Rare stamps hidden away in attic for more than 100 years set to fetch £250,000 at auction
- Collection of rare Chinese stamps found hidden away in attic in Cotswolds.
- The 35 stamps were bought in Shanghai in 1882 by an English missionary.
- Sent to auction in Gloucestershire where they fetched staggering £79,000.
- Now expected to sell for a whopping £250,000 at an auction in Hong Kong.
- Stamp find is being described by experts as 'incredible and unparalleled'.
A collection of rare stamps which have been collecting dust in an attic for more than 100 years are now set to fetch at least a quarter of a million pounds at auction after being discovered. The 35 Chinese stamps, which were originally bought by an English missionary in Shanghai in 1882, were recently uncovered in an old cigar box in the attic of a property in the Cotswolds. They were sent to an auction in Winchcombe, in Gloucestershire, where they were given an estimated value of between £800 and £1,000.
However, they were snapped up for an astonishing £79,000 by international stamp dealer Allan Grant, who received a tip-off that the stamps could be worth a fortune. He now plans to sell them overseas for a whopping £250,000.
Three other bidders for Lot 94 - 'A Cigar Box of Early Chinese Stamps' – knew the uncut stamps were valuable, and bidding rose rapidly in thousands, to the amazement of locals at the auction, where most items fetch under £100.
Mr Grant, owner of philatelic firm Rushstamps, which is based in Lyndhurst in Hampshire's New Forest National Park, now plans to sell the rare stamps in Hong Kong and believes they will fetch at least £250,000.
The lot is particularly valuable because within the collection is an uncut sheet of nineteen ultra-rare 'candarin' stamps, which had been kept by the English missionary for 'day to day postage use'.
The rather insignificant-looking unused yellow stamps, printed on very thin paper, were bought in Shanghai in 1882 and feature a dragon design. They are known in the stamp world as '5 candarin ochres'.
Auctioneer Nicholas Granger, owner of British Bespoke Auctions, said the original owner of the Chinese stamps wishes to remain anonymous but says the seller was 'stunned but delighted' by the huge amount he received for them.
Mr Granger, a retired Saville Row tailor, said: 'All I could glean about the history of these stamps was that they were purchased by an English missionary who brought them back to England on his retirement over a century ago.'
The find is being described by experts as 'incredible and unparalleled'.
Winning bidder Mr Grant said the demand for early Chinese stamps now is 'unprecedented'.
He added: 'Finding unused examples in such superb condition, still on a sheet, is incredibly rare.
'Eventually it was between myself and one other bidder.
'With the buyer's premium added, the total I paid was £79,000.
'This is a most incredible find and will cause huge excitement amongst philatelists.
'There has never been anything like this.'
American stamp dealer Larry Gibson, co-chairman of Connecticut-based Daniel Kelleher Auctions, flew to England today to collect the stamp sheet from Mr Grant. The pair are going into partnership to sell the stamps in Hong Kong, because they believe the collection will fetch a far higher sum overseas.
Mr Gibson said: 'I've had a long career specialising in Chinese stamps. And this is by far the biggest and most unparalleled find of my life.
'It is absolutely amazing. I have never known anything like it. I think bidding will easily be in excess of £250,000.
'They will create a sensation in China, with millionaires vying with each other to buy their culture back. They will be desperate to get these marvellous stamps.'
Before the Hong Kong auction, the stamp sheet will briefly return to the UK, to be exhibited at the British Design Centre in London from May 13 to 16.