Lost Australian treasures in Melbourne sale May 9
By Glen Stephens
The most spectacular collection of Australian stamps offered in the past 40 years will be auctioned May 9 in Melbourne. This collection previously was unknown to modern collectors, and most of it had not been seen for more than half a century. One error piece is expected to set a new Australian auction record of $A100,000 (U.S. $49,000).
For decades this gem, pictured here, was believed lost to philately, as were many other gems in the collection. The collection was formed by Harrie Evans, a retired army officer who died in 1971. Throughout his adult life, Evans was a dedicated but very private stamp collector. It is believed that Evans never joined a philatelic society and never exhibited his collection. His Australian collection was housed in 33 large albums and covered the period of 1913 to 1971. It is strongest in the Kangaroo and King George V head issues.
Premier Philatelic auctions, headed by dealers Gary Watson and David Woods, will conduct the auction May 9. This date was selected because it is the 100th anniversary of Australian federation. The sale of the collection is creating enormous interest in the Australian mass media. The Australian Financial Review (equivalent to The Wall Street Journal) ran a half-page feature article on the upcoming auction, illustrating the star piece, a strip of three of the 1915-28 brown 2/- Kangaroo that is imperforate on three sides. The piece was believed lost to the stamp hobby, and its whereabouts had not been known to modern collectors.
This error is not listed in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, but it is listed by Stanley Gibbons as No. 41a with a value of £16,000 (U.S. $23,000). The Australian Commonwealth Specialist Catalogue values it at $A30,000 (U.S. $15,000). Both of these catalog valuations are for an error pair, not a strip of three. The strip has small faults, but it is expected to sell for about $A100,000.
"I have had two firm offers before the auction to buy it for $50,000," Watson told me. "The vendor wants it to sell via the auction process, and I am confident it will smash the record for a single Australian item." One keen bidder is expected to be industrialist Hugh Morgan, the head of Western Mining Co. Morgan owns the adjoining pair to this strip, and re-joining them would make one of the most important pieces in 20th-century British Commonwealth philately.
Evans was a man of means, and he amassed a collection strong in high-value mint pieces and multiples. The Kangaroo issues were clearly his favorite. He was especially fond of monograms. The collection contains more than 60 "CA" or "JBC" monograms or "No Monogram" pieces. The most outstanding are the previously unrecorded 1-penny red sideways watermark "CA" block of six and the third watermark £1 chestnut & blue "JBC" single.
Monogram stamps are one of the hottest areas on the Australian stamp scene. The June 5, 2000, issue of Linn's had a front-page report on a record price of $A30,000 (then U.S. $17,200) being obtained for a £1 Brown and Blue monogram Kangaroo.
The reason this example sold for nearly eight times the usual figure for a nonselvage stamp is the printer's monogram on the stamp selvage. The circled "CA" is an abbreviation for Commonwealth of Australia. Each post office sheet of 120 of this 1913 Kangaroo issue bore a "CA" marginal monogram along the lower selvage on the left pane of 60 and a similar "JBC" monogram on the right pane. The monograms traditionally are collected in a lower-corner strip of three, and prices for such items are typically two or three times the price of a single monogram stamp.
The Kangaroo section of the sale is replete with other gem items, many not seen on the market in 50 years or more. A beautifully centered £2 Kangaroo never-hinged imprint block also is expected to attract enthusiastic international bidding.
Evans also formed the most valuable Fiji collection ever seen, and he had a strong collection of New Guinea, Papua and North West Pacific Islands. Both of these collections will be offered in later sales.
Watson said: "The Fiji is the finest collection in existence and surpasses the superb Gordon Rogers' collection that I had the pleasure to auction. Many earlier Fiji issues long removed from the Stanley Gibbons catalogs, as no copy had been sighted, will need to be re-instated, for they appear to have lain dormant in this collection."
Born in Australia in 1887, Evans qualified as a public accountant. In 1915, he joined the Army Pay Corps of the Australian Imperial forces, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and the position of chief paymaster. Evans was awarded the Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) in 1918. At the end of World War I, he was appointed director of the repatriation and demobilization branch. He subsequently returned to his accounting career in Melbourne.
In 1926, Evans was invited to join Austral Development Ltd., the London-based company that represented Broken Hill Mining and Metal interests, the largest public company in Australia. Evans eventually became director of Austral Development, living in London from 1927 until his death in late 1971.
Evans was a true old-time collector. He was prepared to accept less than perfect stamps and he mounted everything on his pages. Consequently, there is something for everyone in the auction, from the most discerning connoisseur to the wholesale dealer.
A deluxe square bound sale catalog with full-color illustrations is available, price $A25 posted airmail. Credit cards are accepted, and any sale purchases will be rebated against this $A25 catalog cost. The firm's mailing address is Premier Philatelic Auctions Pty Ltd., Box 126, Belgrave, Victoria VIC 3160, Australia. The telephone number is 011-61-3-9754-7666, fax 011-61-3-9754-7677. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glen Stephens is a philatelic journalist and stamp dealer based in Sydney, Australia.
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