On December 18, David Feldman Galleries will auction one of the most prestigious philatelic items, The Roosevelt Block, an inverted overprint block of the highly collectible 1935 10k Levanevskiy stamp.
The unique block of four is truly remarkable, having been gifted by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to the president of the United States Theodore Roosevelt. Joining the ranks of the world's legendary stamps, it is valued at $2m-2.7m.
Sigizmund Levanevskiy (1902-1937) was a Soviet aircraft pilot who became a Hero of the Soviet Union for his part in the rescue of those stranded on a sinking steamship. A contemporary of the world famous pilot Charles Lindbergh, in 1935 he completed his first North Pole flight, which took him from Moscow to San Francisco.
To mark the occasion, the Soviet Union applied a 1r surcharge to its earlier 10k stamp, which already featured Levanevskiy's portrait. Only 10,000 of this commemorative issue were released, and in fine condition the stamp is priced in catalogues at around $1,250 due to its rarity.
However, the example at auction features an inverted red text overprint, with the two lower stamps displaying the error of a small "f" in San Francisco. In mint condition with full original gum, the block is recognised as the most valuable item in Russian philately.
Yet its provenance adds even further prestige. According to philatelic legend, Stalin had wanted to make a gift to President Roosevelt and, despite considering stamp collecting a distinctly un-Communist activity, decided to present him with Russia's greatest rarity, knowing that Roosevelt was a collector.
According to David Feldman, the stamp has previously laid claim to the following titles: "The most expensive stamp item with overprint; the most expensive item amongst the world issues of the 20th Century; the most expensive Asian item (bearing in mind the dual status of Eurasian Russia) and second in Europe (after the famous Swedish three skilling item)".