Philip Ferrari de La Renotière, Herzog von Gallièra in Genua, (January 11, 1850 - May 20, 1917) was a legendary stamp collector, assembling probably the most complete worldwide collection that ever existed, or is likely to exist. Amongst his extremely rare stamps were the unique Tre Skilling Yellow of Sweden and the 1856 one-cent "Black on Magenta" of British Guiana.
Ferrary was born in the sumptuous Hôtel Matignon, Rue de Varenne in Paris, where he resided until 1917. Once the festive gathering place for the Ancien Régime society, at the start of the Bourbon Restauration in 1815 Louis XVIII had traded the Hôtel de Matignon for the Élysée Palace. It is now the official residence of the Prime Minister of France.
Ferrary was the son of the Duke and Duchess of Gallièra. His father, Raffaele de Ferrari, was a wealthy businessman made Duke of Gallièra in Genoa by Pope Gregory XVI and Prince de Lucedio by Victor-Emmanuel II, King of Italy. Raffaele de Ferrari was founder of the Crédit Immobilier de France with the Péreire brothers, rivals of the Rothschilds, which financed many of the major construction projects of the second half of the 19th century: railroads in Austria, Latin America, Portugal, upper Italy and France (the Paris-Lyon-Marseille line), the digging of the Fréjus Rail Tunnel and the Suez Canal, and the reconstruction of Paris designed by Baron Haussmann. He died in 1871.
Ferrary's mother, the Duchess of Gallièra, born Maria de Brignole-Sale, was the great niece of the Princess of Monaco and daughter of the Marquis Antoine de Brignoly-Sale, ambassador of the King of Sardaigne in Paris, under the Restoration and during the reign of Louis-Philippe. After the death of Ferrary's father, the Duchess proposed that Philippe, Count of Paris take up residence at the Rue de Varenne. He came to occupy the ground floor of the Hôtel Matignon. The Duchess soon became disenchanted with the adverse social environment for the monarchists, quit Paris, and left Hôtel Matignon to the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, who made it his embassy in France. Ferrary was then adopted by the Austrian Count of Renotière von Kriegsfeld and he adopted Austrian nationality. Upon the death of his father, he renounced all of the titles. Thereafter, he preferred the name, "Ferrary"; his calling card reads "Philipp von Ferrary". Collectors and dealers usually say just "Ferrary".
Ferrary started collecting in his youth, then inherited a great fortune, which he dedicated to the purchase of rare stamps and coins. His collection is believed to be the greatest ever assembled, and it may never be equalled. Amongst his extremely rare stamps were the unique Tre Skilling Yellow of Sweden and the 1856 one-cent "Black on Magenta" of British Guiana. He also owned the only unused copy of the Two Cent Hawaii Missionary of 1851, for which its owner, Gaston Leroux, had been murdered by a fellow collector.
He purchased many important old collections, including that of Judge Frederick A. Philbrick (1835-1910) for £7,000, Sir Daniel Cooper's for £3,000, W. B. Thornhill's Australians, etc., and was a large buyer in the leading capitals of Europe for a great many years. Stanley Gibbons said his expenditure with that firm alone averaged from £3,000 to £4,000 a year.
He employed Pierre Mahé, a leading Paris stamp dealer, as a consultant or curator to examine and keep order in his collection from 1874 until Mahé died in 1913. Also, he had two secretaries, who were paid large salaries: one to look after the postage stamps and the other the post cards, envelopes, and wrappers. Ferrary had his own stamp room furnished with numerous fan cabinets.
Although he lived in Paris, Ferrary travelled frequently, meeting with dealers along the way, and often paying them in gold on the spot. He was impulsive in his buying and seemed to be indifferent to price, so dealers and counterfeiters took advantage of him. Exceptionally dangerous forgeries gained the nickname, "Ferrarities".
Ferrary assembled a large collection of magnificent rare coins, as well. His British numismatic collection was sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge in London over five days from March 27 to March 31, 1922. The title of the sale did not mention Ferrary by name, but reads as follows: “Catalogue of the Famous and Remarkable Collection of British and Colonial Coins, Patterns & Proofs from George III to the Present Day, Formed by a Nobleman, Recently Deceased.” The catalogue had 710 lots and 15 plates. Other sales of his French and ancient coins were held in Paris.
Wishing to make his unequaled collection accessible to the public, on January 30, 1915 he willed it to the Postmuseum in Berlin, along with funds for maintenance, 30,000 guldens. But as a citizen of Austria living in France, World War I put him at risk. Leaving his several hundred albums in the Austrian embassy, he fled to Switzerland in 1917. He died soon after, and so did not see the dismantling of his life's work after the war. The French government confiscated Ferrary's collection, claiming it as a war reparation. The massive assemblage was auctioned off between 1921 and 1926, in 14 separate sales, realizing some 30 million francs. Many of the rare stamps of today proudly bear an "ex-Ferrary" in their provenance.
Ferrary died in Lausanne, May 20, 1917. His last resting place, as "Philipp Arnold", is in Steinbach am Attersee, a village on Lake Atter in the province of Upper Austria. He had been a frequent visitor to the Attersee, where he bought a house in 1890, and had been a generous benefactor to the community in the guise of "a friend of Austria".
Ferrary is featured on a 1968 stamp of Liechtenstein, 30 rp red brown, Scott no. 448, SG no. 496.