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July 2021


  British Guiana sells for 10% more.



The stamp “event” of 2021 was probably the sale by Sotheby’s New York on June 8 of the rather legendary British Guiana 1856 1¢ Black on Magenta cut to shape imperforate stamp classic.  It last sold for a $US9.48 million invoice price, also by Sotheby’s - near exactly 7 years ago, on June 17, 2014, after the outrageous 20% auction house "Buyer Fee" added at time of the sale was added.  At the time, this converted to $A10,154,536.

Rather surprisingly, soon after the hammer fell, Stanley Gibbons London issued a client and dealer email to announce they were the highest bidder. It stated the stamp would be imported into the UK, to be on display at their newly refurbished retail premises at 399 Strand, and doubtless become a bit of a tourist magnet - for both stamp collectors and non-collectors visiting London.  Smart move.


The $A11,312,263 defective stamp!


This cost price to SG this month was the total Sotheby's invoice, plus 5% VAT (which should be paid before the item is imported to UK.)  So even just 5% VAT on $US8.307 million Sotheby's initial invoice cost, is $US415,350, and that VAT is also added onto any 1% type transit insurance, so the figure is higher of course in that case.

So for the record, for those quoting this sale in blogs and club newsletters here etc, the Gibbons landed COST price was a minimum of $US8,722,350 = $A11,312,263.43 - or over 10% more in $A than Weitzman paid in 2014.  SG cannot reclaim back that VAT so it adds to their real landed cost.  How the comparison figures work out in Euro or Rand or Sterling or Zloty etc I have no idea - you can do the math yourself!


Do NOT Graffiti rare stamps.


Seeing temporary non-stamp-collector owner Stuart Weitzman had badly vandalised the fragile stamp with his huge and tacky Women’s shoe “signature” he was lucky to get what he did I think.  Stampboards has videos of this pen desecration taking place -   Weitzman had a 1933 $20 "Saint Gaudens" double eagle USA coin on offer at the same Auction sale that he did not graffiti in any way, and that sold for near $US20 million, so a lesson to him there I hope!   Leave things alone.


Just SO subtle, Mr. Weitzman.


The unique in private hands $20 coin had not been offered for 19 years, where it was then invoiced for $US7,590,020 - at the time, a record price for a world coin I understand.  Sothebys stated before this sale that they expected the $20 gold coin to fetch $US10-15 million hammer price, so it did very well as can be seen, at $US19,509.750 invoice.

Third item in this special sale was the unique Plate Block of 4 of the USA 1918 “Inverted Jenny” 24¢ stamp.  This was invoiced for $US4,860,000, a little more than I expected to be honest.  Americans are not keen on hinged 20th Century key material as a rule.  Pretty block, but a very full price in my view. 

This was over $US2 million more than what it last auctioned for.  In 2005, it was sold at auction by Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, where it sold to bond market tycoon, and major stamp collector Bill Gross for $US2,970,000.  Who then swapped it for a USA stamp he needed!  Only in America.


WHAT are SG going to do with it?

  So why would Stanley Gibbons spend at least $US8,722,350 to buy the defective old Guiana stamp I hear some ask?  Good question.  You can read all about their curious plans for it here -   As can be seen they appear to have some strange idea to essentially sell “time-share” virtual slivers of it online!   

Does anyone understand this concept?


Sadly, Stanley Gibbons have never ever really understood the internet, and they lost over £10 million on their last hare-brained venture, tying up improbably with BidStart, an online portal of mostly clueless American amateur stamp sellers.  That venture nearly sunk the company totally then, and sold almost nothing for SG.

Who knows - maybe in this dreamy ether cloud world of Bitcoin and other strange money e-manifestations, it might work.  But their clientele are retired elderly males in brown cardigans, some of whom cannot send an email, not 25 year old tattooed tech warriors with rings through their nose!  Maybe no-one has told them this?  Anyway, time will tell.  Full story on this sale here -

My strong suggestion to SG is to place it within the Royal Collection.  It is the ONLY key stamp missing from the Royal Collection.  KGV had been super keen to buy it, but American billionaire industrialist Arthur Hind outbid him, and let it be known he was NOT going to be outbid.  Gibbons have a Royal Warrant - they have superb contacts there.  The Royal Collection has in the past sold off surplus to get what stamps they needed.


Place it within the Royal Collection?


There are totally surplus things in the Royal Collection from just Australia alone, that would be worth easily $US8-10 million.  They have a SHEET of £2 Roos MUH,  SHEETS of 120 of the unissued 1914 pair, (Auction price $150,000 a pair) TWELVE x Imperf 1928 Kooka sheets (Auction price $A325,000 each)  Large part sheets MUH of First Watermark sets perf Large ‘’OS’’ (retail $1,000,000) etc, etc.  The list is very long.

Add into the box a handful of surplus early GB specialist material they have spare, and the Palace could swap material worth $US12-15m to SG, to sell, to secure the Guiana for zero exchange of money.  If that lot were all sold as ex Royal Collection it then gets top dollar, and is hence EASY to sell even at fully priced retail. 

Their parent company Phoenix Investments keeps half as per the new loan deal, SG has a $US7.5 sugar hit of sales at a very tough time in their history, and WIN-WIN all round.  Nearby is a lovely £1 1913 Roo pair I have sold twice - from the Queen's Collection.  Fresh superb original gum - one was unhinged as I recall - but simply called "unused" by RPSL.



Queen has sold off things before.


This pair nearby came from the QUEEN'S COLLECTION.  It was obtained by King George V who was very keen on the Kangaroo issues.  The two stamps have a Royal Philatelic Society London, Expert Committee, Certificate of Genuineness which accompanied the lot.  As you can see, the submitter of the pair was: "The Keeper Of The Privy Purse" !  The stamps come in the original special lot folder from Spink, inscribed "The Royal Philatelic Collection - May 17, 2001".

The stamp are from position 14 and 15 on the left pane. the RH stamp has the constant variety 51(D)L ($3,500) "Break In Value Circle At Left" - not noticed by RPSL.  Believed unique in any kind of multiple, mint or used.  Provenance such as this should add 25% over the price of any other pair - themselves very rare multiples.  Almost nothing on the market - from any country - is originally from the Royal Collection.  If I owned them today, I'd ask - and get easily DOUBLE what I last sold them for.


Sir Ron Brierley child sex charges.


Globally known corporate identity, and big league stamp collector, Sir Ron Brierley has pleaded guilty in a Sydney Court to several Police charges of owning child abuse material.  He was charged after Police stopped him at Sydney International Airport and found certain images, and later searched and found more in his 3 storey waterfront mansion in December 2019.   He will be sentenced on August 20.

The businessman amassed phenomenal stamp collections over many decades, and had numerous “Lionheart” Auctions here and overseas (named after his luxury yacht moored at Pittwater) and disposed of small portions of it each time.  At one time, he owned Stanley Gibbons Australia Auctions, along with John Mowbray from NZ, and they offered a portion of his material in the first Mowbray Melbourne sale, and later in April 2005 at Pacific Explorer with estimates of about $A2 million then. 

Spink London have so far held FIFTEEN (15) different special catalogue “Lionheart” sales between 2013 and 2021, believe it or not.  And likely more are in the pipeline.  Near all containing just high quality GB and British Empire stamps, and each groaning with truly rare and expensive pieces and blocks and collections.  There must have been $10s of millions in those alone, looking at the catalogues.


“Lionheart” tied up in Court Injunctions.


Prestige Auctions Melbourne in 2014 had a “Lionheart” Auction with some mega price Kangaroos top value blocks 4 that ended up with court orders, injunctions, and withdrawn lots at last moment a few years back.  A really dreadful, nasty mess, and Brierley was an innocent party in it.  Full details here - some familiar names - an essential read - so clearly very many tens of millions have been sold so far.

NZ born Brierley, 84, was Chairman and/or Director of numerous very prominent companies in Australia and New Zealand and overseas, including Stanley Gibbons London.  He was arrested as he was about to board a plane to Fiji in December 2019.  He had been selected for questioning by Australian Border Force officers. His hand luggage was searched, and the subject material was discovered in the outbound examination rooms.

Police allege they found more than 200,000 images and 500 videos on Brierley's laptop, and electronic storage devices, that depicted child abuse material.  Court documents said this material allegedly showed "young girls aged between approximately two years to 15 years in sexually suggestive poses."   A later Police search of his $30 million harbourside Wunulla Road, Point Piper mansion, where his neighbours include former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull,
found thousands more images.


Brierley pleaded guilty in court.


One admitted offence by Brierley in the Downing Centre Local Court related to photographs of girls, aged as young as two years, in sexually suggestive poses, while another concerned a data storage device found at his home that contained 1,615 images of child abuse material.  Some of the images had been downloaded the night before they were discovered by authorities at the airport, with Brierley telling Police he had looked at them for "recreation".

On May 28, 2021, the official Summary of Facts for the case was released by court officials in Sydney.  In that summary, Ron Brierley told Police officers quizzing him over a cache of images of naked children that he had saved to several devices, that the pictures were in his view, "all perfectly okay" and that he had downloaded them because he thought they "looked interesting".

Brierley was knighted in NZ for service to Business - mainly via his feared corporate raider Brierley Investments Limited especially in the madcap 1980s era - once the largest company in New Zealand with shares owned by 160,000 citizens there, who did well.  Brierley was a notable alumnus of Wellington College, where a theatre was named after him.  The school began scrubbing its grounds of his name and connections after his guilty pleas on April 1, 2021 in Sydney.


The Knighthood now gone.


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this May that Brierley, after he had pleaded guilty in Court to the possession of child sexual abuse material on April 1, had relinquished his Knighthood.  N.Z. Officials wrote to Brierley on April 6, telling him he had 30 days to provide any information that he considered relevant, before the Prime Minister made her decision on it.

Ms Ardern told NZ Media that if Brierley had not voluntarily relinquished his Knighthood, it would have been stripped from him by her Goverment.  Ardern said regardless of anyone’s other achievements, if they were guilty of possessing images which portrayed young children being sexually abused that:
"undoubtedly completely rewrites your history.  Undoubtedly.  I'm very clear - had he not done so, the Knighthood would have been removed.
The Queen has been informed."

"I think it's a sad day for the children of New Zealand and, indeed, the world, when someone is found guilty of possessing such horrendous images," Ardern said.  She added that it was only right that there are "significant consequences" for that. “As a country, New Zealand has to reject anyone who thinks this is okay. This means he’s no longer allowed to use the title of “Sir” and he has been asked to return his insignia
”. PM Ardern was quoted as saying.


Brierley meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.


Brierley had Cricket as another very keen passion, along with stamp collecting.  He is shown nearby, second from right, meeting with Queen Elizabeth II in Britain, with fellow members of the non-profit Australia “Crusaders” cricket group, and has donated generously to some other Cricket organisations, which of course has created for them, very thorny issues due to the current Court admissions of guilt. 

New Zealand Herald
senior reporter David Fisher has stated Cricket Wellington is one of the organisations working out what to do with donated Brierley money.  A $1 million donation from Sir Ron Brierley is sitting in the cricket charity's bank account, while trustees of the organisation figure out what to do with the shamed businessman's philanthropy.  Cricket Wellington replaced Brierley as their long standing Patron, soon after he was charged, and are now looking at his Life Member status.


What to do with a $1 million donation?


Fisher says some think of the donations as tainted, while others believe his convictions shouldn’t detract from the good he has done in his past for the Cricket Club.  Fisher said Wellington College had removed signage outlining their links to the multi-millionaire, immediately after his guilty pleas. The school said it had taken down all signage with Brierley’s name on them, which includes a theatre and sports field.

Ron Brierley is listed as a significant donor on the State Library of NSW website in the donation level band of between $100,000 and $499,000.  Brierley appears to have been a generous donator to causes that he supported.  He is an incredibly wealthy chap worth $100s of millions, and never had spouses or children, so could support whatever cause he wished, so it is sad to read of these recent developments, that have tarnished that long legacy.

Upon sentencing, Brierley will be added to the New South Wales state Child Protection Register for at least eight years, it is reported.  He has been prohibited from international travel and was required to surrender his passport.  Brierley faces a maximum of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced.  Immigration experts have stated in the media that New Zealand born Brierley is not likely to be deported to NZ if his sentence is over 12 months.

He seems most unlikely to be added to the hundreds of NZ born Australian residents who have been deported from Australia to NZ for crimes committed that incur prison sentences of over 12 months - people widely known as ‘’501s’’, the character section of the Australian Migration Act that allows the cancellation of their visa.  "Brierley is an Australian citizen who cannot be placed through the deportation regime, unless they revoke his citizenship" an expert said in the NZ media.

On August 20 we shall know the sentence of the Judge to these guilty pleas.  Due process of the legal system will have ran its full course by that date, over near 2 years and many Court dates, and that is the correct path we all must follow.  That is my Birthday, and also the birthday of a sweet grandaughter who turns an innocent one year old on that same day.  I personally just do not understand any of these actions.  A very sad story, and one I wish I did not need to document. 


Paid a cool £500,000 for these.


Brierley was on the Board of Stanley Gibbons London of course, and also owned a very sizeable chunk of that company stock as I recall - in the halcyon days when they were very profitable!  His stamp purchases were huge over many decades.  He amassed large quantities of stamps and sets that he particularly liked.  Hundreds of mint 1932 5/- Harbour Bridges, and it is believed 100s of sets of the USA 1931 Zeppelins, another favourite.  And 1906 Christchurch Exhibition sets in numerous mint blocks 4 - another curious sideline.


A most astute buy it seems.


When Stanley Gibbons announced the sale of the unique strip of four of India 1948 Gandhi 10 Rupee Purple-Brown and Lake 'SERVICE' stamps shown nearby for a record price of £500,000 only 4 years back, the BBC News report helpfully confirmed the buyer was an Australian collector - coff!  Guess who?  A wonderful piece, and as interest on post-Independence stamp issues from India is rising all the time, a most astute buy no doubt.   Gandhi is of Rock Star status there.

Only two sheets of 50 stamps originally received the 'SERVICE' overprint, of which one remains intact in the Delhi Postal Museum.  From the issued sheet, supplied to the Governor-General's secretariat, only thirteen single examples are authoritatively recorded, including this strip of four, and a block of four in the Royal Philatelic Collection, owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.


Another £550,000 spend here.


Likewise the sale also by Stanley Gibbons of the nearby 1d red on small piece alongside a 4d Vermillion.  In mid 2012 this single example of the elusive 1858 GB “Plate 77 Penny Red” was sold by Stanley Gibbons in London for £550,000.  It was sold just two months after SG acquired it.  The stamp was described as “the finest used example in existence, inside or outside a museum” by the Stanley Gibbons Director of Great Britain Philately.

The acquisition and rapid sale of the Plate 77 stamp attracted much media attention in the UK general press, being featured on the BBC website etc. Its appearance on prime time television was heralded as, “a coup for the hobby”  in the philatelic press.  Great stuff!   A used stamp is catalogued £600,000 in the current SG, so a very valuable piece.  Excuse the terrible scan - that was the BEST that SG offered in 2012!

I have no idea if most of the Ron Brierley stamp accumulations are still extant, but sources advise me it is still extensive - these 2 key pieces illustrated here costing over £1 million have not been seen on the global market since to my knowledge, and Mr Brierley is extremely wealthy, worth several 100 million, and still keen on stamps it seems clear, and would have no pressing financial reason to divest anything.


GB “Plate 77” on piece


Of the four 1d Plate 77 mint examples recorded, one is in the Royal Philatelic Collection, one is in the Tapling Collection in the British Library.  Another was in the “Raphael” collection that was stolen in 1965, and has not been seen since.  The fourth was in the famous Ferrary collection that was sold in the 1920s - the authenticity of that has never been confirmed, and again has not been seen in the Century since the auction.  So no mint are ‘buyable’.

Of the five single used copies, two damaged examples were found in the early 20th Century, neither of which has been seen on the open market for over 60 years.  A third was in the "Crocker" collection and lost in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, and a fourth example from the "Adams" collection is now in the British Library.  A fifth example was this one offered for sale by Stanley Gibbons for £550,000, understood to have been purchased by Sir Ron Brierley in 2012. 


An exciting seven figure find.

  The block of 3 stamps, each showing plate "77" on a battered part cover, written by famous novelist Victor Hugo from his home in Guernsey to his Belgium publisher, was probably the stamp discovery of this Century, in a junk lot.  Despite understandable wariness from some head-in-the-sand UK quarters, it has now had more forensic tests done on it over the past 15 years than the Dead Sea Scrolls!  The cover now has three clear Expert Certificates of Genuineness, and none saying it is otherwise.  New discoveries are STILL out there.  A seven figure find, no doubt about it  

A 4 million Euro cover?


Seems like a lot of pricey covers are floating about this month!  German dealer Christoph Gärtner auctioned the Mauritius cover shown nearby on June 21.  This is being typed just before that date, so the final figure is of course not known.  Estimate was a bullish 4 million Euro ($A6.3 million) plus all the endless Buyer Fees, and add ons etc that now come along with auctions.

(Late June 2021 Update)  This Mauritius “Fancy Dress Ball” cover was invoiced for well over DOUBLE estimate, and indeed sold for over 50% more than the British Guiana stamp!  It was invoiced by Gärtner Germany after a telephone bidding duel from 3 buyers for Euro 10,027,800,
after auction house fees added, which equated on the day to $A15,776,000 Making it THE very easily the most expensive Philatelic item ever sold.  Buyer was not a German resident, so VAT etc might be added on top of that sum as well.  The Mauritius “Bordeaux cover” when it re-appears, clearly will sell for way more.

I must confess it does very little to excite me, but it is only one of three “Fancy Dress Ball” covers that have survived, and the only one in private hands.  Bears the 1847 Mauritius "POST OFFICE" issue, 1d red-orange in the first primitive printing, with four clear margins. The stamp at top right of the envelope and is tied by framed "PAID" handstamp in black to the small-sized Ball invitation envelope. 


Mauritius - Lady Gomm’s Ball envelope.


At top left of the envelope is a clear black framed "PENNY POST" local handstamp.  The envelope, addressed to H. Adam Esq. Jr, (no need for address, or town, or street back then!) shows the black circular datestamp "MAURITIUS POST OFFICE / SE 27 1847" on reverse.  That postmark backstamp confirms the use of the stamp during the very first period (7th day) of issue.

The correct postage on locally mailed envelopes was ONE PENNY, paid by these new "letter labels".  This well-known cover gem was offered at the 50th Christoph Gärtner Auction - 174 years after Lady Gomm, wife of the Governor, created this cover for her lavish fancy dress ball at Government House  The other two Ball envelopes are permanently unavailable, as one is in the Royal Collection, and the other in the Tapling Collection in the British Museum, making this “Adam” cover the only Fancy Dress Ball cover available to collectors.


The only “Masked Ball” cover buyable.


It was sold by David Feldman in Switzerland for $US1.4 million in 1988, being apparently ex Kanai 1986, and that buyer apparently offered it, and ALL the other Kanai Mauritius at a Feldman sale in 1993.  Like many things Feldman, it is a very tangled story, and hard to follow!  Then a couple of transactions later it was sold for an unrevealed sum in 2006 by Feldman to Vikram Chand and reportedly was insured for $4 million.  Whether he is the current vendor - who knows!  One assumes so.


THE priciest item in global philately?

  Despite what most dealers and collectors think, neither of the 2 rather famous stamps - the British Guiana or the Sweden Tre Skilling Yellow, are the world’s “most valuable” stamp items.  Not by a LONG way.  That distinction most certainly belongs to the November 1993 Feldman "Kanai" auction piece shown nearby.  The 1847 envelope is franked with the 1d and 2d “Post Office” Mauritius stamps, and mailed to Bordeaux France - ordering 30 barrels of wine!

Illustrated nearby, The "Bordeaux Letter"  sold for 5,750,000 Swiss Francs “to a Singapore collector” in 1993.  Quite possibly to Vikram Chand of Singapore who appears to be now selling the Mauritius “Masked Ball” cover now?  I know which one I’d prefer to retain!  Adjusted for 28 years of inflation, this seems to be about $US15 million or so now.

The heavy hitter stamp covers globally.


How many readers were aware of this record price?   The “Bordeaux Letter” was purchased by European collector-dealer Guido Craveri it appears, who also paid over $US2 million for a 1851 Hawaii cover in a Siegel Auction in New York in 1995.  And close behind in price to the Mauritius, is the GB 1840 1d Black on “May 3” cover that sold by Harmers Lugarno Switzerland for at that time, 3,400,000 Swiss francs in March 1991 - 30 years aback.  


Take a guess at invoice price?


And covers do not need to be 150 years old to have solid value either, make no mistake!  The common 75c Caption Cook definitive shown nearby on an express letter to the UK would not grab the attention of most readers I am sure.   The cover was a bit rumpled and the stamp area was creased. The stamp soaked off is 10c on a good day as used.  My old friend, the late Rodney Perry would be pleased to see what it sold for recently at a May Abacus auctions in Melbourne.

On a bullish looking (to me) $400 estimate, it was invoiced after all the add-on buyer fees and GST taxes to a local buyer, for a whopping $A1,525!  I suspect 95% of readers here if they saw it in a dealers $5 box at a stamp show would flip straight past it - be honest! 

It had no plate variety or printing error or rare postmark etc.  It does however neatly highlight the growing trend to have some of these higher values paying a SOLO use for some purpose, and this exactly paid the 35c Airmail fee to UK, plus the 40c express delivery charge.

Will other covers of these exist out there - of course they will, as Express letters to UK were not unusual - so for readers in the UK or Europe, do pay a bit more attention to your dealer $5 boxes when stamp shows all kick off again, when the COVID settles down.  As always, it comes down to “Knowledge Is Power” and those with a keen eye can do VERY nicely from spotting such innocuous “sleepers”.








"KNOWLEDGE IS POWER"  as I type incessantly -  I cannot over-stress the importance of having a solid stamp library.  Often the very FIRST thing you look up, often pays for that book forever!  A number of wonderful reference books have appeared in recent times.  In many cases within Australia under the new AP parcel rules, buying 2 or 3 or 4 books costs the EXACT same shipping as ONE does, so do give it some thought!   Within Australia, 3 or 4 books often costs about the same shipping as 1 book etc!  (Superb VFU, valuable franking used on ALL parcels as always.)  ALL in stock now - click on each link for FULL details on each book.  Hint for these as GIFTS!  Buy FIVE or more, and deduct 10% OFF THE LOT!  Glen

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