Wednesday 23 May 2018

Treasures: When wrong stamps are heaven-sent

The valuable 2d stamp with no perforations on the sides
The valuable 2d stamp with no perforations on the sides
The Irish Citizen Army stamp with the erroneous Jack White
Princess cut diamond

Will the real Captain Jack White please stand up? In January 2014, a 60 cent stamp designed to commemorate the Irish Citizen Army was prepared by An Post.

It featured a photograph of a moustachioed character said to be Jack White, first commandant of the Irish Citizen Army.

Then a historian pointed out that the man in the foreground was not Jack White. After consultation, An Post withdrew the stamp.

On April 17, 2014 a corrected version designed by Ger Garland was issued. It showed a photograph of the Irish Citizen Army at Croyden Park, Dublin, without the erroneous Captain White.

The official story is that first stamp was withdrawn prior to issue. Actually, it was on sale in the GPO for at least 40 minutes before it was withdrawn. It's probable that some of the stamps were also sold in other venues around the country. There's nothing that stamp collectors love as much as a glitch.

Just two years later, any one of those stamps could be worth up to €700 each. That's a good return on your 60 cent. "It's one of the few instances in recent times when someone could walk in off the street and buy a valuable stamp," says Padraig O'Shea of Raven Stamps in Cork.

Less than a week after the aborted issue, he invested €3,000 in a sheet of Jack White stamps. The vendor had bought them for €9 over the counter. Now, O'Shea lists the stamp as number five in the five most collectible Irish stamps of all time.

Philatelists (people who study stamps) are interested in imperfect stamps because they're rare. But I suspect there's also a certain thrill in embracing wrongness.

Number four on O'Shea's list is a 1976 Irish 15p stamp commemorating the US Bicentennial. A number of sheets of this stamp were printed without the colour silver. This meant that the word 'Eire' and the '15' pence value were absent. A complete sheet would now fetch around €9,000 and the stamps are worth more as part of the intact sheet than they are singly.

If you happen on a sheet of collectible stamps, don't tear along the dotted line. It depreciates the value.

In the number three position we have a stamp dating from 1964. It was designed to commemorate the New York World's Fair of that year. Once again, there was an error in the printing and some of the stamps lack the colour brown. They're now worth between €2,500 and €3,000 each. That's in mint condition.

In general, used stamps are worth a lot less than unused.

In second place is a stamp that belongs to a classic genre known as 'overprints'. When the Provisional Government of Ireland assumed power in 1922, the British postal system was still in operation. A stamp is a powerful symbol of national identity but there was no time to design and print something suitably Irish.

Existing British stamps, showing the head of George V, were first overprinted with the words "Rialtas Sealadach na hÉireann 1922". From December 1922, the overprinted text was changed to "Saorstát Éireann". Once again, O'Shea's stamp of choice has something wrong with it. In the midst of all the excitement, the printer rolled out a batch of 1 shilling stamps with no fada on the word Saorstát. Now this rare stamp is worth around €10,000. It's unlikely one of these will turn up unexpectedly. Only a certain number were printed and philatelists reckon they're all accounted for.

The first Irish 'definitives' were issued in 1922-23. There were four designs: Sword of Light, the Cross of Cong, the Arms of the Four Provinces, and the Map of Ireland. The latter defiantly ignored partition. Until 1937, overprints were still used for high value stamps. Not all of these are valuable but within this category there are many rarities that could be worth up to €10,000.

The higher the stamp's original value, the rarer it's likely to be. The highest value overprint cost 10 shillings, more than a day's wage for most people, and was mainly used for telegrams. "If you were to calculate the top 10 Irish stamps in monetary value alone they would mostly be overprints," says O'Shea. "But that would make for a very dull selection."

The holy grail of Irish stamp collectors, and O'Shea's number one, is an ordinary looking 2d map stamp with no perforations on the vertical sides. It was issued in 1934-5 for use in 'coil machines', a vending machine that dispensed stamps from a roll. The scheme was short lived and coil stamps are both rare and valuable.

A stamp in mint condition could make between €12,000 and €15,000. A used one might be worth €1,500 to €2,500.

Forgeries, as always, are out there, so check your stamp carefully before you go running to an expert.

Dealers who specialise in stamps in Ireland include in Cork and in Kimmage, Dublin. Both are members of the Irish Philatelic Traders Association.

For more information about Irish stamps, see An Post Museum and Archive via

In the salerooms


The Kerry Antiques Art & Vintage Fair, held in January for the past 26 years, will take place this year in the Dromhall Hotel, Muckross Road, Killarney, on Sunday.

Please note the new venue, as the fair has traditionally been held in Tralee. The fair's organiser, Robin O'Donnell, points out that the larger venue will allow space for a number of furniture stands, which he has previously been unable to accommodate in the Kerry fair.

Further details are available from Robin O'Donnell on 087 6933602.

The following weekend, an Antique & Collectors' Fair organised by AVA Antique Fairs will take place on Sunday, January 31 in the City North Hotel, Drogheda, from 11am-6pm with an eclectic mix of items ranging from furniture and paintings to vintage curios.

Admission is €2 and free valuations will be given on the day.


For those on a budget, attic auctions represent exceptional value for money. They are a clear-out of objects that both the auctioneers and their clients are keen to see the back of, and this is all in the buyer's favour.

While you are unlikely to see record-breaking sales, there are often many bargains to be had. Sheppard's Attic Auction, which takes place on Tuesday in Durrow, Co Laois, is no exception. Very few of the lots on offer have estimates that exceed €1,000 and many are likely to sell for €50 or less.

They range from an antique baronial chimney piece (€1,000 to €1,500), to a selection of Persian carpets and rugs (mostly estimated between €150 and €300), and Chinese porcelain, jade, and wood carving (in general, these pieces are estimated below €300). Full details on


The next auction of fine jewellery and silver at O'Reilly's auction rooms in Dublin takes place on Wednesday at 1pm. With Valentine's Day looming, many marriage proposals will take place in February and the sale shows the expected selection of engagement rings.

Diamonds show no sign of dropping from the position of favourite and the auction includes a diamond solitaire ring, with old cut diamond to diamond shoulders, mounted in white gold (€10,000 to €12,000) and a diamond solitaire ring with a 1.01 carat princess-cut diamond to tapered baguette diamond shoulders, mounted in platinum (€4,500 and €5,500).

The princess cut, which is square and resembles an upside-down pyramid, is less mainstream than the brilliant cut, which resembles a cone with a circular top. For this reason, princess cut diamonds are often considered good value.

The auction also includes a number of pearl necklaces and earrings.

Full details are on

Indo Property

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life