A collection of rare stamps described as "the private passion of a self-made man" is to be auctioned in a series of sales in September. Sotheby's has announced the sale in London of the late Lord Steinberg of Belfast's stamp collection which it expects to make £4 million.
Sotheby's said Steinberg was "one of Britain's greatest modern-day philatelists" who specialised in collecting stamps from Britain and the British empire. He had "assembled 33 stamp albums, with each item on a separate page meticulously written-up by a skilled calligraphist".
The fine art auctioneers said the defining characteristic of the collection was that it contained only mint blocks of four or larger multiples.
The significance of blocks is of paramount importance to collectors, since many stamps which are comparatively common are transformed into major rarities when in blocks of four or larger.
The collection includes stamps from 74 countries and highlights include examples of "the greatest rarity" from Australia, the Falkland Islands and the British Solomon Islands.
A mint block of nine examples of the world's first postage stamp, the Penny Black, issued by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on May 1st, 1840, for use from May 6th of that year, has a pre-sale estimate of £150,00-£200,000 (