasn't aware of the
value of the stamp. For one thing, the house catalogued the stamp
using the Scotts catalog. Scotts is the standard American catalog
and usually only lists a value for the most common variety. The
watermark variety is listed in Gibbons, which is British, which
includes many other color and watermark varieties than the Scott
catalogue. Another reason the stamp may have been overlooked is
that auction describers must look at thousands of stamps every
day. Even if he (here the gender denoter is correct, I know of
only one female describer) has a Gibbons catalog, most will not
take the time to look for possible varieties. In short, it is one
of the things that makes the hobby so fascinating. Anyone who has
found a valuable antique knows the feeling.
John Anderson is a retired dealer in stamps and collectibles.
He is now a full-time writer. His novel, The Cellini Masterpiece,
was published under the pen name of Raymond John by iUniverse in
October of 2004 and is available in select bookstores and on the
web. He will happily answer questions sent to http://www.cmasterpiece.com
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Hobbies and Crafts Night at MCPL AthensWSAWHobby and craft enthusiasts are welcome to join the Marathon County Public Library every month for a night of creating and socializing! MCPL will begin offering its Hobbies and Crafts Night on January 18 from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at its Athens Branch ...
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Neutrals are apparently the new blackMyCentralJersey.comA few years ago, I covered a Mansion in May that was filled with rooms decorated in neutral tones. Many of the designers said that after a decade filled with saturated color, they were shifting to neutral pallets because they are relaxing. Maybe that's ...
Hobbies can make you money in retirementScranton Times-TribuneEven if you don't make a lot of money, you can file a tax deduction for your hobby to help offset costs. A lot of online craftspeople make shirts, posters and knickknacks for trendy TV shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Doctor Who.” These shows have ...and more »
You've done really well making hats, cowls and scarvesMyCentralJersey.comChef Pam Johnson and a crew of volunteers prepare beef stew and roasted vegetables for guests of Eliljah's Promise Community Kitchen, on a cold day in November, 2017. Pamela MacKenzie/Staff Video. Point in Time hats/cowls.jpg Buy Photo. Here are some ...
Two Stocks in Concentration: Axovant Sciences Ltd. (NYSE:AXON), The Michaels Companies, Inc. (NASDAQ:MIK)The Oracle ExaminerThe Michaels Companies, Inc. is a specialty retailer of arts and crafts. The Company's stores offer stock-keeping units in arts, crafts, scrapbooking, floral, framing, home décor, seasonal offerings, and children's hobbies. It produces 11 exclusive ...and more »
Greetings from Vogue Knitting Live, NYC 2018MyCentralJersey.comEvery garment is a unique combination of shape and yarn, guided by the standard sizes provided by the Craft Council. Sizing between increments is generally half-an-inch for the smaller sizes and yarns that are worsted weight or lighter. Heavier yarns ...
University of Rochester (press release) (blog)
A stitcher's storyUniversity of Rochester (press release) (blog)And because January's chill had set in, a hobby he could enjoy indoors was ideal. “I wanted something to replace the crazy work life I'd been leading with something more calming,” says Cook, who now serves as building and project manager for River ...
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