Controversial is not a word that comes to mind when you think of stamps. In fact, most of us would agree that stamp collecting and stamps are the opposite of controversial.
But leave it to Australia, to stir the ‘postage pot’ and insert a little drama into what some would say is an otherwise slow-moving past time.
The now-famous stamp went up for auction a few months ago lighting the philately (the collection and study of postage stamps) world on fire.
So whose mug was responsible for such a frenzy?
It turns out it was the sale of the two-penny scarlet featuring none other than Edward VIII.
Image: KEVIII: 1936 2d scarlet BW, Mossgreen.
In September of 19436, one, William Vanneck the then right honourable Lord Huntingfield governor of Victoria went to the commonwealth mint to mark the first printing of the new twopenny stamp. A stamp that featured the etched portrait of King Edward VIII wearing his naval uniform. The collection was set to be released by the bucket load and in public circulation around Christmas.
A limited batch was sent to Huntingfield as a memento.
No-one would have thought anything of it, but Edward VIII, the newly crowned King Of England, abdicated the throne. And that memento sent to Huntingfield, became the rarest and most expensive stamp in Australian history.
The Twopenny scarlets are so rare that neither the Queen or the Australia Post have it in their collection. According to specialists, there are only six left in the entire world.
Edward VII the ‘rebel royal’ gave up the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American woman who already had two divorces under her belt.
The UK immediately discontinued the development and production of any stamps featuring Edward III, focusing solely on the next reigning monarch King George VI. When the news reached Australia 71m twopenny stamps and a scattering of one penny, three penny and farthing denominations – were burnt, along with all the inks and printing plates.
“Our instructions are that everything connected with the issue contemplated is to be completely destroyed, and all is in readiness for the Auditor-General with the exception of the sheet of stamps which His Excellently kindly consented to accept in anticipate of the official issue of the series,” From a letter to Huntingfield’s private secretary,16 December 1936.
The remaining six stamps were sent to Sir William Vestley, a stamp enthusiast from the Royal Philatelic Society.
Just those six stamps escaped the mass burning of Edward VIII.
As recent as a few months ago one of the six fetched a whopping $120,000 at auction.
A slow past-time for those who live in the fast lane.
Lead Image: KEVIII: 1936 2d scarlet BW, Mossgreen.