The Bolaffi Group through its three auction houses, Aste Bolaffi, Harmers of London and Solar y Llach have brought many historically important items to market. One of the most interesting lots sold by the group was comprised of the second issue Mauritius 1d and 2d stamps in May 2015.
These exceptionally sought-after stamps have a unique origin that helped solve a quintessentially 19th century colonial problem, “how does a British socialite ensure that her ball invitations are distributed to the colony’s great and good?”. The hostess was Lady Elizabeth Gomm, the wife of the Governor of Mauritius and her postage needs paved the way for the Empire’s first colonial stamp.
Lady Gomm employed the English engraver Joseph Osmond Barnard to create the design. The initial design (1847) included the text ‘Post Office’ but this was updated a year later to ‘Postage Paid’. While the first issues are the most desirable only 27 examples are known, most of which are held in permanent collections.
The lot offered was from the second issue (1848). Both stamps had previously been in the collection of Japanese mega collector Hiroyuki Kanai’s (1925-2012) and the 1d had been in the legendary collection of Philipp la Renotière von Ferrary (1850-1917). The stamps’ condition, rarity, excellent provenance and early plate impression helped the lot realise £146,717 (including fees).
An impressive price and one which Matteo Armandi is proud to have achieved after years of admiring the celebrated stamps from a distance. Matteo said “after 22 years of working in philately it is still electrifying when you come across property of this importance. Cataloguing them made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, when the gavel went down there was an immense sense of pride, and relief!”.