174 years ago exactly on September 21, 1847, Lady Gomm, wife of the Governor of Mauritius, wrote invitations to a masquerade ball on September 30, 1847. Among others, she also sent an invitation to Mr. Adam Esq. Junr.. She franked these letters with the new 1 penny stamps for local and intra-local mail traffic of the British Crown Colony of Mauritius, nowadays also called “Red Mauritius”. Both of this “Red Mauritius” and of the “Blue Mauritius” (2 penny, for postal traffic with neighboring islands and overseas) 350 pieces each had been printed by September 20 on the instructions of Mrs. Gomm’s husband. In the end, only 500 of each of these stamps were printed. There are still 12 copies of the Blue Mauritius and 15 copies of the Red Mauritius left in the world. Thus, the Red Mauritius is in no way inferior to the Blue Mauritius in terms of rarity. Nevertheless, only the Blue Mauritius is the epitome of a special and valuable stamp.
What makes this letter from Lady Gomm to Mr. Adam special now – except of course the franking with a Red Mauritius? On the one hand, it is the fact that Lady Gomm had already franked and mailed these letters before the public could even buy these first stamps of the Crown Colony on September 22….. Secondly, and probably more significant for the value, is the fact that there are only three of these so-called “Ball Covers” in existence worldwide. One has been in the “Royal Collection” of the British Crown since 1904. A second one – from the former Tapling collection, which was bequeathed as a whole to the British Museum (Philatelic Library) in 1891, and where it is also exhibited. These two are therefore not for sale and so only the third one, which is privately owned, is for sale from time to time. After changing hands for the last time in 2006, the envelope was now up for sale again.
This time, however, it was not, as the previous times by David Felzmann but by Christoph Gärtner auctioned in his 50th auction. The starting price on June 26th was 4 Mill. A handsome price and one was curious what would finally be paid for this rarity. In short, after half an hour of bidding, the bid was accepted by a German-speaking collector at €8.1 million ($9.6 million for our English-speaking friends). To the hammer price 23.8% buyer’s premium and a lot fee of 2 € (;-)) have to be added, so that the buyer has to leave 10.027.802 € on the table. An unimaginable sum, by which this envelope was “chosen” as the most expensive envelope of all times.
If Lady Gomm had known that with these simple ball invitations she would write philatelic history and create an unimaginable treasure…… Hopefully, the ball became as much of a success for her as this letter became. Indeed, the ball was intended to help settle the discord between the French and English in Mauritius.
- Website of the APHV
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)