Philatelie: “Stolen” Mauritian Treasure Estimated At Rs 400 Million For Sale

Rs 320 million. This is the estimated launch price of two philatelic treasures from Mauritius in an auction that will take place at the beginning of December in Switzerland. And final sales prices should reach astronomical sums. On the specialized website, comments reflect the importance of this sale. But on the local level, it’s a completely different story.

This postcard from the 19th century will go on sale in Switzerland at the beginning of December.

This postcard from the 19th century will go on sale in Switzerland at the beginning of December.

The sale of a letter dating from 1850 flanked by two stamps printed in Mauritius and a postcard used to stamp the stamps at the time made the collectors happy. But local connoisseurs do not have the same opinion. The letter itself does not pose a problem, but the printing plate raises many questions.

To whom does it belong? According to Emmanuel Richon, curator of the Blue Penny Museum, this relic of colonialism remains the property of the Mauritian State. “The Colonial Office had declared the theft and a commission of inquiry had been put in place,” he said. It was in 1914.

An individual can only hold this postal plaque if it is accompanied by a contract of sale between him and the State and until today the owners of this treasure have never spoken of such a document . “A person can not own the matrices used to print banknotes. This is exactly the same situation for postal screen printing plates,” continues the curator. What prompted Emmanuel Richon to say that this plate was stolen at some point.

This theory is confirmed by the fact that, officially, every time it has changed ownership, no official document has been established and prices have remained unknown. “Between this sale and the bones of dodos that arose from nowhere, Mauritius lost about one billion rupees in two months,” he criticizes.

This plaque, whose launch price will range between two and three million euros, will sell much more. The conservative estimates it at Rs 400 million. Solicited, the Department of Arts and Culture was not available for comment.

Moreover, the letter known as the Bombay Cover is described as “the Quintessence of philatelic superlativeness” or, “the crown jewels of philately” by the experts. This correspondence, which originated in Mauritius and was intended for the Bombay Auxiliary Bible Society, is flanked by two stamps from the Mauritius Post Office. The peculiarity of the Mauritian stamps of this period is that they were the first of all the British Empire and they are in excellent condition. Of the 500 prints, only 27 are now listed.

The other item, dating from 1847 and used for printing the stamps of one pence and two pennies, is unique in its kind, hence the astronomical price. “In 2004, the Guyana Majenta, a precious stamp, was sold at more than seven million euros (Rs 280 million). There, we talk about an even more prestigious object,” recalls Emmanuel Richon.