1922–1940: Arthur Hind … and Ann Hind Scala

Arthur Hind with Charles J. Phillips and Gustave Mosler, President of the American Philatelic Society, Boston, 1930. Courtesy of Keith Harmer, Harmers International.

Although he was sometimes called the Ferrary of America, in terms of personality Arthur Hind could not have been more different than the earlier collector. Hind was born in Bradford, England, but became a textile magnate in upstate New York, making his fortune manufacturing upholstery for the burgeoning automobile industry. He relished the notoriety of owning the world’s most valuable stamp, freely gave interviews, and frequently loaned the stamp for exhibitions.

One of the first things he did when he had the stamp was commission a postcard of it. The card, which was octagonal, also features a facsimile of Hind’s signature and was widely distributed in both America and Europe. Many of the recipients were stamp dealers and they placed the card in their shops and businesses. For the first time the number of people who had seen the stamp went from dozens to thousands. It was during Hind’s custody that the One-Cent Black on Magenta irrefutably became the world’s best-known stamp, as well as the most expensive.

No sooner had the stamp arrived in the United States than it was returned to Britain for the first time since 1878. It was shown at the London International Stamp Exhibition from 14–28 May 1923 at the Horticultural Halls in Westminster. This is probably the first and only time the stamp was seen by King George V, who opened the event. It is said that Hind offered the stamp to the King, who politely declined. Hind later recalled His Majesty congratulated him on his purchase. Three years later it appeared at the International Philatelic Exhibition at the Grand Central Palace, New York City, from 16–23 October 1926. The Palace, demolished in 1953, was located on Lexington Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets just north of Grand Central Terminal. In late May 1929, Hind sent the stamp overseas again, for the Exposition Philatélique Internationale held in the French port city of Le Havre. This would be the first public exhibition of the stamp in the country where it had resided for forty-four of its seventy-three years.

The good-natured and self-effacing Hind even wrote a brief article titled “The World’s Rarest Stamp” for the Catalogue of the International Philatelic Exhibition, held at Melbourne in 1928. In it he wrote that the 1856 One-Cent “has changed me, philatelically, from an almost unknown modest collector to an almost best known prominent collector.” He also admitted that this particular stamp had caused him to be ridiculed: a New Hampshire pastor stated that Hind’s ownership would virtually guarantee St. Peter barring him from the Pearly Gates, while a London journalist described the 1856 British Guiana as “cut square and magenta in colour” and himself as “cut round and rather paler magenta.”

One story long associated with Hind’s ownership of the stamp has never been authenticated—probably because it is untrue—and yet it is rather too good to debunk. In 1938, a collector wrote an anonymous letter to Stamp and Cover Collector’s Review claiming that he too had owned a One-Cent Magenta, which he had purchased, unrecognized, many years before when the merchant vessel he was working on made port in Georgetown. After the publicity surrounding the Ferrary auction, this unnamed collector realized that he had a treasure that should be worth more to Hind than to anyone else. He arranged a meeting at Hind’s Utica, New York, home. Hind examined the second stamp, accepted its authenticity, and agreed on a price for it. After cash and the stamp had changed hands, Hind lit a cigar and then held his newly acquired stamp to the match. When the stamp was ash, Hind looked at the seller and declared, “There’s only one magenta One Cent Guiana.”

Over Thanksgiving of 1928, Hind married for the first time. His bride was from nearby Constantia and had been married once previously. When she became Ann Leeta Hind, she was more than thirty years younger than her 72-year-old husband. Perhaps coincidentally, Hind began to lose interest in his stamps after the wedding. He may simply have thought there were no further treasures for him to acquire. Just before the collapse of the stock market in the crash of 1929 he supposedly put the collection up for sale and received an offer of $480,000—but he wanted more. Soon afterwards his health, as well as his marriage, began to decline. Arthur Hind died of pneumonia in Palm Beach, Florida, on 1 March 1933.

In his will, Arthur Hind left the bulk of his still very considerable fortune to his family in England. Ann Hind, his estranged wife, was bequeathed very little: the “dwelling, furniture, paintings but not my stamp collection.” In the summer of 1933 Mrs. Hind, claimed one-third of the estate, as provided to widows by recent New York State Law, as well as the British Guiana, which she insisted had been a gift to her from her husband. 

Although Ann Hind’s case for ownership of the stamp was based on her assertion that Hind had presented it to her before his death, an unforeseen—and unrelated—development bolstered her position. After he lost interest in his stamps, Hind had moved his philatelic collection from his personal study into a bank vault, but when the stamps were inventoried the British Guiana was nowhere to be found. Frantic searches failed to locate it, and not until the safe in Hind’s study on Maple Street was examined was the One-Cent uncovered, still in the registered envelope in which it had been returned from its last exhibition. As it was in the couple’s “dwelling,” the contents of which had also been left to Mrs. Hind, a reasonable argument could be made that the British Guiana did belong to her.

Mrs. Hind did not wear her widow’s weeds for long; on 8 November 1933 she secretly wed Pascal Costa Scala, a “widely known young Utican.” In early May 1934, by which time the marriage had been disclosed, the suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Mrs. Hind Scala deemed the settlement “satisfactory.” The one detail that was publicly confirmed was that the ownership of the One-Cent Black on Magenta had been established: it was Mrs. Scala’s.

Arthur Hind, from the cover of an H. R. Harmer catalogue of 1935. Courtesy of the Collectors Club, New York City

Lot description, no. 26, of the British Guiana in the 1935 Harmer, Rooke catalogue. Courtesy of the Collectors Club, New York City

Arthur Hind’s collection was variously dispersed through auction and private sale in the United States and England. His British and foreign stamps were consigned to a series of auctions at H. R. Harmer in London, and the British Guiana collection was sold on 7 May 1934. Perhaps to take advantage of the generally strong results of that auction—and perhaps motivated as well by the illness of George V (he would die on 20 January 1936)—Mrs. Scala consigned the One-Cent with the London firm of Harmer, Rooke for an auction on 30 October 1935. The sale was titled “Rare Postage Stamps, including the World-Famous British Guiana 1856, 1c. magenta, offered by order of Mrs. Arthur Hind.”

Prior to the sale the One-Cent Black on Magenta was submitted, for the first time, to the Expert Committee of The Royal Philatelic Society, London. Among those who would have viewed it was the 75-year-old Sir Edward Denny Bacon. The stamp was certified as genuine by the Royal on 17 October 1935. The Harmer, Rooke catalogue trumpeted the news of the certification and succinctly described the One-Cent as “unquestionably the world’s rarest and most valuable stamp.”

The London Daily Mail tracked down Louis Vernon Vaughan, still living in British Guiana, to ask how he felt about the prospect of the stamp selling for twenty-five thousand times the six shillings he had received more than sixty years previously. He appeared more bemused than regretful: “[I]t is apparently coming into the market again—and the world’s greatest stamp dealers and philatelists are ready to outbid each other and pay ridiculous sums of money for that little scrap of paper that I once owned. Really, it does seem remarkable! People ask me what I think about it. … As a matter of fact, I hardly ever think of it at all now and never with disappointment or chagrin. What is the use?”

At the sale, the bidding opened at £3,500 and was steadily advanced to £7,500 ($37,500), which was, however, still below the reserve set by Mrs. Scala (said to have been $42,500), and so the stamp was withdrawn, unsold, and returned to the United States. The final bid had been placed by Percy Loines Pemberton, son of Edward Loines Pemberton, who nearly purchased the One-Cent as part of the McKinnon collection in 1878.

Mrs. Scala continued to promote and offer the stamp, and it next appeared for private sale in September 1938 with Ernest G. Jarvis of the Kenwood Stamp Company, Buffalo, New York. With the death of King George V the previous year, Mrs. Scala had obviously reconsidered her price and it was now available for $37,500, but there were no takers. The same year, on 5 June, the great philatelist Edward Denny Bacon, who had done so much to enhance the recognition and reputation of the British Guiana, died in London. 

Ann Hind Scala with Ernest Kehr and Grover Whalen at the 1940 World’s Fair philatelic exhibition. New York World’s Fair 1939-1940 records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

In 1940 the British Post Office planned to celebrate the centenary of the Postage Stamp with a display during the second season of the New York World’s Fair, but the outbreak of the Second World War forced this proposal to be scrapped. The organizers instead contacted collectors throughout the United States to provide material for a philatelic exhibition. Mrs. Hind Scala was asked and agreed to display the British Guiana. She arrived in Flushing, Queens, in a limousine, the stamp travelling separately in an armored car, a condition imposed by the underwriters who were now insuring the stamp for $50,000. The next owner of the One-Cent Magenta may well have seen the stamp at the New York World’s Fair; if he did not, he still could hardly have been unaware of the publicity surrounding its exhibition.

1940–1970: Frederick T. Small, the Unknown Owner

Frederick T. Small, from The Philatelist,vol. 36, 1970. Courtesy of the Collectors Club, New York City

The next owner of the British Guiana One-Cent was very much the opposite of Arthur Hind. While, like Hind, he had the resources to indulge in stamp collecting at a very high level, the new owner’s interest in stamps was financial, not philatelic.

Frederick “Poss” Trouton Small was born on 20 May 1888 in Capricornia, Queensland. Trained as an engineer at the University of Queensland before the First World War, Small enlisted on 4 September 1914 and served on the Gallipoli peninsula, where the French forces recommended him for the Croix de Guerre. After serving as a chief tunnel engineer, he was discharged from the Australian Imperial Force in 1916 due to illness and recurring difficulties with his knee, where he had been wounded in action.

After marrying in Australia, Small moved to Great Britain, where he was a pioneer in Rayon production. In 1924 the Smalls moved to the United States. They first lived in Cumberland, Maryland, where he worked as an engineer for the Celanese Corporation, rising to Vice President in 1940. The Celanese Corporation, coincidentally in association with DuPont, was involved with the New York World’s Fair, and so it is possible that Small actually saw the stamp at this time.

Before his death, and after his identity as an owner of the British Guiana was known, Small was quoted in The Philatelist as saying “I didn’t consider my stamp collection as a hobby, but as an investment, just like shares of stock.” He evidently considered the 1856 One-Cent a blue chip, because he discreetly approached Finbar Kenny, Manager of the Stamp Department at Macy’s, to see if the stamp could be purchased. Kenny, in turn, contacted Mrs. Scala, and the stamp was sold for $45,000. The sale was announced on 8 August 1940, but it was shrouded in such secrecy that even Ann Hind Scala did not know the identity of the ultimate buyer. Frederick Small would remain a mystery for nearly thirty years; supposedly his own wife was unaware that he had purchased the stamp. 

For the next three decades, Finbar Kenny became the public face of the British Guiana and he was often mistakenly described at its owner. He later recalled that “When I bought it there were two other dealers (including Emil Bruechig) who had clients for it in the $50,000 range but did not want to work on a narrow margin. An offer from Canada of $60,000 (with check enclosed) was mailed to me within a month after I had bought the stamp and sold it.” 

Front cover of Gibbons Stamp Monthly, March 1965, with Mr. and Mrs. Finbar Kenny. Courtesy of Peter Lazar, Philatelic Collector Inc.

Stanley Gibbons promotional pamphlet for its catalogue centenary, 1965. Courtesy of Peter Lazar, Philatelic Collector Inc.

 

Through Kenny’s auspices, Small did make the One-Cent available for exhibition. It was featured at the 1947 United States Stamp Centenary in New York, at MIPEX in Melbourne in 1963, and, most famously, as the cornerstone of the Stanley Gibbons Catalogue Centenary in 1965—the first time the stamp had been shown in Great Britain since 1923. Richard Ashton, Sotheby’s stamp consultant, was at that time working for the Harmer Rooke–Stanley Gibbons Auction company, whose stand at the exhibition was close to the display of the British Guiana. Although the One-Cent had a 24-hour security guard, “Mick” Michael, the Chairman of Stanley Gibbons, asked Richard to keep an eye on the treasure. Mick’s encouragement was “Look after it—your career depends on that.” Richard recalls Kenny arriving with the stamp, which he retrieved from his wallet.

Article featuring the British Guiana from Life, 3 May 1954

 

While in Small’s possession the British Guiana was also highlighted in a 1954 Life magazine article called “Stamp Album Worth $1,000,000.” Evidently for the first time, the back of the stamp was illustrated in this article, revealing the ownership marks of Ferrary, Hind, and “the present owner [whose] name … is one of the world’s best-kept secrets.” But perhaps the best evidence of the popular fame achieved by the One-Cent Black on Magenta during Small’s ownership was its prominent role in the Walt Disney comic book, Donald Duck and the Gilded Man, in which Donald and his three nephews travel to British Guiana in search of “one old, old stamp … that’s worth more than fifty thousand dollars!”

Small retired to Fort Lauderdale in 1956, where he continued his longtime  support of American and Australian tennis. Small’s identity was only revealed when, having been advised not to leave stamps in his estate, he consigned them for auction. The balance of his collection of stamps from British Guiana sold at Robson Lowe in London on 26 March 1970, under the humorously ironic title “The ‘Great’ Collection.” Two days earlier, the One-Cent Magenta came under the hammer with Robert Siegel of New York.

1970–1980: Irwin Weinberg and the Wilkes-Barre Eight

Irwin Weinberg, travelling with the stamp and security detail. Courtesy of Irwin Weinberg

 

Small would not be disappointed with his decision. The reappearance of this most famous of stamps after thirty years ignited a firestorm of publicity. The evening sale took place before a packed audience of philatelists, the media, and the merely curious. When the stamp again set a record—selling for $280,000 to an investment consortium headed by Irwin Weinberg of Miner Stamp Co.—the resulting press coverage included front-page, above-the-fold stories everywhere from The New York Times to the Wilkes-Barre Record and an article in Life magazine titled “A One-Cent Treasure.” The Life article featured a photograph of auctioneer Andrew Levitt displaying the One-Cent Black on Magenta behind the bars of a bank vault.

Irwin Weinberg, who still regularly issues a mimeographed price list of stamps for sale, had been a dealer for nearly thirty years already when the One-Cent came up at auction in 1970, and he remembered seeing the stamp at the New York City World’s Fair. He went to the sale as the front man and general partner of a syndicate of eight businessmen from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, who were looking for a hedge against inflation.

Admission ticket for the Tokyo exhibition of the British Guiana. Courtesy of Irwin Weinberg 

In promoting the British Guiana, Weinberg outdid Arthur Hind, as he made every effort to publicize the purchase and find a new buyer. Trailed by bodyguards, Weinberg carried the stamp around the world in a briefcase ostentatiously handcuffed to his wrist. In a decade of globe-trotting, he took the stamp to Zurich, Tokyo, Prague, Hamburg, Berlin, Madrid, Paris, London, Sydney, New Delhi, Toronto, New York, and Philadelphia.

At this point, Weinberg admitted that he had begun to feel that the stamp owned him, rather than the other way around, and he and his stakeholders decided that it was time to test the effectiveness of their investment strategy.

 

1980–2014: John E. du Pont

John E. du Pont. Courtesy of the Estate of John E. du Pont

After just a decade’s absence from the sales room, the One-Cent Magenta again appeared at a Siegel auction, 5 April 1980. As an investment, the stamp proved successful: it was sold to an anonymous bidder for $935,000. The buyer was in the room, but had left bidding instructions with the auctioneer prior to the sale, so he was able to watch the auction without drawing attention to himself.

In 1986, the new owner displayed the 1856 One-Cent as part of an exhibition of classic stamps of British Guiana at the Ameripex ’86 International Stamp Show in Chicago and was awarded the Grand Prix International. Although the owner of the stamp was there identified by the pseudonym Rae Mader (an anagram of Demerara), it was shortly revealed, and had earlier been suspected, that the owner was actually John E. du Pont, heir to the eponymous chemical company fortune, eccentric amateur sportsman, and omnivorous collector.

Du Pont exhibited the stamp for the last time at CUP-PEX 87 in Perth, in conjunction with the 1987 America’s Cup. The One-Cent was returned from Australia on a Sunday, when there was no access to the bank vault that usually housed the stamp. And on that night—but only that one night—it is true that du Pont slept with the stamp under his pillow.

 

17 June 2014: The Next Chapter

The March 2014 Royal Philatelic Society, London, certificate

The British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta is returning to the marketplace after its longest absence since it was in the Ferrary collection. A new generation of philatelists will have the opportunity to see this iconic talisman and witness its sale, while a few, like Irwin Weinberg, will watch the gavel fall on it for the third time. The nationality of the new owner is not yet known, nor is his or her motivation: connoisseurship or investment. All that can be known until the auctioneer gives fair warning is that the winning bidder will own the world’s most famous and valuable stamp.