Penny Black Stamps at Toovey’s Auction

Penny Blacks
Penny Blacks from Toovey's Auction on 12th August. From left to right: Lots 3017, 3018, 3019 & 3020

The Penny Black is one of the most famous stamps in the world. Not many dates are as important to a philatelist as the 6th of May 1840 – it was the first day that the Penny Black was allowed to be used to send mail through the postal system. The Penny Black has always captured the public’s imagination, with obscure rarities achieving record prices. These headline stamps are few and far between. Most of us read each headline and note the huge price tag but read no further, failing to discover the subtleties of why that particular stamp made thousands of pounds.

Despite its iconic status, the Penny Black is not a particularly rare stamp. Owing to its popularity, over 68 million were printed, a large number considering it was only in circulation for just under a year before the arrival of the Penny Red/Brown. It was short-lived largely because of practicality. A ‘cancellation’ (or postmark as it would be called by many) was introduced to stop stamps being reused. Starting as a black Maltese cross, the cancellation was, for obvious reasons, hard to see. It then changed to red for quicker identification, but amid fears that this cancellation could be washed off, the Penny Red stamp was conceived and put into production and the black Maltese cross cancellation reintroduced.

Crushing the hopes of many, Toovey’s stamp specialist states that most Penny Black stamps are actually only worth £20-30, if you’re lucky! The reason, he says, is that Penny Blacks were not produced on perforated sheets, unlike modern day stamps. Instead, you were reliant on the stamp being cut from the sheet by hand with scissors, and generally by someone who wasn’t that fussy about the end result! The stamps were also very close together on the sheet, so it’s not surprising that about nine out of ten were cut out badly. Even those stamps with slightly better margins will often have one edge trimmed a bit too close. So with a wider, nicely cut margin, a Penny Black is likely to realise between £70 and £120, depending on condition. The ones illustrated above feature in Toovey’s next Paper Collectables Auction, which includes a selection of these somewhat above-average examples. A little bit more would be paid if the stamp had been sent on 6th May 1840, becoming the first-ever first day cover. Mint, i.e. unused, Penny Blacks are rare and with decent margins would achieve a four-figure sum. Rarer still is a block of two or more unused Penny Blacks, still joined together. Mint examples are rare mainly because stamp collecting didn’t start until the 1860s. The majority of early stamps were, therefore, disposed of as ephemeral items. Many of the examples seen today were salvaged when solicitors cleared out their document boxes, as the envelopes had been kept for the senders’ details, but the majority of these had obviously been used. As stated earlier, the record prices are only achieved for unique rarities, which, by their very nature, seldom come onto the market. One such abnormality is the use of different coloured inks for the cancellation, a local example is that yellow ink was used in Horsham. For more information on the Postal Reform and the development of the Penny Black visit the website for the British Postal Museum.

Toovey’s forthcoming auction on 12th August 2014 includes eighty-nine lots of stamps, including some fine single collectors’ stamps and some interesting larger collections.

If you would like a valuation of a single stamp or an entire collection, Toovey’s are happy to provide free, no-obligation valuations at their Spring Gardens salerooms. Toovey’s employ a specialist consultant for stamp valuations and operate a report valuation service for stamps, rather than providing on-the-spot valuations. This enables our specialist to spend sufficient time formulating a considered, expert opinion on your stamps. Please telephone our offices on 01903 891955 or email to find out more or to make any other valuation enquiry.

The Fine Art of Smoking ~ Cigarette Cards at Toovey’s

A.A. Milne first alluded to ‘Smoking as a Fine Art’ in his 1920 essay of that title. He was referring to the pleasure of smoking a pipe and his view came from the perspective of a generation unaware of the health risks of smoking. Indeed, if you believed the advertising of Philip Morris in 1943, you would think smoking was actively good for you, as they claimed ‘tests showed three out of every four cases of smokers’ cough cleared on changing to Philip Morris’. Twenty-three years later, America banned cigarette advertisements on the television.

24 (of 50) Allen & Ginter extra large-size 'The American Indian' cigarette cards,
24 (of 50) Allen & Ginter extra large-size 'The American Indian' cigarette cards, circa 1888, sold for £1900 at Toovey's

In 1875, almost a century prior to the television advertising ban, an American tobacco company, Allen & Ginter, started issuing cards to advertise their brand and to stiffen the somewhat flimsy cigarette packaging. The British firms of Wills and Players started issuing similar cards in 1887 and 1893 respectively, quickly followed by Ogdens in 1894. These advertising cards soon changed to pictorial images, which could be collected in sets of 25, 50 or even 100, and with this change generations of cartophilists, aka cigarette card collectors, were born. These cards were the hidden gems inside packets and were perhaps the ‘fine art of smoking’.

Sets of cigarette cards were intended to educate and entertain with pictorial fronts and descriptive backs. Some were collected, others played with by children in the street. As a fairly ephemeral item, a surprisingly high number survive in very good condition. It is fair to say that the majority of cigarette cards are common and are not particularly collected, more so now in the days of the internet, when supply can outweigh demand very quickly. The majority of collectors have these common sets already and may upgrade to particularly fine examples but otherwise can afford to be fussy, which reflects in the value of more common material. With this in mind, it should be noted that the majority of sets of cigarette cards are not worth consigning to auction individually and are often sold in collections with other sets.

25 (of 50) Allen & Ginter 'The World's Champions' cigarette cards,
25 (of 50) Allen & Ginter 'The World's Champions' cigarette cards, sold for £600 at Toovey's
Set of 50 Franklyn Davey & Co 'Birds' cigarette cards,
Set of 50 Franklyn Davey & Co 'Birds' cigarette cards, circa 1896, sold for £550 at Toovey's

There is still a great number of collectors of cigarette cards deriving pleasure and interest from the hobby. The web has created a global market and, like all of Toovey’s auctions, their specialist sales of Paper Collectables are marketed online via in addition to currently being marketed via four other major collectors’ websites around the globe. They are even translated into Chinese on a website servicing the antique and collectors’ market across mainland China, an opportunity that would not have been possible twenty years ago. While the internet has clearly shown the commonness of certain sets, it has also highlighted the rarity of others and it is these scarce cards that still attract major attention from traders and collectors alike when they are offered at auction. Cigarette cards continue to sell well at Toovey’s, one of the few auctioneers still holding specialist sales of cigarette cards. The auctions are dates in the diary for everyone interested in the hobby. “Because Toovey’s hold regular auctions, it is easier to keep an eye on the market and adjust estimates accordingly to maintain our excellent sale rate and provide appropriate valuations for our vendors,” says valuer Nicholas Toovey.

25 Taddy 'Royalty Series' cigarette cards,
A set of 25 Taddy 'Royalty Series' cigarette cards, circa 1903, sold for £200 at Toovey's

Toovey’s sale of Paper Collectables on 5th November 2013 included a number of particularly rare cards, causing fireworks between the frenetic bidders, both in the room and online! Specialist dealers and collectors from around the country competed for some of the seldom-seen cards offered at the auction. The cigarette card section boasted an impressive 100% sold rate of all 107 lots in the cigarette card section.  The top hammer price of £1900 was achieved for 24 extra-large size Allen & Ginter cigarette cards from the set of 50 ‘The American Indian’, issued circa 1888. While albums of rare-type cards also achieved four figures, the next highest price for a small group was £600 for more Allen & Ginter cigarette cards, this time 25 from the set of 50 ‘The World’s Champions’, issued circa 1888. Some serious scuffing to the backs of a set of 50 Franklyn Davey & Co ‘Birds’, issued circa 1896, did not deter bidders for this extremely rare set and, although it would have been worth considerably more in better condition, it achieved £550. It was not just the early American cards that were hotly competed for; many cards issued by British manufacturers also attracted attention, such as a set of 25 Taddy ‘Royalty Series’ which sold for £200, factoring in the good condition of the set from one of the most collected British cigarette card manufacturers.

Toovey’s hold three specialist sales of Paper Collectables a year, all of which include a good selection of cigarette cards.

Sir Winston Churchill and Chartwell

Winston Churchill and Percy Cox at Chartwell
Percy Cox OBE wearing a flat cap, standing behind Sir Winston Churchill at Chartwell, image from the Percy Cox Archive

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill bought Chartwell in 1922. It was to be home to the Churchill family over the next forty-three years. Toovey’s paper collectables specialist, Nicholas Toovey, has uncovered a small archive of photographs, letters, telegrams and notes, which document the Churchills’ relationship with their friend and estates manager, Percy Cox, OBE. The correspondence and images give a very personal insight into life at Chartwell. The Percy Cox Archive is to be auctioned in November at Toovey’s.

View from Chartwell
The view from Chartwell looking south over the gentle landscape of the Weald of Kent

Churchill’s youngest child, Lady Mary Soames, has written that her father was “captivated by Chartwell from the moment he set eyes on the valley, protected by the sheltering arm of beautiful beech woods… and by the house on the hillside”. As you stand on the terrace at Chartwell, you are presented with a southerly view over the gentle landscape of the Weald of Kent; it speaks of an older England. Unsurprising, then, that this scene so inspired our greatest war-time Prime Minister. Whenever the English find themselves under threat, they turn to their monarch, their church and their landscape; our nation’s identity is bound together by these timeless threads.

An hour from London, Chartwell between the wars hosted a cast which included politicians, scientists and intellectuals. Among these were Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Camrose, the powerful proprietors of The Daily Express and The Daily Telegraph, and T.E. Lawrence and Charlie Chaplin. Famously, debates after dinner would continue into the early hours.

Churchill’s fortune from writing was severely affected by the financial crash of 1929, which signalled the arrival of the Great Depression. Life at Chartwell was always accompanied by financial worries and these coloured Churchill’s wife, Clementine’s view of their country home. By 1946 there were concerns as to whether the Churchills would be able to continue living at Chartwell.

Winston Churchill always felt his roots were at Blenheim, where he was born in 1874. Blenheim had been given to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, by Queen Anne and a grateful nation after his victory at Blenheim in 1704. Lord Camrose felt it wrong that Winston Churchill, the great war-time leader, could lose his home. With resonances of the gift of Blenheim, he and a group of wealthy men anonymously purchased Chartwell, on the express understanding that the Churchills would continue living there undisturbed until the end of their days, after which it would be given to the National Trust.

Churchill was always influenced by the long shadow of history, mindful to heed the warnings the past offers to the present. Much of Churchill’s writing was historical. He employed researchers like Maurice Ashley and William Deakin and would draw on their notes. Whether preparing a manuscript for a book or a speech, he liked to work standing and to dictate, cigar in hand, as he paced the room, often late into the night. Once these notes were typed, he would engage in painstaking revision. His method of working gifts his writing with the immediacy of the spoken word and displays irony, rhetoric and an honest passion.

Churchill English-Speaking Peoples
Percy Cox’s set of Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples

Secure in his beloved Chartwell, he continued to write, working on his multi-volume war memoirs and his four-volume A History of The English-Speaking Peoples. The Percy Cox Archive also includes a first edition set of A History of The English-Speaking Peoples, published between 1956 and 1958, which has presentation inscriptions to Percy Cox. The worldwide syndication of these works made Winston Churchill a very wealthy man and all concerns about money vanished. Along with numerous acts of quiet generosity, it enabled Churchill to buy Chartwell Farm and a number of neighbouring farms. Nicholas Toovey comments, “The Percy Cox Archive relates to this post-war period and illustrates the fondness and respect in which the family held him. In particular, it casts light upon Mr Cox’s relationship with Winston and Clementine Churchill and their daughter Mary. Letters relating to the management of Churchill’s estates and invitations to dine at Chartwell and to attend Mary’s wedding with Lord Soames, together with photographs of Churchill and others, provide a very personal and poignant insight into their lives.”

The Percy Cox Archive contains some fifty items and is estimated to realise between £6000 and £8000. It will be auctioned at Toovey’s as part of our specialist sale of Paper Collectables on 5th November 2013. For more information, visit www.toovey’ or telephone 01903 891955.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 30th October 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Percy Cox Archive at Toovey’s Auctioneers

Percy Cox
Percy Cox seated at his desk, compiler of the fascinating archive

Advance notice of a fascinating archive to be sold at Toovey’s Fine Art and Antique Auctioneers.

Winston Churchill's presentation copies to Percy Cox
Lot 3271. Winston Churchill's presentation copies to Percy Cox

Toovey’s Specialist Sale of Paper Collectables includes The Percy Cox Archive. This interesting archive of material relating to the Churchill family will be sold at Toovey’s Spring Gardens auction rooms in West Sussex. The archive will be offered in two lots as follows:

Lot 3271. CHURCHILL, Winston Leonard Spencer. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. London: Cassell and Company Ltd., 1956-1958. First edition, 4 vols., 8vo (242 x 152mm.) Occasional maps. (Some spotting.) Original cloth (extremities lightly bumped). Provenance: Percy Walter Cox (presentation inscriptions signed by the author to front-free endpaper of vols. I & II, signature to half-title of vol. III and presentation inscription to preliminary blank of vol. IV); and thence by descent. Note: part of The Percy Cox Archive.

Lot 3272. THE CHURCHILL FAMILY. – Sir Winston Leonard Spencer CHURCHILL (1874-1965), Clementine Ogilvy Spencer CHURCHILL, Baroness SPENCER-CHURCHILL (1885-1977), Mary SOAMES, Baroness SOAMES, and others. A small archive of photographs, telegrams, autograph letters, signed letters, notes and cards, most relating to the Churchill family’s relationship with Percy Cox, O.B.E., circa 1945-1974. Provenance: Percy Walter Cox and thence by descent. Note: Percy Cox (1888-1975), was the Estates Manager at the Churchills’ home, Chartwell, in Kent in the late 1940s and the 1950s. This interesting archive throws some light on Mr Cox’s work for Sir Winston Churchill and the personal esteem in which he and his wife were held by Winston, his wife, Clementine, and their youngest daughter, Mary. Further details on the contents of this archive are available on request.

Rare Stamp in Toovey’s Auction

3050 in Toovey's Specialist Stamp Auction
Lot 3050. A 1967 Flowers 4d phosphor unmounted mint, agate omitted, SG719pd, with rare error
3050 detail
Detail showing rare error

For stamp collectors, rare and error postage stamps are always among the highest prized. Toovey’s Sale of Paper Collectables includes one such rarity, a 1967 Flowers 4d phosphor mint stamp with the rare error of having the agate omitted, SG719pd.  Tom Pierron in his book ‘Catalogue of Great Britain stamp errors and varieties‘ tells the story behind this rarity, ‘A couple of lady pensioners on holiday in the West Country bought all known copies of the error for use as postage. They split all blocks bar one and lightly stuck the majority to postcards… One was posted before the error was spotted. The fate of the postally used copy is unknown. The only known block of four is folded and the top right stamp has a blunt perforation.’

It is probably fair to say that in the second half of the 20th Century very few stamps have significant value unless they carry a rare variant, flaw or error, like this example. This stamp carries a pre-sale estimate of £1200-1800 and will be offered for sale on the 6th August.