2020 spring stamp auctions

2020 spring stamp auctions

The pandemic has many of the 2020 spring stamp auctions on hold. The few slated will be online only and no floor bidding.  My favourite Canadian auction houses – Sparks, Vance and Talman’s have postponed everything right through May, although they still have single sales available.

I confess, I can’t wait to see Sparks offerings. Their #33 auction is going to have some delicious Indian airmails from Leon Victor Pont collection. Pont was a friend of Stephen Smith, the man who pioneered Indian rocket mail. Some of the items will include correspondence with Smith along with signed stamps and other items. I call sales like this “dream auctions” because most items tend to be on the high end. I enjoy flitting through the catalogues creating wish lists. Half the fun of collecting is window shopping.

Canadian Stamp Auctions

There is no word on any auction from Talman Stamps here in Toronto. They tend to spring the auctions on us when they have enough stock ready. I imagine we won’t see anything until late summer or possibly fall.  Vance is always a good bet for some early Canadian airmail and semi-postals, but they announced a postponement as well, with no date available. It’s hard to set dates when no one is sure when this pandemic will subside.

R. Maresch & Son Auctions Ltd., in Toronto, is going ahead with their auction on the 22 – 23 of April. You can see their catalogue here. There will be no live floor auction (for obvious reasons). The auction will be live via the internet instead. They have used some ingenuity in allowing people to see some of the lots. Because of social distancing, potential bidders can’t drop in and preview lots. Maresch have posted videos here.  Scroll down below the videos for the catalogue.

If you’re an airmail collector check out lot 621. It’s a rare offering of cachet proofs. It’s 5 pages of Flight Cachet proofs from between 1928 to 1932. In all the auctions I’ve watched, this is the first time I’ve seen cachet proofs. A bit exciting.

Sheet of early Canadian airmail flight cachets

International 2020 Spring Auctions

Looking beyond Canada, Cherrystone has a few interesting auctions coming up. I occasionally lurk around their site  because they have wonderful high end items that make my palms itch. They have two auctions – April 22, US stamps & postal history and May 12, rare stamps and postal history. I’m not a big collector of US stamps so it’s the second one that I find interesting. You might want to take a look at their PRC Cultural Revolution stamps.

PRC Cultural Revolution stamps 1969

1041 ww 1967 Thoughts of Mao Tse-tung, single and set of se-tenant strips of five with imprints, unfolded, exceptional quality, without any tarnish, n.h., v.f., cat. $4,825 ………………………………..(938,943a,948a) 2,500.00 1042 ww 1968 Literature & Art, complete set of nine, n.h., fine-v.f., cat. $1,440………………………………..(982-90) 750.00

I haven’t seen these come up before. Though I don’t collect PRC (aside from airmails), the 1960s propaganda stamps are amazing pieces of Chinese history. They are also fine examples of philatelic propaganda. It’ll be fun to watch the prices on this trio. Expect them to go in the thousands. Although with the severe economic downturn, we might be surprised.

If you collect Canadian semi-official airmail, then check out the grouping of Patricia Airways in the same auction. These are all pretty affordable (depending on who wants to compete for them). Again, with the economy in turmoil, they might go for far less than expected.

Photo of Patricia Airways semi-postal stamps

1926 10c on 50c purple overprint inverted, upper left sheet corner margin vertical pair

Scattered throughout the May auction are other airmail lots, so a careful search of both catalogues will be rewarding.

I’m still looking around other auction houses, so I’ll post an update on them soon.

Canada’s last airmail stamp – Canada Geese in Flight

Canada’s last airmail stamp – Canada Geese in Flight

I have a classic airmail for you. Canada’s last airmail stamp issued 73 years ago on Sept 16, 1946.

Canada's last airmail stamp showing a Canada goose flying over a lack

Sept 16, 1946 Scotts C9, Sanabria (for those lucky enough to have one) 18, SG 407

It was part of the post WW2 issues highlighting various peacetime scenes from around Canada. The set (all released Sept 16) included:

  • 8c Farm Scene of Eastern Canada
  • 10c Great Bear Lake in NWT
  • 14c Quebec Hydro-Electric Station
  • 20c Tractor Drawn Thresher
  • 50c Loggin in BC
  • $1 PEI Train Ferry
  • 7c Canada Geese near Sudbury, On (airmail)

Herman Herbert Schwartz (1885-1962)

The set was designed by artist Herman Herbert Schwartz (1885-1962), the same man who designed one of Canada’s great classic stamps, the 1929 Bluenose. He was one of the first Canadian artists hired by Canada to design stamps. Prior to 1920, American artists were generally used. Schwartz was also responsible for the design of all Canada’s airmail stamps. I tried to find information on him but came up embarrassingly short on details. One sparse entry popped up in Archives Canada:

Herman Herbert Schwartz (1885-1962)
Herman Schwartz, who was of Dutch origin, showed little interest in the family spice business founded by his grandfather in Halifax in 1841, W.H. Schwartz & Sons. He was more interested in art and, in August 1909, he was hired as an apprentice by the American Bank Note Company of Ottawa.

He is credited with the design of many Canadian stamps issued between 1927 and 1954. The most famous work of this Nova Scotian artist continues to be the Bluenose issued in 1929. As well, he designed all the cachets used for the first postal flights made between 1929 and 1941. He also designed foreign postage stamps and Canadian bank notes.1

I found one photo of Schwartz in the Canadian archives.

Photo of artist and designer Herman Herbert Schwartz examining proofs

Herman Herbert Schwartz using magnifying glass to inspect stamp material 1942

National Postal Museum (Canada) philatelic collections

http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.redirect?app=fonandcol&id=2267035&lang=eng2

And that’s about all I was able to source. For someone who played such an important part in Canadian postal history, it’s shocking to find so little about him.

Canada airmail C9 goose in flight

The Canada goose airmail was the last airmail stamp issued by Canada. Cancel collectors will be richly rewarded in their search with hundreds of different ones used over the years. I have about 40 so far but am always on the look out for new city or slogan cancels. I find the used stamps far more interesting than the mint.

2 Canada goose airmail stamps with cancels

Two used C9 stamps from my collection

Covers with interesting cachets are also another fun area to collect. I was a bit surprised to realise I have many C1s and 2s but only 1 decent C9 in my collection. No idea how I slipped up so badly. This is a nice cover, but i dislike the boring wavy line cancel across the stamp. Give me a good slogan cancel anytime.

A cover from 1950 with a Canada goose airmail and a cachet stamp "First official airmail JETLINER Toronto to NY"

First Official Airmail – Jetliner Toronto to New York 1950

The stamp remained in use for many years, so the chance for finding interesting cancels and markings is huge.

Collectors have 2 plate (1& 2) to acquire, as well as OHMS and G varieties. The first airmail official stamp (Scott #CO1), overprinted “O.H.M.S.” (On His Majesty’s Service), was issued in 1949.  And last, but not least – booklet panes.

Canada's last airmail stamps - A booklet pane of the Canada goose airmail

Full booklet pane of C9 Canada goose airmail stamps

I get a kick out of sellers who label them “rare” and “rarely seen”.  I have about 50 I picked up for a song at an auction years ago. Not particularly rare but delightful to own. Alas, not one has an error despite looking over and over for any. Error collectors should be happy with C9. A couple of major re-entries in plate 2 UR blocks can be looked for.  If you have a few interesting airmails you want to swap for a pane, drop me a line in the comments below.

I’m going to keep looking for more info on Herman Schwartz. If I dig up anything, it’ll make a great addition to this page. Happy collecting everyone – one small stamp and tons of collectible material.

NOTES:

1 – Postal Archives @ Collections Canada https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/postal-archives/08060203_e.html and https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/postal-archives/08060203_e.html

2. Image courtesy Archives Canada, National Postal Museum (Canada) philatelic collections
http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.redirect?app=fonandcol&id=2267035&lang=eng

Moon mail – anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing

Moon mail – anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing

It’s been 50 years since the Apollo Moon landing, and this little stamp captured the world’s excited glimpse of humans stepping out beyond earth. I remember watching this on a black and white tv. As a child, I had the barest awareness that I was watching an important moment in history.

The first stamp commemorating the 1969 Apollo moon landing, showing astronaut stepping onto the moon

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” – 1969 commemorative stamp for Apollo Moon landing

To celebrate this event, USPS issued an airmail stamp (Scotts #C76) in Sept 1969, 2 months after this watershed event. This artistic rendering of the first footstep on the moon is immediately recognisable to everyone.

While that stamp didn’t go to the moon, Apollo 11 did carry something that should pique the interest of any airmail fans – the first extraterrestrial airmail. The “Flown Apollo 11 covers” are genuine postal covers, complete with stamps, cancels, interesting cachets and serial numbers to identify each.

Signed moon mail covers

The 214 covers bore one of 2 different stamps – Scott 1371, the Apollo 8 issue celebrating the first manned flight around the moon or Scott 1338, US flag over the White House – and autographed by the 3 astronauts. The ultimate airmail collectable. Unlike the Apollo 15 unauthorized covers (I’ll write on that at a later date), NASA did know about these and okayed their trip.

Photo of a postal cover carried on the moon by the Apollo 11 crew

Flown to the Moon postal cover

Three different cachets were used, the one above, Project Apollo 11 displaying the 3 astronaut profiles and the Apollo 11 mission seal.

Each has a stamp that reads “Delayed in Quarantine at Lunar receiving laboratory M.S.C. Houston, Texas”. Like everything else aboard Apollo 11, quarantine was mandatory. The covers have a Webster, Texas Aug 11, 1969 cancel.

The Moon covers also bear a handwritten inscription “Carried to the Moon aboard Apollo 11”. Covers pop up for auction occasionally but is unusual to see them. According to the website Space Flown Artifacts, Neil Armstrong took 47, Buzz Aldrin 104 and Collins 63. Each used numbering their covers to identify the owner:  N = Neil Armstrong, C = Michael Collins and EEA and A = Buzz Aldrin.

Second set of moon mail covers – “insurance covers”

A second set of autographed covers remained on earth, with family members, in case of catastrophic mission failure. These are referred to as “Insurance covers”.

“These covers were currency to our families in the event that we did not return.” Michael Collins r/f Space Flown Artifacts

Undoubtedly these covers would have been worth a fortune had the unthinkable happened. It’s unknown how many exist, but it’s estimated around 1000 were left with the 3 families.  There are a couple of differences between the Moon covers and the insurance covers, including no quarantine markings, no “carried to the moon” hand inscription and a different location for the signatures.

Where to find auction info

Space Flown Artifacts tracks auctioned covers and their prices. The earliest known auction was 1991 and the cover fetched $13,750. The most expensive cover, to date, sold in Nov 2018 for $156,250. This one was a rare one – it came from the Armstrong Family Collection and had the number N-28. Armstrong held onto all the covers during his life and they never came up for sale or auction until his death. To date, 2 Armstrong covers have been sold – N-28 and N-18. 14 Collins and about 30 Aldrin covers have been put up for auction, with not all selling. If you are a big fan of the Apollo missions, check out Space Flown for updates on the status of covers.

Now that the 50th anniversary has rolled around it’ll be interesting to see what stamps are issued to commemorate the Apollo 11 mission.

Here’s one last image to wind up the article. In 2010, NASA sent up the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter which captured stunning images of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. You can even see the footpath left by astronauts along with rover tracks, untouched for decades. Something to think about over your morning coffee.

A 2010 photo from a NASA LRO showing the Apollo 11 landing site with moon buggy tracks still visible

LRO photograph of Apollo landing site showing still visible footpaths and moon buggy tracks – NASA website

NOTES & EXTRAS

Interested in space oddities? Check out the article on NASA patent & technical drawing bonanza. I dug around NASA and Google patent pages and found a lot of great tech drawings for space suits, astronaut underwear and control panels.

I can’t encourage you enough to stop by Space Flown Artifacts – http://www.spaceflownartifacts.com/index.html  The website is a gold mine of early space flight and mission items.
This page is dedicated to the Apollo 11 “Flown Apollo 11” covers  http://www.spaceflownartifacts.com/flown_apollo11_covers.html

Can’t get enough photos of the Moon? Check out their page on the Lunar Rec Orbiter here https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/news/apollo-sites.html and NASA’s extensive archives here https://history.nasa.gov/

Aero Club of Canada stamp & more

Aero Club of Canada stamp & more

I’m back lurking around Vance Auction’s October listings, this time looking at the airmails. Oh, and be still my beating heart! The first offerings in Canadian semi-postals knocked my socks off. Now is the time to dig up some extra cash and go wild. What has my pulse racing? Check them out:

[URIS id=5626]

I’m always blown away by them when I see them.  They are on my fantasy “one day I’ll own them” list. The first is an Aug 1918 CLP2 tete beche pair. Vance describes them as VF, OG and well centred. Estimate on this is $1,500 (lot #6759). I went to a stamp show (quite a few years ago) and one of the sellers had a couple singles on display. That was the only time I’ve been able to get so close I could see all the detail. Great propaganda pieces.

Scan of CLP 2 tete beche pair Aero Club of Canada

Moving on through the list – 3 CPL3 AUG 25, 1919 Aeroclub Canada stamps, including a used with a good cachet estimated $900.

Scan of CLP3 semi official airmail with crisp cancel

The cachet is strong and doesn’t look like it’s suffered any fading over time – ‘AERIAL MAIL AUG 25, 1919 TORONTO CANADA’.  All three are worth checking out if you’re a semi-official collector. Check out lots 6760 to 6762.

Rounding out the list are two beautiful deep red Estevan – Winnipeg FF semis from Oct 1 1924.

Scan of Canada airmail with CLP5 semi official stamp

If you have an eye for cachets, CLP5 and CLP5i are the ones to look at. Both have a little biplane stamped under the By Air Mail | First Flight, but CLP5i version is picture perfect and still strong 94 year later. Estimates $250 and $275.

Vance Auctions #333 Oct 11 catalogue is online now – http://www.vanceauctions.com.  While over there don’t forget to check out their blog. They recently posted an interesting bit on the lathe work on Canadian Admirals.

Early Canadian Airmail Routes

Early Canadian Airmail Routes

1935 Canada airmail with the figure of Daedalus flying

1935 Canadian airmail classic – Daedalus


I’m an inveterate collector of all things airmail – maps, stamps, tags, etiquettes, covers, pamphlets detailing airmail routes, especially Canadian airmail routes and even stocks for the companies themselves. I used to focus solely on Canadian airmail until someone gave me a set of lovely Mexican airmails from the 1930s. I looked up a map of the mail routes and was hooked all over again – I had to have more. So, my modest little collection of airmails exploded into two hefty binders and several books on international airmail routes.

While scouring through the Canadian Archives, I came across a 1940 map showing the various routes in Canada. It includes the remote northern routes that relied heavily on the bush pilots for delivery. A lot of the small northern routes used to be served by private airlines like Cherry Red and Patricia Airways, but by 1940, they had pretty much all disappeared, with the routes being folded into Canada Post.

Map of Canadian Airmail Routes as of 1940

Canadian airmail routes map issued 1940 by Canadian Post Office Department

1940 airmail route map issued by Post Office Department in1940

First official airmail flight in Canada

The first airmail flight in Canada took place June 24th, 1918 on a flight between Montreal and Toronto. Captain Brian Peck, of the Royal Airforce, flew the first route in a JN-4 Curtiss two-seater airplane. He was posted at Leaside Airfield during WW1 and the flight was part publicity stunt by the Aerial League of the British Empire to encourage enlistment and show off, what they believed was the future of transportation and part a bit of fun between friends who thought it would be great to have mail delivered by air.

The Post Office got wind of the flight and arranged for official mail to be carried to test the feasibility of more such flights. 120 letters were loaded onto the biplane.  At 10:12 am, Captain Peck, with his mechanic Corporal C.W. Mathers, took off from Montreal. After refueling stops in Kingston and Deseronto, the airplane successfully landed in Toronto, at 4:55 pm.  The flight was deemed a smashing success, with the Post Office planning future flights.

Bush Pilots take over northern routes

From such modest beginnings, grew the complex map above. The remote routes were run by bush pilots who charged a modest fee to carry the mail north. Many of them issued their own stamps – semi-officials – that were supposed to be placed on the back of the envelope.  You can find many with the stamps smacked on the front, right beside the official stamps. These routes and stamps were sanctioned by the post office and are now very collectable. Even collectors on a modest budget can find some semi-postals for a reasonable price. However, the prime covers, with clean cancels go for a premium.

The airlines that carried the mail struggled to make a living. One crash could spell the doom for a service that owned just one aircraft. By the 1930s most of the air services had folded or been absorbed by larger companies or government services. Canada Post took over most of the routes or contracted pilots running regular routes to deliver the mail (without the cool private airmail stamps).

I have some maps of the various bush pilot routes, so I’ll dredge them out of my archives and post them on a future date. In the meantime, enjoy the map above. To see the map in full glory, right click on it and download it to your computer. It’s quite large and detailed, so enjoy.