Rare collectibles now going for highest prices ever

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In the fall of 2005, Charles Hack, a New Yorker who has made a fortune in real estate and spent a lot of it on old master paintings and Renaissance sculpture, noticed a newspaper advertisement for an auction of a rare stamp.

The 24-cent airmail stamp issued in 1918, popularly known to collectors as the Inverted Jenny, became famous — and valuable — because of an error: the airplane in the center of the design, a Curtiss JN-4, is printed upside-down. Only 100 of the misprints are known to exist. Mr. Hack attended that auction and bought the stamp for $297,000, including commission.

Last Wednesday, Mr. Hack attended another stamp auction, at Siegel Auction Galleries in New York City, and went home with a second Inverted Jenny after bidding $850,000. The final price, with the commission, came to $977,500, a record for an American stamp sold at auction and a confirmation of a trend that is transforming the world of high-end collectibles.

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