The Shields Collection is a superb mint Victorian collection of Great Britain that includes perforated line engraved, embossed and surface printed stamps. This includes singles, pairs and blocks, ending with the Penny Lilac issue. Here we take a closer look at the newly released “Shields” collection and some of the interesting stories surrounding a few of the stamps...
The majority of mint Victorian stamps from the Embossed and early Surface Printed issues that were available on the market were sub-standard in quality - To find truly Post Office fresh, vibrant examples with original gum was indeed rare as very few have survived in this quality.
The collector also had a key eye on provenance with many stamps here gracing some of the finest collections of Great British Philately ever formed including those of...
The Earl of Crawford (1913), Arthur Hind (1934), Colonel Arthur M. Bates (1934), Baron Anthony de Worms (1938), J.B. Seymour (1951/1953), Maurice Burrus (1963), ‘MAXIMUS’ (Ronald A.G. Lee, 1970), Joseph Silkin (1971), Alfred F. Lichtenstein & Louise Boyd-Dale (1989), Dr. Douglas Latto (1992) and Sir Gwaine Baillie (2004).
1½d rosy mauve is the original prepared, but not issued stamp. Prepared in 1860 in anticipation of a change in postal rates that were not approved by parliament for another 10 years. 10,000 sheets were printed (1,000 sheets overprinted with specimen) of which most were subsequently destroyed. It’s thought that only 2-3 part-sheets actually survived (not 1,000 as suggested in some of the literature) from which mint examples exist today. It is not clear when the mint sheets that survived escaped onto the market, but some certainly came from the estate of Rowland Hill. His son, Pearson Hill, had a close relation to the leading collectors in the early 1880s and sold, presented or placed much philatelic material from his father’s estate on the market, including the 11⁄2d rosy mauve.
In the 20’s/30’s, it is understood that Nissen had a large part of the sheet and provided pairs, blocks etc at the request of the customer. Lady Joicey purchased the corner marginal block of 4 (lettered SK-TL) with plate number 1 from Nissen. The mint block of 6 (lettered LG-MI) and mint pair (lettered QF-QG) are also believed to have originated from the same sheet, which has a very clear and fine printing, consistent with at least one sheet of the 11⁄2d rosy mauve. Other copies on the market tend to have a washy and unclear appearance, which is thought to originate from a different print run and would assume that the printing inks are from a slightly different recipe. Obtaining superb mint copies of the 11⁄2d rosy mauve with deep and vibrant colour, sharp impression and original gum is a challenge. Multiples are rare. The Shields collection holds one of the largest assemblages of such stamps in private hands.
The 8d purple-brown was prepared for issue in July 1876 in anticipation of a reduction of the single letter rate to India and Australia to 8d. However, the purple-brown colour was then deemed too close to the then current 21⁄2d lilac-rose. The purple-brown colour was abandoned with majority of the printed stock of 10,000 sheets officially destroyed. However, a few part sheets of the 8d in purple-brown did survive and later came to market. The 8d value was issued in September 1886 following a colour change to orange, the original purple-brown issue is an elusive stamp and few fresh mint examples with original gum survive to this today.
As a result of the Post Office adopting the UPU scheme, the colour of 21⁄2d stamp was changed from rosy-mauve to blue, which whilst sorting mail by Victorian gas or candlelight created confusion with the then current 2/- blue stamp. Hence a change of colour was required and the 2/- brown was introduced on 27th February 1880. However, it had limited usage. With no minimum 2/- rate at the time, it was only used as a double rate on heavy items and was withdrawn only four months later on 6th July 1880. According to the 2008 study conducted by Hyde, only about 1,000 mint stamps of the 2/- brown exist today, with the vast majority in a poor state of preservation and those in perfect condition are exceedingly rare and very collectible. Here we have three of the highest quality mint examples known, including a mint pair. All have superb vibrant colour, perfect centring and pristine original gum.
The proposed 1s Purple stamp was intended to be surcharged and form part of the unified 1883 issue. However, after printing over 23,555 sheets from plates 13 and 14 the issue was abandoned following intervention by the Telegraph branch, and the stock was destroyed. Sometimes described as ‘unissued’ it is actually ‘incomplete’ since it is without the 1s overprint, as is seen on the 3d and 6d purple stamps today from this issue.
To date, no examples appear to have survived with the originally proposed overprint, the sole survivors of this issue are un-overprinted examples overprinted ‘SPECIMEN’ type 9, and which are comb perforated. These are not to be confused with the line perforated examples that are found in the 1884 Before and After Stamp Committee presentation books, which have no specimen overprint and are without original gum. Wiseman records only 13 examples of the 1s Purple specimens (including two pairs) in private hands. The Shields’ collection houses 6 of these, including both pairs, all of which are in superb fresh mint original gum condition. The mint pair lettered EB- EC is featured on page 184 of ‘Great Britain Surface Printed Postage Stamps 1855-1883’ by Galland & Louis, 2009. The 1s Purple specimen is an exceedingly rare and elusive stamp.