Old, but unused, postage stamp could be yours for $50,000
An old, unused postage stamp with an estimated value of $50,000 is among items to go under the hammer at New Zealand's largest stamp and coin auction in Wellington later this week.
In total there is approximately $2.2 million worth of items, with 1434 lots of stamps and 552 lots of coins, medals and banknotes - varying in age, origin, condition and rarity, as well as the odd error.
Auctioneer John Mowbray, of Otaki, said it would be the first such auction held in this country in which sales were expected to exceed $2 million, courtesy of buyers worldwide.
The age and rarity of some of the items was "remarkable".
The stamp with the $50,000 price tag was a mint-condition HMS Vanguard, printed in New Zealand for the 1949 Royal Visit by King George VI.
Mowbray said that due to the King's ill-health, the visit was cancelled and the stamps ordered to be destroyed, however one sheet was "liberated" before it could be burnt in the furnace. There were only seven known examples.
Another rare stamp, picked to fetch around $30,000, was a mint condition 1906 penny claret, printed by New Zealand Post which then hastily stopped production to change the end-colour to orange.
"The story is that one sheet was accidentally sold at the Christchurch Exhibition, which is how they came onto the market," Mowbray said.
"Also, between 1906 and 1958, NZ Post gave one to every New Zealand Prime Minister, Governor General, Minister of Post and Post Master."
Or, for around $80,000, bidders can vie for three post-marked versions on an envelope - the first time any used penny clarets had been offered for sale since 1999.
The coins ranged in value from $50 up to $7200 for an uninscribed gold stater from the Iceni tribe during its rise against Roman rule.
Banknotes ranged from $50 up to $5000 for a 1940-1955 Hanna 50 pounds note. Medals ranged from $80 up to $7500 for a 57mm gold medal made in 1965 to mark the death of Sir Winston Churchill.
"We're dealing with some fairly heavy dollar-figures and only a few collectors would seriously consider spending up to the tens of thousands of dollars," Mowbray said.
"Most would deal in the hundreds to low thousands. It's a bit like buying art for your home; you may spend several hundred dollars or up to $1000 if it really appealed, but beyond that it's just look and enjoy."
Mowbray expected up to 100 people at each lot's auction, and a lot of absentee bidding by phone, email and even post.
It was vital every item was guaranteed genuine and as described in the auction catalogue, and considerable work went into substantiating what was advertised.
With stamp collecting around for more than 170 years, and coin collecting even longer, the collectables business was as active as it had ever been. Mowbray said that was due to "a bubble of older people enjoying the hobby in their retirement - not everyone wants to windsurf at 60".
He feels fortunate that his hobby had turned into a 53-year career, starting as a mail order business from home in Wellington, before he relocated to Ōtaki in 1974. Then, in 1985 Mowbray Collectables moved from Dunstan Street to its current building on SH1. The business now employs 17 staff.
"There is real personal satisfaction in being able to sell a rare stamp or coin, or a collection, to another enthusiast who truly appreciates it," Mowbray said.
"Also, to think that an auction attracting such worldwide interest, and producing such sales volume, can put it together here in New Zealand, let alone our humble base in Ōtaki, is quite satisfying. Actually, it's pretty exciting."
Last month Mowbray was presented with a New Zealand Philatelic Federation Service Award for outstanding contribution to philately.
He is the patron of the Kāpiti Philatelic Society, a founding member of the New Zealand Stamp Dealers Association and has been president of the International Stamp Dealers Association.