Collectors show the colour of their money for blue ink
A Cornish postmistress's preference for blue ink has unwittingly increased the value of an unremarkable Victorian business letter from just £5 to £3,500.
The small envelope, bearing a penny red stamp and addressed to T P Tyacke in Helston, was discovered in the collection of an Exeter stamp collector.
Normally of limited interest, the find has led to great excitement among philatelists – the reason being that it was franked by a Miss Thomas, who was Truro's postmistress from 1819 to 1843.
In contrast to her counterparts up and down the country, Miss Thomas chose to use blue franking ink instead of black.
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Robert Hepworth, of stamp specialists Scotia Philately, which handled the sale of the 1841 letter, explained why it was so rare and valuable.
"The letter is addressed to Mr Tyacke, who was a Helston solicitor, and the penny red stamp has a blue Truro Maltese Cross franking mark across it, with a blue Truro postmark alongside," he said.
"The colour of the cancel is the key to its value. Miss Thomas possibly preferred blue ink – but little did she know that her use of blue would create rarities that collectors would fight over nearly 200 years later."
He said an envelope bearing a penny red with the usual black franking would only be worth around £5, whereas the letter found in Exeter sold for 700 times that figure.
"It is rare to see a letter of this age of such a high quality," added Mr Hepworth. "Black ink was always used for franking because after penny reds were first issued red ink could not be seen in candlelight or gas-light.
"However, Miss Thomas clearly had other ideas. She definitely should not have been using blue ink at all, but either she just liked the colour or she was colour blind."
Scotia Philately will be holding two free viewing and advice days in Devon in the coming weeks. On Wednesday, February 6, the firm's experts will be at the Moorland Garden Hotel in Yelverton and at the Imperial Hotel in Barnstaple the following day. Anyone who wants further information can call 0208 873 2854 or email email@example.com