You know a cover must be special when it appears in the auction catalogue named after a legendary collector like Maurice Burrus. Our featured cover was headed up “The Burrus Cover”, on page 38 of a David Feldman auction dated June 2014.

And you get an even greater understanding of exactly how significant the cover is when the auction catalogue is titled “The John E. du Pont Grand Prix Collection of British Guiana”.

British Guiana Collection of John Du Pont - auction catalogue

Two of the greatest philatelists, both who assembled collections of exceptional quality full of rarities, both with personal fortunes of rare quantity, and both came with the notoriety and lifestyle to underpin such incredibly fascinating biographies. These two giants in the philatelic world will soon appear in our “Legendary Collectors” series starring in a leading role, as there is so much more to air about them, but they are just guests here to make cameo appearances to ‘hammer’ home that this cover is a major rarity, and so very significant.

But there is more to say, because we are still here with the David Feldman auction catalogue in hand, and another member of the cast is yet to take the stage, coming on right after this next performance.

So we have two legends, one cover. And to get the special effects, because no blockbuster would be presented without some, here is the full description from that now seemingly mythical auction of British Guiana. Please read carefully:

1850-51 4 cents black on pale yellow pelure pape (very thin and transparent, almost onionskin) Townsend Type A, with initials of postal official Lorimer “WHL”, sheet corner margins, used on cover from Plantation Woodlands (list of cattle enclosed) to Georgetown, with central Demerara datestamp MY 09 1851 An exceptional stamp and probably the largest margined “Cotton-Reel” in existence. On cover it is clearly one of the major items of the issue.

Provenance: Dale-Lichtenstein, Burrus

Expertise: Signed Bloch, cert. BPA (2014)

That is some description! Which, I’m sure the arrival of another superstar didn’t escape your attention. Entering the stage door of ‘Provenance’: Dale-Lichtenstein. I’m sort of lost for words. But I must locate the ‘hammer’ to tell you that Louise Boyd Dale (1913 –1967) the daughter of philatelist Alfred F. Lichtenstein, which if that isn’t impressive enough, then Louise went on to be a top rank American philatelist in her own right. I don’t want to say too much here because Louise Dale is the star of her own feature soon, however it is imperative you know the following facts. Louise Dale nee Lichtenstein was the first woman to serve as a judge at an international philatelic exhibition, and the first woman to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists. You get my point. Another Legend.

So, if my maths are correct, we now have a divine trinity of collectors, all three wanted this cover, all three had the nerve and the funds to buy the cover, and history tells us that all three had their hands on this hallowed and unique 1851 British Guiana cotton-reel on cover.  Oh! wait, there is a twist. The plot gets even better because now we’ve learned that “Dale-Lichtenstein” means Alfred owned it before Louise, she inherited the cover when her father, the legendary philatelist went to the heavenly society in the sky, so one plus three is four. Jeepers! Four superstar collectors had this cover in their possession, no wonder du Pont wanted it. I can’t take much more of this. Surely that’s the end of the movie?

But no. Like all great films, there is always a finale. A concluding climax. Let’s change scenes from Lichtenstein in the USA, and go to Geneva, Switzerland, June 27th 2014, the sun is shining, “Lot number 60031” gets the call. Here it is, the final ‘hammer’ comes down, and who is it that strikes that immortalizing blow? It is David Feldman; “Sold for €160’000”.

Roll the credits. My work here is done.

You can view the auction catalogue of the famous “John E. du Pont Grand Prix Collection of British Guiana” here.

If this article has whetted your appetite to know more detail about this cover and indeed the Cotton Reels and the amazing du Pont British Guiana collection sold by David Feldman, we have prepared something already for you to get your philatelic teeth into: British Guiana’s Cottonreels by L. N. Williams