An unused set-of-four of the world's first-ever postage stamp will sell with a great French rarity:- In two weeks' time, Spink is due to hold not one but two auctions of rare stamps on the same day.
The day will begin with The Peter Stone Collection of Great Britain & Postal History - a 398 lot auction of covers centred around ship letter handstamps and concluding with an interesting selection from the Ottoman Empire - a must see for history buffs and philatelists.
However, it is the later auction which contains the more spectacular pieces for collectors: the more generically-named Summer Collectors Series. The vast sale, comprising around 1,550 lots offers some truly exceptional rarities.
Two pieces spring out immediately: Firstly that great rarity of the French Empire, the 5f grey-lilac of 1869 is represented in used form.
The years have been kind to no known examples of this stamp, so this example, though it has received a fair amount of repair work, is exceptionally covetable as it remains an attractive piece.
The example is of the variety with the 5 and f missing, and has three Paris Rue Taitbout cancellations, dated Feb 13 1877. It is listed at £25,000-30,000.
Secondly, for the expected top lot in the sale we turn to a four-block of the first ever stamp, the Penny Black.
Any stamp collector will know that Penny Blacks are not particularly rare stamps as they were produced in such vast numbers to cope with the predicted mass demand.
However, unused examples in good condition are relatively uncommon, and blocks even more so. A block of four (AG to BH on the original sheet, taken from Plate V) is available here with only very light soiling and imperfections.
The four, with much of their original gum, were for a long time part of a block of six, and have already passed through three significant collections: that of Ernest Dale, Fisher and Sayeed.
The attractive piece is expected to sell for £45,000-50,000 in Spink's auction, which takes place in London on July 14.