With just three copies known, the 2¢ Large Queen on laid paper is Canada's rarest stamp. In 1998, when only two copies were known, Saskatoon Stamp Centre sold one of them , after which things went dormant for 15 years. The silence was shattered in 2013 when the third copy was discovered. Copy 3 was sold at auction in 2014. That same year, copy 1, the copy sold by Saskatoon Stamp Centre in 1998, was offered at auction, but didn't sell until 2020. This article explores the story of the three known copies.
Copy 3 was discovered by Michael D. Smith, a collector from the U.S. He is a noted specialist of the early issues of Canada, a plating enthusiast, and the former editor of Dots and Scratches, the newsletter of the Re-entries and Constant Plate Varieties Study Group. While leafing through a sales circuit book in early 2013, he noticed a 2¢ Large Queen stamp with a nice Hamilton, C.W. (Canada West) split circle cancel. When he used back lighting to see if the stamp had a watermark and saw the horizontal lines in the paper on the back, his eyes widened. He realized what he had stumbled across, and bought the stamp, priced at about US$60 .
Copy 3 of the 2¢ Large Queen on laid paper and back lit image showing the laid lines impressed in the paper as dark and light horizontal lines (courtesy Michael D. Smith)
Heeding a friend’s advice, Smith submitted the stamp to the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation Expert Committee for certification in March 2013. The Committee invited several Large Queen experts to examine the stamp, and carried out a number of tests to determine its genuineness. On 24 June 2013, the Committee issued a certificate, #G 20118, stating: “Canada Scott No. 32, used, on horizontal laid paper, .0036 in. thick, genuine, two diagonal creases, internal tear on right side, dated Hamilton MR 16, 1870.” The Foundation published a report on its website dated 15 July 2013 that described the process the Committee followed and the tests it conducted to arrive at its finding . Ted Nixon, then Chairman of the Expert Committee, gave a presentation on the subject at the second International Symposium on Analytical Methods in Philately, held on 17-18 November 2015 in Itasca, Ill. .
The discovery attracted widespread attention. Inside the philatelic community, Large Queen specialist Glenn Archer wrote about the discovery in BNA Topics , and Canadian Stamp News devoted two stories to the event  . In the wider world, the discovery was covered by several news outlets including a Canadian Press story posted on the CBC website .
Given the rarity of his discovery and the stamp’s value, Smith debated between hiding the stamp in a safety deposit box and selling it. He chose the latter, and consigned it to Eastern Auctions Ltd., Bathurst, NB. The auction took place on 18 October 2014. The description of the lot, # 1193, reads in part :
This sensational stamp shows superior centering and is remarkably struck by a socked-on-nose Hamilton MR 16 70 split ring datestamp in black. Additionally the stamp displays deep rich colour, a highly detailed impression and full intact perforations. The distinctive thick paper (0.0035”) is noticeably fresh, showing clear vertical mesh and PROMINENT HORIZONTAL LAID LINES. Two fairly light creases and a small internal tear accurately describes this new discovery. These minor imperfections are in our opinion of little importance considering its extreme rarity.
The stamp sold for $215,000 plus the 15% buyer’s premium for a total of $247,250.
Switching from copy 3 to copy 1, in 2014, Ron Brigham of Brampton, ON, began selling his outstanding collection of Canada through his own auction house, Brigham Auctions, Ltd. The first sale on 22 February 2014 was his collection of the 1868 Large Queen Issue. The 2¢ Large Queen on laid paper sold by Saskatoon Stamp Centre back in 1998 was lot 663. The lot description reads :
32: 2¢ green on LAID PAPER with prominent horizontal laid lines and a most attractive blue straight line (REGIS)TERED cancel, the stamp has a small shallow thin and light vertical crease but is certainly the finest and most presentable of the three known examples of this WORLD CLASS RARITY, universally acknowledged as CANADA’S RAREST POSTAGE STAMP. It is the keystone item in Canadian philately and is an essential requirement for those seeking either a complete collection of the Large Queen issue or Canada in general and is one of the most FAMOUS and SOUGHT-AFTER STAMPS in the WORLD. It is accompanied by a 1935 Royal Philatelic Society of London certificate of genuineness. In the past, this treasure has graced many of the finest Canadian collections ever formed, including those of Ferrary, Colson, Reford, Kanee, ‘Bayfield’ and Brigham.
The prices realized for the sale lists the stamp as having sold for $475,000 plus the 15% buyer’s premium; however, the transaction did not take place. In a July 2018 price list of Large Queen stamps published by Canada Stamp Finder of Brampton, ON, (owned by Maxime S. Herold), the stamp was offered as lot 198A for $369,000 . The same price list offered other lots from the Brigham Large Queen auction. Canadian Stamp News reported that Herold sold the stamp in a private sale in November 2020 to a buyer outside Canada for $345,000 .
Roy Sass detailed the history of copies 1 and 2 of the 2¢ Large Queen on laid paper in the March 1998 issue of Confederation . Glenn Archer recapped that history in his 2014 BNA Topics article , and this prompted the owner of the second copy to provide a more comprehensive account . In its story about the sale by Herold, Canadian Stamp News also reviewed the history of the known copies . What follows draws from these sources.
Image: Saskatoon Stamp Centre
Image: F.E. Eaton & Sons
Image: Michael D. Smith
|1||German Count Philip Ferrari de La Renotière (1850-1917) owns the stamp. His collection, among the greatest ever assembled, includes the British Guiana 1856 1¢ black on magenta. The collection is seized by the French government as war reparations, and sold at auction in Paris on 18 June 1924. The 2¢ on laid paper is offered with a group of Large Queens as lot 53.|
|2||18 June 1924||U.S. dealer Warren H. Colson (1882-1963) of Boston buys the stamp for 2,510 francs, equivalent to about $500.||$500|
|3||Colson sells the stamp to Dr. Lewis L. Reford (1878-1949) of Montreal for $1,250. Reford is one of the leading collectors of Canadian material of his time. He was President of the Third Canadian Philatelic Exhibition held in Montreal, 5-9 October 1925. Reford submits the stamp to the Royal Philatelic Society, London for certification. The RPSL issues a certificate, # 18955, dated 12 December 1935. It states: “We have examined the enclosed Canada: 1868-72, 2c. pale emerald-green, on laid paper, perf. 12, (SG 57A), used Stamp, sent by Dr. Lewis L. Reford. of which a Photograph is attached hereto, and are of opinion that it is genuine.” ||$1,250|
|4||3 Oct. 1950||Reford dies on 31 May 1949. Harmer, Rooke & Co. of New York sells his collection in a series of five auctions between 28 February 1950 and 18 October 1951, realizing over US$250,000. The 2¢ green on laid paper is lot 955 in the second auction, which takes place between 3 and 6 October 1950. The lot description reads: “2c green. Blue Registered cancel. Centered slightly to top, slight thin and crease. One of the rarest of all stamps, only one other copy believed to exist. Ex Ferrari, with Royal certificate.” |
|5||3 Oct. 1950||Kasimir Bileski is the successful bidder, and buys the stamp for US$3,800.||US$3,800|
|6||Bileski sells the stamp to Sol Kanee (1909-2007), a collector from Winnipeg. Kanee also owned the famous 2¢ Large Queen block of 18 showing the complete two-line “E. & G. BOTHWELL CLUTHA MILLS” watermark. A director of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada from 1970 to 1974, he dies on 22 April 2007 .|
|7||1993||In 1993, 40 plus years after acquiring it, Kanee sells the stamp back to Bileski.|
|8||Jan. 1993||In January 1993, Bileski sells the stamp to Vancouver, BC, dealer Daniel Eaton of F.E. Eaton & Sons as part of a large collection.|
|9||Jan. 1993||Within days, Eaton sells the stamp to John Jamieson of Saskatoon Stamp Centre for $150,000 .||$150,000|
|10||Mar. 1993||Saskatoon Stamp Centre sells the stamp for $187,500 to the “Bayfield” Collection (U.S. collector Robert Darling Jr.) for $187,500.||$187,500|
|11||June 1996||For CAPEX 96, which takes place from 8 to 16 June 1996, Charles G. Firby organizes a 16-frame “Gems of Canadian Philately” exhibit. John Jamieson obtains the loan of the stamp from the “Bayfield” Collection to include in the exhibit .|
|12||28 Jan. 1998||Saskatoon Stamp Centre arranges the sale of the stamp between the “Bayfield” collection and a U.S. buyer for “over $200,000” .||> $200,000|
|13||Sometime between 1998 and 2014, Ron Brigham of Brampton, ON, acquires the stamp.|
|14||22 Feb. 2014||Brigham decides to sell his collection through his own auction house, Brigham Auctions, Ltd. The first auction on 22 February 2014 consists of his 1868 Large Queen Issue collection. The 2¢ Large Queen on laid paper is lot 663. The stamp is reported to have sold for $475,000 plus the 15% buyer’s premium; but the sale did not take place.|
|15||July 2018||In a net price list, Canada Stamp Finder of Brampton, ON, (owned by Maxime S. Herold) offers the stamp as lot 198A for $369,000 .|
|16||Nov. 2020||Canada Stamp Finder sells the stamp in a private sale to a buyer outside Canada for $345,000. The buyer specifies as a condition of the sale that the stamp be certified as genuine by the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation .||$345,000|
|1||1920s||British dealer Robson Lowe (1905-1997) buys the stamp in the 1920s in a London auction. It was reportedly part of a £5 collection balance lot.|
|2||Circa 1925||Robson Lowe sells the stamp by private treaty to L. Gerald Firth (1886-1978) of Pittsburgh, PA. In 1935, Firth submits the stamp to the Royal Philatelic Society, London for certification. The RPSL issues a certificate, # 18655, stating that the stamp is genuine.|
|3||17 Nov. 1971||J. N. Sissons Ltd. of Toronto sells the Firth Large Queen collection at auction except for the 15¢ value which Firth keeps. The collection includes the 2¢ Large Queen block of 18 showing the complete two-line “E. & G. BOTHWELL CLUTHA MILLS” watermark .|
|4||17 Nov. 1971||The stamp goes for $25,000 (no buyer’s premium at the time) . New York stamp dealer and agent Robert W. Lyman is the successful bidder, buying on behalf of Dr. Norman S. Hubbard, who formed award-winning collections of Latin America. Hubbard was chairman for ANPHILEX 71 and 96 , and was invited to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1996.||$25,000|
|5||Hubbard sells the stamp privately to Duane Hillmer of Omaha, Nebraska. Hillmer is President of Scott Publishing Co.|
|6||1984||Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, Inc. buys the Hillmer collection in a private sale.|
|7||The 2¢ Large Queen on laid paper is acquired by noted British dealer William E. Lea (1907-1970). He was invited to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1967.|
|8||Lea sells the stamp to the “Foxbridge” Collection owned by John du Pont (1938-2010), an heir to the du Pont family fortune. In 1980, du Pont buys the British Guiana 1856 1¢ black on magenta for US$935,000. In 1997, du Pont is convicted of a murder committed on 26 January 1996, and dies in prison .|
|9||Aug. 1986||Exhibiting as “John Foxbridge”, du Pont wins the Grand Prix d’Honneur in the FIP Championship Class at the STOCKHOLMIA 86 international stamp exhibition (29 Aug. – 7 Sept.) for his display of “British North America” .|
|10||1986||Stanley Gibbons of London acquires the “Foxbridge” Collection.|
|11||1986||Stanley Gibbons sells the 2¢ Large Queen on laid paper privately to Vancouver, BC, dealer Daniel Eaton of F.E. Eaton & Sons.|
|12||1986||Eaton sells the stamp to George Holschauer of Los Angeles, CA, for $90,000. Holschauer founded the Colonial Stamp Company in 1975.||$90,000|
|1||Early 2013||Michael D. Smith, a collector from the U.S., examines a 2¢ Large Queen in a sales circuit book, and determines that it is on laid paper. He buys the stamp, priced at about US$60, and submits it to the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation Expert Committee for certification in March 2013 . On 24 June 2013, the Committee issues a certificate, #G 20118, stating that the stamp is genuine .||US$60|
|2||18 Oct. 2014||Smith consigns the stamp to Eastern Auctions Ltd. of Bathurst, NB. On 18 October 2014, the stamp goes on the auction block, and realizes $215,000 or $247,250 with the 15% buyer’s premium .||$247,250|
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