In conjunction with the centenary celebration of Finland’s independence, this magnificent portrait of a world famous philatelist was released during FINLANDIA 2017 held in Tampere in May 2017. Agathon Karlovitch Fabergé was the second son of Peter Carl Fabergé who had taken over the well-known House of Fabergé, the legendary maker of jewelry and other art objects.
Two serious philatelists—the late Kaj Hellman and Jeffrey Stone—spent years studying the philatelic life of Agathon Fabergé and his extensive collections. They had access to family archives not previously available. The result is this wonderful book which now takes its place on the shelf of the history of philately.
A one-page abstract appears at the beginning of the book in Finnish, Swedish, English, German, and Russian. However, the text of the book itself is in English, making it available to a wide collecting audience. A short biography recounts Agathon’s birth in St. Petersburg and his involvement with the family business where his knowledge of art objects and languages were important assets. However, he had a falling out with the family and briefly ran an antique shop.
Members of the Fabergé family fled Russia with the threat of the revolution but Agathon remained and served time in prison. Finally in 1927 he and his second wife and their daughter escaped to Finland. Many of his collections of art objects were confiscated but he managed to smuggle part of his philatelic collection and other artefacts to Finland where he settled in a suburb of Helsinki.
Agathon began to collect stamps at age nine. He joined the St. Petersburg Section of the International Philatelic Society of Dresden where he met many well-known collectors and was therefore able to acquire important pieces for his specialties. The authors illustrate many key items from his collection and identify who he purchased them from. One chapter details Fabergé’s pursuit of the Zemstvos sold by Ferrari, and another chapter reflects on his long-term study of these issues and the great rarities that he owned.
Subsequent chapters reflect on Fabergé’s joining several stamp clubs and his buying and selling of material. He was involved with major exhibitions in Helsinki, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, and Brussels in the late 1920s through the 1940s, some of which he exhibited at or served on the jury. Throughout the book there is emphasis on the tremendous research and study that Fabergé conducted, often applying light pencil notes on the backs of his stamps. He engaged in a number of plating studies.
Authors Hellman and Stone trace the various auctions of Fabergé’s collections in the late 1930s and early 40s—Plumridge, Harmer’s, Robson Lowe, and Pelander. The controversies and intrigues surrounding the Harmer auctions in particular add fascination and excitement to the Fabergé story.
One important research tool that evolved while preparing this book is a philatelic database of items from Fabergé’s collections derived from private collectors, museums, auction houses, and dealers’ stocks. A chart shows the number of items acquired by the collector each year from 1898 to 1950. Although his major philatelic focus was on Finland and Russia, he also developed serious collections of Italian states, German states, Norway and Japan among many other countries.
Informative appendices include an interview with Fabergé published in 1929, a detailed inventory of his exhibits at the 1933 WIPA exhibition in Vienna, and listings of his Zemstvo stamps and Moscow postal stationery envelopes. An extensive bibliography reveals some of the many sources used to compile this impressive tome profiling one of the great collectors of the 20th century.
The book is well designed and edited. Illustrations are excellent and enable readers to see not only amazing material but also insight to the great knowledge held by a truly eminent philatelist. The authors are to be commended for allowing collectors to see the results of their research and to learn about, who was until now, a somewhat enigmatic practitioner of the hobby.