“Mauritius” is a play by Theresa Rebeck that played on Broadway in 2007. In the play, a young woman inherits a stamp collection that contains the two Post Office Mauritius stamps which together have a catalog value of nearly $2 million. She appears to have no idea what she has and takes the stamps to a dealer. The balance of the play revolves around the machinations of three dealers and collectors to part her from her stamps for less than they are worth. It is not a very flattering picture of our hobby and is characteristic of how stamp collecting, when it is portrayed at all, is depicted in popular media. The fact is that Mauritius Post Office stamps just don’t walk in the door that often. The one time it happened to me was in 1976. We got a call from the US Customs Service office in Philadelphia that they had some stamps and could they bring them down for us to look at. What they had was a page from an exhibit collection under a piece of glass. On the page was the two Mauritius Post Office stamps and a number of rare British Guiana stamps including Cotton Reels. The story was as follows: In the waning days of World War II, an American serviceman had stolen this page from the German Postal Museum in Berlin. For thirty years he held on to these stamps and, though the Army and the Customs Service knew who had taken it, they didn’t have enough evidence to prove the case and didn’t know the exact location of the stamps. The person who had the stamps was aware he was under suspicion and, as he couldn’t prove title to the stamps, finally just gave them to the government. They were ultimately returned to the Berlin Museum from which they came. We were involved because the Customs Service wanted to know if they were originals (and not forgeries that the pilferer had substituted). So the plot line of the play Mauritius is interesting, but sometimes reality has a bite of its own.

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