In the fall of 2005, Charles Hack, a New Yorker who has made a fortune in real estate and spent a lot of it on old master paintings and Renaissance sculpture, noticed a newspaper advertisement for an auction of a rare stamp.
The 24-cent airmail stamp issued in 1918, popularly known to collectors as the Inverted Jenny, became famous — and valuable — because of an error: the airplane in the center of the design, a Curtiss JN-4, is printed upside-down. Only 100 of the misprints are known to exist. Mr. Hack attended that auction and bought the stamp for $297,000, including commission.
Last Wednesday, Mr. Hack attended another stamp auction, at Siegel Auction Galleries in New York City, and went home with a second Inverted Jenny after bidding $850,000. The final price, with the commission, came to $977,500, a record for an American stamp sold at auction and a confirmation of a trend that is transforming the world of high-end collectibles.
His second Inverted Jenny cost more because it is one of the finest, but auction prices for many rare and high-quality collectibles, including coins and memorabilia, have gone up significantly in recent months.
Just in the past week, a collection of American pattern coins — rare samples made to show off proposed designs, like tests for the first United States pennies in 1792 — was traded for $30 million between an anonymous buyer and seller. The deal, brokered by Legend Numismatics of Lincroft, N.J., doubled the previous record for a coin collection. And a rare and pristine poster for the 1935 movie “Bride of Frankenstein,” starring Boris Karloff, was sold Wednesday by Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas for $334,600, which included commission. . . .
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