Kanai Philatelist collector stamps

In our next look behind the scenes in the Museum of Philately, we’ve noticed that philatelists have a tendency of being able to spot the smallest of details which seem to evade most individuals. It’s a talent that comes in handy when collecting and studying any country or area of specialisation in stamps and postal history. Hiroyuki Kanai (1925 to 2012), a Japanese businessman and eninment philatelist, was well known for possessing this very keen eye for detail and he was also renowned for his in-depth and detailed knowledge of Japan, Finland and Mauritius. Kanai wrote several books on the stamps of Japan as well as Mauritius, and was a highly decorated exhibitor in all areas he specialised, the pinnacle being winning two Grand Prix awards for his Japan Classics in 1999 and 2003, and he was also invited to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1993.

When you analyse his philatelic accomplishments it’s easy to see why Kanai is considered one of the greatest philatelists who straddled the 20th and 21st Century. And that isn’t just in terms of his life spanning the two centuries, because in the Museum of Philately you can find links and little details which jump out and knit Kanai into the very fabric of the world’s greatest collectors of the past century. For example, within his biography one of the significant rarities he possessed, and he had many in his various collections, was the Mauritius 1847 The Bordeaux Cover, which he purchased in 1971 for 120 million Japanese Yen, and was equivalent to about US$1 million back then, and would be close to US$7 million today, so one of the most valuable philatelic items in the world full-stop. Indeed it sold in a David Feldman SA auction in 1993 for CHF 5,750,000 – that is estimated at around US$4 million at that time, and would be worth today somewhere on a par with the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta. It was a Guinness Book of Records sale whatever currency its evaluated. However, one of the tangible links here is that this same cover was also in the collection of three extraordinarily famous 20th Century collectors before Kanai acquired this piece of Mauritius postal history. Arthur Hind (1856 to 1933) purchased the cover in 1922, and Maurice Burrus (1882 to 1959) snapped it up at the Hind sales in 1934. But probably the most poignant detail for any philatelist, which we’ve alluded to at the start of this article, is that in 1917 (one and seven transposed from Kanai’s 1971 purchase) the cover was acquired by the American legendary collector Alfred F. Lichtenstein (1876-1947), who is without doubt one of the greatest philatelists of the 20th Century, and who heralded a shift in the style and profile of world’s most famous philatelists. In recognition of Lichtenstein’s contribution to the world of philately the Collectors Club of New York, in 1952, created The Lichtenstein Medal, also known as the Alfred F. Lichtenstein Memorial Award, which is a highly regarded prize presented to philatelists who have demonstrated ‘distinguished service to philately’. It’s basically presented each year to one living individual for outstanding service to philately. Kanai was awarded this medal in 1991. It’s a detail that perhaps only speaks to the philatelist, which we have one great collector linked with another great collector across two centuries through a rare world record breaking Mauritius cover, and also through their respective contributions and achievements to the wider industry of stamp collecting. It just goes to show that the culture and even the language of a philatelist might be worlds apart, but when it comes to stamp Rarities of the World, and the World’s greatest collectors, it doesn’t matter if you’re Japanese or American, they are all linked by the language of philatelic detail.

Bordeaux Cover rarities