Discovering stamp collecting rarities - Canada's St Lawrence Seaway invert error stamp

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01 August 2014
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imports_CCGB_canadas1959stlawrence_90127.jpg Canada's 1959 St Lawrence Seaway inverted stamp error
We all dream of finding a valuable stamp or two amongst a packet of stamps, in an old album, or on a sheet purchased form the Post Office, writes Ed Fletcher, in the first part of his online series on stamp discoveries that made stamp collecting history… ...
We all dream of finding a valuable stamp or two amongst a packet of stamps, in an old album, or on a sheet purchased form the Post Office, writes Ed Fletcher, in the first part of his online series on stamp discoveries that made stamp collecting history…

She noticed that the printed words on the stamp were upside down, so…

On 20 August, 1959, the post-room girl in a Winnipeg, Canada company reached into the box where she kept her stamp supplies and tore three from a part sheet of thirty five-cent stamps, stuck them on some outgoing mail, then handed the letters to the office boy who went out at once and posted them.

Meanwhile the post-room girl kept busy placing more correspondence into envelopes. She brought out the remaining 27 stamps and began to break the sheet into singles and small blocks ready for sticking on more letters.

The design was unfamiliar because these were the recently issued St Lawrence Seaway commemoratives; but as she picked up another single she noticed that the printed words on the stamp were upside down, so she turned it the other way up and realised that it was the central design (map, leaf, bird) that was inverted. And all the rest were the same.

Within a few minutes word reached a philatelist who worked for the firm.

He rushed to the mail room to deter the girl from using more of the stamps; then he hurried to the post office where the office boy had bought the sheet of thirty earlier in the day.

The twenrty stamps that had formed part of a sheet of fifty had already been sold singly to other customers, and a search through other sheets of fifty confirmed that no more inverted centres had reached that post office.

However, it was later confirmed by the Canadian postal authorities that a sheet of 200 had originally been printed, divided into four, and sent to various post offices.

Official searchers, rapidly joined by numerous fortune-hunters across Canada, brought to light two sheets of fifty and a partly used sheet with about half already sold. The postal authorities were feeling pleased with themselves that by the end of the week all 200 had been recovered or accounted for… until a block of six came to light in Ottawa a month later.

To this day some people still hope to find examples of the inverted centres from what may have been a second sheet of 200.

Read more about stamp discoveries, auction prices and stamp collecting news in every issue of Stamp & Coin Mart magazine, available to download as a digital edition or order in print.
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