Canada’s 12 Pence Black of 1851


Issued on June 14, 1851, Canada’s 12-penny black features a portrait of the youthful Queen Victoria, a reproduction of a full-length painting by Alfred E. Chalon. This 12d was the high value of Canada’s first three stamps. The 12d denomination, instead of 1 shilling, was used because the value of a shilling differed in various parts of North America at that time. In most of New England, the shilling was equal to l0d, while in New York it was valued at 7d. The 12d denomination left no room for monetary confusion.

The 12d issue was printed by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch, and Edson (forerunner of the American Bank Note Company) on vertically laid paper. This poor quality paper irritated both the mailing public and postal authorities. The 12d stamp saw little use, not only because of its high denomination, but because it’s adhesive and paper did not adhere well to envelopes. Thus, the issue was on sale for just a few years, with only 1,450 being sold.

In 1857 the remaining unsold 49,550 12d stamps were withdrawn and destroyed. It is believed that somewhere between 100 and 150 examples of this 12d black exist today, but this is only conjecture.

On April 30, 1974, a single was purchased by Andy Kosztandy, manager of the Postal Stamp Department of Charlton Numismatics, Ltd., for $17,000 at a J.N. Sisson’s auction in Toronto. A mint corner marginal pair was acquired by the Canadian National Postal Museum in Ottawa in 1975. It is valued at $125,000.

In 1977, Stanley Gibbons International sold an unused pair for £51,000 during its Canadian ‘Consort’ auction in London.

A New York collector purchased a single for $90,000 during a Greg Manning auction in 1978, and an unused single brought $75,000 at a Robert A. Siegel auction in 1980. A record $126,500 was paid by a Canadian collector for a single at the Greg Manning London International Rarity Auction conducted May 10, 1980.

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