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Audrey Hepburn stamps

Three of the world-famous Audrey Hepburn charity stamps went under the hammer at Felzmann Auction House.

Audrey Hepburn stamps auctioned

  • 2005 Auction of second specimen for €58,000
  • 2005 Auction of third specimen for €135,000 (Felzmann Auction House)
  • 2006 Auction of first specimen for €53,000 (Felzmann Auction House)
  • 2009 Auction of fifth specimen for €53,000
  • 2009 Auction of fourth specimen for €60,000 (Felzmann Auction House)

The world’s most valuable modern stamp

The Audrey Hepburn charity stamp is the best-known and most valuable modern postage stamp in the world. It has already been described in the MICHEL Stamp Catalogue as “Germany’s very own Blue Mauritius”. Featuring the portrait of Hollywood beauty Audrey Hepburn, the stamp was made famous when it was vetoed by her heirs. A stamp with the image from the silver screen classic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was to be published in 2001. Several million copies had already been printed when the actress’s sons refused to give their consent. This was because Audrey Hepburn was pictured with a cigarette holder in her mouth and, given the health risks associated with smoking, her sons did not want to see this image immortalised on a stamp. This meant that it was necessary to destroy 14 million stamps and to recall test printing sheets that had already been sent out. Only three ten-stamp sheets that were sent to the German Ministry of Finance did not come back.

Die 1. Audrey Hepburn Briefmarke
The first Audrey Hepburn stamp

Auctioning of the first Audrey Hepburn stamp

A philatelist from Leupoldsgrün chanced upon the first specimen of the Audrey Hepburn stamp in 2004. He found the stamp in a packet containing 2,000 to 3,000 other stamps, but was not familiar with it at the time. An expert confirmed to him that the stamp was genuine and estimated its value at €20,000. Media interest in the rare stamp was already great at the beginning of 2005, when the Audrey Hepburn stamp was presented in the Haus der Philatelie in Bonn. In June 2005, the stamp was presented once again at the NAPOSTA National Stamp Exhibition in Hanover. The stamp was genuinely postally used with a cancel from the “Briefzentrum 12” sorting centre (Berlin-Southeast in Schönefeld) dated 14 October 2003 at 10 p.m.

On 6 October 2006, the first Audrey Hepburn stamp to be discovered was auctioned by Ulrich Felzmann for the final acquisition price of €53,000, from a starting bid of €25,000. Prior to this, an Austrian national had made implausible claims to the effect that he owned the stamp and that it had been stolen from him, causing the auction to be postponed. The lawsuit was later dismissed by Hof District Court.

Auctioning of the second Audrey Hepburn stamp

The second Hepburn stamp emerged in 2005, found by a collector from Southern Germany. The stamp, which bears a machine cancel from the Central Berlin sorting centre “Briefzentrum 10” dated 2 November 2003 at 8:00 p.m., went under the hammer at Auction House Heinrich Köhler for €58,000.

Die 3. Audrey Hepburn Briefmarke
The third Audrey Hepburn stamp


Auctioning of the third Audrey Hepburn stamp

Perhaps the most beautiful of the known Audrey Hepburn stamps was auctioned at Felzmann Auction House on 7 October 2005. The specimen, a top left-hand corner margin copy, fetched the record sum of €135,000 (starting bid: €50,000). The stamp was genuinely postally used with a cancel from the “Kleinmachnow 1” sorting centre (postal code 14532) dated 11 February 2004 at 6.00 p.m. Once again, the lucky finder was a stamp collector who had the valuable stamp in a packet containing 2,000 to 3,000 other stamps. The collector, from Berlin-Brandenburg, initially paid little attention to the stamp for months until he heard the media hype regarding the other stamps featuring the film diva. The new owner is financial investor Gerd Bennewirtz from Korchenbroich.

Die 4. Hepburn-Briefmarke
The fourth Audrey Hepburn stamp

Auctioning of the fourth Audrey Hepburn stamp

The fourth Audrey Hepburn stamp was auctioned exclusively at the International Philatelic Exhibition (IBRA) in Essen. In its capacity as official IBRA auctioneer, Felzmann Auction House awarded the lot to an anonymous bidder for €60,000 (starting bid: €30,000). The lucky finder, a German collector from the Rhineland, found the stamp while arranging his collection. Although he did not know what to make of the unknown stamp at first, researching it on the internet led him to discover reports on the previous auctions of the Audrey Hepburn stamps at Felzmann. The Audrey Hepburn stamp was genuinely postally used with a cancel from the “Briefzentrum 13” sorting centre (Berlin-North in Hennigsdorf).

Auctioning of the fifth Audrey Hepburn stamp

In May 2009, a fifth example of the Audrey Hepburn charity stamp was found, once again while looking through a packet containing 2,000 to 3,000 other stamps. This stamp, which has an incomplete canceller with date, went under the hammer for €53,000 at Auction House Schlegel in Berlin.

Audrey Hepburn stamp sheets

After the stamps were printed, Audrey Hepburn’s son Sean Ferrer was left a complete sheet. In 2010, he decided to have the sheet of Hepburn stamps auctioned off for charity. The acquisition price of €430,000 went to UNICEF and the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. The buyer has since had the sheet separated in order to sell the individual stamps. This of course meant that further collectors had the chance to win the “Blue Mauritius” of modern philately for their collection. In 2010, four Audrey Hepburn charity stamps were still in a se tenant block.