In the world of babies, triplets, as you might expect, are a lot rarer than twins. Apparently there is a 0.1% chance of having triplets whereas a 0.45% chance of having twins, both of which are in fact better odds than winning the jackpot in a lottery. Which depending upon the precise lottery is about 45 million to 1. The other thing about triplets is that you have the same chance of having three babies of the same sex, as you do of having two of one sex and one of the other.
However, in the world of philately, we all know you’re far more likely to have an identical strip of three than two of the same value and one of a different value. In fact, the odds of the latter are akin to winning the lottery when it comes to our featured stamp, the famous ‘Interpanneaux’ 30r, 30r and 60r from the 1843 Brazil Bulls Eye issue – they apparently look like bull’s eyes.
This strip of three is one of the world’s rarest stamps and better known these days as ‘The Pack Strip’ in recognition that it was once in the famous collection of Charles Lathrop Pack. Pack was a world renowned philatelist, and assembled a collection that included many of the world’s rarest stamps.
To give you an idea how rare this icon of Brazilian philately is, it was part of the Angelo Lima Brazil collection sold by David Feldman SA in 1993 and this triplet sold for a whopping 1,150,000 Swiss Francs. If you didn’t know, Lima was a philatelist who built up a collection that won top awards on the international philatelic circuit. His display ‘Brazil: 1843-1866’ won a Large Gold Medal at Stamp World London 1990, and he was also decorated at the International Grand-Prix at PhilexFrance 89 and the Championship Grand Prix at PhilaNippon 91. It is thought that by the time Lima sold his collection of Brazil through David Feldman SA, Lima had assembled “the greatest single collection of Brazil ever formed” – that wouldn’t have been the case if he hadn’t acquired The Pack Strip in 1986 from the Gordon N. John collection for $275k. Which all tells us that assembling an award winning collection may require a lottery win, but it does seem to return you a decent uplift, in time.
Whilst The Pack Strip didn’t take on Lima’s name in deference to his achievements in the world of philately, the triplet is for any discerning philatelist of special interest in the field of postage paid adhesive stamps because Brazil were second out of the blocks to use stamps to prepay for letter services, and for many years it was assumed that these Bulls Eye stamps were printed and supplied by Perkins Bacon, the producers of the world’s first postage adhesive the ‘Great Britain Penny Black’. And indeed it was also thought they were printed in value sheets, much the same as the early GB line engraved. However in 1897 this triple bundle of philatelic joy was discovered and immediately, it would seem, found its way into our legendary collector Charles Lathrop Pack’s collection where it stayed until after his death in 1937 when it was sold in 1944. The story goes that after many years of research it was proved that these stamps were actually printed from engraved plates in Brazil from a machine seized by customs authorities, and whilst it was reckoned that the printing was unusual in that the sheets of 54 were made up of the three values – 30r, 60r and 90r – never before was there any substantial proof to support this.
The existence of the interpanneaux – The Pack Strip – demonstrated the sheets were printed in the way that researchers had determined – and hence its importance to philatelists. Whilst in 1890 there was a vertical pair discovered, known as ‘The Xiphopagus Pair’ (Congenitally joined Twins to us) which had the 30r and 60r se-tenant values, the triplet is that 0.1% apple of the eye, Bulls in this case, stamp with it’s two identical 30r values and the non identical 60r interpanneaux cancelled twice by a 1844 Correio Geral da Corte rimless postmark. I guess The Pack Strip is like discovering you have triplet babies to look after, two identical and one non identical, and in the same breath you win the lottery. The chances of that are probably the same as discovering another of these Brazil Interpanneaux, but don’t despair because your odds of winning the lottery, so you can afford this stamp next time it comes up for sale, are substantially improved if you are prepared to park any ambition of having baby triplets. One apple of the eye I suspect is better than another, especially if it’s from Brazil.
For further reading of these Brazil Bulls Eye 1843 stamps read this David Feldman SA article.
The 1993 Angelo Lima Brazil Collection catalogue can be located here.