FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO COLLECT (OR COLLECTED) STAMPS
THE HOBBY OF KINGS ?
In a time when ‘celebrity culture’ often takes centre stage it may be useful to reflect that “stamp collecting” – often regarded as “an unfashionable hobby for elderly men” is much more diverse in its appeal and continues to attract some high-profile devotees.
Heads of State have often pursued the hobby:
HM Queen Elizabeth II has maintained the collection started by Alfred Duke of Edinburgh (Her great-great-Uncle), and continued with passion by her grandfather King George V). As Prince of Wales, George V wrote in a letter to a correspondent referring to stamp collecting “It is one of the greatest pleasures of my life”.
Selected items of the Royal Collection are displayed each year to Members of the Royal Philatelic Society.
King Ferdinand 1 of Bulgaria and King Carol II of Romania were both keen collectors and actively sponsored the pastime. King Carol participated in the 1950 London International Stamp Exhibition’s Court of Honour, where his exhibit of the 1858 circular shaped stamps of Moldavia (Romania) was placed next to the British Colonies exhibited by King George VI.
King Farouk I of Egypt was particularly fond of collecting stamp misprints and the Royal Imperforate Printings. The imperforate printing collection was donated to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum by collector George Lee in 1960.
Prince Rainier III of Monaco was an avid collector of Monegasque stamps and the owner of the most valuable stamp from Monaco – the 5fr stamp of Charles III.
HRH Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand is a keen stamp collector and her collection is said to include many rare stamps of Thailand. Bangkok’s philatelic museum includes several displays about her, and portions of her collection are often displayed. One interesting display in the museum is of covers she had posted to herself from overseas whenever on a visit somewhere.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a passionate philatelist and well-known stamp expert. He valued his collection so much that during his presidency, he managed to spend some time each day with his stamps. He even designed and sketched ideas for stamp designs, colors and themes for the US postal service. He once said, “I owe my life to my hobbies – especially stamp collecting.”
Benazir Bhutto who was Prime Minister of Pakistan for two periods was a very keen stamp collector and was frequently quoted in the press as saying how much pleasure the hobby gave her.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower collected stamps in his youth. His collection is in The Spellman Museum in Weston, Massachusetts USA. He is quoted as saying "The stamps of the world are powerful object lessons in the eternal hunger of men for knowledge and news about their fellow men. They are a pictorial history of all arts and sciences, and human progress since the earliest civilisations".
President Gerald Ford began stamp collecting as a young boy of around 12. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum lists his main hobby as stamp collecting.
When Gerald Ford narrowly lost the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter, he wrote to one of his long-time supporters, Congresswoman Edith Green of Oregon (also a stamp collector). He enclosed a signed sheet of 1976 US Bicentennial stamps in thanks for her support.
Baron Takaharu Mitsui (Japanese Diplomat) is recognized as one of Japan's most distinguished collectors and philatelic writers; especially on postal service systems,
Jawaharlal Nehru (to date the longest-serving Prime Minister of India) was a keen stamp collector.
Nicolas Sarkozy is a keen collector and, according to a newspaper article, a prized item in his collection is a set issued by Britain's Post Office in 2004 to celebrate the Entente Cordiale. They were a gift from Queen Elizabeth II when the Sarkozy’s stayed at Windsor Castle on a state visit. The same article states that Mr Sarkozy was also given a leather album full of stamps by then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
From the early days of adheseive stamps there were 'celebrity' collectors
Enrico Caruso (Italian opera singer)
Probably the most famous operatic tenor. Travelled widely and always looked to acquire stamps for his collection. The story is told of when a very rare Argentinian stamp was 'stolen' from his hotel - only to be discovered in the rubbish bin after the maid cleared up a pile of old papers!
Tito Ruffo (Italian opera singer)
A contemporary of Caruso who was world famous for his baritone voice. Collected stamps on his travels and was known to collect stamps of Argentina, Italy and Russia.
Leo Slezak (Austrian opera singer)
As well as being a celebrated opera singer he was also a great stamp expert of mainly German or Austrian stamps. He promoted philately as the best form of relaxation. In his memoirs, Leo Slezak he devoted a special chapter to the stamps collecting.
William Woodbury Hicks (US Engineer)
Hicks collected and studied the early classic stamps of the United States noted for his studies of the 3-cent 1851-57 issue and the 3-cent 1861 issue, and for his collection of postal cancellations used on United States mail carried by railroads during the period 1830 to 1861. His collection was considered the finest and most comprehensive of its kind at the time.
Modern ‘celebrity’ collectors include:
Virginia Apgar. (A pioneering physician in the research and prevention of birth defects, was also a keen musician and philatelist. She was honoured on a 20-cent Great Americans series stamp in 1994.
Sir Gawaine Baillie (British amateur racing driver, engineer, industrialist and the owner of the estate surrounding Leeds Castle in Kent). Sir Gawaine's goal in stamp collecting was to build a comprehensive collection of the stamps of issued by GB and the British Empire. He mastered at least ten areas of specialisation and acquired over 100,000 stamps of the highest quality including a copy of the scarce (unissued) Edward VII 2d Tyrian Plum. The collection was considered the most comprehensive of its kind and after his death in 2003 Sotheby's divided the stamps into ten separate auctions that realized more than £15 million.
Stephane Bern (OBE)
is a French-Luxembourguish journalist, radio host and television presenter. He is known as a specialist in nobility and royalty. He has been awarded honours by several nations, including the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Order of Grimaldi, and the Order of the British Empire. He regards himself as a 'seasoned philatelist'.
Novelist and short-story writer best known for the fictional detective 'Keller'. Block described himself as a 'general collector of pre-1940 issues' having decided that after this date - one hundred years after the Penny Black - the postal authorities were issuing too many stamps.
Bernard Bresslaw (actor, best remembered from the "Carry On" films). Usually portrayed rather gormless, accident prone, characters, utilising his 6 ft 7 inch frame: but had a reputation for being exceptionally well-read, a collector of postage stamps, and was the author of a privately published volume of poetry, "Ode to the Dead Sea Scrolls".
Eric Bristow (World Champion Darts Player) was a keen collector, interested in First Day covers amongst other items.
Yul Bryner (stage and screen actor) was a passionate collector. He took parts of his collection with him when he was on acting tours, or filming and referred to his time with his stamps after work as "le repos philatelique".
Warren Buffet (Investment supremo) has revealed in many interviews his love for classic American stamps. Even from his childhood days, he showed a fascination with this hobby, which he said sparked his interest for later investing in collectible items. He claims that his collection of British stamps is also proving to be a sound investment.
Sophie Michelle Ellis-Bextor: (singer, songwriter, and model) collects stamps. She says, " I love stamp collecting it's not very rock 'n' roll, I know, but I've got a big collection." when asked what she would grab first if her house caught fire she said "I'd save my photographs first; then it would have to be my stamp collection."
A display from her collection was The Court of Honour exhibit at Spring Stampex in 2018.
Gary Burghoff (actor and artist) collects coins and stamps. In 1988 he filmed The Video Guide to Stamp Collecting which displays many different stamps and has helpful tips for novice collectors. He was a judge in the Federal Duck Stamp Competition in 1994.
Jacqueline Caurat (retired French TV presenter and journalist) For 22 years, she presented and co-produced Télé-Philatélie, a series about philately in which she interviewed high-profile philatelists such as Prince Rainier III of Monaco and stamp designers/engravers. She spoke of the emotion of stamp collecting, especially when stamps celebrate a country's heritage.
Charlie Chaplin (actor) was a keen stamp collector.
Jacques Cousteau (Marine researcher) collected French stamps.
Claude Darget (TV Presenter)
A celebrated TV presenter he specialised in collecting stamp issues related to television or the printed word.
Patrick Dempsey (US actor) has collected stamps since he was a boy.
John Eleuthère duPont was an American billionaire and member of the prominent du Pont family. In 1997, DuPont was convicted of murdering Olympic Gold Medalist wrestler Dave Schultz the year before and sentenced to 13 to 40 years in prison. Among his interests was a passion for stamp collecting. He died in prison on December 9, 2010. In a 1980 auction he paid $935,000 for one of the rarest stamps in the world, the British Guiana 1856 1c black on magenta pictured above. His estate is still in possession of the stamp
William H. Gross (Investment Banker and Philanthropist)
Created a famous collection of US Confederate States' Postmasters' Provisionals and British North American material, and also collected Great Britain, and Scandinavian stamps. At one time owned a copy of the rare "Inverted Jenny". Also a passionate golfer.
Jascha Heifetz (violinist) was a topical or thematic collector who mainly collected stamps depicting music. His collection is in the Spellman Museum.
Ad Indusophon (Thai philatelist)
She commenced collecting seriously after the death of her husband (also a distinguished philatelist) and specialises in Thailand/Siam, Burma and other members of the former British Empire
James Earl Jones (actor) is well known as a numismatist (and narrated the award-winning educational video, “Money: History in Your Hands,”) but he is also known to be a keen stamp collector.
Anatoly Karpov (Chess Grand Master) collects USSR and Russia and also has a large collection of stamps specialising in Belgium and the Belgian Congo.
Sylvain Kastendeuch (French International footballer) Apart from football prowess known for never receiving a red card in his long career. Maybe his interest in stamps - he collected commemoratives on geographical and historical themes provided a sense of calmness?
Jan Kodes (Czech Tennis player)
Winner of three tennis 'grand slams' he said that he never failed to browse for stamps in the Carigny Square market in Paris when he was in town.
Jean-Francois Lamour (former French Minister of Sport). A double Olympic Fencing Champion his thematic collection is of fencing, and other forms of games involving swords.
John Lennon (of Beatles fame) collected stamps as a boy and his collection was bought by the Smithsonian Postal Museum in the United States for $53,000 in 2005
Freddie Mercury – Started collecting stamps when he was 12 (and known as Farrokh Bulsara) and the collection was later bought by the Royal Mail with the proceeds going to an AIDS charity. His father had an interest in philately and Freddie indulged in collecting between the ages of nine and twelve before music became the main focus of his attention. Many of Freddie’s stamps are from his family’s native Zanzibar; but he also collected GB, Aden and Monaco.
Pierre Perret - French composer and singer whose love of stamp collecting started when his uncle was a military attache in Syria and brought him back stamps from the Middle East.
Ayn Rand - (Russian-American novelist, playwright and philosopher) was a passionate stamp collector, who said of her hobby: “The pleasure lies in a certain special way of using one’s mind. Stamp collecting is a hobby for busy, purposeful, ambitious people…because, in pattern, it has the essential elements of a career, but transposed to a clearly delimited, intensely private world.”
Simon Martin-Redman (entrepreneur, political lobbyist, and international philatelist) specialises in Sarawak, and started collecting when very young, and then came back to the hobby in middle age.
Dr Sally Ride (US Astronaut)
the first American woman in space she started collecting stamps at the age of 9 and continued throughout her life. She collected US and foreign postage stamps and covers.
Maria Sharapova (Tennis champion) is a keen collector of stamps, and a hobby she can pursue whilst travelling around the world.
Cardinal Spellman (former Archbishop of New York) was a thematic collector whose main interest was in stamps depicting religion.
Theodore E. Steinway (of the famous Steinway piano family) was awarded the first Lichtenstein Medal in 1952 for his efforts in the field of philately. He was one of the the first prominent stamp collectors to embrace topical or "thematic" collecting. Not surprisingly his main interest was in stamps depicting music.
Richard Todd (film actor - e.g. famous lead role in "The Dambusters"). Collected mainly Great Britain and British Commonwealth with a specific interest in stamps with military themes as he had fought in WWII and was active in the Royal British legion.
Emma Townsend Gardening expert and journalist) "When I am in the USA I always find myself buying stamps, because they produce such beautiful sets, such as of the national parks". She admits her collection got off to a good start when she was young because her father (musician Pete Townsend) received a huge fan mail.
Samuel West (British Actor)
Started collecting from an early age when he was given a book on stamp collecting. Has continued to collect throughout his acting career.
He now specialises in collecting the stamps of Great Briainand in particular the Two Shilling Blue. First produced in 1867.
Simon Wiesenthal (former head of the Jewish Historical Documentation Centre, in Vienna) was a keen stamp collector. Most of his stamp collection was a classic holding of stamps from various countries. But it also included a more personal section, a collection of postmarks and postcards from different towns named Wiesenthal. The U.S. National Postal Museum owns this specialized cancel collection and several of his personal philatelic tools.
Ronnie Wood (of the Rolling Stones) is reported to be fascinated by faces, including their depiction on postage stamps, and is stated to have a valuable collection of QEII stamps.
Pierre Zoummeroff was born in 1930 of parents of Russian origin. A businessman and art lover, he obtained a doctorate in science at Princeton under the direction of Albert Einstein. He collected Tunisia, France, Sri Lanka and especially Algeria where his collection illustrated the political life of Algeria, from the Ottoman Empire to independence. In 1989, he bequeathed his collection to the museum of the Paris post office.
"Stamp Collector Magazine" - a Warners Group Publication - www.allaboutstamps.co.uk
publishes a regular column in its monthly magazine celebrating eminent philatelists and the contributions they made to our hobby. These articles provide fascinating insights into the development of philately and stamp collecting
The picture shown is from the February 2021 Issue and is of Oscar Berger-Levrault - who is credited with the invention of the stamp catalogue.
Other philatelists celebrated in this series include:
William Image - The Librarian of Philately" (November 2020)
William Westoby - "Prolific writer about philately" (December 2020)
Charles Viner - "Founding member of the oyal Philatelic Society" (January 2021)
Dr Jacques Amable Legrand - " Pioneer of the scientific study of stamps" (April 2021)
Walter Dorning Beckton -
"The Philatelic Teacher" (September 2021)