Keeping an eye on 2 rare pioneer airmail lots at auction

Keeping an eye on 2 rare pioneer airmail lots at auction

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

Maresch prices realised for the Apr 22/23 auction

Maresch prices realised for the Apr 22/23 auction

Well, this was fascinating. I kept an eye on the Maresch & Son auction from earlier this week. I suggested in my post from the 21, the stamps might go for significantly less than the estimate and I was correct. Mind you, it didn’t take a clairvoyant to figure out the prices would be lower. With the current economic crash and pandemic fears, people are being extremely cautious. I was surprised at how low some went for. Makes me wish I had been in a position to bid on them.

The collection of early Canadian airmail proof cachets sold for less than half the estimated $1000 value. Someone snagged them for $425 (cdn). This could be a great centre-piece for pioneer airmail collectors. I have about 20 different cachet covers and  love looking at them.

Sheet of early Canadian airmail flight cachets - price realised now posted

Lot 624a, full sheet of Patricia Airways

Sheet of 8 Patricia Airways stamps from Maresh auction

Valued at $480 sold for a mere $177 (cdn). Oh what a bargain. This one made my heart skip a bit. I own just one Patricia and coveted this full sheet. Ah the sins of stamp collecting.

Lot 627 – Special Delivery block, sold for $307 (cdn)

The estimate was @ $1500.

Block of four special deliver stamps from Canada sold at Maresch auction

And finally lot 708a – early Nova Scotia

Lot of Nova Scotia stamps sold at Maresch auction
It was a big surprise and I’m sure collector of Nova Scotia stamps received a hell of a shock when their $325 (cdn) bid won a lot estimated at $2200.

Not all lots sold for far below the estimates. A few even exceeded the predicted price. But that’s the way auctions go. Some days bargains are to be had and other days, bidders war breaks out. The pandemic certainly had an impact. I’ll be watching a couple of upcoming auctions to see if this was a one off or not.


Check out the prices realised at . Not sure how long it will available so don’t waste time.

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

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.


1 – Postal Archives @ Collections Canada and

2. Image courtesy Archives Canada, National Postal Museum (Canada) philatelic collections

Over 100 Zeppelin LZ 127 covers coming up for auction this month

Over 100 Zeppelin LZ 127 covers coming up for auction this month

I spotted a couple of interesting covers up for auction. If you’re a Zeppelin collector, Daniel F. Kelleher auction house might be worth a quick look. Hell, even if you aren’t looking to buy, go look anyway.

The first one is a nice US Lakehurst to Lakehurst cover with an excellent US airmail/ Zeppelin cancel and Eckener cachet.  The current bid is sitting at $100 with the estimates between $200 and $300. The cover lacks Zeppelin stamps but the cachet and cancel make it worth a bid. If you’re just starting your Zeppelin collection, this would be a great starting point.

Zeppelin cover US Lakehurst to Lakehurst - image Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions

The one that floats my boat is Lot 5015 – Zeppelin mail to Canada airmail by way of the US. Ok, a bit convoluted so I’ll let the catalogue do the talking:

Canada, 1930 (May 18-31), Europe-Pan-American Flight, Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst (Michel 66 G), cover franked with 15¢ Canadian postage canceled Vancouver, 15 Apr, flown to New York where U.S. $2.60 Zeppelin was applied and canceled 29 Apr; German & U.S. flight cachets, backstamped green Lakehurst Zeppelin receiver; then returned by Airmail to the sender/addressee in Vancouver; 5¢ Canadian Airmail with corner neatly replaced, otherwise Very Fine. Sieger 64 Ib.
Sieger €2,000 ($2,120).

Zeppelin cover to Canada by way of US - image Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions

Kelleher puts the the estimate at between $1,000 and $1,500. But look at that beauty – both a US Zeppelin stamp and a Canadian airmail,  and absolutely brilliant cancels and cachets. Be still my beating heart. That’s the cover of Canadian airmail collector’s dreams. As of this writing, the opening bid is already $500.  I’ll be watching this one.

Kelleher Auctions has a large number of Graf Zeppelin LZ 127 flight covers available.  Even if you aren’t looking to bid or these are beyond your stamp budget, check the offerings out anyway. It’s a great way to see what’s out there and learn more about this specialty.

I’d love to be in Danbury, Connecticut to watch this lot go on May 18-19, 2017.

** Both cover images courtesy Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions.


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.