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Page last updated at 08:44 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 09:44 UK
Rare Rupert Bear annual up for sale in Gloucestershire

Rupert Bear annual
Only 12 copies of the brown-faced Rupert annual were printed in 1973

An incredibly rare Rupert Bear annual will soon go under the hammer at a Gloucestershire auctioneers - and could fetch up to £23,000.

The 1973 book is one of only 12 printed that year showing the much-loved children's character with a brown face on the cover - making it ultra rare and causing a stir among collectors across the world, ahead of the auction at Dominic Winter auctioneers in South Cerney.

The Daily Express newspaper started publishing Rupert's adventures in 1920 and printed both comic strips and annuals.

Illustrator Alfred E Bestall always depicted Rupert on the annual's cover with a brown face, whereas inside the book the bear's face was always white.

But in 1973, after a dozen copies of the brown-faced annual had been printed, the newspaper's editor stopped the presses and changed the cover so Rupert had a white face - without consulting illustrator Bestall.

Some say the editor did this because he had been bombarded with letters from children asking why Rupert had a brown face on the cover and a white face inside, others say he thought the brown face blended into the background too much.

[It is] the holy grail of any Rupert collection
Chris Albury

When Bestall realised the change had been made, he was incensed at not being consulted, left in protest and never drew another cover for a Rupert annual.

Half a million copies of the 1973 white-faced Rupert annual were printed - compared to only 12 brown-faced annuals.

To auctioneer and expert Chris Albury's knowledge, only four of these have ever come to light - making this lot up for auction at Dominic Winter, as he says, "the holy grail of any Rupert collection".

He said: "It's a bit like the stamp or coin market where, due to a printing mistake, the withdrawn and rarer mistake is worth far more than the genuine article."

Two brown-faced 1973 Rupert annuals sold for a staggering £23,000 and £22,000 at auction in Dorset in 2007, setting a new price record.

The auction will take place on Thursday, June 17 at Dominic Winter auctioneers in South Cerney near Cirencester.

Viewing will be available on June 15 and 16 from 9am to 7pm, and from 9am on the morning of the sale.

For more information visit the Dominic Winter website or call 01285 860006

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