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October 2019


Million Dollar Straight edge!


Stamp Collectors do not like “Straight Edge” stamps.  They do not look attractive most would agree, and generally get a fraction of what the same stamp otherwise sells for. This has been the case for over 150 years.  Appearance is everything with stamps in the mega buck price bracket, especially.  

In some countries like the USA, Post Office sheets of 100 of many stamps had straight edges on often 2 outer edges, guillotined thus by the stamp printer, from the far larger master printer sheets. This was common late 19th Century to early 20th Century.  All the higher value 1892 Omaha and 1893 Columbian stamps were printed thus, as I recall.  

The unique sheet of 100 of the USA 1918
24¢ Inverted Jenny had 19 straight edged copies at top and right of sheet, and some of these have now been re-perforated of course, as collectors do not like straight edges!  See the reconstructed sheet of these rare stamps, to give you an idea of the original PO sheet layout  -


Million Dollar Scissor Cut!


These 1858 GB 1d Reds were not issued with straight edges by the British Post Office - indeed I can’t think of one regular issue UK postage stamp that used this policy in regular issue stamp sheets.  Nor from Australia - the only way these stamps can have a straight edge here, is from some booklet panes, or the special coil rolls etc. 

So the stamp above had the lower perforations trimmed off by someone wielding a pair of scissors over-zealously it seems clear, when snipping off a letter etc.  So that destroys the value - right?  WRONG!  Stanley Gibbons sold it early 2016 for £495,000, which at the time was over one Million Australian Dollars.


Gibbons sell TWO Plate 77s!


"This is one of the most desirable and iconic of British stamps for collectors worldwide, highly sought after for more than 100 years," said Keith Heddle, Managing Director of investments at Stanley Gibbons, London.  "It is testament to the strength of the market for rare stamps and also Stanley Gibbons global standing that we have managed to sell not just one, but two Plate 77 Penny Reds in the last four years. 

"With the last example we had having been sold to a client in Australia, I'm delighted this one has found a home in Britain."
  Heddle concluded. (The local Sydney buyer was Sir Ron Brierley for a similar sum - and his copy is FAR more attractive!)


Sir Ron Brierley paid £550,000.


The “M.I.” copy sold by Gibbons does not mention the straight edge at base.  Nor does it mention the rather large spike hole in the stamp!  You can see it on the Queen’s neck above the letter E.  It is in the loop of the “5” of the numeral cancel, and looks at first glance like part of the cancel, but shows much more clearly from the back.  It is mentioned on the BPA Certificate very charitably as: “small fault on neck”.

This “M.I.”  copy was found among an examination of a million stamps in 1944, and it sold soon after for £220.  As some 13.4 BILLION examples of this 1d red stamp were sold, there are plenty still surviving to peer and squint at! 

Spink London breathlessly emailed clients mid-September they had this defective “M.I.” Plate 77 for sale - shown above, using the historical SG file image, as of course Spink cluelessly show it nowhere on their website or email, at time of typing.  Clicking on the image link was a dead end, and the "More Details" tab went absolutely nowhere except to the general clunky webpage which a Detective cannot navigate most times.


The Spink Mirage Copy.


The Spink UK ‘’Private Treaty’’ stamp website section of course does not mention this 500,000 quid type piece.  Why ANYONE would give ANYTHING stamp related to Spink at any time to sell, for any reason, continues to astound me.  Many do of course.  A majority of folks also voted for Brexit - and Trump, which is food for thought.  Takes all types!

Spink of course forgot to mention what they were selling this rarity for, in their email, or on website, so sadly I cannot pass on that fairly useful piece of information.  They are not great with e-communications - send them a postcard perhaps, if you really want to know!

The stamp is so rare because the rejected printing plate, which was created in 1863, had the laid down plate size slightly out of sync with the perforating equipment.  It is stated only one sheet was printed and perforated, before the plate was destroyed.  


“77” numbers clear as a bell.


The “Plate 77” Penny Red was never technically issued, but some stamps, which must have come from the rejected imperf imprimatur sheet, somehow found their way into circulation.  Several mint and used copies are recorded - ten of them until this cover was found.

The practice was for a few sheets (possibly as many as six) to be printed from any new plate, and these were submitted to Somerset House for approval, before putting that plate to press.  When approved, one sheet was retained there, as the registration or "imprimatur" sheet.  The rest were returned to the printer and put into stock.  

All Plate Numbers between 71 to 225 were issued, except #75 and #77.  If any plate was not approved, for any reason, all the sheets were returned - to be placed in the pile of items to be first accounted for, and then destroyed.  No official copies of “77” exist in any PO archives.  

This destruction did not seem to occur to the rejected Plate 77 sheet(s).  We know the plate must have reached this point because there still exists a letter from Ormond Hill to Perkins Bacon, telling them that he was rejecting two plates, as they were not aligned plumb enough to allow proper perforating.

Hill seems to have seen from the registration sheet pulls, that the laying down of impressions for plate “77” was slightly out of plumb, meaning the lower rows would all be poorly centred.  Although this letter does not mention the two plates by number, it can only have been plates 75 and 77 since the date of the letter is the same as the date on which the other plates submitted at the same time (76 and 78 to 81) were registered - namely 7 February, 1863.

In short, Ormond Hill must have been examining at least one printed and perforated sheet from plate 77 (and for that matter from plate 75) to have made this decision - and possibly saw as many as six sheets of each.  It is from this/these sheets that it has been, till now, been accepted that the existing plate 77 stamps came from.  It was assumed they escaped the furnace, and to use the strange Gibbons phrase - "somehow reached the public."

"With a stamp of this magnitude you invariably get people popping out of the woodwork and you need to figure out whether they're serious buyers or just kicking the tyres
,"  Keith Heddle from SG said at the time.  The buyer put down the 10% deposit for the stamp within 48 hours Gibbons advised at the time, when they sold it in early 2016, for then over $A1 Million Dollars. 

While there are only a few known examples of the stamp in existence, Heddle from SG said that others have been reported - including one that is believed to have disappeared in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 (The “H. J. Crocker” copy)  - could still possibly re-emerge.  New finds are ALWAYS possible in stamps!  I heard this month another KGV 1d Red from Australia with SIDEWAYS watermark had surfaced.


£1 Million “Victor Hugo” Cover?


One story I have followed with great interest over the past decade or so, is the exciting discovery of a part cover bearing 3 x SG 1d Plate "77" stamps.  The discovery was of an 1865 part cover from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, hand addressed in a florid copperplate, and mailed to Brussels Belgium.  Details here -


3 x GB Plate 77 on Cover.


It was found in an old collection job lot in Europe decades back, where the scarce plate number had not been recognised. The part cover was pre-paid with 3 x 1d Red stamps, all really dreadfully centred, and cancelled as you can see with the Guernsey "324" barred numeral obliterator.

One of those is very badly scuffed, and one is creased/torn.  A rather ugly piece, value in normal circumstances - a dollar or so on a good day.  However all stamps are showing Plate “77” on both sides as you can see nearby - making this literally a £1+ million rarity in the view of many experienced minds in the trade.  NO others exist on cover.

It is most certainly a 7 figure piece, based on the SG recent sales of £550,000 for a single off centred example, and the recent £495,000 paid to Gibbons for the scissor mutilated stamp shown nearby, with a spike hole in it.  Catalogue value of a used single OFF cover is £600,000 in the current 2019 SG “Part 1” Commonwealth catalogue.   

Stampboards has many 100s of detailed colour photos of this issue, and charts and graphs, large microscope blow ups, detailed forensic and chemist reports, and outlining the whereabouts of the other known existing plate “77’ examples.  All added to, and discussed vigorously, by members all over the globe, many of them 1d QV and early GB stamp experts -



Amateur Hour - in STEREO!


The RPSL laughably claimed to the owner that all 6 x number 77s had all been “glued on”,  and the Philatelic Foundation in New York initially claimed the 7s were all newly painted in, and both gave it a "faked" Certificate.  Talk about Amateur Hour in - STEREO                                   


 "Sumwun Glooed On Da Numbahs"


Both utter nonsensical views it seemed to me, and to many others who have studied the matter - and the cover!  And both were totally discredited on all counts, in a detailed report by a renowned forensic document expert - - a fascinating read.

The owner Abed Najjar, commissioned at vast expense I am sure, a briefcase full of detailed scientific and lab reports by Professors and chemists, and other highly skilled experts in paper and chemistry and inks etc, from many countries.  And more damning, a copious report by global leading Forensic Document Examiner, Dr. Robert Radley.

Najjar is a leading collector and specialist, has an honours degree in Pharmacy, has been in philately for about 50 years, written award winning books on his stamp fields, and has published informed work of others in philately.

In addition, he has written a dozen or so detailed and scholastic articles in USA and UK specialised publications and magazines, examining the strange situation with these clear Plate 77 numbers, that Plate to 73, and how that might have occurred etc.


Determination pays off in the end.


He also expertises the stamps of Transjordan, a country that abounds with fakes and forgeries.  So I certainly feel he is certainly experienced enough to tell what is genuine from fake, hence his doggedness in chasing this matter through, where many would have faltered. 

A very interesting development took place earlier this year, when the Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL) publicly tore up their pervious erroneous and negative Certificates on this part cover - see excerpt of their backdown nearby in their member Journal.


RPSL tears up its Certificates.


The Philatelic Foundation in New York, after fully reviewing the real world barrage of science the owner provided on this cover, did a total back-flip, and tore up the first absurd "painted in and faked numbers"  Certificate, and issued one in 2013 as “All Plate 77 - genuine useage”.  See photo nearby.  Full credit to them for finally getting it right.  Those on the original “Expert” (sic) Committee soon were no longer there. 

Forensic paper examiner Radley examined both the RPSL and PF “Expert Opinions” in detail, and tore them apart, and made them both look like Amateur Hour outfits in the process. This is a highly qualified Expert who has testified as a forensic paper and ink and document witness in 100s of Court Trials globally.

The RPS original opinion was even more amateur - they in essence stated to the owner - “Sumwun Glooed On Da Numbahs”.  I kid you not.  A fingernail examination would have debunked that loopy theory, but they dug their head in the British Sand like ostriches, for some years until 2019, and have now tore up their two silly “Opinions”, and agreed in writing that they had done so, in their member newsletter.

So after this long overdue RPSL development, the famous Victor Hugo cover now has only 3 Expert Certificates, each stating that all the stamps, and the cover, are all genuine, and unaltered in any way, and bear GB 1d stamps, each bearing Plate 77 numbers.


Total Backflip Certificate.


The American Philatelic Society Expert Committee, (APS) and Sergio Sismondo Expert Committee also later issued certificates as genuine and unaltered Plate "77" stamps and cover, leaving the “Royal” in London looking sillier than ever, with their "Sumwun Glooed On Da Numbahs" nonsense view, that a 12 year old could debunk with a $5 UV light!

This cover bears three stamps that “plate” via the corner letter positions and alignment, and minor characteristics, to the usual issues made from Plate 73.  That much was established over a decade back.  Clearly a short term repair, or re-entry, or alteration etc, was made to the original Plate 73 in these (and possibly other corner letter positions) - students of the line engraved issues are working on how it occurred, but it most clearly did.

The last word in Philately is NEVER written - we all accept that, and major new finds occur each year that were hitherto regarded as totally impossible.  It took a century for a Sideways Watermark on the Australia 1d Red KGV to appear (SG 20cz, £50,000) - literally the most studied stamp on this PLANET - and then another surfaces soon afterwards etc.  We must have open minds.


The Swedes did the same!


The Swedish Philatelic “Establishment” as recently as the mid 1970s, totally and publicly debunked the unique “Tre Skilling Yellow” stamp as a total fake and fabrication.  A large Committee of 9 of the leading Philatelists there, made all sorts of totally wacky and loopy claims, and science in that case too, later proved them all totally and hopelessly wrong.  It later allegedly changed hands for $ Millions at Auction several times of course.

Some of the Swedish “Experts” even claimed it was faked by using pieces from THREE stamps to make the one.  Others said it was bleached and chemically colour altered etc.  The stamp has been very crudely re-perforated along the top as you can hopefully see, (in the wrong gauge!) and actually has a pretty large slit in it, but it allegedly got Millions each time it was trotted out for auction. 

In 1974 it was exhibited at the stand of Frimarkshuset A.B. the well-known Swedish dealers, at “Stockholmia 74”.  The stamp was then offered to the Swedish Postal Museum for purchase at $US1 million.  The curator Gilbert Svensson had always suspected it to be a forgery, and arranged for it to be handed over to a group of nine Swedish stamp “Experts” to examine.  

After getting the damning reports from this group, stamp owner René Berlingen, and Frimarkshuset A.B. then paid for a very detailed scientific and X-Ray report in 1975, by a Professor of Medial Biophysics, on the paper and ink etc, which pointed to the Tre Skilling Banco stamp being a genuine colour error of the 1855 3 Skilling stamp - being printed in yellow, instead of the usual green the 3 Skilling stamp came in.


New owner with Sweden Tre Skilling Yellow.


How or why this occurred no-one knows, after 164 years.  If a cliché of the 3 Skilling were printed in the wrong colour ink, clearly more than one was produced, and indeed one imagines several sheets were done, if that was the case.  No others have ever been found, so the mystery remains to this day, as to how or why it was created.  But only a few decades after being decried a crude fake in Sweden, it is now accepted as 105% genuine.


Multi Billionaire collector buys Sweden Error.


Count Gustaf Douglas, (FRSPL, RDP) is a Swedish aristocrat, multi Billionaire businessman, and politician.  He is the founder of Securitas who have 370,000 staff globally, and bought the unique 1855 Sweden error of colour by private treaty in May 2013 for his Sweden collection. He included it in a display of his Sweden to the Royal Philatelic Society London, in 2013.

Douglass was the MAJOR financial backer, (with a capital M!) to the recent large ”STOCKHOLMIA 2019” in June, and was styled for the years leading up as “Philatelic Head Patron”.  He has the largest Swedish stamp collection extant.  Displaying the Tre Skilling Yellow here as shown in photo nearby, he said was: “
the greatest day in my 50 years of philately as my hobby.”


Sweden “Experts” all totally wrong. caries the complete discussion on this GB Plate 77 cover, which to date has some 3,300 different messages, with an amazing 215,000 page views, thus far.  Well after the early Certificates, the owner, via neat detective work, discovered the cover was hand addressed by Victor Hugo - the famous French novelist etc, who wrote “Les Misérables” and ”The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”.

Hugo was the most famous resident ever of Guernsey, and the Guernsey cancelled cover was addressed in Hugo’s hand to his publisher in Brussels.  Publisher Lacroix Verboekhoven's offices were at Impasse du Parc, Rue Royal, Brussels. Exactly as shown on the cover.  Sothebys Paris handwriting expert on Victor Hugo, confirmed the addressing on cover was his.

A local friend, an RPSL member, sent me a clear scan of the apology piece in the “The London Philatelist” of January/February 2019 date, withdrawing any inference the stamps were faked in any way, and confirming they have now torn up their silly “Certificates”.  He has always felt this cover was kosher.


10 pages of - “is all Genuine”

  Indeed, I can’t think of a single person, dealer or collector, or Auction House, I have ever spoken to, who regarded the cover as suspicious.  I asked Charles Shreve, and David Feldman at the Washington EXPO, and both seemed nonplussed at the fuss as well.  By that stage it had 3 clear Expert Committee Certificates as genuine.  

Leading Stamp Auctions all like it.


I recall asking Christoph Gaertner his thoughts, and he too was bemused at the fuss.  These three are not your brown cardigan, retired Water Board clerks, on the RPSL Committee, who grow prize pumpkins in their copious spare time - but are all super savvy mega $$$ million a year movers and shakers, in the global stamp world. 

Between them, these leading Auctioneers have sold near every major rarity in the stamp world.  Period.  I have zero doubt any of them would hesitate to offer it for sale, if it were ever consigned to them.  A unique GB cover, sent by a famous writer, with three clear Expert Certificates, is a no-brainer major sale piece anywhere.

Arthur Gray, the greatest collector this country has even seen, (and who was a highly regarded FRPSL member of course!) told me the Victor Hugo Cover was genuine beyond doubt in his view, and to quote him:
"I just can't see what all the fuss is about - of course no-one would try and fake THREE crappy looking stamps, on an ugly looking part cover."


A fool and his money …..


Arthur was a fine judge of horseflesh, and had an uncanny "nose'' for fakes.  He was offered several "Missing Head'' 1d Kangaroos from many sources, over the decades, and told them all to go away, as they were forged.  Some had BPA "Expert" (sic) Certificates, but he dismissed them all, and history shows us he was right - they were fakes made by Major Dormer Legge!

The ACSC to this day, lists none of these Headless Roo fabrications, as editor Dr. Geoff Kellow shares Arthur’s (and my) view on these pretty crude fakes - but one got a 5 figure sum as I recall - a fool and his money are soon parted as they say. is a long discussion on these novelties  

I suspect Arthur would be pleased to see the RPSL finally seeing sense, and backing off on this one at long last, conceding nothing was faked on the stamps, or the cover.  They took their time, but in the end science and forensics, and the weight of positive opinions from other leading Expert Comittees, prevailed.


The original Rocket Man!


Royal Mail issued these 10 Elton John stamps in mid-September.  Not often do any new issue sets of stamps appeal to me visually but this lot did, so will share them here.  The stamps are in a mix of “1ST” Class which are “Forever” stamps, and the £1.55 value which is for Rest of World (outside Europe) letter 10g-20g - i.e. what is used to USA and Australia etc. 


Very pretty new Elton stamps.

  The set features eight album covers chosen by Elton John himself - Honky Chateau, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Sleeping With the Past, The One, Made in England and Songs From the West Coast.

An additional set of 4 stamps are in a miniature sheet of 4 showing live concert scenes, spanning five decades.  Sir Elton is the first living solo artist to be honoured with a stamp set - the only other solo performer to be given the honour is David Bowie, whose career was marked in 2017 following his death.

“To say I was surprised when Royal Mail got in touch is an understatement”  Elton John said, when he was told of this new stamp release.
“Never did I think I'd appear on British postage stamps!”

“Best-known songs in pop history”

  “Elton is one of the most successful British solo artists of all time," Royal Mail spokesperson Philip Parker added. "He has recorded some of the best-known songs in pop history such as ‘Candle in the Wind’ and ‘Rocket Man.'  Our stamps showcase some of his most iconic albums, and celebrate his fantastic musical contribution.”

The stamps are on sale in a variety of formats from Royal Mail.  Along with separate stamps, a collector presentation pack, first day covers, and framed sets (one shown nearby), there are also limited-edition framed prints, and a Dodger Stadium souvenir pack that includes a pair of star-shaped glasses -

Attractive framed set of Elton John stamps.


The current leg of Elton John’s farewell tour runs across North America until November 16, with dates following in Australia, Europe and the U.K.  As of now, the final concert date on the schedule is at London’s “O2” on December 16, 2020.  And just to prove how much of a piano playing legend he really is, there are also four stamps available in the miniature sheet of 4 depicting 4 past live shows.

These 4 stamps include highlights from his performances at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1973, Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium in 1975, the Diamond Jubilee Concert at London’s Buckingham Palace in 2012, as well as his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 2018.

In Australia, Max Stern & Co in Melbourne are the official agents for Royal Mail new issue stamps.  I can bet they will sell a lot more of this one than anything else this year - a most attractive set.







  as I type incessantly -  I cannot stress the importance of having a solid library.  Often the FIRST thing you look up, often pays for that book forever!  A number of wonderful new reference books have appeared recently.  In many cases buying 2 or 3 books costs around the same shipping as ONE, so do give it some thought!  Within NSW, 10 books costs the same shipping as 1 book etc!  ALL in stock now - click on each link for details.  Hint for these as GIFTS!     Glen

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