Penny stamps worth thousands of dollars

Christopher Burtt, of stamp auctioneer John Mowbray International, handles a 1935 silver jubilee...
Christopher Burtt, of stamp auctioneer John Mowbray International, handles a 1935 silver jubilee stamp with respect. Photo from the NZ Herald.
Would you be prepared to pay $4000 for a single stamp that originally cost just a penny to purchase?

The global interest in a set of rare stamps held by a Wellington man suggests that for quite a few collectors, the answer probably would be "Yes''.

Part of the estate of former philatelist David Jarvis (who died last year having never married and childless), a lifetime's collection of 500 lots of stamps with an estimated value of $400,000, will go under the hammer at an auction in the capital today.

Among the compilation are all three of the 1855 Full Face Queens - New Zealand's first stamps - and a set of about 40 Penny Blacks - the world's first postage stamps, used in Great Britain in 1840.

And while these stamps were once just a penny, these days you'd be lucky to get a Penny Black for anything under $300.

"For a Penny Black in good order, that's probably the cheapest you'd pay,'' said Christopher Burtt, of stamp auctioneer John Mowbray International.

"But the Penny Blacks from the rarer plates are likely to go for a lot more - one from plate 11 is likely to go for about $4000''.

Bidding was likely to be competitive for the "very sought-after'' Prussian Blue, which Mr Jarvis also had in his collection.

The stamp commemorates the 1935 silver jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary, but with printing done in the wrong shade of blue. All were withdrawn from circulation, except for a single sheet, Mr Burtt said.

"We have an estimate of $10,000 on this one and I'd like to think that's fairly conservative.''

Also on offer is a Queen Victoria Inland Revenue 1 official, which originally sold for 1, but is likely to fetch upwards of $7500.

"Stamps are not a bad investment and it's worth being patient if you've got rare material. You can never go wrong with quality,'' he said.

He said there had been "considerable interest'' through postal biddings.

Mr Burtt was unclear where the proceeds of Mr Jarvis' estate were going, as Mr Jarvis had been a "particularly private person'', although the executor of his will is understood to be living in New Zealand.

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