The Story of... Murderer John DuPont and the 'world's rarest' stamp

Stamp collector... and murderer. Those are the arguably the two things that John Eleuthère DuPont will be remembered for. The millionaire died aged 72 at the Laurel Highland State Correctional Facility, last week (December 9), after a period of illness.

DuPont - heir of the prominent DuPont dynasty - was serving a 13 to 30 year sentence for third degree murder following the January 26, 1996, shooting of 1984 gold medal winning Olympic freestyle wrestler Dave Schultz.

Experts at the trial testified that DuPont suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. The world's most renowned collectors are often known for their eccentric behaviour and, prior to his crime, DuPont was certainly no exception.

Reported bizarre episodes include that DuPont was hallucinating that the trees on his property were moving around. He apparently razor wired his attic because he thought people were going to break in and kill him, and pointed guns at the head of his wife during their 1982-1985 marriage.

The property was actually a 800-acre estate in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, US. Following the death of his mother, devoted sports fan DuPont converted it to a wrestling camp for professional wrestlers and eventually became the main benefactor of amateur wrestling in the United States.

The one-of-a-kind British Guiana 1c stamp

Schultz was among the wrestlers who lived and trained on DuPont's land up until his death. The reasons for DuPont's murder of Schultz remain unknown.

DuPont himself was a former amateur wrestler and modern pentathlete and had been a long-time supporter of Olympic swimmers, wrestlers and modern pentathletes. They competed under his own Team Foxcatcher banner.

Yet among these more outgoing pursuits, he also found time for philately. And, as befitted a man of his wealth, DuPont had in his possession a stamp regarded as being the world's rarest: the British Guiana 1c.

The most famous story of the stamp is that the famous collector Arthur Hinds found another British Guiana 1c on sale in 1920 and destroyed it as soon as he bought it, so that there would only be one. Although that is an urban myth.

On the subject of myths, another British Guiana 1c found in the attic of a retired Bristol gentleman was accidently destroyed when a television journalist reporting on the stamp's discovering accidentally dropped it in a cup of tea.

So shocked was the world of philately by the accident that video has since notched up 75,000 views online. Paul Fraser Collectibles was the first global news agency to broadcast it, back on April Fool's Day 2010...

Aside from those 'legendary' examples, the only genuine British Guiana 1c stamp belonged to John DuPont. He reportedly paid $935,000 for it back in 1980.

Given its immense rarity, the stamp has since been estimated at being worth upwards of $5m. It is understood to be currently stored in a US bank vault, hidden from the world. That said, now that its owner is deceased, philatelists will be very interested in the fate of the British Guiana 1c.

Will it remain in the DuPont estate, or is the world's rarest stamp soon to be making an appearance on one of the world's top auction blocks? Watch this space to find out.


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