The most valuable and rare Spanish stamps

Spain’s Dos Reales

The Dos Reales of 1851 – whose error of colour is well known as Spain’s most rare stamp – has had a strange existence. Although the value was needed right from the start of issuing stamps for Spain it wasn’t considered necessary. In 1850 the Spanish government preferred to print first the cheapest values (6 cuartos and 12 cuartos) and higher values to entertain regular correspondence with Belgium and France. Almost every stamp depicted the head of Queen Isabella II, who reigned from 1833 for 35 years.

Spain’s Dos RealesIt is Spain’s scarcest stamp, especially on cover or as single in good quality. In 1996 a perfect mint single was sold for $23,200 US and a good used copy is anything between $12,000 to 15,000 US. In 19th century Spain dos (two) reales – the cheapest registered letter rate, for Portugal – was normally paid in cash until the decision was made to introduce the Dos Reales from January 1, 1851.

First usage

The Dos Reales stamps of 1851, 1852 and 1853 had no use for foreign certified mail except for Portugal. Spain simply didn’t have much to do with Portugal if it wasn’t official mail. Only covers of approximately seven grammes qualified for the Dos Reales rate. Most covers were over this weight and contained heavy legal or commercial documents. Thus surviving covers of that time are franked with larger postal values.

The postal authorities were very optimistic when they ordered 13,600 Dos Reales to be printed in 1851 – 80 sheets of 170 copies each. They only sold 3,394 copies and had to burn the rest. It became law to send inland registered letters with Dos Reales in 1854. The 12 reales of 1851, Cerdena (rate eight reales) in 1852, Prussia and Austria (rate four reales) in 1852, or Belgium (rate eight reales) in 1853 increased the use of the Dos Reales.

Spain’s Dos RealesAll stamps were typographically printed from 1851 onwards abandoning the previous lithographic system. The Dos Reales were printed in sheets of 170 pieces and the complete issue was just valid for the 12 months of 1851 – January 1 to December 31. They used always the same paper although there are two notable different shades – the orange red and the dark orange or vermilion (which is much more rare and more expensive).

Existing copies

It’s difficult to know exactly how many of the 3,394 Dos Reales sold still exist. The expert D. Francesco Graus claims he knows 56 unused copies and 68 used ones – a total of 124. There are about 150 copies of which 40% are unused and 60% used.
The error of colour is due to the fact that one ‘die stone’ of the Dos Reales was placed by mistake into the printing plate of the six reales blue of 1851. It is without doubt the rarest stamp of Spanish philately and nobody knows of more than three copies. They were discovered in 1868, in 1886 and the last one in 1899.

The first copy is a used one with large margins cancelled with a black spider postmark. This copy was discovered in England and was in important collections such as Westoby, Ferrari, Hind, Dupont and Perpia amongst other.

The second copy appeared in 1886 and is apparently the only unused copy. It was sold to T.K.Tapling and lodges still in the Tapling collection in the British Library. Its margins are not as generous as the first copy but nevertheless a fine copy.

The third, and last discovered, is the best of the three and is part of the vertical pair together with the Seis Reales blue. So the famous two BLUE of which the upper stamp is the error of colour with the face value ‘DOS REALES’. The pair has good large margins and has a neat black spider postmark leaving the face of Queen Isabella entirely free. This pair was discovered by D. Antonio Vives in 1899 and was soon in the collection of Ferrari who had already the first one. The French Government, through an auction house in Paris, sold the two errors of colour (one and three) to another famous collector – US millionaire Arthur Hind.

Since the initial discovery of Mr. Vives, this famous pair had known several owners before the well known stamp dealer D. Manuel Galvez bought the pair in 1954 and ever since his death this piece has been with his heirs.