In February, 1954 many of the world’s stamp dealers converged on Cairo. The military government which had ousted King Farouk two years earlier had retained the London firm of H.R. Harmer to auction off his extensive postage stamp holdings.
While the frequently ill-mannered Farouk caroused in Europe, his massive holdings of stamps were put on the block. The first few days of the auction were not well-attended. But when European dealers arrived prices were driven up by demand for the material.
Many of the postage stamps sold were seen for the first time. Unlike the so-called errors that unscrupulous governments often churn out deliberately, these Egyptian errors were authentic.
One of the stamp dealers at this auction was Canada’s Kasimir Bileski from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The various errors and varieties that turned up, did so legitimately during the printing of the stamps. They were never put on the market or offered for sale to anyone at fancy prices. In fact, the last thing anyone expected was that such ever would be available to collectors. Their very existence was unknown.
Today, many Egypt collectors have stamps from this historic auction, which have been certified as being in King Farouk’s collection. The King had a particular fondness for rare color overprints.
He also had an obsessive fondness for food… it was not unusual for Farouk to have a dozen eggs for breakfast. Foul, misogynous and unbalanced, he was not cut out for leadership.
But King Farouk loved his postage stamps, spent a lot of time with his collection, and from 1936-52 ran the Egyptian Post Office as his personal philatelic fiefdom.
A sour note followed the auction. The military dictators never paid the fees and commissions due to H.R. Harmer.