Along with other stamp- lovers I enjoy a good tale and I recently stumbled across one whilst reading about “Dale – Lichtenstein” that famous father / daughter dynasty of philatelists.
I like many of you will have come across that pairing of names; Alfred F. Lichtenstein (b.1876) was an industrialist, finishing his career as Chairman of Ciba-Geigy in 1946. During his lifetime he became one of the most famous stamp collectors of all time owning a good number of philately’s greatest items (his Mauritius “Post Office” covers being just several jewels amongst so many more); his daughter Louise Boyd Dale was if anything an even more impressive collector having delivered a dissertation to the Collectors Club of New York aged just 14 she became the first female judge for an international stamp exhibition, amongst her many other achievements.
What caught my eye was a little story about Mr Lichtenstein being one of the large purchasers at the sale of something called the “Mayfair Find” in 1925. This was one of the most fabulous philatelic discoveries of all time. It appeared that during 1863 and 1864 a young but monied collector (the name always shrouded in secrecy) wrote to various postmasters enclosing amounts between £1 and £5 and asking for stamps in return. Apparently £30 was spent this way (in today’s money in the region of £10,000!) but the returned letters and their precious enclosures were set aside unopened, and eventually forgotten as the young man embarked on his military career.
The letters were rediscovered by the collectors great- granddaughter in the attic of the families Mayfair residence. Their importance was soon recognised and the mint stamps, with their face value of around just £30 sold for over £10,000 (with inflation, over £500,000 in today’s money although the stamps themselves are now worth perhaps four times that amount!).
Here’s just a taste of what the Mayfair Find included:
Vancouver Is. 1860 2½d sheet of 118 (now cat £50,000+, face value a little over £1!)
Queensland 1863 1d sheet of 240 (now cat £26,000+, face value of £1) plus large part sheets of higher values.
Ceylon 1858 ½d mauve two sheets of 120 (now cat £45,000+, face value £1)
Amongst the ‘foreign’ areas the old German postal monopoly of Thurn and Taxis sent complete sheets too!
I can’t image how exciting it must have been to find such rare things still packed inside the original 60 year- old envelopes! As I’ve enjoyed the fantasy I thought I’d share the story with our friends… and as it’s the first I’ve heard of it in my 40+ years of philately I’m going to claim I rediscovered the “Mayfair Find” all over again… sort of.