Amy Alfreda Vickery inherited two warehouses in Sydney’s Goulburn Street when her wealthy father Ebenezer Vickery  died in 1906. Two years later the warehouses would fund  a mansion Amy built on The Boulevarde in Strathfield, called Lauriston.

Miss Vickery's grand home at Strathfield.

Lauriton, which still stands in Strathfield.

Miss Vickery’s other indulgence was philately and she built up one of Australia’s finest stamp collections.  In 1925 she managed to acquire some incredibly rare specimens.  The story  behind this begins in the mid 19th century.

In 1853 Charles Walton Coard engraved the copper plates for the first stamps in what was then known as Van Dieman’s Land. They were printed in sheets of 24 at the offices of  The Hobart Town Courier. 

The following notice appeared in The Courier on October 14 1853;

The following year Mr Coard returned to England. He joined the Bengal Civil Service in 1868, and worked as an engraver in India until retiring in 1887.

C.W. Coard, who engraved Van Diemen's Land's  stamps.
CHARLES WALTON COARD 1833-1893

Coard died at Virginia Water, Berkshire, in 1892. After he left, Tasmanians heard nothing more of him until the following piece was published in The Hobart Mercury in 1917;

Our London correspondent writes :- The ‘Daily Telegraph’ postage stamp expert announces a discovery which will interest many Tasmanians who do not collect the pretty pieces of coloured paper beloved by philatelists. It consists in a complete sheet of the earliest 4d. orange stamp of Tasmania, issued in 1853. There are 24 stamps on the sheet, and, as the stamps are on laid paper, they are the variety for which a leading London firm asks £50 per stamp. The discovery of a full sheet of these rare stamps over 60 years after the issue had been superseded is remarkable, and the appearance of the sheet at Messrs. Puttick and Simpsons saleroom next month will attract widespread attention.

The history of this unique item is briefly this. The plate for these stamps was engraved by a Mr C.W. Coard….this particular sheet appears to have been retained by Mr Coard as a specimen of his work, and along with a sheet of the companion 1d. blue stamp it was hung in a frame in the artist’s home. Since the death of Mr Coard the 4d sheet has been in the possession of his daughter, who has only just become aware of the value of her treasure. The sheet of the 1d. stamps was stolen from the family’s bungalow in India many years ago, and the wonder is that the thieves did not take the 4d. stamps as well. The 4d. has survived the ravages of various climates and the stamps are of a fine colour and quite fresh. (The Mercury, Monday February 19 1917)

 

Miss Vickery purchased a sheet of these rare Tasmanian stamps.

A single, unused 4d. stamp.

This could well be the Bengal  bungalow mentioned. It was painted by Coard in 1870. The pen and ink watercolour is described on an auction site as, ‘A family on the steps leading down to a pond, Gobra, West Bengal.’

Painting by C.W Coard, who engraved the early stamps of Van Diemen's Land.
(Photo credit – Artscape)

Whether the 1917 auction actually took place is not recorded, but the sheet of 4d stamps would be offered again in 1925 and purchased by the famous stamp dealers Stanley Gibbons Ltd. 

Having dealt with Miss Vickery for many years, the company offered the sheet to her with a 10 per cent premium. She was delighted, and accepted without hesitation. The stamps would fill one of the very few gaps in her collection.

Unfortunately, before the sheet was sent to Australia there was a robbery at Stanley and Gibbons London premises in The Strand.

 

391 THE STRAND

Miss Vickery received a cable notifying her of the loss. She must  have been devastated, but against all the odds, the stamps were recovered soon afterwards and found a safe home at Lauriton.

Amy Vickery died in 1942 , aged 74. She bequeathed her entire stamp collection to the Australian Museum in Sydney. During the 1980s the collection was loaned permanently to the Powerhouse Museum.

I would so love to see those 4d Van Dieman’s Land stamps now that I know the full history.   What a journey they went on, and how extremely fortunate that they survived the  climatic challenges in India and the London theft.      

Much to my frustration The Powerhouse Muesum is currently closed for an extensive revitalization. I will just have to be patient.

FOR MORE ON EARLY TASMANIAN STAMPS, CLICK HERE

 

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