World Stamps

Weitzman to sell 1¢ Magenta and Jenny Invert plate block on June 8

Mar 10, 2021, 3 PM
Known as the world’s most valuable stamp, the 1856 British Guiana 1¢ Magenta will be auctioned by Sotheby’s New York on June 8. On the same day that Sotheby’s is selling the 1¢ Magenta, it will also offer the famous unique plate block of the 1918 United S

By Michael Baadke

Two of the most treasured philatelic objects in the world will be auctioned June 8 by Sotheby’s New York.

The sale of the 1856 British Guiana 1¢ Magenta (Scott 13) and the plate block of four of the United States 1918 24¢ carmine rose and blue Jenny Invert airmail error (C3a) stands to set new philatelic world records.

These two iconic items will be sold along with the 1933 Double Eagle, the only example of the $20 gold coin available to collectors.

The Sotheby’s sale is titled Three Treasures — Collected by Stuart Weitzman and is estimated by the auction firm to bring in bids totaling an estimated $25 million to $37 million.

All of the seller’s proceeds will benefit charitable ventures, according to Sotheby’s, including the Weitzman Family Foundation, which supports medical research and higher education such as the Stuart Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. Other major foundation projects include a museum in Madrid, the first of its kind, devoted to Spanish Judaica.

Weitzman is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded the luxury shoe company that bears his name. He is also a longtime collector, and his purchases of the three treasures he is now auctioning each made headlines throughout the world, though the buyer initially was unknown in each instance.

He obtained the Double Eagle coin first, at a Sotheby’s New York auction in 2002 for $7.59 million, establishing a new world record for any coin auction. It is unique, according to Sotheby’s, in that it is “the only one of its kind that may be legally owned by a private individual.”

His ownership of the coin was never revealed prior to the Sotheby’s auction announcement on March 10.

Sotheby’s was again the auctioneer when Weitzman purchased the British Guiana 1¢ Magenta, another uniquity, for $9.48 million, in 2014. The selling price was characterized by the auction firm as “nearly one billion times its original face value.”

Weitzman’s path to obtaining the Jenny Invert plate block, also in 2014, was a little more complex.

The sole sheet of 100 stamps of the famous bicolor airmail error with the upside-down airplane was broken up not long after it was purchased in 1918 as a new issue in a Washington, D.C., post office.

The block of four with attached margin that includes the printing plate number — in blue and inverted like the Curtiss “Jenny” biplane in the stamp vignette — has remained intact all these years.

In 2005, its then-owner, prominent philatelist William H. Gross, traded it to Mystic Stamp Co. owner Donald J. Sundman for another remarkable stamp rarity, the 1867 1¢ Benjamin Franklin Z grill (Scott 85A).

Some nine years later, Weitzman purchased the Jenny Invert plate block directly from Sundman, paying what Sundman described as “around $5 million.”

That sale made the plate block the most valuable U.S. philatelic item, and second worldwide only to the British Guiana 1¢ Magenta, which Weitzman had purchased less than four months earlier.

Richard Austin, Sotheby’s global head of books and manuscripts, said: “As the most aspirational objects in their respective collecting fields and each with their own illustrious provenance, the Double Eagle, the British Guiana and the Inverted Jenny all hold an indelible place in history, and in our collective imagination. Each treasure is unique in its own right: the 1933 Double Eagle as the only legally owned example, the British Guiana as the only one known, and the Inverted Jenny as the only plate block from a unique sheet of stamps. It would be a true privilege to present just one of these sought-after rarities at auction but offering all three one-of-a-kind treasures together in the same sale is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. It is a testament to Stuart’s perennial passion and dedication to his childhood ambition of acquiring these prized pieces that we are able to create a special moment to share their stories with the world at once.”

Sotheby’s has established estimates of $10 million to $15 million each for the Double Eagle coin and the 1¢ Magenta stamp, and $5 million to $7 million for the Jenny Invert plate block.

The live auction on June 8 will be preceded by a dedicated exhibition by appointment at Sotheby’s galleries March 11-17.

In announcing the sale, Sotheby’s quoted Weitzman as saying: “I had a life-long dream of collecting the single greatest rarities in the two great collecting areas of stamps and coins and then placing these extraordinary treasures, hidden away for decades, on continuous public view. I determined to do that, and I did that. That was my dream. Today my dream is to leave a legacy of charitable works to which the proceeds from the sales of these treasures will go.”

Sotheby’s added: “Weitzman has been a generous steward of the three treasures, loaning the British Guiana to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum where it has been on public display since 2015 in its own special exhibition, as well as loaning the Double Eagle first to the Federal Reserve in Manhattan and then later to the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library. The Double Eagle has been exhibited at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library since 2013 and was joined by the Inverted Jenny in 2014 following Weitzman’s acquisition of the plate block.”

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