Rarities in the Postal Museum of Berlin

The oldest and the largest in the world - Imperial Postal Museum in Berlin - had before a number of stamps, belonging to the world's rarities and issued in different countries, before the World War II. In 1945, when the Soviet army was getting closer to Berlin and there started the intensified bombing of the city center, all valuable exhibits were carefully packed into dozens of boxes and removed to Eisleben. There they were hidden and disguised in one of the tunnels of the abandoned salt mines. After the war, Americans found these museum treasures and handed them over to the German administration, but in the sealed boxes there were missed eight of the most valuable items recorded in the inventory of the museum.

Among the missing stamps were both "Mauritius" stamps (and the blue one - on the letter), a two-cent and one-cent "British Guiana" issued in 1856 and four Hawaiian missionary stamps, issued in 1851 - 1852 (the thirteen-cent stamp was also on the letter).




Each of these stamps is surrounded by legends. "Mauritius" today is recognized as the most expensive stamp in the world, it's price, listed in the "Michael" catalog, is 15 million dollars, the cost of British Guiana is also impressive - 3 million dollars. For a long time no one knew about the fate of these rarities. The stamp collectors started to here some news about those stamps only after 30 years - the rarities appeared in the U.S. In 1976 in Philadelphia, there was organized the International Philatelic Exhibition "Interfil-76."

One of the residents of this city, a former U.S. Army Captain (the mass-media did not publish his name), read in the newspapers that an envelope with two "Mauritius" on it, was sold at the auction for 380,000 dollars, and he recalled that in the attic of his house there was kept a tight brown paper bag, in which there were two envelopes and some stamps. Taking out the package, he came to the exhibition and offered a well-known London dealer, the organizer of the largest auctions - Robson Lowe to buy the contents of the package. But Mr. Lowe remembered seeing these rarities before the World War II in the Berlin Museum, and quietly, so as not to alert, refused, because of the lack of supply and expertise of authenticity.

Returning to London, he privately informed Scotland Yard about the offer, that he received in America. Scotland Yard, in turn, passed the information to the Interpol. A few months later the Philadelphia owner of the rare stamps was found. According to some sources, recognizing what kind of stamps he had, he himself handed them to the Federal Customs Administration of the United States, by the other version- the stamps were confiscated as an item, illegally imported into the country.

Former Captain explained that the stamps fell to him in June 1945 when he along with his military unit went from Saxony, which, in accordance with the agreement of the Allies, signed in 1944, was - - after the surrender of Nazi Germany - to be a part of the Soviet occupation zones. A kind couple asked Captain to take them to the West, which he did. In gratitude, a woman gave him this packet of stamps. Returning home, he threw the paper bag to the attic in his house and soon forgot about it. Until the Philatelic Exhibition in Philadelphia...

Customs services of the U.S.A. notified the authorities of the German Embassy in Washington about this incident. The Embassy was going to pay a former Captain fifty thousand dollars "for the return of the findings," but while the customs documents were processing, he died.

The information in the meantime went to the mass-media, and the GDR stated the ownership of the discovered stamps, because before the World War II, the Imperial Museum was situated on the Leipziger Strasse in Eastern part of Berlin. In this building there is now also established a Postal Museum. The dispute was lasting for many years. The lawyers could not determine who is the legal successor of the Imperial Museum, and who has a right for the detected values. The trial - by the opinion of some experts - could go another 2-3 years. The case was complicated by the fact that all eight stamps were stolen by Nazi from a private individual philatelist. But nobody knows, who he was and is he still alive. Now, after the reunification of Germany, the issue was settled and the legendary stamps were returned to the German Postal Department.

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