With the very sad news that Sean Connery passed away this week, we thought it would be fitting to pay homage in some way to this iconic actor. And what better way than highlighting a cover that has a touch of James Bond about it, and connects us with the iconic film Goldfinger, which all your 007 fans out there will know starred Sean Connery as the MI6 agent. But before we jet off to glamorous locations we must, like James Bond, start our journey in good Old Blighty. Upper Edmonton to be precise. Now according to my car’s GPS navigation system, the London Borough of Upper Edmonton, England is 621 miles away from Geneva, Switzerland – via the A26 apparently.
Upper Edmonton is one of the most deprived wards in both London and England. Geneva on the other hand is one of the richest cities in Europe, boasting over a $1trillion in financial assets managed through their private banking sector, and a host of top international organisations have their headquarters based in the clean air of Geneva. It’s also home to many international agencies such as the United Nations and the Red Cross. Upper Edmonton has the River Lea Navigation running through it, a canalised river, which let’s be candid is not suitable for bathing let alone yachts or catermoraines. Lake Geneva, however, is one of the largest and deepest lakes in Europe and lies on the idyllic north side of the Alps, it has crystal waters which are a mesmerizing blue and turquoise colour. Billionaires pay fortunes for apartments which overlook this watery paradise, where they sail their multi-million dollar boats just for fun. In terms of wealth, status and glamour Upper Edmonton and Geneva are not 621 miles apart, they are worlds apart.
However, despite this gulf in outward appearance and the shiny material things of this world, on the 4th March 1936, one of the rarest and most prized GB King George V stamps, the Silver Jubilee 2½d Prussian Blue (SG456a) was attached to a Registered envelope in Upper Edmonton and posted to Geneva, and upon safe arrival it became one of a select few known examples ‘ever’ used on a cover. It begs the question what was someone doing attaching such a valuable mint stamp to a cover in Upper Edmonton and sending it to Geneva? Well, we must turn our attention to Commander James Bond to understand this curious philatelic puzzle.
Now, Ian Flemming, the journalist and novelist, created in 1953 the British Intelligence Agent 007, who is the protagonist of the James Bond series of novels and movies. Curiously James Bond briefly attended the University of Geneva (as did Fleming), before being taught to ski in Geneva, and in the 1964 film ‘Goldfinger’ we see Bond (aka Sean Connery) board a plane to Geneva, and the city’s name ‘Geneva’ appears on his car’s navigation system as he drives through Switzerland, and this was decades before GPS was ever available in a car. In the book we learn that Bond spends an evening in Geneva, in the film he follows the Rolls Royce of Auric Goldfinger all the way to his refinery, where as we all know Bond is captured and strapped to a table with an overhead industrial laser beam slicing through the surface toward him. Despite a sweaty brow, Bond, with the hint of a Scottish accent, talks his way out of the situation and the story heads off to America via a private jet, and then some encounters with the mafia, and then various other villains and goodies, centering around lots of US bullion in Fort Knox. It ends with Goldfinger being sucked out of a plane’s broken window, the plane hurtling to the ground and then Bond and Pussy Galore parachuting safely down to earth.
Interestingly, on 13th October 2020 our ‘Prussian Blue’ cover boarded a plane from London to, you’ve guessed it; Geneva, and the GPS system used by the FedEx person accompanying the cover, was programmed to Geneva as well, and said FedEx guy took it directly to the offices of David Feldman International Auctioneers, where it now sits securely in the Swiss equivalent of Fort Knox, having briefly had a tour of the office via several of the desks of the curious and excited philatelists, all who commented on the remarkable coincidence that the cover’s original destination was Geneva and here it was again back where it was originally sent. But crucially, no laser beams and certainly no threats of harm where projected onto this precious envelope. And like our hero Sean Connery it’s mission doesn’t end in Geneva. It’s just a stopping off point in a much more elaborate story, and the script you are now part of, because this rare cover stars in our upcoming MSF Rarities of the World Charity Auction in December. You don’t need to have goldfingers to buy it, but you will need to have the wit and nerve of an Intelligence Agent to free it from the Swiss Fort Knox.
So, the answer to our puzzle is simple. Whether a Scottish actor, a secret agent, a billionaire, a multicomp glomorate organisation, or a Registered envelope, there is a mystical, gravitational pull towards Geneva, even if it’s just for a brief time, or a night or maybe a moment in time whilst you work-out how the rest of the story unfolds. Whatever happens next to our ‘Prussian Blue’ Registered cover, it will always have ‘Geneva’ written upon it. Maybe it’ll follow Bond to America via a private jet, who knows. What we do know is, this cover has brought Upper Edmonton and Geneva a lot closer together, and one day it will undoubtedly return to Geneva. Why? Because all that is allusive and prized in this world, seems to get sent to Geneva. In loving memory of Sean Connery, AKA James Bond.