Rare stamps showing film icon Audrey Hepburn smoking will fire up bidders

Audrey Hepburn is a timeless movie and fashion icon, whose name is well known even to those who are too young to have seen her in her prime. The American Film Institute rated her as third on their all-time list of female film stars, and she is also remembered for her tireless work for the UNICEF.

In 2009 we first told the story of the 2002 stamp which had become an instant rarity due to objections from her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, who is also the chairman of the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund (AHCF).

The German ministry of finance decided that they should honour Hepburn and had contacted the AHCF for permission to use her image for a stamp. Unfortunately there was a mix-up and production was started before the AHCF had a chance to respond to the design, which Ferrer asked to be changed.

Sheet of rare Audrey Hepburn stamps
Sheet of rare Audrey Hepburn stamps

His primary objection was that the picture used for the stamp showed Hepburn apparently smoking, with a cigarette holder dangling from her lips. Ferrer campaigns against tobacco addiction, and so the printed stamp sheets had to be pulped.

Previously, only five examples (used singles) were known to have survived which were available to the private market, and one of these sold for $93,800. However, some other exist in the form of unused sheets: One kept by the Ministry, one by the printer and one located recently in a file at the office of Sean Hepburn Ferrer himself.

When the last stamp was sold, Ferrer remarked that he hoped the seller would make a donation to charity, and has now decided to take his own advice.

The sheet will be sold tomorrow (October 16) at the auctioneer Schlegel Briefmarken of Berlin, with all of the profits going to the AHCF and UNICEF. Most of the seats available have already been reserved and the auction house reports it has been bombarded with questions about the stamp, so it's likely to be a competitive sale.


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