The Top Five...  Controversial World Leaders' collectibles

Recently, Paul Fraser Collectibles came across a letter written by Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States of America. Wilson is often remembered with affection and pride by Americans as the man who brought idealism to world affairs following Germany's defeat in World War I.

However, there was certainly a side to Wilson which few would favour today as the letter showed. He supported segregationist policies, and the text makes reference to his view that former slaves simply cannot be given the same rights and roles in society as everyone else.

"Unpractised in liberty, unschooled in self-control; never sobered by the discipline of self-support, never established in any habit of prudence; excited by a freedom they did not understand…insolent and aggressive; sick of work..."

He tops this off with an over-friendly account of the Ku Klux Klan. With this in mind, here's a look at controversial world leaders and their collectibles.

The off-message Royal and the Canadian dot cent

Wherever there is a divorce, money is always a tricky issue, and so it was with Edward VIII. In his case, however he was not divorcing the love of his life, Wallis Simpson, but looking to marry her and seeking permission as marrying a divorcee was in conflict with his ascension to the throne.

Edward was refused permission and chose to abdicate in favour of his brother. There is some evidence that this was exactly what the government was hoping as it was the couple's Nazi sympathies which were causing more concerns than mere protocol.

However, the musical-chairs use of the throne caused some difficulty for the Canadian Mint in 1936. The Mint had prepared Edward VIII coin dies following George V's death, but now found them immediately invalid, whilst a coin shortage loomed.

The mint's solution was to create a limited run of coins using the most recent George V dies. The new coins, however, had a tiny dot added on the reverse in order to distinguish them. Only three of the dotted 1c and four of the dotted 10c coins are known to have survived, with one selling for $402,500 in January.

Chairman Mao and the wrong half of a stamp

Mao Zedong, better known as Chairman Mao, is officially regarded as a great leader in China; a brilliant political strategist and military mastermind. Historians however lay the blame at his door for dozens of millions of deaths through causing famine and political purges.

One thing that Mao detested was the hobby of collecting stamps which he regarded as bourgeois, and utterly incompatible with Communism. Ironically, some stamps created under Communist rule are now enthusiastically sought by wealthy Chinese collectors, and extremely valuable.

One of Five Treasures Victory of the Cultural Revolution Chinese rare stamp
A block of stamps showing Mao and Lin Biao


One such stamp - or rather half of one - tells a story. One set of stamps originally depicted Chairman Mao with his deputy, military leader Lin Biao in Tiananmen Square. A half stamp, showing Lin Biao alone, sold at Interasia for HK$2.19m (US$282,000) in February.

Lin Biao was denounced as a traitor after his death - one of many denunciations, and some were too afraid even to use a stamp featuring him. The Mao half would have been used alone.

The Führer's wheedling loan request

Whilst in 1936 the Nazis might have been able to impress Royalty (of a certain character), in 1924 Hitler's rise had hit a stumbling block as he was imprisoned following a failed coup known as Munich Bierkeller (beer hall) Putsch.

Hitler used his time behind bars to write the notorious Mein Kampf, which would be a great success for him and solve his money problems. However, whilst in jail he was unable to afford a Mercedes, which he desperately wanted.

"...the hardest thing for me at the moment lies in the fact that the biggest payment for my work is not expected until the middle of December," he wrote in September 1924 to dealer Jacob Ferlin, and pleaded for a loan of a few thousand Reichmarks.

Whether he gained this one or not Hitler would eventually own a whole fleet of Mercedes cars. The letter sold for €27,000 in July of this year.

The Tsar's room lighting cigarette case

Tsar Nicholas II is sometimes known as Bloody Nicholas, not least for his anti-Semitic pogroms.

Romanov 25th Wedding Anniversary Cigarette Case Russian gold jewellery
25th Wedding Anniversary Cigarette Case
(Click to enlarge)


In 1917 Tsar Nicholas II's family knew that they were in jeopardy, and whilst arranging their own escape they tried to save some of their jewellery. Fifty cigarette cases and seventy pairs of cufflinks were spirited away from Russia in a pillowcase.

The pieces were some absolutely exquisite examples of the work of Fabergé, including a four-colour gold cigarette case in neoclassical style created as a gift celebrating the 25th wedding anniversary of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna and Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich in 1899. It was sold for £612,000 in December 2009, and the whole collection sold for £7m.

The opulence of the jewellery is in stark contrast to the well-being of the citizens of the country's 'Little Father' - especially those who were required to fight in the First World War with one gun shared between three.

Communist Bling: Fidel Castro's golden gun

Fidel Castro was until recently the Communist leader of Cuba, and remains regarded as a hero by many around the world. Critics, however, regard him as a repressive and deeply corrupt dictator.

Engraver John Ek befriended Fidel Castro during the 1950s. As a mark of comradeship, he offered to gold-plate his 1958 .34 caliber Colt handgun. The following Bay of Pigs Invasion and Missile Crisis meant that John was never able to return the piece to the leader, and it was finally released for sale at Bonhams in 2005.

Castro's .34 caliber, gold plated gun
The 1958 .34 caliber, gold plated gun


The extraordinary weapon, which looks like something out of a James Bond film (guess which one) sold for $10,350 - quite an investment for a piece which is never going to stop being fascinating.


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