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Sale 1200 — The William H. Gross Collection: U.S. Stamp Multiples

Sale Date — Wednesday-Thursday, 8-9 May, 2019

Category — Dollar Value Columbians (Scott 241-245)

Cat./Est. Value
Sale Number 1200, Lot Number 155, Dollar Value Columbians (Scott 241-245)The unique top plate block of the $5, The unique top plate block of the $5The unique top plate block of the $5.00 Columbian Issue--one of only four plate blocks extant and the only block from the premium top position--a highlight of the Gross collection and one of the most important of all United States plate blocks


$5.00 Columbian (245), block of six from top of left pane with "AMERICAN BANK NOTE COMPANY." imprint and "No. 108" plate number, original gum, five stamps Mint N.H., bottom right stamp barely hinged, intense shade, attractive centering and margins


As block of 10: William H. Crocker, Harmer, Rooke sale, 11/23-25/1938, lot 417, as a block of ten described as "immaculate mint condition and with full original gum"

As block of 6: Josiah K. Lilly, Jr., Siegel Auction Galleries, 2/7-8/1968, Sale 327, lot 199, to Jacques Minkus

Bought privately from Harry Hagendorf (Columbian Stamp Co.)


The Philatelic Foundation (1991)


Fine-Very Fine; Lilly sale mentions "negligible gum wrinkle" which is utterly inconsequential




The High Value of the Columbians

The $5.00 Columbian, depicting "Columbus" is based on a portrait taken from a medal, possibly of Spanish origin. The same portrait design was used for the commemorative half-dollar issued for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The vignette was engraved by Alfred Jones, the frame by George Skinner and Douglas S. Ronaldson, and the lettering by Ronaldson alone. A total of 27,350 stamps were printed from Plate 108, and according to Luff 5,506 were destroyed.

For the Columbian series, all of the 1¢ stamps and most but not all of the 2¢ stamps were printed from 200-subject plates, with horizontal guide arrows between the two panes of 100. The perforating machine simultaneously applied horizontal perforations and cut the 200-stamp sheets into panes of 100, normally leaving a trace of the guide arrow on the straight edge of each pane. Some of the 2¢ stamps and all of the 3¢-$5.00 stamps were printed on smaller presses from plates of 100 subjects, with no guide arrows. When the perforating machine applied horizontal perforations to sheets from the 100-subject plates, the cutting blade, in the same position, removed either the top or bottom sheet margin (and plate number), depending on how the sheet was fed into the perforator, reducing by half the potential number of Columbian plate blocks that might have been available to collectors. This is also why so many Columbian stamps are reperforated at top or bottom rather than at the sides--10 stamps from every 100-subject sheet (or pane) would have a straight edge at either top or bottom. The 100-subject sheets were then divided into panes of 50 for distribution and sale at post offices. The undivided full sheets of 100 were only available from the Philatelic Agency in Washington D.C.

All of the values printed from 100-subject plates are known with both top and bottom plate blocks except for the 50¢ and $4.00, from which only bottom plate blocks are known. As explained, depending on how the sheet was fed into the perforator, either the top or bottom selvage was cut away and a straight edge was left in its place. For the 50¢ and $4.00, it appears that the entire supply was fed into the perforator in the same manner, preserving the bottom selvage and eliminating all top plate blocks (or any kind of top selvage). It is interesting that top and bottom plate blocks of the other dollar values exist.

The $5.00 Columbian is perhaps the most iconic value of the series. Only four plate blocks are recorded, including three blocks of six and one block of eight:

1) Bottom left plate no. 108 block of 8, part disturbed original gum, perf separations reinforced, small flaws, ex Col. Green, Col. Stillwell (Sale 413, lot 249), "MLG" collection (Sale 971, lot 1164)

2) Top left plate no. 108 block of 6, ex Crocker as plate block of 10, ex Lilly as plate block of 6 (Sale 327, lot 199), 5 stamps Mint N.H., sound, offered in this sale

3) Bottom right plate no. 108 block of six, top left stamp small tear, small tear in bottom left selvage, ex Moody (H. R. Harmer Part 2, lot 614), Dr. Guillermo Guinle H. R. Harmer 6/15/1953), "Ambassador" (Sale 300, lot 294), Kobacker (Christie's RL, lot 522) and Sale 836 (lot 1617), illustrated in Luff book

4) Bottom right plate no. 108 block of six, narrow selvage, ex T. Charlton Henry (Harmer, Rooke 12/14/1960, lot 606), "World's Fair" (Sale 1055, lot 62).

E. 200,000-300,000
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