An exhibition of a rich country in a poor country can be awkward, but less so if a legend of the rich country had done earlier work in the host country. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.
When I first spotted this stamp, I reacted badly to it. Poor Peru has nothing to compare to the Eiffel Tower except a long ago Cathedral built by the Church not the state and likely inherited from the Spanish colonial period. This is where digging in deeper as I do on this site helps. It turns out that Gustave Eiffel did a fair amount of work in Peru and indeed the exposition was held in a building designed by Mr. Eiffel. This changes my whole outlook on the stamp. Now the Exposition takes on the spirit of two countries that have had a friendly collaboration for years. Eiffel’s work in Peru was after independence and included work for the State as well as the Church. This was a great bit of history to recognize during the Exposition as it was probably new to the French. Peru even had the confidence to have this stamp look vaguely French. Good Job Peru!
The stamp today is issue AP57, a 50 Centavo airmail stamp issued by the Republic of Peru on September 16th, 1957. It was part of a four stamp issue celebrating the French Exhibition in Lima that year. According to the Scot Catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents. There is a version of the stamp with an overprint from being issued directly at the exhibition. This ups the value five times, however still to a modest $1.25.
It is a regret that a young person who might have waited in line to get his commemorative stamp overprinted. He carefully saved the stamp now for over 60 years and yet is only rewarded with a value of a little over a dollar. Being rewarded with a decent valuation might help get his grandchildren collecting. At the current valuation, it is at best a curiosity to the young and even the now grandfather must wonder why he bothered.
The Exposition was a big deal. It was attended by Peruvian President Prado and French President Coty. The French Navy made a port visit to coincide with the Exposition and the French had elaborate trade goods on offer. The two Presidents were similar. Both were older conservative presidents that are not well remembered today. Both were elected by small majorities and served out their terms but beset by agitation from the young left who were dissatisfied but could not win at the ballot box.
Gustave Eiffel did work in many countries during a long career that is forever memorialized by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. He did bridges, aqueducts, churches, train stations and even a few hotels. He was an engineer by training and the aesthetics of his work gave a sense of the industrial revolution going on around him. He also worked on the Statue of Liberty and was part of a failed counter proposal for the Panama Canal. He also did some groundbreaking work in aerodynamics in the early days of manned flight.
My drink is empty so I will toast Peru for far exceeding my expectations with this stamp. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.