Last May, Hulme read in the philatelic press that Lennon's album had been purchased at auction by Stanley Gibbons Ltd., a London stamp and autograph dealer. Gibbons was offering to resell it for about $50,000.
"My colleagues and I talked quickly about the album," says Hulme, "and within a couple of hours we were on the phone to Gibbons. The next week, we went to London to make the purchase."
The provenance of the album is somewhat murky; it had been sold once before at Christie's auction house, and for a while before that had been in the hands of a private dealer. But how it found its way to the market in the first place remains a mystery. The museum did make contact with Stanley Parkes, the original owner, who verified that the book was, indeed, the one he gave to his cousin.
As a collection, Hulme admits, Lennon's cache is not distinguished. "Typically, young boys aren't interested in rarity," Hulme says. "They tend to concentrate on geography and colors. If they come back to collecting when they have more time and money, that's when collections become exceptional."
"But these days," he adds, "fewer young people are coming into the hobby. We're very interested in getting their attention, which is one of the reasons we were so interested in this collection."
He was the stamp man,