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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Phila-Trivia: Philatelic Murder!

There have been several recorded instances of collectors being murdered for their stamps.

One of the most notable was the murder of Gaston Leroux. Leroux was a well-off man living in an apartment in Paris, who had built an impressive collection of stamps, one of which proved to be too tempting for one of his friends. In 1892, police were called to his apartment, where they found him murdered, apparently by an intruder. However, they could not find anything missing, as the murderer had left behind a considerable amount of money, gold coins, a diamond-studded watch, and a valuable collection of Hawaiian stamps.

A detective working the case knew stamps, and he decided to compare Leroux's collection against its written inventory. He found that the best stamp in the collection, an unused 2c Hawaiian Missionary, was missing, so the detective visited several Parisian stamp dealers to try to locate it. Having drawn a blank, he later learned of Leroux's circle of stamp collecting friends and decided to pose as an avid philatelist, eventually focusing on one of them, a certain Hector Giroux. The detective discussed rare stamps with Giroux, gained his confidence, and Giroux unwisely showed the detective his collection, containing the 2c Missionary.

Brought in for questioning, Giroux failed to give a credible explanation of how he had acquired the stamp. At trial, after repeated questioning, he broke down and confessed to having murdered Leroux because of Leroux's refusal to sell him the 2c Missionary stamp, which would have completed his collection. Giroux was found guilty and hanged.

Most philatelists will readily understand a collector's healthy enthusiasm to fill the empty spaces in his collection, but killing someone for a stamp is probably somewhat excessive.

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