Fredericton Museum Finds Rare Stamp Proof

September 27 ,2012
New Brunswick Beacon
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BY: NICOLA MACLEOD

The Fredericton Region Museum has found a proof of one of Canada’s rarest pre-confederation stamps.

The Connell stamp proof was discovered last week in a hidden compartment of a writing box.

Charles Connell, a politician, was appointed New Brunswick’s Postmaster General in 1858. Two years later, he issued a new series of stamps using his own likeness, a breathtaking act of egotism that resulted in his subsequent resignation.

The public was outraged and the stamps were never circulated.

The Carleton County Historical Society says Connell burned all but a few of the 500,000 stamps on the grounds of his home.

“He gave a sheet to a couple of family members, and the odd stamp to a few friends,” said Carleton County Historical Society Executive Director Kellie Blue-McQuade. “Experts estimate that around 50 or 60 exist today.”

Because of their rarity, the value of the stamp has increased from a few cents to thousands of dollars.

“We have heard estimates that a very good quality stamp could run around five thousand and a perfect stamp could run as high as ten thousand,” said Blue-McQuade.

Volunteers discovered the slightly bent and ink stained proof last Monday when browsing the museum’s collection. A proof, or trial impression, has similar dimensions and appearance to a stamp but lacks perforated edges and glue and could not have be used.

“They had no idea at the time what it was,” said York Sunbury Historical Society & Fredericton Region Museum Executive Director Ruth Murgatroyd.  “They thought it was odd it didn’t have the Queen’s face on it.”

In 2005, the CBC reported that Connell stamp proofs were auctioned off in New York for $32,000 USD.

“It’s still an amazing find,” said Murgatroyd. “It’s exciting to be part of an organization and an institution where these things happen.”

The writing box belonged to the Honorable Lemuel Allan Wilmot, the first native-born lieutenant governor of New Brunswick. It was one of the first items to be donated to the museum when it started collecting in 1932.

It is unknown why Wilmot had a proof of Connell’s stamp hidden in his writing box. The men would have had a professional relationship, both serving in the government and being for confederation.

The museum plans to add the proof to an exhibit once more research has been conducted. An exhibit can take up to three years to research and can cost between $10,000 and $20,000.

“We have little corners of the museum where we can change things over on an annual basis at very low cost,” said Murgatroyd. “It will probably be included in something like that to start and then eventually be moved into something larger.”

The Connell stamp proof is the only rare stamp the museum has in their collection at this time.

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