If our last legendary collector was known for his genial, likable personality, and his benevolent spirit prompted him to be affectionately known as ‘Uncle Henry’, then our next heavyweight on the philatelic stage; Arthur Hind (1856–1933), a English textile industrialist, who immigrated to New York, would probably be best described as ‘a philistine’. This is not just because of his bullish, opinionated and cynical persona, but also because of his attitude and approach to philately, as you’re about to discover.
Hind was a man that wouldn’t accept advice from either business or philatelic associates. He lacked the finesse of the philatelists he rubbed shoulders with at the time and did not possess the diplomacy of those whose collections he absorbed into his own, such as; Avery, Duveen and Ferrary.
Whilst there is absolutely no question that Hind formed an outstanding collection of world stamps and especially of the United States, he didn’t assemble friends and respect in the same manner as he amassed money. In fact, Hind had a reputation for having more money than philatelic sense. Hind was suspicious of everyone, paranoid of being deceived and thought he could buy anyone and anything. But despite his wealth he seemed incredibly insecure and as a consequence made outlandish purchases.
Hind began collecting in 1891, and like other great collectors of that period, such as Tapling, he poured profits from his business into rare stamps, like the “Bordeaux Cover” franked with Mauritius 1d red and 2d deep blue “Post Office” which he purchase from Lichtenstein in 1922 – this cover in recent times has sold at a David Feldman SA auction for 5,750,000 Swiss francs (equivalent to $4m).
But nothing better demonstrates his flamboyant buying than his ownership of the world’s most expensive stamp – the British Guiana One-cent Magenta, which he purchased in the same year as The Bordeaux Cover, from the third Ferrary sale (lot 295) for over 300,000 French Francs which was about US$40k after tax. And therein lies a tale, perhaps part fable perhaps not, which epitomizes the character of the man.
The story goes that when Hind won this stamp, the under-bidder was Burrus (and that is a story for another day) and the third highest bidder was apparently King George V, and it was rumored at the time that Hind offered the British Guiana to the King as a gift.
A bit disingenuous because of course he couldn’t accept it. But the plot thickens because there is also a story that Hind purchased for cash another example of the One-cent Magenta from a gentleman who later signed a letter to this effect and sent it to August Dietz for publication in his philatelic journal. Hind immediately after the purchase sat back in his chair and relaxed with a cigar and with great bravado set fire to the second British Guiana One-cent Magenta, proclaiming “Now there’s only one magenta one-cent Guiana.”
The controversy didn’t end there, because after his death Hind’s Will restricted his wife’s inheritance to only dwelling, furniture, paintings but not the stamp collection. As Hind’s stamp collection was estimated at close to a million dollars, she contested this and won her case, which entitled her to one third of the stamp collection revenue. However, the One-cent Magenta was missing whilst all these legal wrangles took place and behind the scenes those involved were frantically trying to locate it. Urgent inquiries were made to European dealers as to the location of the British Guiana but the stamp was eventually found in a registered letter that Hind had nonchalantly thrown into a drawer in his safe.
Hind’s wife tried to sell the famous stamp in London in 1935, once she was awarded ownership through the courts, but the stamp only reached a bid of £7,500 (about $37,500) from PL Pemberton, a London Stamp dealer and son of the philatelists Edward Loines Pemberton. The lot was withdrawn and over the following years the stamp was offered at private treaty but had no takers until 1940 when it was sold for US$40,000 to Fred ‘Poss’ Small, an Australian engineer who lived in Florida.
Today Hind’s grandiose acquisition sits in the collection of Stuart Weitzman who paid US$9,480,000, in 2014. Which is in stark contrast to the Hind auction sale, clearly there were no shortage of interested parties who clamored after the stamp. And one can’t help wondering if the British Guiana One-cent Magenta lost its appeal during Hind’s ownership, and that may be because some of Hind’s characteristics inevitably reflected on to the stamps he owned.
There are many other graphic tales which pervade around Hind’s collection, including his apparent spoiling of some of the rarest USA covers by taping them crudely onto album pages. This created very poor auction results for the Hind estate, but worse was his lack of sensibility when the custodian of this very fine and rare material.
Hind had enormous wealth, and a brazen philatelic ego, but his care and love of the things philatelic didn’t earn him a place on the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists. However, if there was a Roll of philatelic philistines, that could and did buy everything available to them, then Hind would be on that list, if not at the very head of the Roll.
The next Legendary Collector #15 is The Philatelic Expert – John N. Luff, and you can catch-up on the previous 13 Legendary Collectors: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12 and Part 13 by clicking the links.