George had a thing for postage stamps. You might say it was his passion.
He was already a young man by the time he began collecting stamps. It was a bit of a family tradition, but George took it to a whole new level. Uncle Alfred was the first serious philatelist in the family. He sold his collection to George’s father, who, in turn, handed it off to George.
The young man seemed to be an unlikely stamp enthusiast. He had never really applied himself to anything of cultural significance to that point. When he saw those tiny pictures, however, it sparked an interest that quickly built into a fiery passion.
His associates watched with puzzlement and curiosity as he fussed over his ever-growing collection. A notoriously-difficult person to shop for, friends finally found something that was appropriate to give to George for every occasion. While many newlyweds receive items for the kitchen and household as wedding gifts, George’s wedding allowed him to add nearly 1,500 pages of postage stamps to his collection.
For serious stamp collectors, the hobby can be expensive. Fortunately, George had the resources, having inherited a substantial fortune. Even so, when he shelled out £1,450 for a single stamp, it raised eyebrows throughout the philatelist community. An associate, upon hearing of the record-breaking purchase, asked George if he had seen “that some ,,, fool had paid as much as £1,400 for one stamp.” George replied, “Yes. I was that … fool!”
History does not record the reaction of the individual who received that news. One can only imagine his astonishment, not only at learning the identity of the extravagant collector but at the realization that he had just labeled as a “fool” the man who would be remembered as George V, King the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Defender of the Faith, and Emperor of India.
George’s hobby started in the late 1800s while he was Duke of York. He continued to devote himself to it until his death in 1936. His collection, consisting of 328 albums of about 60 pages each, makes up a significant portion of the Royal Philatelic Collection. Belonging to the British royal family, it is the most comprehensive collection of postage stamps related to the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth. It holds every major piece of British philatelic history, except for the British Guiana 1c magenta.
As for the stamp that earned the future king the title of “fool,” it was a Mauritius 2 pence blue. When George purchased it in 1904, he paid £1,450. Adjusted by inflation, that is the equivalent of about £185,162.85 (US $246,589) in 2021. Today, the stamp is among the most valuable in the world, worth an estimated £1.3 million (US $1.7 million).
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