The First Condominium Series of 1908 -- The 1d Omitted Overprint



The 1908 1d omitted overprint is one of the greatest rarities of New Hebrides philately. The stamp was issued on October 29, 1908.

The first information I found that there was a great rarity in this issue was a notice in GSM: (graphical layout below)

left oopt
GSM 1911

Hals / Collas in their book "The New Hebrides - Postal Stamps and Their History" (Collector's Club Handbook 20, New York 1967) write that in 1911 and for many years after it was thought that the top row of the sheet did not have an overprint. The block Power presented had no selvedges and one couldn't find the truth.

I found an article in the Australian Stamp Journal discussing stamps as an investment. The author speaks of one row but I think that the right part of the sheet was not known then. But regarding the printing process there must have been a complete row without the overprint.

ASJ 1912


R.J.G. Collins wrote about the omitted overprints in his book "The Stamps of the Pacific Islands" for the Christchurch Philatelic Society in 1924:

Collins 1924

In the November 26, 1935 auction of Harmer of London a vertical pair was offered at the auction as lot 290, the upper stamp without overprint. For reasons you will see below thus must have come from the E.B. Power block. Maybe it was here that King Georg V got his copy. At this time the existence of only six pairs was still certified.

In the year 1939 a remarkable block of 2 x 5 showed up from the right top corner of the sheet. It was sold by Harmers of London who sent me images of the catalogue from their archive. Many thanks for this help!

Harmer 1939

This item was sold on November 28th 1939 as lot 334 for 52 pounds and 10 shillings. I think that this was a huge amount of money in 1939. Nevertheless a good return when it could be sold for £12,000 or even more nowadays. But regarding the 1939 value of the £ these £52 would have been about 1,500 €.

Later it came in the possession of Stan Jersey, U.S.A. and was then offered as lot 281 at the 18 June 1985 Chriestie's Robson Lowe auction. The estimate was £10,000 and the item was not sold.

Later Argyll Etkin of London sold the item to a French collector. It is still in his possession.

Harmer 1939 Christies 1985
Christies 1985

In 1967 PACIFICA, the periodical of the Pacific Islands Study Circle PISC wrote:
According to an advert of Ritchie Bodily's, six examples could have existed of S.G.2a, the overprint omitted variety. A strip of six, one of which has the overprint omitted, was priced at £320. A similar item sold for £230 in auction recently.

The colours of the following scans look different as they were made in many different years on various machines. The real stamps of course have the same colour.

US coll.

And here is another one: the left corner strip of four from the right pane (a continental coll.). This item was sold to an American collector in Iowa in or about 2000 as a private treaty sale by Colonial Stamp Company, Los Angeles.

On 30 January 2009 it sold at Victoria Stamp Company, Ridgewood, NJ, U.S.A. for 8,500 US$ + fees.

distinctive feature: item has left and upper selvedge.

Coming with a 2002 B.P.A. certificate. This item was sold in a private treaty sale to a British collector some years ago.

distinctive feature: item has upper selvedge.

Br. coll.

H/C stamp H/C stamp

The last known strip of more than two stamps was shown in the Hals / Collas book (see above) page 63. They write "Source: Auction Catalogue" but unfortunately do not write which one. It showed up again in the 1995 Robin Linke auction but had lost the selvedge then. In 2000 I saw it in catalogue of Macray Watson Auctions, Belgrave, Australia with RPSL certificate. With an estimate of 8,500 $A it realised 6,875 $A. Then it appeared in June 2001 at an auction of Matthew Bennett International, Baltimore, MD, U.S.A. and subsequently in September 2001 at a Charles Leski, Hawthorn East, Vic., Australia event selling for 6,900 $A. Now in the hands of a British collector. It has the constant plate flaw "broken border of the denomination field at top left" on the not overprinte stamp.

distinctive feature: short 4th tooth from bottom right, long/short/long teeth at lower left of second stamp from bottom.

  At right is the copy of the only pair originating from the right part of the sheet. I first found it in the Sandafayre Stamp Library. Maybe they sold this pair in the 1990s. I saw it again in the Spink Shreves Auction Galleries Dallas, TX, U.S.A. auction on May 25-26 2011, Lot 888 where it sold for 7,250 US$ + fees. As the stamp without overprint is at bottom, the pair cannot come from the left block of six.

Spink Shreves


Now we have the right part of the sheet complete. The middle three must not necessarily be a the correct place. I tried to align them correctly but sometimes the perforation doesn't tell enough.

right pane

Siegel 1989

This copy was offered in a 1989 Siegel Auction Galleries auction as lot 573 with an estimate of 9,000 US$ - it realised 2,600 US$. (Image thanks to Siegel Auction Galleries).
It is also shown in the Sandafayre archive.
"NEW HEBRIDES, 1908, 1p Carmine, Vertical Pair, Top Stamp Without Overprint (8a). Fresh, minor hinge remnant, Very Fine, Rare, Only Ten Pairs Recorded, with Royal Certificate."
It showed up again in the 17 July 2008 auction at Prestige Philately. Australia. "1908 Overprints on Fiji MCA 1d carmine vertical pair the upper unit with Overprint Omitted SG 2a, exceptional centring, lightly mounted, Cat 7,000. RPSofL (1985) & Behr (1999) Certificates. It sold for 9,200 $A incl. fees."

distinctive feature: short tooth at bottom left of upper stamp.

The copy in H.M. The Queen's collection. Image thanks to Michael Sefi, Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection. The stamp is accompanied by a caption by Sir Edward Bacon, who was "Curator of HM the King's Philatelic Collection" from 1913 to 1938: "With and without overprint. Only six pairs exist". So this copy was acquired in the time after the block of 6 was separated. Harmers of London sold a copy on 26th November 1935 - maybe this one. The right part of the sheet was not known then.
Reproduction by gracious permission of Her Majesty the Queen to whom copyright belongs.

distinctive feature: long tooth at top right lower stamp.



Grosvenor auction on 2nd/3rd November 2006 of the Richard Tompkins collection, lot 1043. "New Hebrides: 1908 (Oct.) 1d. red in a fine mint vertical pair, the upper stamp with variety overprint omitted, very rare. R.P.S. Certificates (1985) and (1996). S.G. 2a, cat £5,500. It realised £4,000 + fees.
In 2011 offered by Brandon Galleries, London.

distinctive feature: short third tooth at top right.

At right is the copy which is displayed in Hals / Collas page 60. They say "Source: Auction Catalogue" but don't say which one. I found this one first as lot 310 in the 22nd February 1972 Robson Lowe auction of the "Ray Baldwin" collection. It was offered for £875 "six such pairs are believed to exist" and sold for £800.
It could be seen again at the January 2007 "The Philatelic Collection formed by Sir Gawaine Baillie, Bt." auction of Sotheby's London. The estimate was £3,500 - 4,000, it realised £8,625 incl. fees.

distinctive feature: fat tooth at bottom below the 1.

Sothebys 2007


This copy here is from the the Hubert Goron (†), (Australia), collection.

It was in the 18th June 1985 Christie's Robson Lowe auction of the Stan Jersey collection. Offered there as "281 1D. red. A fresh mint vertical pair. One with overprint omitted. The finest recorded example of this rarity. Estimate £6,000". It was not sold. It had a 1978 André Nussbaum, Basel, expert A.I.E.P. certificate.
On 20th May 2011 it was offered at a David Feldman, Geneva, auction with an estimate of 6,000 € and sold for 7,500 € + fees: "1d Red, never hinged vertical pair with the overprint omitted on the upper stamp, absolutely superb. THE FINEST RECORDED EXAMPLE OF THIS MAJOR BRITISH EMPIRE RARITY OF WHICH ONLY EIGHT PAIRS RECORDED. The other recorded pairs have either toned gum or are hinged."
In June 2017 it was offered again by Spink with an estimate 6000-7000 £ but not sold. "fresh and fine unmounted mint. The finest recorded example of this important Empire rarity of which approximately ten are believed to exist. Superb."

distinctive feature: long tooth 3rd from bottom right on upper stamp.

A copy shown in the Sandafayre, England, stamp library. I suppose that it was sold by this company in the late 1990s. I could not find it anywhere else later.

distinctive feature: the perforation looks reinforced.



Now we have a complete left part of the sheet. The pairs need not necessarily be a the correct position. I tried to align them correctly but sometimes the perforation is not conclusive.

right pane

Now we come to my two difficult cases of this prominent error: I have reason to believe that these two stamps are genuine and so is the overprint. But I don't know where they come from. The only possible conclusion I think is that after the sheet above had been printed the third row was also starting to fall out.
On both examples the overprint is shifted to the right when compared with the other examples referred to previously. The "H" of "Hebrides" clearly positioned to the right of the "F" in "Fiji" and the "C" of "Condominium" is placed well inside the frame of the King's head in the centre. In both examples the words "Condominium" and "New Hebrides" have a slight inclination to the right.


This item was offered by Stanley Gibbons 5 to 8 years ago and was in the August 2005 Western Auctions, Cardiff auction as lot 926. It was offered with a 1980 BPA certificate for £3,500. I don't know how much it realised.

distinctive feature: long-short-short-long teeth below the 1d at bottom.

I detected this pair in the October 1994 Linke, Australia auction as lot 1698. Then it was in the "Santo" collection of a West-Australian collector and was offered as lot 1194 in the 30th September 2000 PPA Auctions, Australia. It came with a RPSL certificate and an estimate of 6,000 $A. (There must have been confusion between RPSL and BPA, because in 1994 this pair had a BPA certificate which it had in 2010 as well.) It realised 6,325 $A. Again it surfaced in the March 2010 Prestige Philately, Australia auction with a 1994 BPA certificate #40,553. Offered for 8,000 $A it realised 8,000 $A.

distinctive feature: perforation between the stamps seems to be reinforced. Not to be seen in 1994 and 2000. Long-short-long teeth below the 1d at bottom.



As the overprint of the right stamp is slightly lower it should have had a position at right of the other stamp. If it fits directly cannot be said from the image. It could be. If not, there should have been another error stamp in between and the overprints of these two copies are not in line. Of course a couple of stamps right of these with lower overprint could also be possible.

The two

The inclination along the overprint looks perfect. This should be evidence that the two stamps were neighbours.
There is some evidence that these pairs could be left pane row 3&4 col 3 and row 3&4 col 4.

The two

So the result of this survey is that we have the errors of a complete sheet plus two originating from another sheet. The number of 14 errors has been constant during the last years. It is not certain if the copy only known from the Sandafayre Library still exists.
Roland Klinger
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