Group of 12 Leonard Fryer stamp designs sold at Hansons for £22,100 – including (third row, centre) King George V 1926 1s 6d definitive issue.

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That his name joins those of important philately collections is a result of his granddaughters finding 270 of his original stamp artworks and 40 banknote designs in a wardrobe in the home of their late aunt, Fryer’s spinster daughter.

The owners took the collection to the Derbyshire saleroom Hansons (20% buyer’s premium).

Hansons associate director Adrian Rathbone, and Jim Spencer, head of books and works on paper, at Hansons, were intrigued.

“Mr Fryer’s tiny paintings displayed dazzling colour, ingenuity, flair and artistic talent,” said Spencer. “They paved the way to stamp designs adopted far and wide.”

His enthusiasm was not shared.

“The whole world told me I was wrong about the Fryer archive,” he says. “Dealers and experts would tell me ‘Yes, very nice, but an unknown artist’… I was advised to sell it all as one lot.”

Undeterred, Spencer took the archive to the Royal Philatelic Society in Marylebone where the museum curator was the first person to share his belief in its importance. “He helped me all the way,” says Spencer.

White-glove response

‘All the way’ being to the May 9 single-collection sale held at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire, with the two vendors wondering whether Spencer’s lower estimate of £76,000 for the collection offered in 126 lots could be true.

At the end of the sale, every lot got away and the hammer total was £167,000.

The collection has a strong emphasis on Commonwealth and Empire stamps and these made the highest prices.

Top-seller by some way was a group of six ‘progressive’ designs and six finished ‘essays’ depicting scenes of Malta including the King George V – 1926 definitive issue.

Estimated at £4000-4500, the lot sold on at £22,100 to a Maltese buyer, possibly with a museum in mind.

The same buyer took three more George V Maltese designs at a five-times-estimate £5200 and 10 George VI designs at a double-estimate £5700. Among the currency lots, Fryer’s artwork for a Malaya and British Borneo $50 note took a 10-times-estimate £7500.