Sale 976 — United States Stamps
Sale Date — Tuesday-Friday, 29 September-2 October, 2009
Category — 1913-15 Panama-Pacific Issue (Scott 397-404)
EXTREMELY FINE GEM. A SUPERB MINT NEVER-HINGED EXAMPLE OF THE 10-CENT ORANGE PERF 12 PANAMA-PACIFIC ISSUE.
With 2009 P.S.E. certificate (Superb 98; SMQ $4,850.00). Only three have graded higher to date (13 others share this grade).
EXTREMELY FINE GEM. THIS IS EASILY ONE OF THE FINEST MINT NEVER-HINGED TOP PLATE NUMBER BLOCK OF SIX OF THE 10-CENT PERF 10 PANAMA-PACIFIC ISSUE.
The Panama-Pacific Exposition commemorative set was originally released in late 1912 and officially placed on sale on January 1, 1913, two years in advance of the actual exposition (the stamps are inscribed "San Francisco 1915"). The stamps were first issued with 12-gauge perforations. When the Bureau of Engraving and Printing changed to 10-gauge perforations in late 1914, sheets of Panama-Pacific stamps were issued in Perf 10 form. This modification was not officially announced or widely recognized by stamp collectors; therefore, the Perf 10 stamps are much scarcer than their Perf 12 counterparts.
The 10c design depicts the "Discovery of San Francisco Bay," based on a painting by Charles F. Mathews (Johl, Vol. 1, pp.69-70). It depicts the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola and his crew with the Muwekma Ohlone natives. In 1769 Portola led the first expedition and observed San Francisco harbor. In 1775 Juan Manuel de Ayala, captain of the Spanish ship San Carlos, was the first to enter the harbor, which led to the establishment of the earliest European settlements.
The 10c was first issued in the standard Yellow used for the regular-issue 10c stamp, but the design was difficult to see in this shade (Scott 400). The stamp color was changed to a darker Orange and issued with 12-gauge perforations (Scott 400A). When the 10-gauge perforations were introduced, a much smaller supply was issued as Orange Perf 10 (Scott 404).
The 10c Panama-Pacific Perf 10, Scott 404, typically comes poorly centered. It is also plagued by short perfs--for a reason. The wide-spaced 10-gauge perfs were introduced by postal officials to strengthen the sheets during handling. Postmasters complained that the Perf 12 sheets broke apart too easily, but the move to Perf 10 went too far, and postmasters then started complaining that they were tearing apart stamps while trying to separate them (Perf 11 ended up being just right). Scott 404 is also much scarcer than its Perf 12 counterparts, Scott 400 and 400A. Only two panes of 70 are reported to survive.
We are aware of perhaps one other 10c Panama-Pacific Perf 10 top-position plate block that can be compared to the magnificent plate block offered here. The other was last offered in a Christie's Robson Lowe sale almost 20 years ago and is currently in a private collection. The plate block offered here surfaced recently and was certified by The Philatelic Foundation.
With 2009 P.F. certificate