Wednesday, February 4, 2009

If you could hold The Holy Grail of Stamp Collecting, without permission, would you do it?

Feb. 4, 2009
Posted by Noah

Either you know exactly what stamp I’m talking about or you don’t. I’m guessing most anyone that is coming to, either to bid or consign, has at least a passing knowledge about American pop culture. I can therefore assume that you at least know what the stamp I’m talking about – the rare and beautiful “Inverted Jenny,” one of which is in Heritage’s inaugural stamp auction, Feb. 5-7 – even if you don’t know what it’s called. If you still have no idea, then please continue to enjoy the underside of the rock that has obviously been your pop culture reference point for the last, oh, say, century or so…

The point of all this? Certainly not to berate you specifically. I know that you have great taste and all sorts of trivial knowledge stored away. This is actually my way of trying to point to the coolness of the newest Heritage auction category, stamps, which is debuting with its first auction tomorrow, Feb. 5, running through the seventh, and I’m talking about the opportunity I had about a month ago while in a brief meeting – conveniently held in a busy hallway – with our Director of Stamps, Steve Crippe, and the Account Executive for the department, Rupal Dalal.

Steve is an interesting guy, and he knows his stamps. He’d have to to take charge of a stamps department here, given that stamps used to be a staple of Heritage Co-Founder Steve Ivy’s auction repertoire (what hasn’t been?), and Steve doesn’t mess around when it comes to such things. Needless to say, Crippe’s got a good amount of expectation on him to deliver a great sale, and by all accounts he’s up to it, at least judging from the amount of rare and important stamps in this inaugural auction.

So… where was I? Oh yes, The Jenny… See, there happens to be a Jenny Invert in this first stamps auction, and I know for a fact that, at least up until the time of the meeting in question that Crippe carried the thing in its plastic holder at all times in his pocket or his hand. For a brief second, however, he put it down on a chair between Rupal and I and went off to check an email. There it sat, in all its tiny glory, on a pile of papers. I looked at Rupal, she looked at me, and I picked it up.

“Wow,” I said. “Half a million bucks.”

“I don’t think you’re supposed to pick that up without permission,” she said.

I pictured the security cameras, and Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin, Greg Rohan and Paul Minshull all watching. Any second now, I thought, the doors will open and the Auction Police will swiftly take the stamp, extradite me from the area, and beat me senseless in a room usually reserved for grading coins.

It will be worth it, I thought, and clutched the thing tighter.

I didn’t get in trouble, yet, and – given half a chance – I’d do it again. Here’s a link to the Jenny, and here’s a link to the Stamps Auction. Check out the video highlights of the auction. There’s lots of great stuff.