Rare Stamp Wrongly-Considered as Fake Sells for $300,000

09 Feb 2018  Fri

What belongs to you, will always find a way towards you and something like that happened with Napier philatelist Robin Gwynn, who sold a rare stamp for more than $3,00,000, after an expert dismissed the paper as fake.

The stamp had been hidden anonymously in an album Gwynn bought in Auckland on August 14, 2014, for $3300, his interest piqued by the fact that, dated 1876, it was the oldest album he'd ever come across in New Zealand.

On returning home to Hawke’s Bay, he found out that a stamp had been removed between his inspection of the album and the auction. However, he chose not to return it, when he realized there were more than a dozen stamps or stationery cut-outs he’d never heard of.

In an international journey of discovery one turned out to be the first Russian stamp, the Tiflis — a discovery of moderate interest for, he said, he had no interest in Russian stamps.

Before becoming a philatelic wonder, a US expert initially certified it as fake. But an out of the blue offer of £5000 led to him, learning it was the genuine article, the first worldwide to surface in more than 80 years.

Three were in the Faberge collection which was dispersed on the eve of WWII, one was in the Berlin Museum and one was in the Smithsonian in America, but the new find was none of those. On October 26 last year it sold for £165,000 at a Spink and Son auction in London.

Gwynn is a former president of the Royal Philatelic Society of New Zealand and has revealed the story in a five-page scholarly article in the New Zealand Stamp Collector official journal.

The lot description at Spink described it as "a superb and wonderful recently discovered World Rarity which had remained unrecognised in an old Oppen's album in New Zealand for the last 100 years or so" and estimated its worth pre-auction at £70,000-£100,000.

Gwynn recalls listening online as the first bid passed reserve, and interest accelerated from initial raises of £1000 to bids of £5000. The single raises equal to the surprise "sight unseen" offer he once received and which was up to three times what he'd paid for the entire album.

It was that which initiated his research, learning the stamp was designed to carry mail between Tiflis, the former name of Georgia capital Tbilisi, and the summer residence of the Tsar's residence at Kodzhory.

A well-known philatelist, J.B.Moens, had listed the stamp in a catalogue in the late 1800s, but the first example, now in the Berlin Museum, was not identified until 1913.

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