Smokin'! £403,000 for a sheet of stamps showing Audrey Hepburn with a cigarette

Over the weekend a truly unique opportunity came up for both stamp collectors and Audrey Hepburn fans alike, as an extremely rare sheet of stamps was offered at a German auction.

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's

The stamp design, which shows the film star, style icon and philanthropist Audrey Hepburn in a wide-brimmed hat, had been cancelled before it was issued, as her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, objected as the stamps showed Hepburn smoking.

Originally, the photo of Hepburn had showed her with the arm of a pair of sunglasses between her teeth, but when the image was produced from the negative it was altered to resemble a cigarette holder.

Ferrer believed that the image might help encourage people to take up the habit, which he campaigns against. A handful of the stamps were used before they were pulped, and these were sold for substantial figures at auction.

Two whole sheets were preserved - for posterity only; one for the Postal Service Archives and one for the German Post Museum. But then Ferrer discovered that he still had a sheet of them.

Sheet of rare Audrey Hepburn stamps
Sheet of rare Audrey Hepburn stamps
(Click to enlarge)

Having previously commented that he hoped the seller of one of the rare stamps would make a donation to charity he decided to take the opportunity to offer the sheet through the German auction house Schlegel Briefmarken, which had sold some of the other stamps.

On Saturday, October 16, the auction went ahead and the pristine sheet of 10 stamps sold for €430,000. Two-thirds of the proceeds will go to the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund which helps educate children in sub-Saharan Africa, and the remaining third will go to UNICEF.

Ferrer was pleased, commenting, "We are able to turn something around that started off on the wrong foot and make it into something positive that's going to help a lot of kids around the world."




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