(CN) – Massachusetts auctioneers sold Chinese postage stamps to a collector for $78,700 – but the two “famous” stamps in the lot were bogus, the Australian man claims in court.
Yi Shen says he paid $78,692 for one lot of Chinese stamps, with his eye on a 1968 stamp issued during the Cultural Revolution, which is “famous among philatelists for a printing error.” That stamp is known as “The Whole Country is Red.”
Also in that lot was a 1953 “Blue Military Stamp,” which was quickly withdrawn from circulation. Shen says both stamps are “extraordinarily rare.”
Lot 216 was advertised as containing 300 Chinese stamps from 1898 to 1970, allegedly from a private collection in Germany. It’s clear from the July 29 lawsuit in Norfolk County Court that Shen had his eyes on the red and blue stamps.
He sued Gegentala USA dba Altair Auctions dba Essex Auctions, Gegentala’s owner Yong “Benjamin” Wang, all of Massachusetts, and auctioneer Franklin T. Sykes, of New Hampshire.
Shen says he bought Lot 216 at an online auction, for $65,000 plus an unexplained $13,692 “premium,” after seeing the stamps online.
He says he flew from Australia to Boston to pick them up, and when he went to Altair’s head office in Norwood, Mass., he saw at once that the two stamps he wanted were not real, “but mere photographic reproductions of these highly collectible stamps.”
He says there is no way on earth the defendants could not have known the stamps were forgeries when they advertised and sold them, because “(i)t is immediately apparent that the ‘stamps’ in question are not actual postage stamps, but photographs of postage stamps”.
Altair refused to refund his money, claiming there was no guarantee, Shen says.
He wants his money back, plus the airfare, and damages for fraud, breach of contract and negligence. He is represented by David Kelston of Boston.
Stamp collectors, perhaps even more than other enthusiasts, are famous for their devotion to the hobby and the intensity with which they pursue acquisitions, which have formed the basis of many a detective story. A recent acclaimed addition to the sub-genre are three “Hit Man” novels by Lawrence Block, whose hero, Keller, wants to stop murdering people but can’t afford it because he spends so much money on stamps.
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