Top Czech stamp collector presents a book with his treasures

Ludvík Pytlíček, photo: ČTK

“The Rarest Czechoslovak Postage Stamps in the Collection of Ludvík Pytlíček” is the name of a new book which presents arguably the greatest collection of Czechoslovak stamps, compiled by the renowned Czech philatelist Mr Pytlíček. The volume, launched in Prague on Wednesday, also includes the most precious Czechoslovak postage stamp of all times – a four-crown stamp from 1919 of which only a single exemplar is known.

Ludvík Pytlíček,  photo: ČTK
It took Ludvík Pytlíček more than 50 years to put together what is possibly the most comprehensive collection of Czechoslovak postage stamps. Now the most precious items have been presented in a book which includes the pearl of his collection – a golden replica of the rarest Czechoslovak stamp. Originally an Austrian light-green four-crown stamp, it was used in the newly established Czechoslovak state, and a reversed inscription that says “Czechoslovak Post 1919” was printed on it. Later, the inscription was fixed, but it was precisely the mistake which made the first edition so rare. Mr Pytlíček describes how he got this unique stamp in his collection.

“In 1952, the four-crown stamp was confiscated from a Prague lawyer, and the authorities then handed it to the Czechoslovak Postal Museum. The stamp stayed there until 1992 when it was returned to the heirs of the original owner. But the museum would not tell me who they gave the stamp to, so after long negotiations with the government and the postal service I wrote a letter offering to buy the stamp, and gave it to the postal service.”

For six years, Mr Pytlíček was waiting for a reply, but nothing happened until one day a car pulled over in front of his house and a man got out.

“I told the man, ‘sorry, but I’m too busy at the moment, I have no time for you’. But he said, ‘I think you will make time for me’, showed me the letter that I wrote six years ago. This is how I got in touch with the owners, and I bought the stamp in the end. I will not tell you the how much exactly I paid for the stamp, but it was several million crowns.”

Recently, Ludvík Pytlíček acquired another jewel in his collection – the famous Blue Mauritius Post Paid which he bought in a collection from a former postage stamp trader. Pavel Pittermann, a member of the Union of Czech Philatelists, who introduced the book on Wednesday, says Mr Pytlíček’s collection is indeed unique.

“I believe that his collection is really unique, not just in the Czech context, but in the international context as well. It has won many gold medals at international exhibitions and it competes with the world’s best collections. Its uniqueness lies in the completeness of the material. The book presents 30 extreme rarities as well as other stamps that are very difficult to find.”

If you want to see the four-crown 1919 stamp, the Blue Mautritius and other treasures from Ludvík Pytlíček’s collection, you’ll have a chance to do so at the upcoming World Stamp Exhibition Praga 2008 which will take place this weekend in the Czech capital.