Unique stamps — similar fates.

The story of the appearance and the fate of the Tiflis stamp is very interesting and exciting. It is similar to unusual fates of other world rarities of the XIX century.

British Guiana 1¢ magenta.

“British Guiana” or “British Guiana Pink” stamp is called “Princess of philately” (Eng. British Guiana 1 ¢ magenta). This unique in denominations of 1 cent was issued in a limited edition in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1856, and there is only one copy of it. The stamp has an octagonal shape, has no perforations, printed typographically in black ink on red on the front side of the paper. In the center of the stamp there is an image of three-masted schooner that served as a vignette for the marine section of the local newspaper Chronicle “Official Gazette” (Official Gazette). Above the image of the schooner and under it there is the motto of the colony in Latin “Damus Petimus Que Vicissim” (“We give and hope to get”). Sailboat is framed by four thin lines. Along the perimeter of the frame the issuing country and par value of the stamp are given in small black capital letters. In the upper left corner of the label of the stamp there are letters in handwriting “EDW” — the initials of the mail clerk Edward White. The stamp of cancellation is a bit smeared, but it can be readable: “DEMERARA, AP. 4. 1856”

British Guiana 1¢ magenta, 1856.

British Guiana 1¢ magenta, 1856.

A red stamp of one cent was issued as part of a series of three stamps of the standard release and was intended to be used on the local newspapers. The other two stamps, par value 4 cents of red color and 4 cents of blue color, were intended to pay for items of mail.

This issue appeared by pure luck. In 1856, the stamps manufactured in Great Britain were to be sent to the colony by sea. However, they never came there, so the local postmaster, E.T.E.Dalton, immediately instructed to print a series of three stamps in the printing house of Joseph Baum and William Dallas in the city of Georgetown where the newspaper “Official Gazette” was published. Dalton gave specific instructions concerning the drawing of the stamp, but the staff at the printing house decided to add their own image of a sailboat on the stamp. Dalton did not like the final result, and to take precautions against counterfeits, he ordered that all correspondence with glued postage stamps should be signed by postal employees.

Today we know about the existence of a single copy of the stamp par value of 1 cent. The stamp came by mail and was cut in an octagonal shape. In accordance with Dalton’s instructions on the left side of the stamp there is a visible signature. Despite its scruffy appearance and bold print of postal stamp at the top on the left side, the stamp is still considered to be priceless.

“British Guiana” was found in 1873 by 12-year-old Scottish schoolboy L.Vernon Vaughan in Guyana Demerara town among the letters of his uncle. Since the stamp was not mentioned in his catalogue of postage stamps, he sold it a few weeks later to a friend collector N.R.McKinnon for a few shillings (today it is about 0.50 to 2.50 US dollars). Five years later, the stamp with the entire collection of McKinnon moved to Liverpool merchant Tomas Ridpath, who at first did not pay much attention to it. However, having carefully examined the stamp and having shown it to the specialists, Ridpath realized that he turned out to be the owner of one of the rarest stamps in the world. In the same year 1878 (according to some sources — in 1880) Ridpath sold it for 150 pounds ($ 750) to Baron Philip von Ferrari. After that, the stamp got publicity and the price for it rapidly went up. After the death of Ferrari on 20 May 1917, his huge stamp collection was bequeathed to the Berlin Museum (Museum für Kommunikation Berlin), but was confiscated by France on account of reparation payment after the First World War. The collection was sold out at 14 auctions held in 1921–1925 respectively.

On April 7, 1922 at the third auction, which was held in Paris, at the “Drouot” hotel the unique stamp was bought by English merchant Gribert for 352,500 francs (36,000 dollars), having outflanked, according to the rumors, the three kings, one of whom was George V himself. As it turned out later, Gribert was only an agent acting on behalf of the New York millionaire Arthur Hind. After the death of A. Hind in 1933 his collection, according to the will, was to be auctioned off for the benefit of his heirs. But Hind’s widow took away “Guiana unicum” from a common heritage, as this stamp according to her assurances, was a personal gift from her husband. After a long trial, the stamp had been left with the Hind’s widow.

In 1940 A. Hind’s widow sold the stamp for 42 thousand dollars to a person, who wished to remain anonymous. Only 29 years later, the new owner of the stamp had become known, it turned out to be an Australian cattle dealer millionaire Frederick Small, living in the USA. The official custodian of the stamp all this time had been New York-based philatelic company of brothers Stolow (J. and H. Stolow, Wholesale Stamp Dealers). On March 24, 1970 at the auction in New York hotel “Waldorf Astoria” the stamp was purchased by Pennsylvania syndicate of investors led by Irwin Weinberg (Irwin Weinberg) for 280 thousand dollars, after which the stamp was exhibited most of the decade in the world tour. John Eleuthère du Pont bought it for 935,000 dollars in 1980, and it was considered that the stamp was kept in an armored bank vault until its owner was serving a 30-year sentence for murder until his death in prison in 2010.

June 18, 2014 at the auction of the auction house “Sothebys” in New York, the stamp was sold for $ 9.5 million and thus became the most expensive postal stamp in the world. An anonymous collector bought the stamp on the phone two minutes after the start of the auction.

At some point, the row erupted when it was suggested that one cent stamp was only a “converted” one from four cent stamp of red color from the same series of 1856, since the latter was in outward appearance very similar to one cent stamp. However, these claims had been refuted.

In 1999, the noise was made again about the possibility of finding the second one-cent stamp in Bremen (Germany). This second stamp was twice investigated and it was found that it was a fake, made by London Royal Philatelic Society. In fact, it had been a converted four-cent stamp of red color.

“British Guiana” was several times exhibited at the great philatelic exhibitions. So, the stamp was exhibited in 1923 at the British imperial exhibition in London, in 1926 it was exhibited at the international philatelic exhibition in New York, in 1930 at the Berlin International philatelic exhibition “IPOSTA”.

Once again, the stamp was exhibited at the philatelic exhibition dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the catalogue of postage stamps “Stanley Gibbons”. The exhibition was held in London from 17 to 20 February 1965. At this exhibition the souvenir was sold, which was a plate casted in gold with one cent stamp of British Guiana.

Veynberg exhibited the stamp at philatelic exhibitions in Basel (1974) and in Madrid while being on the world tour.

The first stamps of Mauritius

The Mauritius “Post Office” (or Red Penny and Blue Penny) are philatelic name of the first stamps of Mauritius, issued September 20, 1847. They are some of the rarest and valuable stamps in the world (rarities).

There is a profile of Queen Victoria (1819–1901) on the stamps. Par values: 1 penny — a stamp of red (orange) color, and 2 pence — the stamp is blue. The author of the cliché is Joseph Osmond Barnard. On the left side on the stamps there is an erroneous text: “Post Office” (“Post Office”), instead of “Post Paid” (“Postage paid”). Circulation — 1,500 copies of each par value.

In 1846 there was issued a decree of the governor of British Mauritius William Gomm # 13 about transportation and payment of postal items. Article 9 of the decree, in particular, stated that every letter, newspaper and parcel of any kind, sent in colony and its subordinate territories, supplied with the stamp or stamps, issued by the Government, according to its nominal value corresponding to the tariff and which were not previously used, should be sent over mail without postage paid. New rates were established: one penny per ounce of weight, and the letter within the colony — 2 pence per half ounce. The cost of the letter outside the colony was as if it was sent from Port-Louis, and the cost was doubled if the letter was sent from other places.

Since the stamps from England were not received, it was decided to make them independently inside the country. A local engraver Joseph O.Barnard made a printing form containing a cliché of one and two pence stamps. They were printing by turns using the first or the second cliché.

The Mauritius “Post Office”, 1847.

The Mauritius “Post Office”, 1847.

The wife of the governor Elizabeth Gomm used most of the stamps to send out invitations to a dancing party hosted by her. On July 15, 1847 in the colony there was introduced a ban on the use of the French language in the court. On July 14, returning from the reception of the local Masonic lodge, the wife of the governor was surrounded by an indignant crowd, violently demanding to cancel this decision. The soldiers were called to disperse the crowd. To reclaim the incident and restore the relationship with the Franco-Mauritians, a fancy-dress party was arranged at the residence of the governor on September 30. Invitations with pre-pasted new stamps were sent on September 21, 1847.

The remaining stamps are mainly found in private collections, but some specimens are exposed for public review at the British Library in London, including an envelope with a glued postage stamp with an invitation to the mentioned dancing party of the Governor of Mauritius. One of the clean twopenny stamp was purchased by the Prince of Wales, the future King George the V, in 1904 at an auction for a huge for those times sum of money — 1450 pounds. “Blue Mauritius” was in the collection of the commander of the famous cruiser “Varyag” Vsevolod Rudnev. The two stamps are also exhibited at the Berlin Museum of Communication (German: Museum für Kommunikation). In 1995, one of the stamps “Blue Mauritius” was bought at an auction by Dutch Postal Museum (now the Museum of Communication; Dutch: Museum voor Communicatie) in The Hague.

Now there are 12 specimens of “Blue Mauritius” known in the world (6 clean and 6 canceled). All clean stamps of Blue Mauritius are in the museums and are not exhibited for sale, and it makes it difficult to give them an objective assessment today. Canceled items are estimated at almost half the price. As for “Mauritius Pink” stamps, there are 14 known copies (2 clean and 12 canceled ones).

“Mauritius” stamps are ones of the most expensive stamps in the world: the cost of one copy for today, according to some sources, is up to 15 million dollars. The value of these stamps is based on two components — they were the first stamps of the British Empire, issued outside Mother County, and their original issue contained an error.

Blue Penny Museum (English Blue Penny Museum) is a museum of postage stamps on the waterfront of Caudan (Caudan Waterfront) in Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, opened in November 2001. There are two first stamps of Mauritius of 1847 in the collections of the museum — “Mauritius Pink” and “Blue Mauritius”. Stamps were purchased more than 20 years ago — on the 10th of November 1993 at the Feldman auction in Switzerland for 5 million Swiss francs (about 3.3 million $) by a consortium of Mauritian banks and companies, headed by the Commercial Bank of Mauritius (Mauritius Commercial Bank), and returned to the island almost 150 years later. This was the last public sale of these rarities. To ensure better safety the originals of the stamps are exposed to only a short-term exposure of light. Only the copies of the stamps are exhibited most of the time. [73]

As we can see from the history of the world’s most famous stamps, they have much in common. They were born not in the capitals of their empires. Their appearance was due to the delayed release of Imperial stamps. The decision on their publication was made by local authorities. They were published in very small circulations and mainly to meet the needs of the local post office. Today they have become rare philatelic values and are stored in the most famous museums of the world.

New discoveries of the Tiflis stamp.

For many decades the four original survived copies of the Tiflis stamps have been known in the philatelic world. One stamp is from the collection of K.Schmidt and three stamps are from the collection of A.Faberge. It seemed that that was the end of the history of these stamps and apart from the change of ownership there will never happen any new surprises with the rarities.

Tiflis stamp from collection of G.H.Kaestlin.

Tiflis stamp from collection of G.H.Kaestlin.

Of course, such a unique stamp could not be left without fakes. Periodically there are reports on the internet that suddenly there appeared an unknown copy of Tiflis stamp here or there. But none of the declared specimen has clear objective history and is unable to pass even the simplest examination for authenticity. So it doesn’t make any sense to expect new discoveries in the history of the Tiflis stamp. However, an unexpected event has recently occurred and it shocked the world of philately.

In 2010, in the National Postal Museum of the United States of America (Smithsonian Institution) the fifth stamp of Tiflis city post was discovered. This discovery was the result of a request made by members of the US State Department, dealing with the US and Russian cultural ties. Museum experts were preparing a response to the request and found in the storage previously forgotten treasures — a collection of Russian stamps of G.H.Kaestlin.

According to the Washington-based Smithsonian Institution the collection of George Kaestlin was donated to the institution in 1984 collector’s niece Vera-Madeleine Kaestlin-Bock — a Petersburger who later lived in Zurich. The collection includes more than 1500 sheets and about 14 thousand stamps. A large part of them is said to have been purchased at the auctions from the famous collections of Philip Ferrari, Agathon Faberge and other well-known philatelists around the world. The appraiser, invited by the Smithsonian Institution, considered Kaestlin’s collection one of the three best in the world in terms of size and quality — along with the collections of the Central Museum of Communications after A.S.Popov in St.Petersburg and the British Library in London.

G.H.Kaestlin himself was born in 1893 in Moscow, but left his homeland before World War II and settled in England. There, he successfully managed the Bank. He never exhibited his collection at the shows, did not write articles on philately and in general he was not a public collector. Therefore, his collection escaped the attention of the stamp collectors.

According to their words, the employees of the museum were shocked by the scale and value of this unexpected discovery. There are more than five million stamps, and not all of them have been cataloged and processed so far. The donated collection was sitting in the store, waiting in the wings. This hour has come.

National Postal Museum was going to organize a special show of the collection in the new gallery of Gross, which opened in late 2013. There was published a special catalogue of the collection, which begins with a story about the first stamp of Russia and Georgia — Tiflis stamp. [74]

The exhibition “Gold of Philately”.

For many years, the company “Artgit” (Moscow, Russia) makes the exhibition of masterpieces of world art. The company cooperates with dozens of major art museums. Firm “Artgit” exhibition organized by the world’s great artists Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Francisco de Goya, Henri Matisse, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and many others. Postage stamp is also a work of art in miniature. Many stamps issued before 1900 were prints (lithograph, metalografika).

On October 16, 2015 in Voronezh Oblast State Art Museum after I.N.Kramskoy the company “Artgit” organized an unusual exhibition.

There was exhibited a collection of the first postage stamps of different countries and their gold and silver replicas. There one can see the very first stamp on the planet, “Penny Black” (UK, 1840), as well as other philatelic rarities.

First stamps of

  • Brazil — “Bull’s eye” (Portuguese — Olho-de-boi, 1843);
  • Belgium — “Epaulettes” (1849);
  • Kingdom of Saxony — “The Sachsen 3 Pfennige red” (Deutsch — Sachsendreier, 1850); United States — “5 Cent Benjamin Franklin” (1847);
  • France — “Ceres 20 centimes” (1849);
  • Kingdom of Prussia — “King Friederich Wilhelm IV, silver groschen” (1850);
  • Canada — “Threepenny beaver” (1851)
  • and many other rare postal miniatures.
The glass case with Tiflis stamp at the exhibition in the Art Museum of the city of Voronezh, 2016.

The glass case with Tiflis stamp at the exhibition in the Art Museum of the city of Voronezh, 2016.

But the highlight of the exhibition was Tiflis stamp, which was exhibited in Russia for the second time only after the show at the World Philatelic Exhibition in Moscow in 1997.

The unique exhibit from the collection of A. Faberge and later Z.Mikulsky, was exhibited in a specially designed shop-window of armored glass with a special alarm system and video surveillance. The protective coating protected the stamp from UV and glare. Later, the exhibition moved to the city of Orel, and was shown there in the State Museum of Fine Arts.

After the exhibition, one auction house in Europe, offered to put the Tiflis stamp for auction with a starting price of 3–4 million dollars. This proposal was rejected. Today the stamp is not for sale.

Exhibition at the Art Museum of the Orel city, 2015.

Exhibition at the Art Museum of the Orel city, 2015.

Can we assume that the story of the Tiflis stamp is completed? Of course not! Those two copies which now have found peace in the National Postal Museums of Washington and Berlin, will probably more than once decorate the largest and most prestigious philatelic exhibition in the world. They will never change the owner, because the exhibits which got in national museums will never legitimately leave them. They are the pride of state collections. They are cherished and kept in the most reliable way.

But three Tiflis stamps left in the hands of private collectors, can present many more unexpected surprises. Different events even the most improbable ones can occur to them. Because the entire fate of this post miniature is extraordinary, from its birth to the present day. And, for example, is not yet the time to tell almost a detective story, associated with two copies of the stamp from A.Faberge’s collection, after they were sold by Z.Mikulsky. It will be a very interesting story. But I hope to write about it a bit later...

Perhaps the time will come, and according to the example of Mauritius, the museum of Tiflis stamp will open in Moscow or Tbilisi where under one roof the whole story of this amazing and extraordinary rarity will be gathered. But the future is unknown to us...