Rare British Guiana stamp sells for record $9.5 million

Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:46pm EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A British Guiana One-Cent Magenta postage stamp from 1856, the only one of its kind to still exist, sold for a record $9.5 million at Sotheby's on Tuesday.

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 Sotheby's.

"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.   Continued...

The British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta stamp is displayed at Sotheby's in London June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett