FIJI, 1881, 2p Ultramarine Error of Color, "VR" Issue (41b; SG 37b). Original gum, bright and fresh
VERY FINE. THE ONLY EXAMPLE OF THE FIJI 1881 2-PENCE ULTRAMARINE COLOR ERROR IN PRIVATE HANDS—ONLY TWO OTHERS SURVIVE AND BOTH ARE IN INSTITUTIONAL HOLDINGS. AN OPPORTUNITY TO ACQUIRE A MAJOR BRITISH EMPIRE PHILATELIC RARITY THAT ONLY ONE COLLECTOR CAN OWN AT ANY TIME.
The Fiji 2p Ultramarine color error was part of the "VR" (Victoria Regina) issue introduced in 1878. The 1p and 2p stamps were printed in Ultramarine and Green, respectively. The 6p was printed in Rose. On March 28, 1881, Sir John Bates Thurston, an important figure in Fiji's colonial government, ordered 50,000 2p stamps (1,000 sheets) and 30,000 6p stamps from the Government Printing Office in Sydney. The shipment arrived on the S.S. Gunga on April 11, 1881, and Thurston acknowledged receipt on May 3, reporting that the 2p stamps were incorrectly printed in the Ultramarine color of the 1p stamp and requesting a replacement supply in the correct color.
On December 19, 1889, eight years after the error stamps were printed, the Receiver General answered a letter of inquiry from the Colonial Secretary and transmitted four of the 2p Ultramarine color error stamps from a supply of "about 50,000" on hand. On December 24, 1889, the Colonial Secretary wrote to the Crown Agents and enclosed a "few specimens" of the error, suggesting that T. H. Thompson & Co., stamp dealers in Bishop Auckland, England, might be interested in buying the stamps, since they had previously bought obsolete Fiji issues. After considering the matter, the decision was made to destroy the remaining supply. On June 19, 1890, the Receiver General was instructed to deliver the supply of 2p errors to Richard Scott and Daniel J. Chisholm for destruction. The final entry in the file is dated July 24, 1890, recording that 49,940 stamps "coloured blue in error" were destroyed.
The earliest philatelic report of the 2p Ultramarine color error was in The London Philatelist, December 1892:
"The one specimen which is known to exist of this non-issued stamp has been sold to a well-known Parisian collector for £50, and as it establishes the claim of the stamp to be chronicled, we are bound to recognise it. We are indebted to Messrs. Hilckes, Kirkpatrick & Co. for this information."
The "well-known Parisian collector" was Philippe Renotiere von Ferrary, and the error stamp he owned was included in a group lot of 164 items sold in the 7th Ferrary sale on June 14, 1923 (lot 326). The stamp passed to Arthur Hind and was offered in the 5th sale of the Hind collection on July 2, 1934 (lot 36). It was acquired by J. R. W. Purves, who plated it to position 24 in the lower pane. It next appeared in the H. R. Harmer sale of the Col. Hans Lagerloef collection on April 27, 1953 (lot 247). The stamp was exhibited by Sir W. Lacon Threlford at The Royal Philatelic Society, London, on February 6, 1958. The Threlford collection was sold by H. R. Harmer London on June 16, 1975 (the stamp was lot 247). In that sale or sometime later it was acquired by John Gartner, and while owned by him it suffered a fatal tragedy. In 1983 the bush fires around Mount Macedon in Victoria spread to his property. Gartner and his wife covered themselves in blankets and fled to the safety of their swimming pool, where they watched their home and his stamp collection perish. Fortunately, the Gartners survived, but one of the Fiji 2p Ultramarine errors was no more.
Following the destruction of the Ferrary copy, two surviving 2p errors were still safe in institutional holdings, where they remain today and in perpetuity. One is in The Royal Philatelic Collection. The other is stuck down to page 53 of the volume marked "Crown Agents for the Colonies/Stamp Album/Vol. 1/Adhesive Stamps" in the Crown Agents Philatelic and Security Printing Archive at The British Library.
In 1986, the fourth recorded example of the Fiji 2p Ultramarine error emerged. It is the stamp offered here, now one of only three surviving copies and the only one in private hands. The first record of its existence is the catalogue of the A. W. Cox collection sold by H. R. Harmer London on September 25-26, 1933 (lot 379). The next reported appearance of the stamp was in the H. R. Harmer New York private treaty sale brochure for Ameripex 1986 (item 62). It then became the featured item in the Peter Robertson collection of Fiji, sold by Christie's Robson Lowe in London in June 3, 1992. Following that sale it was offered in the Shreves Philatelic Galleries sale of the Howard and Torie Gibralter collection on February 23, 1996. Mr. Schwartz acquired it in the Gibralter sale for $32,500 plus 10% buyer's premium and has owned the stamp for the past 27 years.
On this occasion, we have to wonder what a stamp is worth when it realized $35,750 in a sale 27 years ago and is the only known example in private hands. The Fiji 2p Ultramarine color error is a major stamp rarity from a British colony that has always held great philatelic importance. There are very few stamps in the world that are the only ones of their kind available to collectors. Our estimate seems absurdly anchored to the major catalogues—Scott and Stanley Gibbons—and we have to wonder how catalogue values of $40,000 and £40,000 relate to the year 2023 when they represent something close to the price paid three decades ago. This is an auctioneer's constant refrain, but in this case we truly hope the final price greatly exceeds the catalogue values and our estimate.
Illustrated in Williams Encyclopedia of Rare Stamps (Vol. 1, p. 62) and Linn's Philatelic Gems 3 (p. 58). Ex A. W. Cox (H. R. Harmer London, Sep. 25-26, 1933), Peter Robertson (Christie's Robson Lowe, Jun. 3, 1992) and Howard and Torie Gibralter (Shreves Philatelic Galleries, Feb. 23, 1996). Signed Bloch and with 1976 Friedl certificate. Scott $40,000. SG £40,000.
2023年11月15日, 08:30 EST