Bitter Grounds Magazine

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Keeping an eye on 2 rare pioneer airmail lots at auction

Written by catpaw

October 15, 2020

Vance Auctions never disappoints, and their two pioneer airmail offerings are no exception. The auction is going on today, Oct 15, 2020 and I’m eager to see what the closing price is.

UK Aerial Flight postcards – Pioneer airmail first

Picture of the first UK aeriel post card - Pioneer airmail postcard, rose coloured, London to Windsor from 1911

1st UK aerial post card sent 1911

Of the two, it’s the UK postcard collection I covet. I’ve only managed to get a single of this postcard and the stamp torn off. But I love it all the same. The postcard came in several colour variations, so there is a lot of material to collect. This lot is a pioneer airmail collector’s dream. It includes different cancels, stamps, cachets, a cover and postcards.

Specialized collection (formed by Ray Ireson of Montreal) of cacheted First UK Aerial Flight postcards / covers, London to Windsor from 1911. Neatly displayed on pages / stockcards with all being diff in some way. Has the various cancel Die numbers and cachets in various colours. Most are postcards but does have 4 covers which are scarcer (one of these is addr to India with Sea Post Office b/s). One postcard is the scarcer Windsor to London flight. Also has cinderella souvenir sheet & nice write-up. Most VG-F (19)….Est 2,500.00+ – Vance Auction write up for Oct 2020 auction

They are sometimes referred to as Buckingham covers. Four flights were set to take off on Sept 9, 1911 but one pilot crashed and two remained on the ground because of windy conditions. Gustav Hamel in a Blériot XI braved the winds and took off at 4:55pm from Hendon aerodrome in London.  Eighteen minutes later, he landed at Windsor along with one bag of letters, postcards, and newspapers.

Photo of pilot Gustav Hamel taken 1913

Gustav Hamel, 1913

Eventually sixteen flights were conducted, carrying thirty-seven mailbags – a total of 926 lbs of mail. This pioneer airmail lot contains quite a variety and would be fun to look through.

The Jewel of Canadian pioneer airmail

The last time I saw the Canadian semi-official stamp CLP6 come up for auction was in 2013.

Scan of the doomed LONDON to LONDON AIRMAIL attempt

LONDON to LONDON AIRMAIL semi-official stamp CLP6

It is one of those true rarities of the pioneer airmail world. The London, Canada to London England stamp is legendary among Canadian airmail collectors. The estimated price is $50,000. It, of course, has a certificate of authenticity. No sane buyer would consider bidding on a London to London without one. I’ll lay odds that more fakes are out there than were originally printed.

Frustratingly, these special flights are left out of Scott’s Canadian catalogue. Grab a Unitrade catalogue and flip to the back of the book to find any semi-officials. If you have a Sanabria airmail catalogue, it’s listed as S35. According to Sanabria, one cover was removed from the flight before it took off from Harbour Grace.

CLP6, Rare unused example of the LONDON to LONDON AIRMAIL. 100 stamps were printed for the “Sir John Carling” Trans-Atlantic flight that ended in disaster, but only 13 unused stamps and 1 cover are known to exist. F-VF appearance, NG, some small flts. Has 1975 RPSL Certificate. ONE OF THE GREATEST AEROPHILATELIC RARITIES! A STAMP THAT IS MISSING IN VIRTUALLY ALL COLLECTIONS – Vance Auction write up for Oct 2020 auction

Pioneer aviation photo - Photo of pilot & navigator Tully and Medcalfe in front of their airplane the Sir John Carling

Tully and Medcalfe, 1927. Standing in front of their Stinson airplane Courtesy Ivey Family London Room, London Public Library, London, Ontario, Canada

This flight is the stuff of pioneer aviation legends. Carling Breweries in London, Ontario put up a prize of $25,00 for the first to fly non-stop London, Ontario to London UK. One refueling stop was permitted at Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. Pilot Terrance Tully and navigator James Medcalf took off, in a Stinson SM-1 airplane named the Sir John Carling, after the man who sponsored the competition. Tully and Medcalf were last seen September 5 when they took off from Harbour Grace and set out across the Atlantic. They were never heard from again.

Thirteen mint stamps and one known cover remained behind and have become much sought after by collectors over the decades. The 100th anniversary of this ill-fated trip is coming up, so it’ll be interesting to watch prices on this stamp over the next five to six years.

When I get the final prices, I’ll update this page

Keep a watch here.

Prices realized – updated Oct 19, 2020

Just received the results for the two auctions I was following.

The UK aerial post card lot did not go! I am so surprised. I thought it was a great asking price. According to Vance, the lot is still available for $1,800. Oh for some extra cash right now. Of the two lots, this was the one that set my heart racing. I love those postcards. Maybe another year. Contact Vance Auctions if you’re interested in this lot. Ask for Lot 370. It’s a hell of a collection.

The London to London, with a catalogue value of $50,000, went for $18,500. There is a wildly happy airmail collector out there somewhere with a top notch addition to their collection.

If you’d like to learn more about this flight, start with the wonderful article written by the SooToday newspaper. Their post on the pilots, both from Sault Ste Marie is an interesting read.  The tale of two Sault pilots and their doomed trans-Atlantic flight of 1927

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