The stamp and art collections of Joseph Hackmey

Joseph Hackmey followed his father into the insurance business and made his fortune in Israel Phoenix Assurance.

Hackmey sold his controlling share of the company as he moved into property deals in Europe and then Israel, and in 2009 appeared at 178= in the Sunday Times rich list. He spends much of his time in Britain.

Hackmey is almost certainly most famous for his collections, however, and these tap into areas from all round the world.

He carefully assembled a collection of rare Israeli art, and a number of postwar and contemporary classics. The latter included minimalist pieces by Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin and Robert Ryman, alongside paintings by American postwar masters like Jasper Johns, Barnett Newman, Robert Rauschenbergand Mark Rothko.

Although he put the collection together himself, it was left in the control of Israeli Phoenix Assurance, and they elected to sell the non-Israeli pieces at Christie's at an Evening Sale in November 2002.

Jasper Johns 0 through 9
Jasper Johns's 0 through 9

Jasper Johns's 0 through 9 beat its $6m-8m estimate to bring an impressive $9.9m whilst Newman's White Fire I - the first of four works of that name, brought just under $3.9m.

 Hackmey's art instincts are not limited to recent or Israeli art however, nor are all his art works in the possession of a company. Of his total fortune of £350m, as counted in 2008, almost half was based on art valuations, including a Vincent van Gogh.

The van Gogh, purchased at Christie's in 2004 is the river scene Le Pont de Trinquetaille, which he bought for $11,207,500.

Joseph Hackmey Tim Hirsch Oliver Stocker
Joseph Hackmey with Spink's Tim Hirsch and Olivier Stocker
(Hackmey's van Gogh appears in the background)

Hackmey's most celebrated collections, and most famous purchase, do not come from the art world at all, however, but from philately.

This week, the second auction of Hackmey's New Zealand stamp collection is taking place, following a $2m sale of the first part in New York in 2009.

Hackmey's collections of Ceylon and New Zealand Commonwealth stamps began nearly 30 years ago in the 1980s, and have been described as the finest ever assembled for those countries, and Hackmey was presented with an International Award in recognition of the fact.

The assembly includes rarities previously owned by such legendary collections as those of Ferrary, Caspary and Dale-Lichtenstein.

One of the rarest and most desirable stamps on offer is a three penny lilac from 1862. One of only two recorded, it is estimated at up to $50,000 in the sale on Thursday (May 20) - one of the most coveted British Commonwealth stamps in existence.

Three penny lilac stamp of New Zealand
Three penny lilac stamp of New Zealand

Perhaps Hackmey's most remarkable purchase however is not appearing in the sale, and does not even hail from either of the two countries.

Instead it is a November 11, 1858 issue of Romanian newspaper Zimbrul şi Vulturul (The Aurochs and the Eagle), which Hackmey bought in 2006 for a total of €830,000 ($1.1m). The piece bears eight rare Romanian cap de bour ("Bull's Head") stamps, issued by the principality of Moldova in 1858.

"The combination of a rare newspaper and rare stamps have made this a unique item, well worth the price I paid for it" Hackmey told a Yediot Aharonot correspondent.

Zimbrulu_si_Vulturulu (Aurochs and Eagles - Romanian newspaper with Bull's Head stamps)
Romanian newspaper with Bull's Head stamps
(Click to enlarge)

Hackmey's contribution to Romanian philately is also well-documented - he won the Grand Prix National and a Large Gold Medal at the Efiro 2008 in Bucharest for his exhibit Classical Romania.

The famous collector also held a May 1851 cover widely considered to be the greatest USA Classic cover in existence - but just this week it was sold as part of his exhibit collection of USA 1847 and 1851-7 issues on cover at David Feldman for a reported eight-figure sum!

Even the New Zealand stamp sale is unlikely to top that.


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