A rare 19th Century one-cent magenta stamp from a British colony in South America has sold for a record $9.5 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York.
It took only two minutes for the British Guiana postage stamp to be sold to an anonymous bidder.
The stamp had been sold three times before, each time setting the auction record for a single stamp.
It measures just 1in by 1in (2.5cm by 3.2 cm), and had not been publicly exhibited since 1986.
The British Guiana has sold for a record $9.5 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York
Sotheby’s auction house said that apart from setting a new world record price for a stamp, it was also the most expensive item by weight and size ever sold.
“Every collecting area has its Holy Grail. For stamps it is The British Guiana,” Sotheby’s wrote on its website, adding the stamp is often described as the “most famous” and “most valuable” in the world.
The stamp, printed on magenta paper, bears a three-masted ship and the colony’s motto: “We give and expect in return.”
It initially went into circulation when a shipment of stamps was delayed from London and the colony’s postmaster asked printers to make three stamps until the shipment arrived.
A one-cent magenta, four-cent magenta and four-cent blue were created, but only the one-cent stamp is believed to still exist.
The last owner of the famous stamp was John du Pont, heir to the du Pont chemical empire, who was convicted in 1997 of murdering an Olympic champion wrestler and died in prison in 2010.
The stamp was sold by his estate, with some proceeds to be donated to the Eurasian Pacific Wildlife Conservation Foundation.
It last set a record in 1980 when it was sold to John du Pont for $935,000.
An 1855 Swedish stamp which sold in 1996 for $2.3 million had held the previous record for a single stamp at auction.
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An 1856 postage stamp from British Guiana is set to fetch a record $20 million when it goes on sale in New York in June, Sotheby’s auction house has said.
The one-cent Magenta, regarded by collectors as the world’s most famous rare stamp, might sell for up to $20 million (15 million euros), Sotheby’s says.
The unique stamp has set a world record each of the three times it has been sold at auction.
The current record for a single stamp sold at auction is $2.3 million.
The Swedish Treskilling Yellow was last officially sold in Zurich in 1996 for 2.88 million Swiss francs (about $2.3 million at the time).
It is believed to have set another world record in May 2010 but its buyers did not disclose how much they paid.
The one-cent Magenta, regarded by collectors as the world’s most famous rare stamp, might sell for up to $20 million
The British Guiana one-cent Magenta is the sole surviving example of its kind and regarded as the most well-known of rare stamps.
It was last bought in 1980 by John du Pont, a chemical industry millionaire, who kept it largely out of public view, locked away in a vault.
John Du Pont was jailed for shooting dead an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler in 1996 and died in 2010. The stamp is being sold as part of his estate.
Printed in black on magenta paper, the British Guiana stamp bears the image of a three-masted ship and the Latin motto “we give and expect in return”.
It was produced in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana) after a shipment of stamps was delayed from London, threatening to disrupt the postal service. It carries a post mark, showing it has been used, and is initialed by a post-office employee.
The stamp’s first owner was a 12-year-old Scottish boy who apparently found it among family papers in 1873.
It has not been on view publicly since the 1986, when it was exhibited at the Ameripex 1986 International Stamp Show in Chicago, Sotheby’s said.
The British Guiana stamp will travel to cities including London and Hong Kong, before returning to New York where it will go on sale at auction on June 17.