The Rarest Stamp in Canada Get Lost at Sea
We invite each devoted stamp collector to get acquainted with this a cross-Atlantic airplane adventure that is firmly connected with philately!
Bookstore owners Vanessa Brown and Jason Dickson have collected 150 charming, fascinating, strange, and significant cultural moments from the history of London. Their book, London: 150 Cultural Moments tells us an exciting story about the precious stamps that were lost at sea.
Because each of the book’s moments has helped define London, The Londoner is publishing excerpts throughout August. This week, a cross-Atlantic airplane adventure goes awry.
There was a lot of hoopla over airplanes in the 1920s. In London, the bigwigs at Carling Breweries master-minded an attempt at the Canadian record for flight, orchestrating an airplane adventure from London, Ontario to the other London — the much bigger and more well-known version on the other side of the Atlantic. $25,000 was put up as a reward. The brewery supplied a Stinson plane named the “Sir John Carling,” and outfitted it with all the best newfangled equipment to sustain the long flight. Their committee chose two WWI veteran pilots to make the journey: pilot Captain Terrence B. Tully and navigator James V. Medcalf of the Ontario Forestry Patrol.
Tully and Medcalf took off on September 6, 1927, but their plane disappeared over the Atlantic. No sign of them was ever found.
The Carling Brewery gave the US$25,000 prize to the pilot’s and navigator’s bereaved families, and the failed attempt at spotlighting Canadian aviation became a distant memory to most — except for stamp collectors. A special stamp had been made for the occasion and affixed to letters sent to both recipients in London, England, and Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, where the doomed flight briefly stopped to refuel. There were only 100 of the tiny stamps made, and most of them were lost on the “Sir John Carling” when it disappeared. Only a handful survived on some packages that had been delivered in Harbor Grace during the refuelling.
As such, the commemorative stamp made for the Tully and Medcalf flight — not even a piece of official postage — has become the rarest stamp in Canadian history. One sold at auction for US$126,000. The original proofs for the stamp were kept by London’s famed reporter Art Carty, who also oversaw the publicity for the flight. He kept them for years in a safety deposit box, but his descendants lost track of them and they were thought lost forever. That is, until one proof popped up in the sock drawer of a Bay Street banker in 2009. It sold at auction for US$10,000.