If you’re into wrestling then here’s an ‘Inverted brainbuster’* for you. The world’s most valuable stamp is the ‘1856’ British Guiana One-Cent Magenta and, as you probably know, it was previously owed by the American philanthropist John duPont from 1980, before selling in 2014 for $9.5m. John duPont’s British Guiana collection was sold by David Feldman SA in the same year. In stamp folklore duPont was a mega philatelist, and a canny buyer. He bid anonymously in the 1980 auction when he won the One-Cent Magenta and paid what was big money back then at $935,000 for what is a tiny piece of British Guiana. As it turned out, that was a diminutive stake given its return, although, as you are about to find out, he didn’t benefit from that world record uplift.
Sadly, and it’s easy to forget, duPont was actually a convicted murderer who was jailed for shooting an Olympic gold medal ‘wrestling’ champion Dave Schultz in 1996, and duPont subsequently died in detention, aged 72, in December 2010. But notwithstanding his absence from the world and philately in 2014, his estate didn’t receive much of the $9.5m from that world record sale either. Let me explain…
According to duPont’s ‘Will’ – which was challenged by several parties unsuccessfully – 80% of the sale proceeds from his stamp collection were to go to the family of Bulgarian wrestler Valentin Jordanov Dimitrov. What he has to do with all this I’m not sure, but he’s very rich thanks to the world of philately. Something I’m sure he never anticipated when he embarked on his ‘wrestling’ career.
And, do you know what? That’s not all he received, because David Feldman SA did a splendid job selling duPont’s British Guiana collection in the same year and the same de facto arrangement existed for this award winning British Guiana exhibit as applied to One-Cent Magenta. Our featured cover was lot 60089 on the day, and is known as the “Barlow” cover, which is the only recorded full cover with the extremely rare British Guiana Provisional 1856 4c black on blue.
This sold for €240k before commission, just one single lot of what was a record breaking auction that surpassed all expectations, selling 100% of the lots for a total price of over €6million, which equated to 500% above the pre-sale estimates.
Drawing breath for a minute, the “Barlow” cover was previously held in the collection of William Townsend (1904 to 1993), a legendary philatelist who according to the same above mentioned stamp folklore, was a British Guiana expert and entered onto the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1969. Towensend published a book called ‘The Postage Stamps and Postal History of British Guiana’, which he wrote with FG Howe in 1970, and much of what is established on the subject derives from this study. But ‘where is the “Barlow” cover now?’ I hear you ask. Well, a record of it is immortalised within the Museum of Philately for one, which contains the John duPont British Guiana collection in full technicolour on its original album pages and details the provenance of key rarities, along with the biographies of these two philatelists who both shared a fascination for this British colony on the northern coast of South America.
But there’s more to this story than a murdering American philanthropist, a millionaire Bulgarian wrestlers, and two world famous philatelists, and at this juncture it could well be know in wrestling circles as a double ‘Inverted brainbuster’*. Because during the Virtual Stampex Court of Honour Exhibition, being held October 1st to 3rd, hosted by the Museum of Philately, you’ll be able to view the collection the ‘Barlow’ cover now resides within, along with what has been in the intervening period a much developed and extended collection, now incorporating pre-stamp material, and the later stamp issues. It even brings onto the stage ‘The Miss Rose Cover’, the rarest stamp of all the British Guiana Cotton Reel issues; the 1850-51 2 cents black on rose, and boasts some blockbuster philatelists in it’s provenance, such as; Duveen 1896, Hind 1934, and Dale-Lichtenstein 1969 to name but a few.
This really is a unique opportunity to see this collection, which is being displayed for the first time, because the British philatelists, Terry Green, who won’t be a name too many of us have come across before, sadly passed away in 2020, prematurely taken from the world of philately before he had the opportunity to share what he had achieved.
However, exclusively being shown, along with other world class exhibits, you can learn more about Terry Green and his British Guiana exhibit during the Virtual Stampex.
I guess in a way ‘wrestling’ is much like a ‘virtual exhibition’. It features some colourful ‘characters’, and is professionally choreographed to maximise the thrill and enjoyment for the audience. And to get your free ringside seat all you have to do is pull-up yours in front of a computer or tablet, or even sit down with a mobile device. Whilst I can’t promise there won’t be the odd inverted watermark, I can absolutely guarantee there will be no ‘Inverted brainbusters’!
*The wrestler begins behind and facing a standing opponent. The wrestler then pulls the head of the opponent back and applies an inverted facelock to the opponent with one arm. The wrestler then places his/her other arm under the lower back of the opponent, then uses that arm to elevate the opponent until they are vertical. The wrestler then jumps up and falls down on his/her back, driving the head of the opponent to the mat. If you just read that definition, then please don’t try this at home, and especially not during any virtual stamp exhibitions.