The Szekula Family of Stamp Dealers


This website is dedicated to the Hungarian born stamp dealers Béla, Géza, Eugen and Frank Sekula. Each one of them ran his own stamp business with emphasis on international stamp trade, most likely driven by money rather than the love of stamps. All four assumed Swiss nationality and were at one time based in Lucerne. Especially Béla’s creative business ideas provoked more than one philatelic scandal during his career. However, the history of philately would arguably be poorer without the Sekula brothers.

Eugen Sekula

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Eugen Sekula (1888–1950) was born as Jenő Szekula in Szeged on March 9, 1888. When he was old enough, he joined Géza as an employee at Béla’s Internationale Philatelisten. On August 19, 1912, he married Elisabeth (Erzsébet) Zenner in Budapest. Like his older brothers he then moved to Lucerne, initially still working for Béla. In October 1913, Eugen traveled to the United States representing Béla’s company at New York’s first stamp exhibition, the New York Philatelic Exhibition. First philatelic ads with the address Zürichstr. 62 appeared in Swiss newspapers in 1915, including those offering unused Belgian stamps confiscated by Germany during the occupation. In September 1916 he moved to Grendelstr. 19, where he opened his own Briefmarken-Import und -Export (= stamp import and export) business Eugen Szekula in January 1917. On July 5, 1919 he became a naturalized Swiss citizen of Geuensee. In September 1919 Eugen closed his business at Grendelstrasse 19 and reopened it as Briefmarken-Import und -Exporthaus (= stamp import and export house) at the new address Hertensteinstrasse 56. Like the rest of the family he changed the spelling of his name to Sekula in March 1923. Apparently his business went well for the next ten years, but in 1933 he was facing bankruptcy. As a result, in August of that year Eugen’s stamp import and export firm was converted into a corporation, Eugen Sekula AG, with him as director. In August 1934 the Eugen Sekula AG changed its name to Atlas Briefmarken AG in Luzern (Atlas Stamp Ltd. Lucerne). In February 1935 the board of the Atlas Briefmarken AG in Luzern decided to leave Lucerne and move to Lugano; the corporation was renamed to Atlas Briefmarken AG in Lugano (Atlas Stamp Ltd. Lugano). After less than three years, In November 1937 the Atlas Briefmarken AG in Lugano moved again, this time to Zurich, and became Atlas Briefmarken AG in Zurich (Atlas Stamp Ltd. Zurich). The company continued to sell stamps for another thirteen years, but in the end Eugen Sekula was apparently headed for financial ruin. On Sunday the 29th of January, 1950, the police was called to Sekula’s apartment at Rigistr. 18 where they found the lifeless bodies of Eugen Sekula (62), his wife Elisabeth (57) and their disabled daughter Maja (24). Both parents were already dead when the police arrived; Maja was hospizalized but died one day later without regaining consciousness. All three had taken an overdose of sedative drugs, presumably due to their desperate financial situation. Three months later, in April 1950, the Atlas Briefmarken AG in Zurich was declared bankrupt.
Although he was much less of a traveler, Eugen Sekula’s business qualities probably came close to those of Béla. A failed attempt to establish his own postage paid labels in the Swiss postal system in 1930 shows that he was similarly creative, but he also employed the same sale tactics as Béla sending out unwanted stamp selections and then aggressively demanding payment — eventually with the same result: In 1934 the U.S. Post imposed a short-lived embargo on both of them, even marking postal money orders as fraudulent and returning them to the sender.

Cover — September 19, 1923

Out of necessity, locally produced fee paid stamps (aka local issues) were officially approved during the hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic and were therefore valid for postage. However, some dealers also seized the opportunity and produced their own labels. The fee paid labels used on this cover are products of the print shop owner and philatelist Ulrich Runge in Halle. Although their use was forbidden immediately, some letters slipped through, even by registered mail and also to foreign countries. See also this cover to Béla Sekula.

Registered mail sent on September 19, 1923, from Halle, Germany, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on September 22, 1923. item item