Berlin - A rare sheet of 10 stamps depicting Audrey Hepburn fetched $606
000 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 chair of the Audrey Hepburn
Children's Fund, said he was thrilled that the sale on Saturday brought
"focus on children in need," but wished the stamps had sold for a
Two-thirds of money raised
will go to the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund, and one-third to Unicef Germany.
The sale brings a
profitable outcome to a botched stamp series that should have been destroyed
14 million stamps
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
Only after the stamps were
printed was Sean Ferrer, 50, Hepburn's son and the chair of the Audrey Hepburn
Children's Fund, 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 told The
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
"I was obviously very
surprised, because they never were supposed to be used as stamps at all,"
Between 2004 and 2009, four
other Hepburn stamps turned up and were authenticated.
After his success selling
the fifth stamp, Schlegel contacted Ferrer to suggest asking the German
government if they could sell one of the archived stamp sheets for charity. But
Ferrer had a better idea: Why not sell the pristine sheet Germany sent him
in 2001, which he still had?
"Andreas almost fell
backward and had an apoplectic fit when he heard this," Ferrer said.
Ferrer then signed a
contract with the German Finance Ministry, securing rights to sell the stamp
sheet for charity and ensuring the government would not be able to sell either
of its sheets until 2040.
Drove up the price
That move helped drive up
the price of the auction, said Mercer Bristow, director of stamp authentication
for the American Philatelic Society.
"It goes back to supply
and demand. It's the only sheet out there people can bid on and she's still
such a popular actress," he told the AP from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
Other items being auctioned
on Saturday include a pair of Hepburn's black ballet slippers and a portrait of
"I feel wonderful
about the fact that something that belonged to her today can bring focus on
children in need all over the world," Ferrer said.
Hepburn was a Unicef
ambassador from 1988 until shortly before her death from colon cancer in 1993.
"My mother always told
me, 'I didn't make a perfume or go sell toilet paper. I did something good with
my name," Ferrer said.
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