12/10/2021 Sandafayre

Postage stamp from Switzerland being placed in folder

Cold December Nights... It's time for story telling!

From worthless to wonderful, a couple of great stamp stories.
It can be fun to hear some unusual stories about stamps, so here are a couple of ‘quickies’ that I hope you’ll enjoy, they relate to stamps from both ends of the value spectrum!

Many of us UK- based collectors know the story of London’s most famous dealer, a certain Stanley Gibbons who began his business by buying a sack of triangular stamps won by two sailors as a raffle prize. However I was intrigued to hear of New Yorks first stamp dealer, he certainly isn’t as famous as Mr Gibbons as we don’t know his name but apparently sometime in the 1860’s this enterprising chap appeared at the northern end of Nassau Street, a street later to become synonymous with stamp selling.

Taking his stamps he carefully drove a metal tack through the centre of each stamp affixing them to a board which he fastened to park railings. Genius! They could be easily viewed and wouldn’t blow away! I suppose if they got wet, and the Big Apple does have its share of inclement weather, those stamps would have dried out pretty quickly too! Who needs fancy hingeless albums and mounts!

The blood runs cold when you think of the stamps he may have skewered. It was the 1860’s and I’m sure that some of the USA’s best classic’s went on display this way. Brrrrr….

This week a small printing plate has been sold in Switzerland for a little over €1,300,000! A hardy piece of copper measuring just 81 x 61mm which I’m sure even our anonymous American entrepreneur would have struggled to run a tack through. It is the printing plate for the two greatest British Empire stamps, the famed 1d and 2d Mauritius “Post Office” stamps. Unlike ‘normal’ stamp printing plates just one impression of each stamp sits side by side and it was used just 500 times in 1847.

This is the original piece of metal engraved by Joseph Barnard who created these engravings to satisfy the Governor’s wife’s requirement for postage labels, rather like those enjoyed in England, to be used on invitations to a ball.

Apart from a period in the 1910’s – 1930’s the location of the plate was unknown and presumed lost, the fate of so many precious objects in Europe during the mid- 20th Century, and indeed it was lost until the end of 2013 when Odile Burrus, niece of that great collector Maurice Burrus passed away and her family discovered an envelope bearing the inscription “Plaque, uncle Maurice” and within a metal plate and a missing philatelic treasure.

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