The envelope worth more than �8,000

ONE of the most valuable envelopes sent to Ipswich from Africa a century ago is expected to fetch up to �8,000 at an auction.

ONE of the most valuable envelopes sent to Ipswich from Africa a century ago is expected to fetch up to �8,000 at an auction.

It cost two shillings (ten pence in today's money) to send the original envelope from the main post office in what is now southern Nigeria, reaching stamp dealers Whitfield King and Co, in Lacey Street, around a month later.

The registered envelope features two 2d grey-green and carmine stamps- surcharged one shilling- making it a rare specimen.

Charles Whitfield King set up his stamp business in Lacey Street in 1887 and lived opposite the office in a self-built property, Morpeth House, with his wife. He became a very successful businessman, selling millions of stamps from Ipswich.

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The envelope, up for sale at auctioneers Spink in London on Thursday, January 22, was sent by an unknown sender from Old Calabar in the Niger Coast Protectorate (now Nigeria) and reached Liverpool on April 28 1894. It then travelled by train to London and on to Ipswich, eventually arriving on April 30. Despite this marathon journey - and its age - the envelope is still in “fine” condition according to auctioneers and could be sold for thousands of pounds.

It was given to the auctioneers Spink about three years ago by a private collector and was sold but has now been given back to them again.

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The two shillings, or ten pence, it cost to send the envelope may not sound a lot these days, but in 1894 it was possible to have a good night out in Ipswich for two shillings and still have some change over.

Dominic Savastano, a stamps expert at auctioneers Spink, said: “There were only 176 examples of the 2d surcharged one shilling so this is obviously quite a rare pair of stamps.”

It is thought several generations of the family lived in Morpeth House between 1864 and 1923. It contained a stamp room, where stamps covered the walls in interesting shapes. All that survives now is a decorative '1864' written in stamps, situated over the mantelpiece.

In profile: Charles Whitfield King

Charles Whitfield King started collecting stamps at the age of 14 when he worked at an Ipswich shipping firm. Foreign stamps came into the office from abroad and that sparked his life-long love affair with stamps.

He began to deal and soon established a promising business, but was getting up every morning at 6am and working before he started his job, before returning home and continuing dealing.

In 1875 he quit the shipping firm and set up his own stamp business, eventually moving to Lacey Street in 1887, where he employed nine clerks who sometimes worked until 10pm and 11pm to cope with the demand. He also employed cleaners and an engineer to keep the building in tip top condition.

In an interview with the Philatelic Journal in 1892, Mr Whitfield King, said: “We cater for what I may call the 'middling' collector: the man who buys the better class packets and sets. What I specially pride myself upon is my system of foreign correspondence.”

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