February 2022

A Philatelist in Duckburg

Commonwealth

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When it comes to “famous” stamp collectors the same names always seem to appear at the top of the google search with Freddy Mercury, John Lennon, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Maria Sharapova among the more surprising and eye-catching names.  

But there is one collector whose collection and passion for the hobby often goes unrecognised, an iconic star of both the big and small screen whose love of philately was first made public over 70 years ago and may well continue to this day... I am of course referring to Donald Duck. 

Okay, so that was an overdramatic introduction but please stick with me as I hope you will find this philatelic curio as intriguing as I did. 

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In September 1952 Disney published “Donald Duck and the Gilded Man" a 32-page comic book written by Carl Barks. The story references the world's most valuable stamp, the legendary 1856 British Guiana 1c magenta, which in June 2021 was auctioned by Sothebys New York and won by Stanley Gibbons for $8,300,000. 

"The Gilded Man" is one of Barks' ever-popular adventure/treasure hunting stories. In this tale Donald Duck is a knowledgeable stamp collector whose skills come in handy when his lucky cousin Gladstone finds a stamp album belonging to the delightfully named Mr. Philo T. Ellic, a rich philatelist living in Duckburg.  

In return for finding and safely returning his album, Mr. Ellic rewards Gladstone and Donald with $1,000 each. Donald uses this reward money to finance a trip to British Guiana to go in search of the last remaining original 1c Magenta stamp, said to be worth $50,000.  

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In terms of philatelic accuracy, this valuation might have been pretty spot on for the time. In 1940, the then owner Mrs. Scala, offered the Magenta for private sale through the philately department of Macy's department store in New York where it was purchased by Fred “Poss” Small for the sum of $40,000.  

Our hero plans to sell this stamp upon his return as stamp collecting is “Big Business” and as Donald explains to his cousin Gladstone “Mighty few stamp collectors end up in the poorhouse.” This sets the stage for our big adventure and, as always, Donald's nephews, Huey, Dewey & Louie are eager to come along for the ride.

The Gilded Man is not a particularly rare comic and even though it may not hold much appeal to comic collectors, mint copies are incredibly hard to come by and good condition originals can sell for well over £100 - not bad against a cover price of 10c.  

Its true appeal however should be to philatelists, this comic adds something completely different to the history of the ONE-CENT Magenta and because of this link copies have been displayed alongside the Magenta in both the Smithsonian in Washington D.C and the Stanley Gibbons Gallery on the Strand in London.

 

Find out when it's on display

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