I have a very large business sideline selling such "kiloware"
material, as do many other dealers, and I sell over a ton weight a year:
The story of the Hepburn stamp began in 2001 when the German post office
(Deutsche Post) prepared to issue a set of semi-postal stamps featuring
movie stars, including Audrey Hepburn, as panes of 10 (two of each of
the 5 stamps) and a booklet pane that resembles a souvenir sheet.
As I reported in my August column, at the last minute one of Hepburn’s
sons objected to the Hepburn stamp. Possibly as an image of his mother
smoking was not one he approved of. (Hepburn died of cancer in 1993.) A
37¢ USA Hepburn stamp (without cigarette) was issued without incident in
The German post office ordered that all the Audrey Hepburn stamps be
destroyed. The issue was re-designed and eventually released October
A Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman stamp in the original German set
was also withdrawn around this time. The issued set quickly substituted
stamps depicting Greta Garbo, and a reel of film. The other 3 issued
depicted Marilyn Monroe, Jean Gabin, and Charlie Chaplin.
Three panes of 10 stamps each had already been sent to the German
Ministry of Finance, but it is believed that they were not returned and
not destroyed. The whereabouts of all these 30 stamps today is not
known. I presume the 6 x Bogart/Bergman stamps must also exist in
Three years later, in late 2004, the first used example of the Hepburn
stamp was discovered by Werner Duerrschmidt, a stamp collector and
mailman in Bavaria, a German state. He found the stamp in a mixture of
used on-paper stamps sent to him by friends.
Duerrschmidt’s example was cancelled Berlin, October 14, 2003.
This was reported as front page news in German
stamp magazines dated February 2005 calling it a 'Sensation Perfekt!'.
On January 5 Herr Duerrschmidt and the 'Alliance of German
Philatelists' (Bund Deutscher Philatelisten) exhibited the
sensational discovery in the “House of Philately And Postal History“
in Bonn, to the public. A number of Daily Newspapers, Radio and TV
stations covered this event.
The stamp became quite a media icon, and dealer and collector bodies
reported the widespread press has proven very positive for philately
in Germany. After the national media circus that this initial find
predicated, another copy was found, postmarked Berlin November 2,
This example was discovered by a collector in Frankfurt am Main. It
was found among stamp clippings he received from the incoming mail
of a company in Wolfsburg, Germany.
This latter stamp was invoiced for Euro 69,437.60 (approximately
$A112,000) when it was auctioned June 1 by Heinrich Kohler in
Wiesbaden, Germany. It was on the front cover of the August 2005
The €20,000 estimate proved super conservative.
I emailed the Auction firm and Dieter Michelson told me: 'final
invoice price for the stamp was 69.437,60 Euro, which includes a 17%
commission and 16% VAT on the commission.'
A third stamp discovered SHOULD have meant the price of all
three went down, not up, as each new discovery lessens the potential
value of all copies - that is the conventional thinking.
Axel Doerrenbach from the Felzmann auctioneers
told Linn’s of the discovery of the third example of the
unissued stamp: “this stamp is from the left upper corner and shows
a diligent illustration on the margin: a multiple repetition of the
stamp itself resembling a piece from a film reel. Also this piece is
still on a paper cut-out.
“Since a complete pane of 10 shows this illustration only on the margins
of the upper-left corner, this piece is unique. This is the piece which
we sold during our recent auction ... it fetched Euro 169,000.
The Ulrich Felzmann firm reported that the
auction floor was crowded with television crew, as well as radio and
newspaper reporters before the Audrey Hepburn stamp was opened at a
starting bid of Euro 50,000.
The auction house described the scene: “An internationally
well-known bidding agent Jochen Heddergott from Munich, enters into
the struggle: €52,000, €54,000. €60,000.
"A telephone bidder quits. ‘No way,’ he sighs. The bidding
agent is acting on behalf of an overseas customer.
“A lady in the audience shows no intention to give up. Both the
lady and the agent have their seats in the front row. And their
eyes meet each others. €90,000, €92,000 .... who will surrender?
“Once the €100,000 borderline has been crossed the audience
gives a big cheer ..... but the fight goes on.
“Now the bid increments are €5,000 each. And the
bidding is continuing. The agent’s maximum bid is €130,000. But
the lady in the floral dress keeps her bidding card straight up.
Her final bid: €135,000. And she is the winner!
"Congratulations, flash lights, interviews.
The winner is Mrs Gaby Bennewirtz. She acted on behalf of her
husband, the investment manager Gerd Bennewirtz who is the managing
director and share holder of a company named SJB FondsSkyline OHG
1989, located nearby in Dusseldorf.
"Gerd Bennewirtz is not only a professional financial investment
manager but also a stamp connoisseur who has got a certain vision
for this stamp rarity: a capital investment, a collector’s piece, a
thrill for stamp-lovers and Audrey fans.
"The invoice including all costs and tax
amounted to 169,000 Euros" Doerrenbach concluded.
Alex Doerrenbach emailed me October 28 and said:
"the invoice for the stamp had been paid and the Auction
proprietor Mr Felzmann, senior philatelist Mr Such and myself
personally delivered the stamp to the buyer on Friday October 21,
Doerrenbach also told me: "the response from
the press media has been overwhelming. German national TV, regional
TV, radio stations and newspaper reporters attended the sale. I had
to give countless interviews. I used to live in Japan and Japanese
friends of mine have sent me emails that they had seen me in TV news
broadcast on the Eastern Japanese railways.
"On the day after the auction, the news of
this record hammer price has been published in 122 German
"The unissued German Audrey Hepburn stamp currently is the most
popular stamp on the continent", Dorrenbach said. He added,
“today, it is synonym for treasure hunting. In my opinion, it
will remain the most popular German stamp for decades simply because
of its attractive design and appearance.”
A recent stamp used on local mail only last year
getting $A272,000 just seems insane to me. The
example that sold a few months ago for $A112,000 also seemed insane
to me too at the time. That buyer must be already laughing all the
way to the bank!
His wise purchase has clearly more than doubled
in value in the 4 months since June. The NEXT copy to turn up will
be an interesting market test. Don't forget my case of Krug if you
Only a week or so later an even more remarkable
price realisation was to take place on the other side of the
A block of four rare USA 'Inverted Jenny' 24¢
Airmail stamps sold October 19 in New York for $US2.97 million,
easily the highest price ever paid for any United States stamp item.
In 1989 the identical unique plate number block
realised $US1.1 million, which until being re-sold was still the
record price for a USA stamp single or multiple. This new price
near trebles that last record sale price,
The block is the only one in existence that features the plate
number upside down and in the stamp selvedge, said Scott Trepel,
president of Siegel Auction Galleries who sold it this month.
The misprinted 1918 block, depicting an
upside-down bi-plane, was sold to an anonymous collector, the
auction house advised. With the 10 percent buyer's premium added
on, the final invoice price was $US2.97 million. That converts
to virtually $A4 million as this column is typed.
Seller was a "US broadcast executive" who paid
$US1.1 million in 1989.
The "Jenny" stamps depict a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" a World War I
training aircraft that later became an airmail plane. About 700 of
the stamps were misprinted but postal inspectors caught all of but
100 of the mistakes before they were sold.
The entire pane of 100 was bought at face value by stamp collector
William Robey on May 14, 1918 at a Washington post office. It was
later sold and separated into individual stamps and blocks.
This as we all know is a stamp of some legend. It is not even
especially 'Rare' as the entire error sheet purchased at a Post
Office by Robey went immediately into philatelic hands at hefty
prices, where they nearly all remain today.
When I attended 'Pacific 97' in San
Francisco I took a photo (and published it here) of dealer Harry
Hagendorf holding up one of three BLOCKS of 4 of
this stamp on his stand for sale! Another dealer had 2 copies, and
a European dealer displayed yet another block of 4.
Eighteen examples on sale in one place does
NOT make it 'rare' by any definition. Scarce -
yes, famous - yes, but many stamps are known with only 1 or 2 copies
existing. THEY are "Rare".
Nonetheless, this "glamour" stamp gets high prices wherever offered.
In October 1998 leading New York auction house Robert Siegel
auctioned the Robert Zoellner USA collection - the ONLY complete (by
Scott) collection of every USA stamp ever to be offered.
Every serious USA collector and dealer was keenly aware of this
sale. (Indeed a world record price of $US935,000 was obtained for
the famous 1868 1¢ "Z" Grill.)
Lot 722 was an attractive hinged mint copy of the
'Inverted Jenny' which sold then for $US175,000 + 10% =
$US192,500 ... then a remarkable price for a twentieth century stamp
from anywhere. The price attracted much media attention and comment.
The same auction house auctioned the exact same stamp on June 2 this
year. The 'Inverted Jenny' was offered with an estimate of
$US170,000 - almost the same hammer price it had last sold for. The
final price after frenzied bidding was $US525,000 + 10% = $US577,500
or then $A778,354.
This is exactly THREE times the
record price obtained only a few years before. Same auction house, same
stamp, and obviously nearly the same mailing list of catalogue
This was without doubt the flashing neon sign that we had entered a
stamp boom for top end stamps, the like of which we have not seen for 25
years. Heck this stamp was not even mint unhinged, of which many exist.
This new price of $A4 million on this
block of 4 is just nuts .... or so it seems to me. In a few years it
will of course be $A10 million, and the current buyer will be smiling.
The worldwide publicity BOTH pieces achieved will do
enormous good for the stamp hobby.