There’s Money in Stamps
One early Canadian stamp, worth twelve pence originally, now has a value of $1,650
SINCE the year 1851, when the first postage stamps for use in Canada were issued, Canada has printed almost 200 different kinds of postage stamps. Some of these take their place among the rarest stamps of the world, and all are eagerly sought by stamp collectors everywhere.
The early stamps of Canada were not issued from one central place, as is now the case. Between the years 1851 and 1867 no less than six places in what is now Canada issued their own postage stamps.
Vancouver Island had its own; British Columbia also. The union of Upper and Lower Canada had its own stamps. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island printed separate issues. None of these early stamps were manufactured in Canada. The plates from which they were printed were made either at New York or in London.
It was not until the month of March, 1868, that the first "made in Canada” Canadian postage stamps appeared, and they were manufactured in Montreal.
The dates of the first appearance of Canadian stamps are as follows:
Canada (the union of Upper and Lower
New Brunswick........................... 1851
Nova Scotia............................... 1851
British Columbia and Vancouver Island combined............................ 1860
Prince Edward Island ................. 1861
Vancouver Island ........................ 1865
There is a very good reason why the present generation of Canadians is not more familiar with these early stamps of Canada. They are so valuable that their lucky owners keep them securely locked away. In one of the tall, modern office buildings of Toronto, a gentleman who used to sell typewriters has opened an office in order that he may deal in these rare and valuable specimens.
When a visitor calls, there is an utter lack of stamps displayed on sheets, such as one expects to see in a stamp vendor’s shop. They are kept in a safe, and business is done in a manner similar to that of a jeweller who offers valuable diamonds for sale. *
$1,650 For a Used Stamp
THERE is a popular impression that the early pence issues of Canada are the sole target for all serious collectors, That is not the case. It is true that the famous twelve-penny stamp of 1851 still tops the list, and one sold recently, despite hard times, for $1,650. But the Canadian stamps of next greatest value, strange to say, originated in the extreme West and the extreme East. They are both stamps that could have been purchased for five cents each at one time. The Western stamp is the five-cent one brought out by Vancouver Island in 1865. Postal independence between British Columbia and
Vancouver Island did not last for long, and that five-cent stamp, if bought from a dealer today, would cost about $1,200.
What! Twelve hundred dollars for a five-cent stamp? The reader says, not for him, but that is just where he may be wrong. There is every possibility that the stamp will go on increasing in value year by year, as it has since it was issued. Unless the entire financial system of the world goes to smash, it is a pretty safe bet that in another ten years that stamp, if carefully kept, can be sold at a profit far exceeding bank interest or dividends on gilt-edge bonds.
Do not imagine that you have to go back so far or invest that much money to enjoy dealing in rare stamps. A friend
was in Newfoundland a few years ago, when the first airmail postage stamps of that Dominion were put on sale. He was astute enough to buy a few for a few cents each. Each year his wife gives him a certain stamp catalogue for Christmas. Last Christmas morning he found his usual gift waiting for him among the new shirts, ties and sundries that go to make up a man’s gift assortment. Looking up the air-mail stamps that he had bought at face value just a few years ago, he found that the catalogue valued them at $40 each. How is that for a little investment in these days of tumbling stock prices and dividend reductions?
The reader will argue from the above that such was a most exceptional case, and quite rightly so; but it is a good example of the claim that one does not have to stumble across old postage stamps to share in the dividends that come from wise stamp collecting. To cite a case that comes nearer home, let us consider the issue of Canadian stamps that followed the Diamond Jubilee issue of 1897. True, that is more than thirty years ago, but many readers will recall the issue. They bore a semiprofile view of the ageing Queen, and they had a maple leaf in each of the four corners. They were not out very long when complaints poured into Ottawa from the French-speaking sections of Canada. These stamps were devoid of all numerals, the denomination was printed in English, and the non-English-speaking Canadians had great difficulty in making sure they were not being cheated when they purchased them. Ottawa recalled the issue and sent out new stamps, similar in all respects except that the two lower maple leaves were replaced by the numerical value of the stamp. Now, while these maple leaf stamps were on sale in the Canadian post offices, any person could have purchased a complete set for the sum of thirty-six cents. Their values ran from one-half cent to ten cents. Next time you are passing the shop of some reliable stamp dealer, ask how much he wants for that same set of stamps today.
Examine Your Old Letters
IT IS little developments like these I that make it possible for the average reader to enjoy stamp collecting. As the years go on, it is becoming more and more difficult to secure good specimens of the early Canadian stamps. I know that for an absolute fact, for I have been collecting Canadian and Empire stamps for thirty-five years. Being in newspaper work, it is hardly necessary to suggest that I have not a fortune to invest in them. However, by careful trading and taking advantage of opportunities when they arose, and, most important of all, following up good dues, I have gathered a collection which I value at $2,000.
The reader may jump to the assumption that I have one of the famous twelve-penny blacks. Wrong. I am not one of the lucky eight persons in Canada to hold this wonder. Let me tell you something about this stamp.
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Sand ford Fleming, afterward Sir Sand ford Fleming, who laid out for the Canadian Pacific Railway the route through the Kicking Horse, Eagle and Rogers passes in the Rockies, and also was destined to give the world the wonderful idea of Standard 'Fime, designed the first issue of postage stamps for the United Canadas. With one exception, all his designs were accepted. They called for a threepenny, a sixpenny and a shilling stamp. He lost out on the shilling stamp, and there was substituted for it one with a most peculiar denomination, that of “Twelve Pence.” The threepenny was designed around a beaver and was printed in red. The sixpenny was printed in purple and bore a portrait of Albert, the Prince Consort. The twelvepenny was printed in black and bore a portrait of the Queen as she appeared in her coronation robes. There were great difficulties in exchange in Canada in those distant days, and after a short time it was found that this twelve-penny stamp was not fitting in with the scheme. The original issue of 50,000 copies was recalled, and it was found that 1,510 had been sold. The remainder of the stamps and the dies were destroyed, and it is now up to us to try and find out what happened to the 1,500 odd specimens that went out into the world.
At the latest reckoning, 126 are known to exist, and of that number only nine are known to be in Canada.. There are five in Montreal, three in Toronto and one in Vancouver. One man in New York City has to some extent cornered the remaining ones. Unless he has been forced to sell any during the recent hard times, he has the number given in the latest check-up— thirty-two of these stamps.
The possibility of any more of them turning up in Canada is very remote. Almost every nook and cranny that is open to the public has been searched and searched again. It is possible that some of them repose in ancient legal boxes in some of the old law offices in Kingston, Montreal, Quebec and Halifax. I got all “het up” over such a prospect recently. A lawyer had died, the last of an old legal family, and his business was being transferred. I learned that there was an old box that had belonged to a man long since passed from the stormy sea of Canadian politics, and that this box had been taken, with some other private material, to the home of the late lawyer’s son.
All excited, I telephoned the latter and learned that the box was out in his back shed, unopened. I was not long in going to see him, and together we went through the lx)x. There were scores and scores of letters, all of just about the requisite date, but in each case someone had removed the stamps many years ago.
W/ITH the exception of the United Y V Canadas, as Upper and Lower Canada were known prior to Confederation, all the early stamps of British North America were printed in England. The early stamps of the United Canadas were prepared and manufactured in New York City. A firm of that place, styled Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson, had been making a name as engravers of steel plates for the front pieces of lxx)ks, name plates and other small works of artistic merit. About the time the world became interested in the idea of postage stamps, this company went after the Canadian order that was pending following the stamp designs made by Sandford Fleming. It secured the order to prepare the plates and print the first stamps of Central : Canada.
I It was new to the game, and a great deal I of experimenting was done in the early stages. Sheets of stamps were printed and then the ink was subjected to tests of water, ; acids, chemical fumes, acrid smoke and Í numerous other things. Some of these tests
changed the original black ink to various shades, including greens, reds and blues.
Some years later, this partnership became the American Bank Note Company and a branch was opened in Montreal, and, some time later, at Ottawa. Some years ago the widow of one of its early Canadian salesmen was going through papers he had left behind and came across several sheets of these early stamps in various colors. There were also some sheets of the now famous twelvepenny ones, done in the black ink that was finally decided upon. Each stamp in the sheet had berm overprinted in red with the word “specimen.” The sales representative had carried these sheets as samples of the fine work done by his concern, and in the course of years they had been laid aside and forgotten.
These sheets came on the stamp market, and at the present time as much as $50 is being asked for individual stamps from, this collection. Numerous attempts have been made to work off the overprinted word “specimen,” and to pass the stamps as genuine. Some of these efforts have been very cleverly carried out, and the opinion of an expert is often needed to decide upon the genuineness of such stamps.
While stamp collectors generally recognize the twelve-penny stamp as one of the rare ones of the world, it is not generally known that there is a Canadian stamp—or, to put it exactly, an essay stamp—that is even rarer than this much-sought-after specimen. This is the shilling stamp that was in the original set designed by Sandford Fleming. It was a beaver stamp, and in general appearances very much like the threepenny. The steel die was prepared for its production, but, so far as known, only one stamp was printed from the plate That one stamp is the high-water mark in the collection of Dr. Lewis Reeford of Montreal.
The Self-Glorifying Postmaster
"PARLIER in this story, mention was •*-' made of two other very rare Canadian stamps. One of these is a five-cent one that was brought out for use in New Brunswick in 1860. It had been decided to change the denomination of the New Brunswick stamps from pence to cents. The new issue comprised a one cent, a two-cent, a five-cent, a ten-cent, a 12 34 cent, and a seventeen-cent stamp. Any stamps of the original issue can be secured today for a few cents each, with the exception of the original five-cent stamp. Although thousands of copies of each stamp in the edition were prepared, the original five-cent stamp is today climbing up toward the thousand-dollar mark. Why? All on account of one of those political rows that were so frequent in Canada during the past century.
Hon. Charles Connell. PostmasterGeneral for New Brunswick, was instructed to design and produce the proposed new issue. A wood-burning locomotive graced the one-cent stamp, a portrait of the Queen appeared on the twoand ten-cent stamps. The 1234 cent one sported a sea-going steam vessel, and the seventeen-cent one bore a youthful portrait of the late King Edward as Prince of Wales. What was wrong with that? Nothing.
But for the five-cent stamp he selected a full-face portrait of himself. The New Brunswick Legislature refused to sanction the circulation of this stamp, and instructed the somewhat crestfallen official to issue a new five-cent stamp with a picture of the Queen upon it. A row developed, and things reached such a pitch that Connell resigned his portfolio rather than issue the new fivecent stamp under his administration. All copies of the original five-cent one were ordered destroyed, but there were persons, even in those days, who could not resist laying aside a few specimens. It is surviving specimens of those copies that are so expensive today.
There is nothing very romantic about the rare Western stamp. It happened that one fine day the Island of Vancouver decided to break off’all political connection with British Columbia, and a few stamps were issued. The separation did not last long. The Vancouver Island stamps were of rather poor quality, and very few specimens have survived the years in any decent shape. It is the few good examples of the five-cent Vancouver Island stamp that today bring $1,000 and more.
The Canadian stamps that were issued during the short reign of the late King Edward, especially if unused, are commencing to acquire value, and probably will continue to do so.
It must not be imagined that the issuing of stamps is free from all worries and pit-
falls. The postal authorities of Canada struck a bit of a snag only as recently as 1928. They brought out what is known as a “pictorial issue.” The difficulty centred around the green ten-cent stamp of the issue, which bore a scene in the Rocky Mountains. Of the hundreds of views of the Rockies available, a view was selected from a rare book on the work of Canadian artists, published in Toronto some years ago. The original of the picture in question hangs in the Rosedale home of a Toronto barrister. It is alleged that, without his or the publisher’s permission, the picture was" transferred to the ten-cent stamp. A considerable quantity of legal correspondence followed, but I understand the case was finally settled to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.