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GB Stamps - The Joy of the Unusual Key Item

Although I had collected worldwide stamps for many years I can pinpoint the very start of my collection of GB stamps down to August 1978, and a rainstorm in the Lake District.

I was 14 years old and had been enduring an ‘outward bound’ activity holiday with perhaps 100 other boys. I spent a sleepless week becoming increasingly feral, wet and chewed on by insects. The Lake District is aptly named; it requires a lot of rain to keep those large bodies of water topped-up. The majesty of the area was lost on me during this miserable experience and I would not have thanked you for any Wordsworth or Coleridge Lake District poetry as I sunk into ever-deeper mud and dreamed of the next hot meal.

At some point I emerged from woods alongside a road and lo! Across this desolate stretch was a general store crammed with lifesaving nourishment in the form of chocolate bars and crisps. I and the rest of my group fell upon the place, wet frozen fingers fumbling for coin.

Once inside I realised this store also included a Post Office counter and a couple of GPO posters were advertising the new 1978 Horses & Cycling sets. For some reason I just had to have them, so I approached the glass panel and spent the required 87 pence. I recall the lady carefully wrapping them into a little envelope; she could see the stamps needed all the protection she could offer before I crammed them into my backpack. A couple of days later and my ordeal was over. Anyone who had naively brought along any extra clothes in those compressed cardboard suitcases found that they had partially disintegrated in the wet conditions and as they were dragged out of the storage tent handles were falling off and clothes spilled from rotten cases into the mud. I had simply not changed my clothes for a week, us boys are foul.

But my two GB sets survived! Buried within my backpack they stayed dry and a few months later my Christmas present was a Stanley Gibbons “Windsor” album which I tried to fill. I attempted to specialize in the earliest Penny Red issues but on my first day of work at a stamp shop I was shown part of a beautiful collection which not only had the stamps I’d been hoping one day to own but it was also supplemented by beautiful proofs, unusual postmarks and some printing errors.

These wonderful items kept drawing my eye and years later I find myself looking at several items from that very same collection. There is a stunning block of six 1841 2d blue proofs/trials without corner letters (lot 8274), this stamp was printed because a 2d blue was needed for an official Postal Notice and this was the best the printers could come up with at short notice. If you have this item in your collection it will be one of the most impressive pieces you will ever own (incidentally, I noticed another auction firm recently had a pair of these stamps estimated at £2400, at the time of writing we have no bids and our block of SIX is estimated at just £3600-4000!).

Another is an imperforate block of four 1915 2s6d Seahorse stamps (lot 8411). It’s a colour trial and perhaps the biggest problem is that even if you have the £1 green top value this amazing item will be the best ‘thing’ on your page!

There are so many other unusual glories in this catalogue which would enhance any collection, all from that collection I saw so many years ago, including an 1881 Penny Lilac which has been printed on both sides. So it will certainly pay you to trawl through our GB lots in this coming Sandafayre sale on Tuesday, 10th April. Please get in touch should you need any more information. Once these lovely items have sold it will be many years before they reappear!


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