The Bombay Cover

The Bombay Cover

Sold in auction for 2'400'000 EUR in 2016

One of the “Crown Jewels” of philately and considered by many to be the greatest philatelic item in existence.

“The quintessence of philatelic superlativeness”

L. N. & M. Williams (1953, 1993)

1d. DEEP ORANGE, TWO SINGLES, datelined Port Louis, January 1, 1850, on entire letter addressed to “Thos. Jerrom Esq., Secretary to the Bombay Auxiliary Bible Society, The Esplanade, Bombay”, cancelled by twelve-bar h.s., in circular format and the right stamp additionally by handstruck “2” in circle; showing “MAURITIUS/G.P.O” crowned circle d.s. (Jan. 4, 1850) adjacent.

The stamps are of contrasting shades and impressions – the right stamp very sharp and the left a little heavier – indicative of the primitive printing methods of single impression from a copper plate on a hand press. Both stamps are of a brilliant colour and fresh with unusually large margins all round.

The cover has a small cut at right below “Society” in the address panel and has also been reinforced at the joins.

The entire letter comprises a double letter sheet written by the Reverend Langrishe Banks on 1 January 1850. Surprisingly, the contents of the letter, which concern the acknowledgement of receipt of a box of Scriptures, were not known until the Weill brothers allowed the letter to be opened in 1976.

Of optimum quality for what has been universally recognized as one of the “Crown Jewels” of philately.

Expertise: Philatelic Foundation certificate (1988) and British Philatelic Association certificates (1989 & 2015).


  • C. Howard, 1897 (purchased for 5 rupees in an Indian bazaar).
  • W. H. Peckitt, 1898 (£1,600).
  • Vernon Roberts, 1898 (£1,800).
  • W. H. Peckitt, 1905 (£2,000).
  • G. H. Worthington, 1906 (£2,200).
  • A.F. Lichtenstein, 1917 (a portion of the collection was purchased en bloc and the cover, which was included, was reputedly valued at £11,000).
  • Raymond H. Weill Co., sale Dale-Lichtenstein collection, H. R. Harmer, New York, 21 October 1968, lot 1($380,000), World Record Price for a Philatelic item.
  • Private Sale 1990: Dr. Chan Chin Cheung
  • Private Sale 1996: Guido Craveri
  • Private Sale 2007: current owner


  • International Philatelic Exhibition, Manchester, June-July, 1899
  • International Philatelic Exhibition, Grand Central Palace, New York, 16-23 October 1926, No. 197.
  • International Philatelic Exhibition IPOSTA, Berlin, 1930
  • The Royal Jubilee Stamp Exhibition, Royal Philatelic Society, London, 6 May 1935, The London Philatelist, Vol. XLIV, No. 521 (May, 1935), p. 98 (illustrated in separate inset).
  • PEXIP (Exposition Philatélique Internationale), Paris, 18-37 June 1937, No. 336.
  • London International Stamp Exhibition, Royal Festival Hall, 9-16 July 1960, Court of Honour, Frame 14 (illustrated on p. 83 of the catalogue).
  • Royal Philatelic Society, London, 2 May 1963.
  • ARPHILA (Exposition Philatélique Internationale), Grand Palais, Paris, 6-16 June 1975 (illustrated on p. 99 of the catalogue).
  • Interphil 76, Seventh U.S.A. International Philatelic Exhibition, Philadelphia, 29 May – 6 June 1976, «Aristocrats of Philately”


  • The London Philatelist, Vol. VII, No. 82 (October, 1898), p. 269. This is one of the first sources reporting the discovery of the cover and its acquisition by W. H. Peckitt.
  • Georges Brunel, Les Timbres-Poste de l’Ile Maurice. Emissions de 1847 à 1898. Paris, 1928, p. 22.
  • C. H. C. Harmer, «The ‘Thomas Jerrom’ Mauritius Letter», The London Philatelist, Vol. 78 (January, 1969), pp. 11-12. This provides biographical details about the recipient of the letter.
  • Hiroyuki Kanai, Classic Mauritius, the Locally Printed Postage Stamps, 1847-59, London, 1981, p. 30. According to Kanai: “This is the only example of two 1d. on cover in the record and both stamps are in very good condition. The cover is one of the most famous in philately… In the opinion of many… (it) is the most beautiful of the ‘Post Office’ covers now in existence”.
  • “Post Office Mauritius 1d.”, The Philatelist, Vol. 43, No. 3 (December, 1976) pp. 74-75. The transcription of the contents of the letter appears in this article.
  • L.N. Williams, “Mauritius 1847 1d. – The letter Writer and the Recipient”, The Philatelist, Vol. 43, No. 6 (March, 1977), pp. 172-173.
  • L.N. and M. Williams, Stamps of Fame, London, 1953, pp. 30, 42
  • The Williams brothers (p. 30) describe the cover as “the finest existing piece bearing the ‘Post Office’ issue… The letter, rightly, forms the pièce de résistance of the Lichtenstein collection, and is the quintessence of philatelic superlativeness.”
  • Encyclopaedia of Rare and Famous Stamps Part I (1993) pp. 199-201
  • Encyclopaedia of Rare and Famous Stamps Part II (1997) pp. 141
  • Die Blaue Mauritius / The Blue Mauritius (2011) pp. 19-221
  • The Rediscovery of the “Post Office” Issue Printing Plate, 2015

Having successfully sold the Item 4 (approx. US$ 4 m in 2005) and Item 5 (CHF 6.175.000 in 1993 auction) we are
greatly honoured for this opportunity to sell the only other cover in private hands- the ‘Bombay’ cover.

Bearing the two finest examples of the Post Office One Penny issue this cover realised the highest price ever for a philatelic item in 1968 (Dale Lichtenstein auction) and can be considered to be on a par with the British Guiana One Cent which was recently sold by Sotheby’s for US$ 9.5 m.