Our next legendary collector was once described as “the most intense student of philately”. The history books and past auction catalogues, which feature material once held in his famous collection, do not sum up fully his achievements on the international philatelic stage. He was also a builder of great collections, and in his home country of Japan showed by example how greatness can be achieved in the hobby. Ryohei Ishikawa (b.1927), a Japanese philatelist, formed best in the world collections of the USA, Hawaii and Hong Kong and won no less than six Grand Prix awards. His USA, which at the time of its sale in 1993, was described as the greatest ever formed, realised $9.5m when sold at auction in New York.  

In just two decades, which in philatelic terms is a relatively short period of time, Ishikawa took the stamp world by storm. His insatiable appetite and energy for the hobby drove him to acquire the most important pieces for his chosen subject areas and to conceive exhibits which won him the greatest accolade possible: the USA winning all three attainable Grand Prix awards. This feat would be remarkable for an American, but for an Asian philatelist during the 1970s and 1980s, competing with the American and European collectors of this region, it was an astounding achievement. It is evident that Ishikawa dedicated himself to his study of the stamps and covers he purchased in a way which is uncommon: apparently those who had personal insight said he often stayed up all night, and even into the following day, researching a cover or a single stamp. This level of devotion earned him worldwide respect and established him also as a renowned expert in his areas of speciality.

As well as his three focused collections, Ishikawa had a great interest in the rarities of Japan and in its Foreign Post Offices. His interest to acquire the greatest rarities of his homeland was well known, so it was no wonder when Japan’s greatest rarity, the 1871 500 mon with centre inverted surfaced for the first time at public auction, he would be destined as the buyer.

In fact he went on record regarding this item saying “I consider this stamp the most valuable stamp in the world. I would have paid any price to obtain it”.

Japan rare Stamp 1871- inverted Center 500mon

His interest in stamps can be traced back to his childhood, although it was when he returned to philately in the 1970’s, that his passion ignited. His initial interest in the USA came from reading Stanley B. Ashbrook’s The United States One Cent Stamp of 1851-1857. Unsurprisingly Ishikawa’s collection of this issue became world famous and was also described as the greatest ever assembled. However, his ambition did not stop there, and he extended his scope to include the classic stamps of the US broadening to the period 1847-1869.

A telltale sign that Ishikawa was a collector’s collector was when it was reported he had lost large sums of money when selling his US holding, to which his American lawyer informed the media that Ishikawa was ‘not an investor in stamps but a collector’ and that Ishikawa ‘had enjoyed his hobby’. Even though he was known to pay whatever it took to procure an item for his exhibit, the losses were in truth not necessarily down to his buying habits but due to the fact that, when he purchased the material, he paid in yen at an exchange rate which had changed dramatically when he sold.

His monumental achievements in the formation of his great collections, and even moreso, his involvement in the initial promotion of Japan’s and one of the world’s greatest rarities, the 1871 500 mon center inverted, ensured Ishikawa would forever be known as the Great Promoter of Philately.

You can catch-up on the previous 39 legendary collectors by clicking the links: 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, Part 13Part 14, Part 15, Part 16Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38 and Part 39.