In the 1950s, the Kingdom of Bhutan asked the World Bank for a $ 10 million loan. The secluded Buddhist country of about 200,000 inhabitants had been closed to the outside world for centuries, but the government of the "Forbidden Kingdom" now wanted to reach for it – and needed financial help. The World Bank, however, refused to give it to them.
Bhutan, nestled between India and China, entered into a border dispute with its huge neighbors, and the bank did not want to get caught up in the politics of everything. Instead, one official suggested that Bhutan bring in another way: by selling stamps to international collectors. The small, independent city-state of Monaco on the Côte d'Azur had done the same thing a few years ago. (After finding that stamps could be a constant source of income, Monaco's Prince Rainier III called her "the best ambassador in a country.") Bhutan followed in 1
Todd was an unusual but ideal choice. A dizzying martial artist and adventurer, he had become friends with Bhutan's future Queen Ashi Kesang Choden-Dorfi when he attended Oxford University. He was the first American ever to set foot in Bhutan, and as the son of a Pittsburgh steel and banking magnate, Todd had worldly connections to draw worldwide attention to the secluded nation. He was also a remarkable seller. He was friends with dozens of heads of state, from the Sultan of Brunei to the Prime Minister of Mauritius, and helped dozens of small nations with crazy money-making programs (like when he launched rum's Fiji production or helped cash Maharajas sell theirs gently) used Rolls-Royces on the international market).
Todd's curiosity for innovative ideas made him the perfect choice to lead the new Bhutan stamp agency. He did not know anything about the international stamp market, but he certainly knew how important a good gag is: having initially made modest stamps with yaks and monasteries, Todd's ideas became more and more crazy. There were silk stamps, some perfumed, and others representing the Yeti. He made stamps of steel (the rusted) and stamps embedded with 3D technology. Finally, in 1972, Todd introduced the first "talking stamps in the world".
The talking stamps were published in a colorful set of seven copies and were technically one of the smallest records in the world. Of course you can put the stamp on an envelope and hand it in to the post office. But you can also put the stamp on a turntable, drop the needle and be greeted by the sounds of a Bhutanese folk song, the national anthem of the country or a short story describing life in the Land of Dragons.
Bhutan produces 300,000 of these stamps, which for many years led to many people in the philatelic community to eyebrows, which they considered tasteless gimmicks. However, that has changed recently. According to Anton Spice, The Spy Factor has skyrocketed the prices "from that craziest Venn diagram between stamp and record collectors". Today, real office stamps can be sold for around $ 400.
Like the eccentric Todd His ability to find unusual uses for stamps would persist. "He once tried to found a small kingdom on an abandoned coral reef in the South Pacific," The New York Times wrote an obituary of 2006. "His entire infrastructure was to be built on stamps, his dream was destroyed, he said later, after Tongan gunboats had reduced his island paradise to rubble. "