Extremely rare stamps produced at a First World War internment camp in the Isle of Man exceeded their estimates when they were auctioned in London last week.
Hosted by dealers Stanley Gibbons last Wednesday and Thursday, the auction of rare stamps from around the world included the only known unused stamp from the Knockaloe camp in private hands.
A 2d red stamp on ungummed paper, featuring the camp fence and huts with the three legged triskelion symbol in each corner, was designed and printed in the camp but withdrawn by the authorities before use.
It was believed that only one unused sheet of 21 stamps existed and was held in the Manx Museum, until in 1981 the daughter of a former camp guard found eight used examples of the stamps in her deceased father’s belongings.
Then in 1982 a single unused example was discovered in Spain, which is believed to be the only recorded unused example of this stamp in private hands.
The used vertical corner pair (pictured right) fetched the highest price, selling for £1,955 at the Dreweatts and Bloomsbury auction house in London.
The unused single sold for £1,495 and a second vertical used pair went for £1,495. Another used single made £862.
Each lot was sold above their estimated prices, which had ranged from £500 to £1,300.
Stanley Gibbons is a specialist merchant and dealer in rare stamps and collectibles and offer stamps as an alternative investment option.
Auction administrator Ryan Epps said: ‘Unsurprisingly these historical items generated some spirited bidding and we are delighted that they have found new homes.’
The Knockaloe camp in Patrick housed male citizens of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey during the First World War until its closure in 1919.
It was purpose built using prefabricated huts and was originally anticipated to house 5,000 internees. By the end of the war around 24,500 were held there, making it the second largest camp in the British Isles.
It had 23 compounds divided between four camps, and each camp had its own hospital and theatre. The camp also had a printing press, where the internees produced Christmas cards and posters for theatrical events.
Knockaloe became so significant that a railway branch line was constructed and the General Post Office established a branch there.
The Knockaloe post office had its own steel date stamp and printed registration labels.
This was the only British post office to operate within a British prisoner of war camp.