NEW YORK – A 1-cent postage stamp from a 19th-century British colony in South America has become the world’s most valuable stamp – again.
The 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta sold Tuesday at auction in New York for $9.5 million, Sotheby’s said. It was the fourth time the stamp has broken the auction record for a single stamp in its long history.
The stamp was expected to bring between $10 million and $20 million. Sotheby’s said the buyer wished to remain anonymous. The price included the buyer’s premium.
David Redden, Sotheby’s vice chairman, called the sale “a truly great moment for the world of stamp collecting.”
“That price will be hard to beat, and likely won’t be exceeded unless the British Guiana comes up for sale again in the future,” Redden said.
Measuring 1 inch-by-1 1/4 inches, it hasn’t been on public view since 1986 and is the only major stamp absent from the British Royal Family’s private Royal Philatelic Collection.
“You’re not going to find anything rarer than this,” according to Allen Kane, director of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. “It’s a stamp the world of collectors has been dying to see for a long time.”
An 1855 Swedish stamp, which sold for $2.3 million in 1996, previously held the auction record for a single stamp.
David Beech, longtime curator of stamps at the British Library who retired last year, has compared it to buying the “Mona Lisa” of the world’s most prized stamps.
The last owner was John E. du Pont, an heir to the du Pont chemical fortune who was convicted of fatally shooting a 1984 Olympic champion wrestler. The stamp was sold by his estate, which will designate part of the proceeds to the Eurasian Pacific Wildlife Conservation Foundation that du Pont championed.