InterAsia Auctions

The Earliest Recorded Large Dragon Cover Smashes all Records with US$2,430,000 Realisation

Our June 16-18, 2018 Auction Realises US$10.1 million

Commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Interasia Auctions, this exceptional auction far exceeded expectations, realising HK$79,068,977 (US$10,137,051; all realisations include the 15% buyer's premium), well exceeding the pre-sale estimate of HK$48,127,200. The earliest recorded envelope bearing Large Dragons from the Olsson collection (lot 29) established a new record price for any Chinese philatelic item, bringing a staggering HK$18,975,000 (US$2,430,000). The auction was a vivid affirmation of the strong and vibrant market for Chinese and Hong Kong stamps and postal history, as well as Interasia's unique and unrivalled position as the preeminent auctioneer worldwide for China and Hong Kong, handling the finest, rarest and most desirable items as well as presenting the largest, broadest and most comprehensive auctions of the areas.

The third dedicated auction of the Jane and Dan Sten Olsson collection of Large Dragons once again kicked off the three day series of sales, with the 36 lots realising HK$25,247,000 against a pre-sale estimate of HK$12,208,000. The essays and proofs featured a proof sheet of the 3ca. Setting I which made HK$977,500, and one of only three recorded blocks of four of the 5ca. imperforate proof finished at HK$667,000, while the issued stamps saw the thick paper 1ca. Setting VI unique complete sheet of twenty with sheet margins realise HK$1,495,000. Of course, the highlight of the auction, and of all Chinese postal history, was the earliest recorded envelope with Large Dragons — the 5 October 1878 envelope from Peking to Shanghai bearing a 5ca. pair and single, which brought the record sum of HK$18,975,000 after a fierce battle between two determined phone bidders, thus confirming its place in the Pantheon of world philatelic rarities. In fact, the end price was more than double that of any Chinese philatelic item ever sold at public auction. This pattern of intense competition and high realisations continued with the next lot, the earliest recorded Large Dragon cover (March 1879) sent overseas, which finished at HK$2,760,000 against a pre-sale estimate of HK$1,000,000. The last lot of the Olsson sale was an 1881 red-band envelope, the latest recorded usage of the Hwa Yang Hsu Hsin Kwan, which realised HK$253,000.

Day One continued with the General Sale, which began with a fine and rare array of early Customs Mail from the Vapereau correspondence. The first year usage (1872) of the "Custom House/Shanghai Paid" oval dater on an envelope sent to France through the French Post Office in Shanghai realised HK$368,000, while the "Custom House/ Shanghai" oval bilingual handstamp on an 1874 incoming envelope from the Hancock correspondence from Lurgan, Ireland brought HK$345,000, even though the top of the cover and stamps were trimmed. The immensely rare "Pakhoi Customs/Mail Matter" oval handstamp on an 1894 envelope to Shanghai was knocked down at HK$420,000 (HK$483,000). A group of five Large Dragon complete sheets brought an aggregate of HK$3,764,500, with the 3ca. sheet realising HK$632,500 and the 5ca. sheet rising to HK$1,955,000. The 1894 Dowager Empress Birthday 3ca. on an envelope to Peking originating in the Local Post system with the rare "Paid" framed h.s. well exceeded the pre-sale estimate of HK$40,000 to finish at HK$149,500. The trend of high realisations for the rarities continued with the 1897 New Currency surcharges. The extremely fine mint quality of the small figures 10c. on 9ca. with surcharge double was reflected in the HK$460,000 realisation, while two of the rarest Dowager surcharges, the "Golden Dragon" (large figures 2.5mm. setting on first printing 10c. on 12ca., ex Dr. Warren G. Kauder) and "Red Ruby" (large figures 1.5mm. setting on first printing 30c. on 24ca., ex Dr. Robert C.H. Lee) finished at HK$598,000 and HK$552,000 respectively to the same room bidder. An outstanding mint block of four of the Red Revenue small figures surcharges 2c. on 3c. with surcharge inverted and two stamps also showing the comma for stop and inverted "s" in "cents" varieties realised HK$575,000. The Red Revenue $5 on 3c. with variety surcharge inverted, albeit regummed, made HK$632,500. The iconic 1914-19 First Peking printing Hall of Classics $2 with centre inverted, which once resided in the Colonel Green collection (the eccentric American collector who originally owned the complete sheet of the "Inverted Jenny", which he subsequently split up) realised HK$747,500. Among the Special Purpose stamps, the 1912 Postage Dues unissued overprinted "Republic of China Provisional Neutrality" complete set of eight was fought over between a postal bidder and room bidder, with the latter winning at HK$437,000.

Day Two saw nearly 500 lots of the People's Republic of China and Liberated Areas sold in a five hour morning session, with nearly every lot finding a buyer. The total realisation of HK$20,038,865 doubled the pre-sale estimate of HK$9,766,600 and was indicative of a renewed interest and revival in this market, as evidenced by strong competition with healthy collector participation. The rarities were keenly sought after, with the 1956 unissued Views of Peking 8f. with background of rays of Sunlight soaring to HK$1,265,000. The two unissued 1964 Peking Opera Masks, the 4f. Li Ku and the 20f. Dou Er Dun, realised an astounding HK$1,725,000 and HK$1,955,000 respectively, ranking both these stamps among the highest ever in terms of realisations for any individual values from this rare set. The Cultural Revolution featured a mint example of the prepared for use but not issued "Great Victory of the Cultural Revolution" 8f., which garnered HK$690,000, despite a few imperfections. There were two 1980 Year of the Monkey unmounted mint complete sheets on offer, which each brought HK$1,495,000, while selling to two different bidders. Finally, the tremendous rarity and elusiveness of the 1953 unissued Blue Navy $800 was reflected by the HK$2,185,000 realisation, following spirited bidding between various room and phone bidders, with a phone bidder eventually executing the winning bid.

The afternoon session began with the Local Posts and saw an early usage of the Shanghai 1894 Candareens Provisional surcharge 3c. on 2ca. perf. 12 on a local cover knocked down at HK$100,000 (HK$115,000), and the 1898 incoming soldier's letter from Great Britain to a private of the Island Guard at Wei-Hai-Wei bearing the local second issue lithographed 2c. fetch HK$172,500. Other areas which were keenly contested included the Foreign Post Offices, postal stationery, and postal history and censored mail of the two World Wars.

The third and final day was devoted to Hong Kong and Treaty Ports, with a small section of other Asian Countries to conclude the auction. A superlative mint example of the 96c. olive-bistre brought the top price of HK$690,000. Two of the five recorded used complete panes of the 1891 "Jubilee" 2c. were in this auction, with the first (3rd printing) bringing HK$218,500 and second (4th printing) closing at HK$ 195,500. The Philippe Orsetti collection of security markings and perfins on cover attracted wide interest. Comprising just over sixty lots, Philippe's collection realised HK$330,000. A very fine example of the "Shanghai Post Office Paid" Crown handstamp on 1856 entire fetched HK$333,500.

All realisations include the 15% buyer's premium.

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