Huge price for Audrey Hepburn stamp

6th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

6 January 2005 , BONN - A collector has stumbled across what may be the 21st century's rarest postage stamp: a German special issue that was withdrawn from sale and supposedly pulped before it ever reached post offices. So far it is the only known specimen ever to have gone into circulation, and valuers have told Werner Duerrschmidt, 57, the unique stamp could be auctioned for between EUR 20,000 and EUR 50,000. Printing of the 1.10-Deutschmark issue, which featured movie star Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993), be

6 January 2005

BONN - A collector has stumbled across what may be the 21st century's rarest postage stamp: a German special issue that was withdrawn from sale and supposedly pulped before it ever reached post offices.

So far it is the only known specimen ever to have gone into circulation, and valuers have told Werner Duerrschmidt, 57, the unique stamp could be auctioned for between EUR 20,000 and EUR 50,000.

Printing of the 1.10-Deutschmark issue, which featured movie star Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993), began on 28 August, 2001 at the orders of Germany's Finance Ministry, which has sole stamp-issuing authority.

Berlin had not reckoned however with the Hepburn family. A son objected to the use of his mother's image and three weeks later the project was cancelled. Postal authorities ordered the destruction of all the sheets, well before they went on sale.

How Duerrschmidt's specimen escaped destruction and became postmarked two years later remains a mystery.

Duerrschmidt has not only collected used stamps since boyhood, but sees a lot of them as a mailman in Bavaria state.

Friends at a firm in the northern city of Wolfsburg tear the stamp corners off envelopes and send a wad of them to him every so often.

Last September he was puzzled to see the face of Hepburn, playing the vamp with an ultra-long cigarette holder.

"I'd never heard of this issue," he said. "I asked other collectors and they hadn't either." A call to the German Philately Society BDPh revealed that the lifelong collector had hit the stamp- collecting equivalent of gold.

The specimen was put on display Wednesday at the Philately and Postal History Museum in Bonn, and Duerrschmidt says that when the pleasure of ownership palls, he will put the rare stamp up for sale.

Experts say he should hurry, since collectors began turning Germany upside down on Wednesday in the hope of finding another.

Officials are puzzled at how the stamp survived. The postmark shows it was used on a letter posted in the eastern part of Berlin.

Deutsche Post, the mail service, says it owns two proof sheets, each with 10 stamps on them. One is in the company archives in Bonn, the other in a postal museum in Berlin, according to BDPh spokesman Rainer Wyszomirski. The printer also kept some proof sheets.

Three sheets would also have been sent to the Finance Ministry, which would only say grimly on Wednesday that it lacked a record of the stamps' destruction.

DPA

Subject: German news

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