Human Interest

Sotheby’s to auction 3 small, but enormously valuable, collectibles

By Helen Cook

New York, Mar 11 (efe-epa).- “Never.” That was the curt response given by the Sotheby’s expert to questions about how often an auction like the upcoming one had occurred.

On June 8, the world-renowned auction house is set to host the bidding on three enormously valuable items: the world’s most expensive stamp, the most popular US stamp and the second-most valuable coin on the planet.

“That’s the quick answer: never, because these are three objects that are the absolute apex in their fields, and they’re each unique,” said the director of the Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department, Richard Austin.

“It would be in an event just to have a single one of these objects coming up, but to have three of them together is really unprecedented, it’s really unique,” he added.

Behind Austin, on display in a showcase and protected by two sheets of thick glass, were the rare trio of items, two of them valued between $10-15 million each, and the third of which should sell for between $5-7 million.

The three items are being put up for auction at the very same time because they are all owned by designer Stuart Weitzman, 79, who – after owning them for a number of years – decided that now is the time to let go of the precious objects.

“It was sort of a childhood dream of his to own the best stamp in the world. The best coin in the world, the best American stamp in the world” said Austin.

“He’s had fun owning them and showing them. And now he wants to have fun selling them,” he added.

The story behind each of them is “extraordinary” – the One-Cent Magenta stamp from British Guiana, issued in 1856, was rediscovered in 1873 by a 12-year-old stamp collector who lived there with his family and found it among some family papers, although he did not realize that it was extraordinarily unique.

Because it’s the only known example of the stamp, it’s been considered the world’s most important philatelic item for more than a century.

Each of the four times it’s been auctioned it has set a new price records for a single stamp. In 2014 Weitzman bought it at Sotheby’s for $9.48 million and now it should sell for between $10-15 million.

The second item, valued similarly, is the 1933 Double Eagle coin, considered to be the “Mona Lisa” of coins, Austin said.

“It’s the only one that’s available to own privately. There are 33 other examples Double Eagles but those are owned by the US Mint,” he went on to say.

It’s the last gold coin struck by the US Mint, has a face value of $20 and was designed by the well-known sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens but was never put into circulation because President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 decided to stop having US money backed by gold reserves in a move to get the Great Depression under control.

The third item is considered, by far, to be the best-known US stamp, the only existing “Inverted Jenny Plate Block” showing four stamps featuring a Curtis JN-4 biplane, nicknamed the Jenny, the image of which – due to a printing error – appears upside down.

“I think if you ask anyone on the street to name a rare stamp they’re gonna think of the upside-down biplane,” said Austin, adding, “It’s a great American stamp and this is the ultimate example of it because it’s … a plate block in such an extraordinary condition.”

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