LONDON – Chiswick Auctions will sell the collection of a former British journalist and presumed diplomat who gained access to some of the world’s most secretive countries during the Cold War era. From the 1950s to the 1980s, John Newell spent time in places such as North Korea, China, East Germany, Russia, Tibet, Zanzibar, Alaska, and Panama for both work and leisure at a time when many of these areas were largely off-limits to westerners. The collection will be sold during two auctions without reserves or estimates, with the first part being offered on Wednesday, March 1, and part two scheduled for late July.
Part One features a large number of stamps and items of postal history relating to both pre- and post-war communist countries. North Korea, Mongolia, Russia and China are very well represented. Director Matthew Caddick said, “This remarkable stamp collection boasts some extremely rare lots. In relation to the Korean stamps in particular, the collection represents both a quantity and quality that’s seldom seen on offer all in one place.” The stamp element of the sale has been cataloged with specialist-sale partner Argyll Etkin of Wardour Street, London.
Already generating plenty of bids is a rare example of Chinese military mail written by a commanding officer and sent from the Spasskoe Garrison in Siberia on May 29, 1919. Very little mail of this type has been recorded and this appears to be the first from the Russian Revolution period of 1917-23. The envelope was censored at Vladivostok before traveling on via Harbin to Peking, arriving on June 10.
Another lot of interest is a much-traveled postcard, depicting the French port of Boulogne, which went on a two-and-a-half month journey across the Far East in 1912. First addressed with a 10-centimes stamp to the Cruiser Dupleix of the Far East Fleet, Yokohama, it was then readdressed on several occasions to Shinwantao (China), Vladivostok (Russia), Kobe and Hakodate (Japan), Swatow Tientsin and Moukden (China).
A series of postmarks franked to a letter with a 3-tugrik stamp sent from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to Paris on May 11, 1927, tells a remarkable story, as does a combination cover sent from Mongolia to Peiping in November 1935. Prepaid in Ulaanbaatar with only two 15-mung stamps for inland postage, an additional 40 cents of postage was added at Kalban, Inner Mongolia that was due on arrival after its journey to China.
The remainder of the collection comprises a mixture of items and material to include propaganda, sculpture, militaria, ethnographic art and other objects amassed from a life of traveling, working and collecting. Having visited East Germany on several occasions, most notably during the May Day celebrations of 1961 shortly after the Berlin Wall had been built, the collector had later been keen to acquire an example of Soviet-era sculpture. A 67cm carved wood figural group titled Soldat, Arbeiter, Bauerin (Soldier, Worker, Farmer) depicts a mother and father sending their son off to the front. It was originally a gift from the USSR to Wilhelm Pieck, president of the GDR from 1949-60.
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