Keen's Queen

Part of my regular job (if you can call it that) is to report on auction highlights. An additional perk is that I therefore have to browse the most wonderful auction catalogues on an almost daily basis, whether on line or by holding beautiful glossy hard copies in my hands. I'm always drawn to the so-called 'named collections' that are auctioned off: collections which belonged to a single vendor, usually an expert in any particular field. For a long time I had been dreaming about being to able to annotate one of my items Ex ...(fill in name). I was therefore extremely happy when I finally managed to find an affordable item for my collection from one of those named collections!

The collection was one of Tonga, and it was compiled by Martin Baxendale FRPSL. Now, Tonga hardly features in this database: there is a 1953 definitive set for which Nigel Alan Dow did some work, and then there's the 1951 set marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between Britain and Tonga. That particular set, with expection of the 1d value, was engraved by Joseph Lawrence Keen. And that is the set featured here today.

In Baxendale's collection was this wonderful die proof of the portrait of Queen Salote, as used on two of the values.

Ex Baxendale 2016
I've since learned that stamp portraits were always engraved as a stand-alone engraving. These were then hardened and a new laydown of the portrait would then be used for further work on the design, such as background, frame, etc. This would enable the authorities to make use of the same portrait for several stamps, which was of course ideal in the age of royal profiles on all those British Empire stamps.

And so this Ex Baxendale item illustrates an important part of the whole engraved stamp production process, but for me it's extra wonderful because it's my first ex!



  1. What a great find and a nice addition to your collection!!



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