Sunday 8 December 2019

Hepburn stamps sold for £377,324

A repro of a set of Audrey Hepburn stamps was sold at auction (AP)
A repro of a set of Audrey Hepburn stamps was sold at auction (AP)

A rare sheet of 10 stamps depicting Audrey Hepburn fetched 430,000 euros (£377,324) at a charity auction in Berlin, two-thirds of which will go to help educate children in sub-Saharan Africa.

The mint-condition sheet of 10 stamps featuring Hepburn, a coy smile on her face and a long, black cigarette holder dangling from her lips, brought a profitable outcome to a botched stamp series that should have been destroyed years ago - and evokes Hepburn's starring role in the 1963 thriller Charade, in which the characters chase a set of rare stamps.

Sean Ferrer, 50, Hepburn's son with actor and director Mel Ferrer, and the chairman of the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund, said he was thrilled that Saturday's sale brought "focus on children in need" but wished the stamps had sold for a higher price.

Two-thirds of money raised will go to the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund, and one-third to Unicef Germany.

The German postal service printed 14 million of the Hepburn stamps in 2001 showing the Belgian-born actress in her most famous role as the ebullient Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Only after the stamps were printed was Mr Ferrer contacted to grant copyright - but he refused, arguing that the image had been altered. "In the original photo, she's got sunglasses hanging from her mouth, but they had flipped the negative and replaced the glasses with the cigarette holder," he said.

Mr Ferrer suggested using either the original photo or an alternative, but the postal service ended up scrapping the stamp and ordering those produced destroyed.

Deutsche Post says it saved only two sheets of the stamps - one for its own archive and one for the German Post Museum. But in 2004, a single stamp with Hepburn smoking, postmarked Berlin, landed on auctioneer Andreas Schlegel's desk. "I was obviously very surprised, because they never were supposed to be used as stamps at all," Mr Schlegel said.

Between 2004 and 2009, four other Hepburn stamps turned up and were authenticated. They sold at auction for between 62,500 and 173,000 euro (£54,000 and £152,000).

PA Media

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