Spink to auction the "most important item of Hong Kong philately"

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2016-01-04 10:38:57

Spink is set to kick off 2016 in style, with a sale featuring "the most important item of Hong Kong philately" - the Hong Kong 96c olive-bistre block of four stamps.

The unique block of 19th century error stamps is the star lot in Spink's forthcoming Fine Stamps and Covers of China and Hong Kong auction, which takes place in Hong Kong on January 17.

The story of the misprinted stamp begins in 1862, when the Hong Kong Post Office issued its first set of stamps in values ranging from 2c to 96c. Supplies then lasted for so long that the next order for new stock wasn't placed until March 1864.

However, when this next batch arrived in Hong Kong it was discovered that the British company De la Rue had printed them in the wrong colour. Fifty two sheets of stamps arrived in an olive colour, rather than the usual greyish-brown, but with stamps from the initial release running low the Post Office had no choice but to issue them to the public.

It took six weeks for a new order to reach the printers in Britain, and a further six weeks for the new stamps to reach Hong Kong. During this period some of the misprinted stamps were released by the Post Office, starting circa January-February 1865, but by August the correctly-coloured replacements had arrived and the olive stamps were removed from circulation.

Not only was the stamp misprinted and then withdrawn, it was also rarely used due to its denomination of 96c. At the time, the postage rate for local letters was just 8c, and even a letter sent from Hong Kong to the U.S.A via Southampton would only cost 46c. The high value of this stamp meant few were ever used, and to date just two examples on cover have ever been discovered.

Described as "the outstanding treasure of Hong Kong philately", the Hong Kong 96c olive-bistre marginal block of four has passed through the collections of legendary philatelists such as George Burghard, Ryohei Ishiwaka and Richard C.K. Chan, and is now set to enter another prestigious collection with an estimated value of HK$6,500,000 (approx. US$840,000).

"This is, without question, the most important item of Hong Kong philately," said Spink. "No other block or cover, despite their rarity, can compare with this block."

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