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The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: UN Stamps-For-Money Scandal

The Philatelist | 2006-04-26.4940 LMT | Philately

This special edition of Stamp Nook looks briefly at the international scandal that has rocked the cloistered, esoteric world of UN philately.

On May 12, 2003, the entirety of the United Nations Postal Administration's historic archive collection -- containing over fifty years of unique UN philatelic materials including original stamp artwork, printing proofs and other artefacts -- was auctioned off to a single bidder for US$3,068,000 -- a low value according to most experts. Questions continue to swirl as to who authorized the auction and whether they had the required consent forms of the UN Secretariat.

UN stamp artwork
Peoples of the World, a painting used as source
for the first UN stamp issue, now auctioned off.

Now, according to a very detailed FOX News story, the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services is finalising its long-overdue investigative report into the auction, to be handed to Kofi Annan who will make the final decision on how to act on its findings. (Interestingly, Annan is an alumnus of the Sloan School of Management, which, as I noted previously, is the alma mater of US Postmaster General John E. Potter -- surely a coincidence.)

What is known for certain is that the collection has since been broken up and sold in pieces at other auctions for undisclosed amounts, making it virtually impossible to reassemble it should wrong-doing be found. A tragic loss for UN philatelic historians but a boon for private collectors. It is speculated that some of the collection could show up in private exhibits at the upcoming 2006 World Philatelic Exhibition in Washington, DC. Should be a smashing show!

End of post.