A visitor looks at the British Guiana One-Cent Black on
Magenta stamp at Sotheby's in London. REUTERS/Suzanne
A British Guiana One-Cent Magenta postage stamp from
1856, the only one of its kind to still exist, has sold for a
record $US9.5 million at Sotheby's.
The hefty price, which includes the buyer's premium, makes
the one-inch by one-and-a-quarter-inch stamp (2.5 cm by 3.2
cm) printed in black on magenta paper the most expensive
stamp ever sold at auction, and the most valuable object by
weight and size, according to the auction house.
An anonymous telephone bidder purchased the stamp during the
bidding in the packed auction.
"Every time it has come up for auction and sold, it has
brought the highest price ever paid for a stamp," said David
Redden, the worldwide chairman of books and manuscripts at
"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," he said.
The previous record auction price for a single stamp was 2.87
million Swiss francs (about $2.2 million). It was set in 1996
for the Treskilling Yellow, a Swedish stamp that is a
misprint of an 1855 shilling stamp in the wrong color.
The British Guiana stamp was 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 du Pont, an avid stamp
collector, purchased in 1980 for $935,000. The stamp's
authenticity was previously verified in 1935.
The British Guiana One-Cent Magenta is one of the world's
first postage stamps. In 1856 in British Guiana - now 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 du Pont supported.