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March 2019


This month’s Guessing game!


Here is a little guessing game to start us off this month.  How much is a one cent REVENUE stamp worth, do you think?  I was in Hong Kong this week for Chinese New Year, so this one caught my eye.

The stamp you see below.  It is the standard HK design for STAMP DUTY, 1903 issue from KEVII era, and has the usual red crimped fiscal cancel - this one for 28-12-04.  If you saw it in a circuit book, or dealer stock for a few bucks, or in an old album, would it catch your eye?


Take a guess on value of this?


Well it would not catch my eye to be honest, but it is worth more than a 1913 First Watermark £2 Kangaroo!  So, if you see one, do not pass it by.  A UK dealer member of is listing it up for sale at £4,000 - near $A8,000.  The last one recorded offered, got £4,901 on ebay.  Weird world.

And if you think that is a lot for a ONE CENT revenue, how about the ONE PENNY one shown below?  It is a South Australia 1902 KEVII 1d Stamp Duty stamp with inverted centre.  The central King's head vignette, and the value panel is inverted as you can see.

At least 7 are recorded, which in the "scarce" Revenue orbit is a rather large number usually.  Often items with only a couple of copies known to exist still change hands for rather modest 3 figure sums, when compared to their “postage stamp” cousins. 

The estimate at the Prestige Auction this sold at some years back, was $A4,000.  The Buyer bid $A10,000, which with all the ubiquitous auction add-ons and GST etc, saw it invoiced to him for about $A11,650.

Gary Watson from auctioneer Prestige Auctions told me after the sale: 
"it was part of a deceased estate out of Adelaide - not Victor Bullock.  The under-bidder at $9,750 may be quietly cursing, as he also missed the one at Stanley Gibbons earlier this year which sold for $A8,912. 

"The buyer is overseas and also owns the very valuable and unique KGV 2d red tete-beche pair, and the similarly unique 6d Western Australia Lake Lefroy Cycle Mail tete-beche pair"
  Watson concluded.


World Record Price for a Revenue??


I feel sure this $A11,650 is certainly a world record price for any Australasian Revenue or Duty stamp.  Not sure if even British stamps get prices like that?  I’ve advised John Barefoot in UK of actual sales of the 1d SA, as his Revenues catalogue is absurdly outdated on this, and he is working on a new one now.


Who was Sir Gawaine Baillie?


I was mailing this pretty pair of Bermuda 10/- KGVI scarce shades shown nearby today, that came from the amazing $A40 million stamp collection formed by Sir Gawaine Baillie, and it occurred to me 99% of collectors really have no idea of who he was, as he was so secretive all his life.

His family did not realise he collected stamps, nor did his best friends.  Baillie never exhibited his stamps, and never joined any stamp clubs or societies, or attended any stamp auctions, or visited stamp dealer shops, or even attended shows as far as we know.


2 of the 100,000 Baillie stamps.


So for the record I’ll add some background on this collector - NOW one of the most famed of the Twentieth Century without a doubt, and who is widely acknowledged to have formed the second greatest collection of British Commonwealth stamps ever - second only to the Royal Collection.

Never has detail on it all been pulled together in one place, and drawing on a lot of sources, and a full day of time, I have made an attempt to come up with a summary of the background to this remarkable stamp collector, and will highlight many of his most prized stamp pieces.


Secret $40 million stamp collection.


This rather eccentric English stamp collector died in 2003, aged 69.  Almost none of his family, or very closest friends, knew he even collected stamps.  No mention of philately in his obituaries etc.  Baillie did not exhibit, belong to clubs, attend auctions, or even discuss stamps with those in his closest circle.

His good friend, and car racing business partner Tommy Sopwith - shown at left, around a 1957 Jaguar Mark 1 in photo nearby, and with Baillie at right, was quoted in the Sotheby’s sale catalogue preface as saying in 2004 - 
“I do not think he ever mentioned the word ‘stamp’ even once, and I had no idea he collected them!”


Baillie beat Sir Jack Brabham!


Sotheby’s initially auctioned his superb stamp collection over ten sales from September/October 2004 to January 2007, and those 10 sales were invoiced before any Government taxes etc, for £15,975,438.  This sum was the highest total ever achieved, for any single owner series of stamp sales in Europe. 

They then later auctioned off all the unsolds from those 10 sales starting them all at £1 estimate - many of these pieces of course fetched huge figures!  All up, the sale of the Baillie collection came to well over $A40 million at the time.

The family had called in a Sotheby’s art expert to appraise some paintings and art they wanted to auction.  When there, the wife asked did he know anything about stamps, and the art chap reportedly said it was not his field of expertise, but could take a brief look at an album, and advise if it was a common schoolboy collection, or something a little more valuable.

Instead of being shown the expected album or two, he was walked into a large library type room filled with large leather Frank Godden stamp albums.  The art expert demurred, and said he would have their “stamp chappie” visit, to make a more accurate appraisal.  Remember, Sotheby’s has always had VERY little to do with stamps - art was their BIG thing. 

"It was like walking into Aladdin's cave," recalled Sotheby's stamp specialist Richard Ashton, and that was his exact comment reported in Forbes, when later recounting the first time he saw the absolutely stupendous collection of rare stamps owned by Sir Gawaine Baillie. 

One story I read said Baillie would ordinarily have dinner or breakfast with the family, and then excuse himself to quietly attend to “business matters” for the next few hours in his large office/study.  Code - playtime with stamps!  He reportedly never mentioned stamps to the family, and they had no idea he was so engrossed with them.


Baillie Auction #3 was held in Melbourne.


He dealt only with a few well-established dealers, and they were unknown to each other, and were reportedly sworn to total and absolute secrecy, as to whom they were buying for.  All dealers have a few clients like that, but I have certainly never had one who spent $A40 Million!


Never liked computers.


It is stated Baillie personally eschewed all things computerised, and even for his business used large handwritten ledgers, and accounts flow charts and so on.  As he died 16 years ago it is very conceivable, he had never even looked at any online stamp Auction or dealer list etc - in that era there were NOT many around at all, most especially in the UK. 

Baillie was born into an aristocratic family in 1934, and his early years were spent in the famous and huge Leeds Castle in Kent that his mother had bought with her sister.  He was shipped off to American cousins in Long Island during WW2.  Soon after returning to England, his father died and so - in January 1947, aged 13, he became the seventh Baronet of Polkemmet. 

His education took place in the famous private school Eton, and later he studied engineering at Cambridge University.  In 1959 Baillie created HPC Engineering - specialising in motoring, aerospace and military contracts.  It was a successful company, employing 220 staff, and that financial success clearly funded his later stamp collection.

That private company is still operating today, working in the same fields, in the same town of Burgess Hill, West Sussex - 60 years after being founded by Baillie in 1959. There is zero mention of him, even on their own website!  All very strange.

Whilst alive, Baillie was best known for his car motor racing.  These were still the days when Gentlemen could race privately, so Baillie was able to enter his own cars into major events.  In 1956 he started racing a Lotus Eleven Sports Car, and then joined the Equipe Endeavour Teams, racing Jaguars.  By 1960 he was having some success in his own Lotus Elite.

Baillie personally drove and competed with moderate success, in a range of top end car racing circuits in many countries, including the Le Mans 24 hours race, and at Goodwood, Sandown, Aintree, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Warwick Farm, and Tour de France Automobile etc


Baillie won races in Australia.


He later on, variously raced American cars, such as Ford Galaxies, Ford Mustangs, and Ford Falcons.  During his career he drove against racing greats such as Sterling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark, and even beat 3 time World Champion, Australia’s Sir Jack Brabham in the 1966 British Championship - driving a Ford Falcon.  Ballie stated his greatest win was in Longford Tasmania in 1965, in his huge 7 Litre V8, 428ci, Ford Galaxie. 


”The Big Bitch nearly killed me!”


“The big bitch nearly killed me!” was the now famous expletive lament from legendary Lex Davison (4 time Australian Grand Prix winner) after he narrowly escaped serious injury/death following a big crash in co-driver’s Sir Gawaine Baillie’s massive 7 Litre V8 Ford Galaxie, at the 1964 Sandown International Six Hour race in Melbourne.

That phrase is now famous in racing legend - and back then, was pretty “racy”, to use a pun!  These huge and heavy American cars were notorious for brakes failing under race conditions - the technology over a half Century back was very basic.  Soon after this photo of the Number “1” car on the circuit was taken in 1964, it crashed. 

The powerful car had qualified TEN seconds faster than any other vehicle.  Today, one hundredth of a second is not unusual.  The back end damage got fixed after crash #1, but the brake pads were totally metal to metal after only 40 laps of 200, and they had no spares - those were stuck on the wharves.

They appealed to the crowd for anyone with a Jaguar Mark II to loan them their pads, as they were of the same make.  Baillie also came into pits for brake work.  Brakes then gave up totally at speed, and only a miracle with a support rail stopped Davidson from crashing 10 metres into a large dam when he went through a fence.  Davidson tragically died at the same race, the next year.

Baillie owned all his cars, and had his own mechanics in England and Australia.  When he retired from motor racing in 1967, he re-ignited his boyhood passion for stamps.  Baillie bought near always MINT stamps.  And was SUPER condition conscious about what he bought. 

“Ex Baillie” generally implies top quality stamps and condition.  He collected only British Commonwealth, from QV 1840 1d blacks, and his Australia collection went right to the 2000 Sydney Olympics issue - a sheetlet of 45¢, with all printing INVERTED!


Australia section invoiced over $3 million.


The Australian section stamp collection was sold in Melbourne by Sotheby’s, and was VERY strong in Mint Kangaroos and multiples, and was invoiced for way over $A3 million in July 2005.  The auction catalogue for that sale is still a most useful reference work, and will have all readers drooling!  Do source one.


A Half Million dollar GB pane.


Stamp errors and varieties he liked, and blocks and multiples especially.  The Great Britain 1880 2/- brown, complete mint pane 20 shown nearby, with the usual “Wing Margins” at left is a fine example.  Excuse the fuzzy scan - from an auction 15 years back, when images were much lower quality.  It sold for an astounding £240,800 - then well over $A500,000.

The buyer of that, was American philanthropist Bill Gross, who sold it with the rest of his GB collection at Shreves in June 2007 (and donated all the proceeds to charity) where it was invoiced for $US575,000 - now over $800,000, so a good return in about 2 years!

Bill Gross has a long history of very serious philanthropy.  On June 11, 2007 in New York, he auctioned off his early Great Britain Stamp collection.  The stamps were invoiced to buyers at $US10,506,400.  The auction had been anticipated to raise "only" $US4 million.

Gross and his then wife Sue attended the sale, and were delighted with the result - and then presented their entire proceeds from the sale to a charity after the auction!  The entire hammer price of the GB collection went as an unrestricted gift to
“Doctors Without Borders.”


Quite a Bill Gross donation cheque.


This donation was the largest ever received by Doctors Without Borders, better known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières.  The photo nearby shows Bill and Sue Gross (on left) handing over a symbolic cheque for the hammer price of $US9,136,000 to a delighted Dr. Portnoy from MSF at right.

Half the stamps in the 2/- pane were unhinged mint, and centering was superb for this issue.  Withdrawn only 5 months after issue, the next largest 2/- multiple is thought to be just a pair, and even mint with gum singles are rare.  It has graced several major collections in the past, including The Earl of Crawford, Henry Nissen, Dr. Douglas Latto, Sir Gawaine Baillie, and now Bill Gross.


The KEVII "Glamour" stamp


The 1910 KEVII 2d Tyrian Plum is now in SG at £115,000, taking the Gibbons value to 6 times what it was just a decade or so back.  Who said there was “no money in stamps”?  Auction results support the current catalogue price on SG 266a.

The corner example shown nearby, was invoiced for £102,000 late 2011 by Spink in London, or near double what the Baillie example sold for only a few years earlier.  Top end Commonwealth material continues to do well in the markets, and what seems “dear” now, often looks a bargain 5 years later!


Auctioned for over £100,000


A huge number of the KEVII 2d Tyrian Plums were initially printed - 100,000 sheets, totalling a whopping 24,000,000 stamps emerged from the printing presses - but today very few remain.  One is known on cover addressed to the incoming KGV - sent by himself as then Prince Of Wales, and is in the Royal Collection.

Almost all copies of this rare stamp were destroyed without being issued, when Edward VII died on May 6, 1910.  Only 12 are now believed to exist - three of which are residing forever in The Royal Philatelic Collection of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

The example offered in the Spink “Chartwell” Collection was a lower right corner example. With part original gum, it looks slightly grubby to me.  There were a couple of defects in this copy - a sizeable tear in the bottom margin etc, and a small black mark on Edward's cheek near his earlobe.

Baillie had a more sound condition 2d “Tyrian Plum” copy in his debut 2004 sale, which was invoiced for £54,000, with an estimate of just £20,000 to £25,000.  So from that price in late 2004, to near double in 2011, means the Baillie buyer must be VERY happy!


Record price for a KGVI stamp item.


Not all high prices were from the Queen Victoria era - in sale 10 he set a price record for any philatelic item from the reign of King George VI  - which sold for £81,600 … then about $A215,000.  This was for a Solomon Islands 1939-51 2½d magenta and sage-green KGVI imperforate between pair.

In the large section dedicated to Sperati forgery items at that Baillie final same sale, the Australian 1913 £2 black and rose Kangaroo Die Proof brought £3,720 - a world record price for any individual Sperati forgery item.



Gray £2 Sperati forgery Roo


This Die Proof price was comfortably ahead of the identical Arthur Gray example auctioned a few weeks later in New York by Shreves.  I bought the Gray £2 Sperati forgery “used” example illustrated nearby for stock, from the same sale.  It has been through my hands several times since.

I was delighted to see Rodney Perry nominate this as one of his "Top 10 Best Value buys" from the 849 lot Gray sale in the April "Stamp News" following the auction.  I have always liked buying and selling Speratis, and they are very popular.  Baillie loved them, and I can verify many others do too!

It was on my desk to mail to a client when Arthur popped by for a coffee, and as can be seen, kindly inscribed the Shreves auction lot card - “Tim, enjoy the Sperati as much as I did – Regards, Arthur Gray”.  I hope that card still remains with the stamp - such things really add provenance and interest.

The other £2 Roo on offer at Gray in NYC was not a Sperati forgery at all, but a genuine stamp, some dealers thought!  Offered with a 1999 BPA Photo Certificate saying it was a Sperati, it sold for about $A4,350.  I bought that one back only last year.  Dr Geoff Kellow advised me recently he is convinced it was a different Sperati frame plate than the other recorded £2s, themselves very rare, and he will list it in next ACSC.


a new Sperati £2 forgery type.


The slightly fuzzy print detail overall is a giveaway, as is the “PAQUEBOT - Posted At Sea - Liverpool Ship Letter” cancel from England.  Only letters and postcards got that cancel, and Sperati has taken a common ½d or 1d Roo, and bleached colour out, to make this forgery.  So far unique, but others might be laying around un-noticed.  Value about $A5,000 each, genuine or Sperati - hence little $ difference!

Dr Kellow showed me a £1 Brown and Blue with same cancel.  Arthur told me he also suspected was a Sperati forgery, and I have a 10/- value here with the same cancel.  These were massive sums in the WWI era, and were used on very heavy parcels in the pre-airmail era, that did not get posted as Paquebot mail in the postcard slots!


Sperati gave up on Tasmania forgery.


I also bought the Baillie used £1, 1892 QV Tasmania “Tablet" Sperati forgery for stock at that sale, and it is shown nearby on the Sotheby’s stockcard.  I had just then bought back again, the Bynoff-Smith Sperati Tasmania £1, and passed them both onto a client who now owns the 2 copies thought to exist, of his very rarest forgery from this region!

One can see on the reverse, it is pencil signed by Sperati, and has the BPA London “horseshoe” violet handstamp, denoting it is a Sperati Reproduction, and is numbered “68” of those in the Sperati album of fakes they sold.  Only 2 of the Tasmania have been recorded, as Sperati did not like his colour match, and abandoned the Tasmania.

As many readers will realise, Sperati simply bleached out the colour of a genuine stamp, leaving the correct paper, watermark, perfs, and cancel.  And carefully printed a higher value denomination over the top. has a heap more detail on this forger, and his cunning output that fooled ALL the Expert Committees at the time.


Baillie Tasmania £1 Tablet Sperati.


At the time, some whispers were about, that Baillie owned material possibly stolen from the Royal Collection.  It was speculated some material had been sold by Sir John Wilson, the curator of the Royal Collection from 1938-1969.  It appears true that Wilson was a heavy drinker, and had taken stamps from the Collection without authorisation - those were found in his home after his death.

However there is no hard evidence I could see anywhere, that any of such material ended up in Baillie collection, or in the material offered at auction anyway.  Clearly many of the better items in the Baillie collection can be traced back to major sales from other private collections, offered on the open market etc.

We have all heard the stories of secretive and wealthy art collectors knowingly buying stolen, or dubious provenance Old Masters paintings etc, and looking at them in secret rooms in large homes, knowing they cannot be openly sold - but enjoying them all the same.  Sounds weird to me, but history shows that certainly does happen.


“Sell them for £1.”


Lady Margot Baillie was understandably delighted with the results of these initial 10 auctions of stamps.  Each Auction sale has unsold lots of course, and she instructed Sotheby’s to offer all those 1,342 unsolds at one last Baillie “Missed Opportunities sale on May 2/3, 2007.


An undoubted bargain at £1!


That sale was stated to be totally unreserved.  Unless other bids dictated otherwise, each lot was to open at £1.  The catalogue included every unsold lot from the ten previous sales.  Each lot carried the original description and estimate, with the original lot number referenced at the end of each description.

“If there are no commission bids before the sale, or only one commission bid, the lot will start at £1.  That should be enticing, even if you are thinking in Australian Dollars”  Sotheby's stamp specialist Richard Ashton told me by email. This sale of course had some magnificent pieces, as Baillie was most condition conscious.

One item that I’d be rather pleased to have bought at £1 is the 1903 20/- (£1) green Australian Postage Due illustrated nearby.  It was described as being fresh with original gum.  The Australia 10/- mono-colour Postage Due from the same series was also offered.



  Another Baillie unsold lot.


Naturally there were several VERY expensive items in this "unreserved" auction.  Some were in the £20,000+ mark original estimate.  One such item is illustrated nearby - the Canada 1959 5¢ "Seaway" inverted centre block, which had an original estimate of £25,000-£28,000.

It was all good marketing of course, as all sold second time around - and many at above original estimate!  In the end, the huge and superb British Commonwealth collection the stamp world did not know even existed, were invoiced for about $A40 million.

So, when your wife next complains after seeing a Visa card debit for $100, for a used 5/- Kangaroo, or box of Hagner sheets, or a new catalogue etc, show her a copy of this article, and remind her of how incredibly lucky she really is!!


Visit to Cocos/Christmas Islands.


I’ll bet every reader of this column owns stamps and/or FDC from either or both the Christmas or Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean.  Correct?  Both are very widely collected and stocked.

Australia Post has issued stamps for decades from both, often selling them nationally as a standard issue, and of course these issues are totally valid for postage within Australia, the same as AAT issues, and Norfolk Island stamps now are.

Have ANY of you ever been to either?  Almost nobody has visited there, I am pretty certain.  Both Islands have really tiny populations, and the remoteness and expense of getting there is a major hurdle to visiting.


The Christmas Island Post Office.


Stampboards member ausfoo, based in Georgia USA recently made the 10,000 mile journey to go and visit both island groups, and visited the Post Offices on both. He took heaps of photos of the inside of them and mail and staffers, and mail transport etc.

Both are places I’ve had on my ‘must do’ list to visit for years, and he has inspired me to get organised a bit more on that!  He added up dozens of good photos on his recent visit, and well worth a look -

I’ve met and had dinner with Austin when in New York, and he was then most kind to rustle us up some of the excellent AAA road maps for our remote back roads driving around the Deep South, and glad to see him getting over to this side of the planet!


Big auction of Cocos Covers soon.


Interest in the stamps of both Territories remains high globally.  Abacus Auctions have a strong collection of Cocos covers going back to Clunies Ross days from 1906, and is taking place early March.  I have a few of those Clunies Ross ivory token private money here somewhere, I must dig out!

Some great covers in there you will not see offered again at one time.  I noticed one that had my fading grey matter brain cells working.  I seem to recall Derek Brennan, a very keen collector was the Philatelic Officer over there for some time?  Another cover to him in there is described as “philatelic”.


Commercial or Philatelic cover?


The auction describers do not seem to have the same recollections, and have not mentioned that, and for an $800 plus all fees estimate, I’ll be interested to see if anyone else does recall the connection!  Might be addressed to himself, or from a mate there.  Who knows, but agree that Official on cover would be scarce, even if contrived.

Both areas stay popular globally, due to VERY conservative issue policies, and good to see that appears to have stayed the policy in recent years.  One only has to look at when the Americans hijacked PNG new issues, to spew forth garish and irrelevant George Washington and Abraham Lincoln sets etc, how fast collectors drop them.






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