John DuPoint died in a Pennsylvania prison. He was still the owner of the famous British Guiana One Cent Magenta stamp which later sold at auction for a record $9.5 million at Sothebyís.
It didnít receive a lot of coverage in the philatelic press, but there is another side to this story that presents several dilemmas.
Swiss stamp auctioneer David Feldman is very well known in philatelic circles. He auctions a lot of very valuable stamps for clients. He also auctioned the remainder of the DuPoint British Guiana collection. Qatari sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al Thani was the major bidder at this auction and won almost all of the lots. His purchases totaled $7.5 million.
The sheik had made arrangements to pay for his purchases in monthly payments. However, the sheik was behind in payments before his death in November 2014. The Feldman firm filed a lawsuit to try and collect the approximately $6.7 million still owed by the sheik at the time of his death.
That summarizes the situation. If you want more details, you can search them out in the philatelic press.
This creates several complications.
The Feldman firm spent a lot of money in publicizing this auction. They owe the DuPont estate a lot of money, minus the consignorís commission. This puts the Feldman firm in a difficult state. They spent a large sum of money to publicize this auction and now they donít have money coming in (in this case, from a single bidder) to pay for those costs. The DuPoint estate would like to have their money too.
The prices realized on many of the items far exceeded the pre-sale estimates. What do catalog editors do? For example, suppose an item was listed in the catalog for $50,000 in italics, meaning it doesnít sell often enough to have reliable market data behind it. At the end of the sale, suppose that item sold for $300,000.
The catalog editor was thinking of adjusting the price to, say, $125,000 or whatever the auction estimate was. Many claim that the sheik overpaid for items just for the sake of owning them. If those items come on the market again, they wonít fetch the $7.5 million they realized in the initial sale.
As a catalog editor, what do you do? The $50,000 price is now 30 years old and out of date. Do you leave it? You probably donít want to list the $300,000 that the item sold for. Do you wait for the subsequent auction to have a more realistic price? How do you get relevant pricing information into your catalog?
Assuming the lawsuit is settled, who will sell the stamps at auction the second time around? Will it go back to David Feldman? Will someone else auction these stamps? Does anyone even want to come close to these stamps now that they were sold at unrealistic prices the first time and tied up in the subsequent lawsuit?
The deceased sheik had other assets and the Feldman firm may be able to lay a claim to some of those assets. If so, the Feldman firm can complete their auction of DuPontís British Guiana material. The sheikís estate then would be left with these stamps and their possible disposal.