What have I been doing in Hong Kong, well I was not the anonymous bidder on this lot. A very rare block of Hong Kong stamps featuring Queen Victoria which fetched for a record, the highest ever paid for a single lot of stamps in Hong Kong, $821,000 US dollars on January 27th.
The stamps in questions were a block of four 1865 stamps with a face value of 96 Hong Kong cents (approximately 12 US cents) each. The reason for the stamps being so valuable, other than the fact that these stamps are almost 150 years old, is that these stamps were misprinted in an olive bistre colour.
The first stamps of Hong Kong were issued in 1862 in seven values from 2c. to 96c. brownish grey and there were two printings of the 96c. totaling 138 sheets (240 stamps to each sheet). In 1863 the printers, De la Rue, introduced new paper with the watermark Crown over CC (Crown Colony) as well as some additional values. Some of the original supplies did not need replenishing for some time and the next requisition for 96c. was made in March 1864. This supply of only 52 sheets was in an unexpected olive-bistre colour. There were no reasons for this change of colour and it is believed that this was a simple mistake made by De la Rue as bistre was among the original range of colour trials supplied in 1862. By the time the mistake was spotted in Hong Kong, it was too late to expect a fresh supply to arrive in time. The 96c. olive-bistre had a very short life. It was issued at the Post Office around January or February 1865. A new printing, in the correct brownish grey shade, was made at the same time and these supplies of these were available in Hong Kong around late July or August 1865.
Only about forty unused examples are reported to exist today, including this unique block of four.