The following article has been extracted from “The Stamp News” (October, 1895) and was written by A. A. Bartlett.
On more than one occasion I have deemed it my duty to champion the cause of these unfashionable, and therefore little understood, stamps, and again would I call the attention of those at all interested in the postal issues of the old colonies of British North America, to the fact that the fulfilment of the handwriting on the wall is daily becoming more apparent, and that these wretched little things, though far removed from being “things of beauty,” may still become “a joy for ever” to many a philatelic album.
Statistics are uncommonly dry reading matter, and in this paper I am not going to indulge in any. For those who wish to study that feature of the case, I can recommend strongly the article of my friend Mr. D. A. King, of Halifax, lately published in The Monthly Journal, or in the late list of the Scott Stamp and Coin Co., in the Amencan Journal of Philately, or, going still further back, the list I published some years ago in The Stamp News. But the point to which I object, and which seems to me unfair in comparison with the stamps of several other countries, is the fact that many unique varieties are ignored by Stanley Gibbons and Scott in their late catalogues which I presume we can take as the representative catalogues respectively of England and America; and I will go further still, and venture to assert that, much as the stamps have risen in value, they are still miserably undervalued.
Now, for the sake of argument, let us draw a comparison between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and we will take the 3 pence of each province to illustrate our argument. In Prince Edward Island the 3 pence was used by a population (roughly speaking) of 85,000 people for twelve years, and in New Brunswick the 3 pence was used by 300,000 people for some nine years; now anyone, not conversant with the facts of the case, would at once suppose that the 3 pence of Prince Edward Island should be worth at least twice as much, in a used state, as its sister stamp of New Brunswick: but what are the facts of the case! The New Brunswick stamp is catalogued at six times the value of the Prince Edward Island one. Now this is clearly wrong; there is no earthly rhyme or reason for it, except we can find a reason in the fact of the prices of used Prince Edward Island being kept down by the huge number of unused remainders, which were on hand when this province lost its autonomy, and became a province of the Dominion of Canada; still, dealers and collectors have known this fact all along, and the time has come when a fairer estimate should surely be made of the vast difference in value between the used and unused stamps of Prince Edward Island. And if we carry the comparison a little further, and instance the 6 pence of each province, we find that of New Brunswick catalogued at twelve times the price of that of Prince Edward Island.
Now I do not wish to display such poor taste as to belittle the value of the New Brunswick 6 pence, for I know it is a rare stamp, and one very likely to make rapid bounds in the future, but to-day, in my own collection, made right here on the ground in these two provinces, I have more used 6 pence of New Brunswick than I have of Prince Edward Island; and I say it without meaning to be egotistical, and yet with scarcely any fear of being contradicted, that in the past five years I have handled more stamps of Prince Edward Island, both used and unused, than any other man in the world. Now will any man say this is not a fair test of the relative value of these stamps, and will not any justly-minded philatelist agree with me in a strongly expressed opinion of the unfair valuing of the used stamps of this province? It is the fashion to pay 90s. for a New Brunswick 6 pence. and 7s.6d. for one of Prince Edward Island, but just as as 20s. make £1 just so sure is the 6 pence of Prince Edward Island worth as much money as that of New Brunswick. I know a great many people will laugh at me; well and good, “they laugh best who laugh last.’
Then I also contend that the 2 pence, 3 pence, and 6 pence of Prince Edward Island (pictured above), perforated 9, are ridiculously under-valued; they are worth, many times the catalogue price.
Coming down from the pence issue to the cents issue we find comparison here still more laughable. This issue was in use one year, and I wonder how many 2 cents or 12 cents survived in a used state! And we must always take one feature into consideration in dealing with the scarcity of used Prince Edward Island stamps, and that is, that the poor quality of the paper rendered it a task of the utmost care to remove them from envelopes, and preserve them in a perfect condition: hence the reason we see so many imperfect stamps of this province, particularly in the large perforation, and in the cents issue – and this is a most important factor in the case.
Now the value of a stamp is not its catalogue price, but what you can purchase it for, and I would most respectfully ask Messrs. Stanley Gibbons and Scott if they are prepared to sell the 2 cents of Prince Edward Island, used, at 20s or $5.00 respectively, or the other values of the cents issue, used, at prices quoted by them. If you are, gentlemen, then you are content to part with your wares at a small portion of their value. Of course, one is at once met with the old excuse of the used Prince Edward. Island being kept down in price by the fact that unused ones can always be obtained. Well, we shall soon, very soon, not have this excuse to fall back on, for the supply of five of the values in an unused state, viz., 1 penny, 4½ penny, 6 penny, 9 penny, and 3 cents, is already almost a thing of the past; and the end is in sight, when the suppy of the remaining eight of the thirteen will also be one of the “have beens.” Then, and probably not till then, will the scarcity of used Prince Edward Island be fully understood; and then of course, when stern, hard necessity will have beaten the fact into the philatelic heads, will come the inevitable rise a price and the vain regrets of those who allowed the long-protracted day of small things (prices) to sweep bythem unheeded.
I hear some of my friends say, “You are making an awful fuss about the prices of Prince Edward Island, while everyone else seems to consider the prices fair!” I care not, gentlemen, what everyone else considers; I am talking abouth something here I should know something about, and I ring you out the changes again, that, in so far as the prices of used Prince Edward Island are concerned, their real market value is most lamentably understated; and if you consider them fair, I am very willing to allow our separate opinions to be umpired on by time which proves all things. A 6 pence wove or laid Canada and a 2 cents used Prince Edward Island, priced the same; bah! the utter absurdity and ridiculousness of such a thing! I knew of one man having over one thousand 6 pence Canada, and right here in the ground, where the 2 cents Prince Edward Island was used, I have only able to secure about half a dozen on the original covers during the past eight years; how is that for a comparison of relative values?
Experience in the past has pointed out to us many rude awakenings from long cherished ideas of lowness in value of certain stamps, and methinks I see a general shaking up of dead bones, and a large amount of weeping and wailing over neglected opportunities, when comes the turn for Prince Edward Island. Rest content, you ill-looking, poorly-made, much-neglected, little gem, your day will come; not your dearest friend could be so blind as to claim for you any slight pretensions to beauty, but your greatest enemy cannot long withhold from you your greatest claim to scarcity, and what you lack in beauty, you more than make up in value; and in this commonsense, practical, every-day nineteenth century, the record would seem to be that beauty invariably occupies secondary place; it can always be purchased, by its more successful rival – money.
And I have not finished with my complaints of the catalogue yet; if there is one stamps of British North America most unique in its character, it is the 2 pence rouletted of Prince Edward Island. I am not preparedto give you a reason for how, why, or when it was issued – I do not know; that there is such a genuine variety, I think I am safe in saying will pass undisputed; that it is excessively rare will, I think, also go without saying. One can be seen in the Tapling collection; I doubt if there is another in London. There is no other instance of a rouletted stamp in the original 5 provinces of British North America. (I refer to Canada, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island), and no instance yet of any other stamp of Prince Edward Island having been found rouletted. In the sale of the great De Coppett collection, where everything possible in British North America was supposed to be, we look in vain for it. We find the Canada 12 pence, the Connell, all the shillings, the British Columbia 2½ pence, and 5 cent imperf., but we do not find the 2 pence rouletted of Prince Edward Island. And for this most interesting of all British North America stamps, rarer, far rarer than a Canada 12 pence, we look in vain in the standard catalogue of Great Britain.
Why should this be? We cannot fall back on the reason of its not being catalogued because it cannot be supplied, for one does not presume for a moment that all stamps priced in the catalogue can be supplied – that were an impossibility. We can only then conclude that it has got to be such a standard idea to catalogue 13 Prince Edward Island stamps, and also 3 of these 13 with a large perforation, that this rule must not be departed from; and thousauds of philatelists, who govern their ideas of matters philatelic altogether by the catalogue, are consequently entirely unaware of the existence of this rare stamp. Is this as it should be, or has the time arrived when a little more care should be bestowed on the long-neglected stamp of Prince Edward Island, and a little less on Russian Locals?
And this brings me to a feature of Prince Edward Island stamps to which I also think more attention should be directed. I refer to the numerous errors to be found in these stamps. It is doubtful if so many errors of full stops, broken letters, misformed letters, and uneven letters can be found in any other series of stamps ever issued. Now to seven out of ten collectors, in all probability, this is a matter of no moment, and will not in any way interest them; well, I am not speaking to those seven, I am speaking to the remaining three, or to those of them whose eyes will fall on this article. More and more, as the years go by, are we becoming specialists – and keen, infinitesimal, hair-splitting specialists, at that; I presume my own feelings find a kindred feeling in my brother collectors, and I know, so far as I am concerned, that having chosen Great Britain and her Colonies for the field in which I am garnering in my harvest, no specimen that I can secure escapes me if it differs in the slightest degree in shade, perforation, or any other particular from those I have.
This is my sentiment in the matter, and I doubt not the same sentiment strikes a kindred chord in many a philatelic breast. And to indulge this to the full, the greater the number of varieties we can secure of those countries in which we are specializing, the more interesting our accumulation becomes, and therefore I cotend, in the stamps of Prince Edward Island we have a royal field of minute varieties most unique and most far-reaching. “Child’s play.” I hear remarked. Not “child’s play” at all, simply justice to Prince Edward Island, errors as against those of Queensland, Grenada, and other places. In Stanley Gibbons’ Catalogue look up Queensland, and you will find that a badly formed “u” turned into an “o” turns a 1 penny, deep orange, worth. 6d., into a stamp worth 10s.; and that the joining together of “T” and “W” turns a 2 penny, pale blue, worth. 3d., into a stamp worth 1s. 3d. Now in Prince Edward Island there are scores of instances of as good a nature as above – very many better, and if catalogued in the case of Queensland and other countries, why not in the case of Prince Edward Island? Stanley Gibbons still continue to catalogue the variety of a full stop between Prince and Edward in the 3 cent of Prince Edwards Island, to the exclusion of all other varieties; and, as I have remarked in other articles, this error is by no means at the top of the list of Prince Edward Island varieties, for it occurs regularly ten times in every sheet of 3 cent ever printed, making its actual value 10 to 1, while the now well-known error of “TWC” pence occurs but in a very small proportion of the sheets of 2 pence.
If it occurred once in every sheet it would have a value of 60 to 1; my experience has been that it does not occur once in twenty sheets. Then take the error of “ISLAND,” which regularly occurs once in every sheet of 3 pence, making its value 30 to 1; or the error “FOUP,” which occurs once in every sheet of 4 pence, and gives it a corresponding value of 30 to 1: or the error in the 6 cent of a most distinct full stop between T and A in postage, which occurs once in a sheet, value 100 to 1; and in the 4 cent is a very interesting error showing “L” of Island and “G” of Postage all awry.
Any of the errors above mentioned are of a more pronounced type than the 3 cent error, catalogued to the exclusion of all others. Why make fish of one and “flesh of another ? If errors are to be catalogued at all, then in all justice give in a correct list at least of the most pronounced ones, but do not exclude some and price others.
So long as minute varieties are to be priced, and so long as we are to be told that a stamp showing a perforation of 12½, is of more or less value than the identical stamp which shows only a perforation of 12, then I say an error of a broken letter or a full stop becomes a much more interesting variety, and makes our collection of much more interest than a difference of a half perforation ever could. If I have succeeded in making out a good case for the stamp of this beautiful little island, rightly called “the Garden of the Gulf,” and which is undoubtedly the fairest portion of all Canada – the little gem set in a silver sea, which the aboriginal Indian called ” Abegweit,” meaning “anchored on the wave” – then has my object been accomplished.
The awful incubus which has always hung tightly (philatelically) around the neck of Prince Edward Island, in consequence of the enormous number of unused remainders on hand, and disposed of for a tithe of their face-value when this Province entered the Dominion of Canada, is now, I am glad to say, fast unloosening its grip, and the end is near at hand. Very soon the enormous demand, which the rapid accession of philatelists yearly makes on all issues of all countries, will have used up even the commoner varieties, the stock of which is even now almost depleted, and then the real ratio between the values of the used as against the unused will be found – and a rude awakening it will be for some.
There are many things I have not touched on which are well worthy of note, and I was about forgetting to mention the different papers. Stanley Gibbons gives us white and yellow paper in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, but makes no note of such a thing in Prince Edward Island, and I am prepared to show a distinction of paper in Prince Edward Island, yellow and white, the like of which I challenge anyone to show me in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. They are as thoroughly distinct in difference as anything could possibly be. But why weary you longer, and why ask for that justice for the stamps which will never be accorded to them until it becomes the fashion to collect them, and until collectors begin to realize how foolish they have been in their estimate of their value?
CHARLOTTETOWN, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND