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Special auction: Celebrating Canada's 150th with Louis Riel, Sam Greer and a flaming zeppelin

The Aero Club of Canada carried out Canada’s first postal flight on June 23, 1918, when Capt. Brian Peck flew 120 letters from Montreal to Toronto.

Two months later, the Aero Club commemorated the mail service with a stamp — a patriotic image of a Royal Air Force bi-plane shooting down a German zeppelin, which had burst into flames.

“It was the First World War,” reasons Brian Grant Duff of All Nations Stamp and Coin. “And that’s what they were doing, shooting down enemy zeppelins.”

As a music fan, Grant Duff said the stamp reminds him of the first Led Zeppelin album cover, which featured the Hindenburg bursting into flame. And this Saturday, he will offer both stamp and music lovers a chance to buy the stamp in a special “Canada 150” auction.

There are two examples of the Aero Club zeppelin for sale, a double stamp that carries a pre-auction estimate of $400 and a “first day cover” from the day it was released, Aug. 26, 1918 (est. $750).

The stamps are among 150 items Grant Duff put together to coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday.

“I tried to put together a historic and iconic representation of Canadian stamps, coins, postal history and related collectibles, starting with Canada’s first stamp,” said Grant Duff.

Canada’s first stamp featured a beaver.

That first stamp was issued in 1851, when Canada was still a British colony.

“It was designed by Sanford Fleming, the transcontinental railway engineer (for the Canadian Pacific Railway) and inventor of standard time,” notes Grant Duff, who has estimated the stamp will sell for $400.

“It was the first stamp in the world to depict an animal. Of course with Canada, it’s the beaver.”

The most collectible Canadian stamp was also issued in 1851. Known as the “12 Penny Black,” it features a portrait of a young Queen Victoria. Grant Duff has a “specimen overprint” for sale that carries an estimate of $1,000.

“It’s a proof made for the printer’s archives,” he explains.

“It’s nicer looking than a genuine stamp. There’s only about 100 (known) of the issued stamp, so the odds of getting one are not great. Generally speaking, they’re worth at least $15,000 — we sold a rough condition one earlier this year for $13,000.”

The 12 penny black.

Oddly, there were no Canadian stamps issued in 1867, when Canada became a country. But Grant Duff is offering four versions of Canada’s first stamp post-Confederation, an 1868 design featuring a profile of Queen Victoria that are estimated at $150 to $200 apiece.

There are some cool political items in the auction, including a cabinet photo or carte de visite of Metis leader Louis Riel. Riel was executed in 1885 after leading the Northwest Rebellion in the prairies. The photo being auctioned is circa 1870. Bizarrely, it bears the stamp of a tobacco company (“S. Davis & Sons, Montreal, Largest Cigar Manufacturers in the Dominion”) across the bottom.

The Louis Riel card, circa 1870.

The Riel photo has an estimate of $200. Another unusual political item is a red silk ribbon touting “Our Leader” Wilfrid Laurier from March 20, 1895.  (Laurier didn’t become prime minister until a year later.) There may not be another one in existence, and the estimate is only $50.

Grant Duff said there were 18 colonial British Columbia stamps issued between 1860 and 1871. He has nine examples in the auction, including an 1860 stamp that features Queen Victoria and the names of the two separate colonies at the time, British Columbia & Vancouvers Island (est. $125).

The most alluring local item is a hand-drawn map and letter of Sam Greer’s property claim to today’s Kitsilano.

The Sam Greer map of his claim in Kitsilano.

It was written on Dec. 15, 1884 and is datelined Granville, which was Vancouver’s name before the city was incorporated in 1886.

Greer writes  that he purchased 20 acres off four natives beside the “Indian settlement near False Creek,” and pre-empted another 160 acres. At the bottom of the letter he writes the names of the natives, Indian Charly, Mrs. Salpcan, Kanachick and Sweellamcan.

Grant Duff sold another Greer letter about his land claim in May for $24,000, but has estimated this one at $5,000.

“I put a low estimate on it and I’ll let the market (decide),” he said.

The auction is being conducted online at allnationsstampandcoin.com/auction.html, and goes live Saturday at noon.

jmackie@vancouversun.com

This 1897 $4 Victoria jubilee stamp celebrates the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria taking the throne.

 

This 1929 stamp of the Bluenose is widely regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful stamps. This set of four is estimated at $500.

 

Many of the stamps in the sale come from the estate of a UBC professor who was interested in aerial stamps, including this 1927 Western Canada Airways stamp.

 

 

 

 

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