July 10, 1978 12:00 PM

Someday, if postal rates keep going up, Irwin Weinberg may find a practical use for the world’s most valuable stamp—worth $500,000 to $1 million by his calculations. Until then the Wilkes-Barre, Pa. dealer will have to tote his one-cent British Guiana Magenta the way he does now—in a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. Of course, even such precautions pose hazards. No sooner had Weinberg, 50, arrived in Toronto for an international philately fair than the key snapped off in the cuffs. “I was in the middle of a press conference,” he recalls, “and I thought it best not to say anything.”

Mysteriously brushing off reporters clamoring to check out the Magenta, Weinberg turned himself over to security guards, who went to work on the cuffs with hairpins and paper clips. A Toronto fireman tried a hacksaw, but the steel was too tough. Finally a policeman liberated Weinberg with an extra key. “At first it just seemed amusing,” says Weinberg, “but then I got scared. I had visions of myself carrying the stamp around for weeks with people following me. Those are the adventures of a stamp collector.”

Weinberg, a collector for 35 years, first saw the 1856 Magenta in his pre-teens at the 1940 New York World’s Fair. “It was my dream to own it,” he remembers. Thirty years later he bought the stamp at auction for $280,000. Exhibiting it has become such a momentous undertaking that he removes it from a safe-deposit box only once a year. Slipping the treasure into his briefcase, he travels in an armored car to the airport. Then he flies with the briefcase clutched in his lap, taking another armored car to his destination. Never before has Weinberg’s hardware betrayed him, and he doesn’t expect it to happen again. “They don’t make better handcuffs,” he says, “but next time I’ll turn the key more carefully.”?

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