John Du Pont collector

In the first of our Museum of Philately ‘behind the scenes’ we take a closer look at a story not often talked about when discussing the world’s most expensive stamp and one of the elite Philatelists who held the world record breaking postal adhesive in his collection.


As everyone knows the world’s most valuable stamp is currently the ‘1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta’ and it was once held in the collection of the American philanthropist John E. du Pont from 1980 until it was sold in 2014 for $9.5m selling to shoe designer and businessman Stuart Weitzman.

In the world of stamps John E. du Pont was a serious Philatelist and a canny buyer. He bid anonymously in the 1980 auction when he won and paid $935,000 for British Guiana One-Cent Magenta. That’s not a bad return, although, as we are about to find out, he nor his estate benefitted to the extent you might expect from that staggering uplift, nor the Euros 6.5 million raised from the sale of his British Guiana Collection sold by international auctioneers David Feldman SA in June 2014. Sadly, and it’s easily forgotten, du Pont was a convicted murderer who was jailed for shooting an Olympic Gold medal ‘Wrestling’ champion Dave Schultz in 1996.  

British Guiana One-Cent Magenta

Apparently du Pont carried on buying stamps from prison but was never allowed to have them in his possession whilst incarcerated. He died in detention aged 72 in December 2010. And what many people don’t know is the $9.5m hammer price plus fees for the one-cent magenta postage stamp and the proceeds from the David Feldman SA auction didn’t go to the du Pont estate in full. According to du Pont’s ‘Will’ – which was challenged by several parties unsuccessfully – 80 percent of the sale proceeds of his stamp collection were to go to the family of Bulgarian wrestler Valentin Jordanov. What he has to do with du Pont and his stamps we can only guess at, but Valentin and his family became very rich thanks to the world of stamps and covers. Something which he and they, I’m sure, probably never anticipated when he embarked on a career in wrestling.  Indeed, it is something no one in the world of philately could have predicted, and it adds an air of mystery to the world of stamps and their collectors, which we all know are often labelled anything but mysterious. Whatever they say about stamp collectors, you could never call John E. du Pont boring.