Cancel hound alert: Canadian town cancels did very well at Sparks

Cancel hound alert: Canadian town cancels did very well at Sparks

Sparks Auctions has released realised prices for their May event. Just before the auction, I wrote about a couple of lots that were intriguing, but before I get to them, there were two lots I missed that are wowing me.

Lot 1202, 2000 stamps with early Ontario town cancels, sold nicely over expectations. This was a smorgasbord of 38 stock sheets valued at $2,000 and sold for $2,500 (with the buyer’s premium $2,850).  Included were higher value small Queens,  Jubilee issues,  QV Maple Leafs and Numerals with cancels from all over the province.  It looks like a fascinating grouping to enjoy.  Someone is going to have a lot of fun with it.

It was a good auction for cancel hounds.  Lot 1283, another town cancel collection, this time from New Brunswick  (1840s to 1930s) offered more than 600 covers and postcards including some rare and one of a kind marks. 1283 included fancy corks which are my favourite type of cancels, especially if they are on small Queens. My own collection defines the word modest, but that doesn’t stop me from pouring over them again and again. There’s always something new to pick out.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve rearranged them – first by cancel, then by town and sometimes by colour variation. What can I say, it whiles away cold Canadian winter nights. The collection was pegged at $2,000 as well, but sold for $3,000 ($3,450 with buyer’s premium).  After looking through the list of rare or scare cancels, I can see how someone would pay that. I have a reoccurring fantasy of walking into an auction with $20,000 to play with.  Somehow I think I’d come away with mostly pioneer airmail, but there would always be a few dollars to spare for a lot or two of fancy cancels.

Back in May, I positively oozed over the early beaver stamps, including a couple that were within budget collectors range and one that ended up being sold for a budget price.  Starting with lot 2, an imperf pair 3d beavers,  with a Unitrade catalogue value of $1,600 sold for just $525. The cancels are outstanding on this pair.   Just goes to show, you can never really anticipate what’s going to happen on auction day. 

1851 3d red Beaver Imperforate, on Laid Paper - courtesy Sparks Auctions

Lot 17, a lovely little stamp with a strong #8 Chatham cancel sold for $10 under estimate at $40.  For early Canadian collectors,  #4ii 1852 3d orange red Beaver Imperforate ended up as a solid buy. 

8 #4ii 1852 3d orange red Beaver Imperforate, used with ideal strike of 4-ring #8 (Chatham), with four clear to large margins but with two tiny pinholes. image courtesy Sparks Auctions

Lot 119 was the one that captured me. Over 2,000 small Queens and 13 covers, a cancel hounds delight, was listed at $300. This bargain for the right collector, sold for way under the estimate at $170.

So there were some real winners in the auction and if you want to see the results for Auction 27 the pdf is available at Sparks’ website now. You can still download the catalogues for the auction – They haven’t posted information on Auction 28, but it’s slated for sometime in Sept.  I did pull one tidbit from their page that I’ll be watching for –  “specialized collections of Canadian air mail and first flights”. I can’t wait to see what is included. I’ll keep you posted.

** all images courtesy Sparks Auctions

Canadian Small Queens – ink variations

Canadian Small Queens – ink variations

While doing research on the Small Queens a while ago, I ran into a couple of articles that listed inks were used. Problem is, for the life of me, I can’t remember which book. I suspect it was POSTAGE STAMPS AND POSTAL HISTORY OF CANADA by Winthrop Boggs. At any rate, what’s fascinating is the fact the inks were hand mixed for each run.

Printers had their own recipes, which explains the colour variations in the early stamps. Small Queens are a bonanza for stamp collectors. You can get some good colour charts, but if you’re like me, they still don’t help a lot. I struggle with the different and often subtle variations, plus trying to decide if it’s a changeling or a genuine rare colour. You’d think that someone who’s collected as long as I have would whistle through colour identification, but not so. It’s both maddening and fun. Often, my rare colour is a changeling.

There were 3 printing periods

  • The 1st Ottawa Period (1870-1872/3) at Wellington St. Ottawa
  • The Montreal Printing (1873-1889). The printing was moved from Ottawa to Montreal when the printers shifted the company to Montreal
  • The Second Ottawa Period (1889-1897). The printing was moved back to Ottawa when the government made the printer stick to the original contract location.

Two ink mixtures used in Canadian Small Queens

6lbs lemon chrome yellow12lbs American chrome green
3lbs orange4lbs common chrome green
1/2 lb Venetian red — ferric oxide or iron oxide4lbs white lead
2lb white lead1lb lemon chrome yellow
2lbs Paris white – aka cliff stone or chalk4 lbs lime white – limestone

Note the ingredients, they were quite a toxic stew. If you’d like to read a bit about the pigments used in inks and paints, Web Exhibits – Pigments through the Ages has an excellent site that explores the evolution of colour pigments and the historic ingredients and how they were made. The colour variations can be dizzying to keep track of.

Rough Guide to Colour Mixtures

I pulled together a list of the major ones and use it as a rough guide (update – colours are taken from a variety of sources but mostly from Boggs excellent work mentioned above):

  • Black
  • Grey black
  • yellow
  • Orange
  • Deep red orange
  • Red orange
  • Bright orange
  • Lemon yellow
  • Yellow orange
  • orange yellow
  • Pale dull yellow
  • green
  • Blue green
  • Deep green
  • Dull sea green
  • orange red
  • Rose
  • Copper
  • Dull red
  • Dark rose
  • Deep red orange
  • Bright vermillion
  • Deep rose vermillion
  • Orange vermillion
  • Orange
  • Orange red
  • Rose carmine
  • slate green
  • Deep olive green
  • Grey
  • Pale olive grey
  • Brown grey
  • yellow brown
  • Dark yellow brown
  • Brown
  • Red brown
  • Chocolate
  • Chestnut
  • Deep chestnut
  • violet black
  • Blue grey
  • Slate
  • Grey
  • dull rose lilac
  • Deep lilac rose
  • Dull rose
  • Pale milky rose lilac
  • Light rose lilac
  • Brownish red
  • Pale lilac magenta
  • Deep lilac magenta
  • Carmine pink
  • Magenta
  • vermillion
  • Brown orange
  • deep blue






You can spend a life collecting nothing but Small Queens. The price differences are staggering.  For instance, a used 3c bright vermillion in VF condition can be had for $1 Cdn while a deep rose carmine variation can run about $40. A VG mint spans from $10 to $200 for the same set. Word of advice, before popping open a bottle of champagne about that rare deep rose carmine, get an expert to check it out.

Here’s a sampling of some of the variations from my own collection:

small queen stampsmall queen stampsmall queen stampsmall queen stamp


small queen stampsmall queen stampsmall queen stampsmall queen stamp

To date, I’ve collected a couple hundred small queens. Of all the early QV stamps, they are my favourite.


Queen Victoria – small queens

Queen Victoria – small queens

Not in a pithy mood lately so I’ll just share some of my Small Queen’s collection with you. I have a couple hundred – collected mostly for the various cancels and colour variations. Good fun on a cold miserable winter day. I spent a week, in the spring, scanning them all in to my laptop and cataloguing them.

Scanning them gave me an opportunity to examine them up close. The details are much easier to appreciate on a screen rather than squinting through a magnifying glass. So … two bulls eye and a fancy leaf cancel. If I weren’t so lazy I’d tell you about them. But …. just enjoy the beauty of them instead.

Small Queen - bullseye cancelsmall queen bullseye cancelfancy leaf 1 small queen