The British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta stamp. Photo
A British Guiana One-Cent Magenta postage stamp from
1856, the only one of its kind to still exist, could sell for a
record price when it is auctioned at Sotheby's, where it
is expected to fetch as much as $US20 million.
If it reaches such a hefty price in the one-lot sale, the
one-inch by one-and-a-quarter-inches stamp (2.5 cm by 3.2 cm)
printed in black on magenta paper will be the most valuable
object by weight and size, according to the auction house.
"It has always been the world's most famous stamp. It is one
of these objects around which a huge mystique has grown up
over the years," said David Redden, the worldwide chairman of
books and manuscripts at Sotheby's.
"It has a good story. It was discovered by a 12-year-old
schoolboy," he added in an interview. "It's unique and is the
only stamp of its kind that has survived."
The record auction price for a single stamp is 2.87 million
Swiss francs (about $US2.2 million). It was set in 1996 for
the Treskilling Yellow. The Swedish stamp is a misprint of an
1855 shilling stamp in the wrong color.
The British Guiana stamp is being sold by the estate of the
late multimillionaire John du Pont, an heir to the du Pont
chemical fortune who died in prison in 2010 at the age of 72.
Du Pont was serving a murder sentence for the shooting of
David Schultz, a champion U.S. wrestler, in 1996.
Earlier this year, the Royal Philatelic Society of London
re-authenticated the stamp, which avid stamp collector du
Pont purchased in 1980 for $US935,000. The stamp's
authenticity was previously verified in 1935.
The British Guiana One-Cent Magenta is one of the first
stamps in the world. In 1856 in British Guiana, now called
the Republic of Guyana, the local postmaster asked a
newspaper to print some stamps after supplies from Britain,
where its stamps were printed, were delayed.
There are still a few four-cent stamps issued by the South
American country, but this is the only one-cent. Until this
year the stamp had not been on public view since 1987,
according to Sotheby's.
The stamp was discovered in 1873 by a 12-year-old schoolboy
named L. Vernon Vaughan, who was living in British Guiana
with his family. He found it among his family papers.
He kept it in his collection and later sold it to another
collector in British Guiana. It surfaced in Britain in 1878
and was then purchased by Count Philippe la Renotiere von
Ferrary, a noted stamp collector.
The count's collection was donated to the postal museum in
Berlin and was later seized by France as war reparation from
Germany and sold in 1922.
It was sold several times before du Pont purchased it. Part
of the proceeds of the sale will go to the Eurasian Pacific
Wildlife Conservation Foundation, which DuPont supported.