Historic postal collection to get auction goers buzzing

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 20th April, 2022

Possibly the largest private collection of illustrated letter sheets and newspapers from the 1840s to the 1860s – the property of prominent Oregon collector and dealer Dale Forster – will be auctioned in Melbourne from 11am on Wednesday April 27 as part of a four-day massive sale.

Abacus Auctions is holding the auction of Australian and worldwide stamps, postal history, postcards, coins, banknotes, sporting memorabilia and collectables at 29 Hardner Road, Mount Waverley.

Entitled Australia Illustrated, the Forster collection (from lots 1001 to 1100) is an artistic and social commentary prized by historians and collectors alike and there is expected to be strong competition for the individual lots on offer.

The first of these, lot 1001, is an extraordinary example of the world’s first illustrated postal stationery – one of only three recorded British-born William Mulready letter sheet and envelope usages in Australia.

Mulready’s design, issued on May 6, 1840, was the forerunner for many illustrated mail items later created throughout the world. This auction item is of particular importance to anyone collecting inbound mail to the Australian colonies.

The remainder of the collection features such 1840 to 1850s gems as a view of the old military barracks in George Street, Sydney (lot 1002), the Sydney post office (lot 1005), early shots of Melbourne (lots 1003 and 1004) including St Paul’s Church (lot 1008) and the Union Bank of Australia (lot 1009).

One of the most important items in the collection and of major historical significance is the 1852 Australasian League (formed to agitate for an end to convict transportation from England) illustration of a flag superimposed on a bucolic landscape with the imprint T BROWNE (lot 1012) – an outstanding Tasmanian pre-stamp entire.  

In 1844, Thomas Browne opened a printing and stationery business in Hobart, followed two years later by a daguerreotype studio and is believed to the city’s first professional photographer.

This letter, labelled Tullachgorum Fingal/5 January 1852, referred to an 1824 land grant to James Grant seven kilometres west of the Fingal township.

Other images include Melbourne’s Custom House (lot 1014) and  St James Cathedral (lot 1015), St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney (lot 1018), Ballarat Post Office (lot 1025) and an 1856 map of Melbourne and Collingwood published by James J Blundell & Co 44 Collins Street West (lot 1021).

Among the Sporting Memorabilia section of the auction on day four is a 1970s Australian baggy green Test cap (lot 4392) and Australian Test blazer (lot 4393) believed to have belonged to Ian Callen who played one cricket Test and five One Day Internationals between 1978 and 1982. Other cricketing memorabilia relates to the Don Bradman era from 1928 to 1948.

There also are plenty of boxing reminders – including a bronze bust of the first black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in 1910 by master sculptor Ralph Crawford (lot 4276) and dual signed photographs of Muhammad Ali and various opponents (lot 4252).

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