The world’s most valuable stamp is being auctioned

by on February 17, 2014 at 2:07 pm in Economics, The Arts | Permalink


Sotheby’s New York will offer the most famous stamp in the world in a dedicated auction on 17 June 2014. No stamp is rarer than the sole-surviving example of the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, a unique yet unassuming penny issue from 1856, and no stamp is more valuable: each of the three times it has been sold at auction, it has established a new record price for a single stamp. The British Guiana is equally notable for its legacy, having been rediscovered by a 12-year-old Scottish boy living in South America in 1873, and from there passing through some of the most important stamp collections ever assembled. The stamp comes to auction this spring with a pre-sale estimate of $10/20 million*, which would mark a new world auction record for a stamp…

Wikipedia describes the rarity as follows:

The issue came about through mischance. An anticipated delivery of stamps by ship did not arrive so the local postmaster, E.T.E. Dalton, authorised printers Joseph Baum and William Dallas, who were the publishers of the Official Gazette newspaper in Georgetown, to print an emergency issue of three stamps. Dalton gave some specifications about the design, but the printer chose to add a ship image of their own design to stamps. Dalton was not pleased with the end result, and as a safeguard against forgery ordered that all correspondence bearing the stamps be autographed by a post office clerk. This particular stamp was initialled E.D.W. by the clerk E.D. Wight.


It is imperforate, printed in black on magenta paper, and it features a sailing ship along with the colony’s Latin motto “Damus Petimus Que Vicissim” (We give and expect in return) in the middle.

You can rest assured:

At one point, it was suggested that the 1c stamp was merely a “doctored” copy of the magenta 4c stamp of the 1856 series, a stamp very similar to the 1c stamp in appearance. These claims were disproven.

There is more here, via Ted Gioia.

1 asdf February 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Americans should definitely switch to a bean diet to stave off starvation. There clearly isn’t enough wealth in this country for them to afford high flutin things like meat.

2 Brian Donohue February 18, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Show of hands: are we agreed that the beans and chalupas motif is endlessly hilarious and just assume it’s implied going forward in every trenchant and awesome comment that emanates from that corner?

3 msgkings February 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Hands way up.

4 Edward Burke February 17, 2014 at 4:57 pm

World’s most valuable stamp or world’s most invaluable stamp? Decisions, decisions . . . .

5 Abe Froman February 17, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Recall that Tyler has endorsed Stamps as a Christmas gift:

“7. Crazed economist idea: Buy someone a book of stamps. It has the efficiency properties of a cash transfer (who doesn’t need stamps?), yet if you choose an attractive issue it will show (a little) more thought than money alone. And hey — you had to stand in line to get it, or endure their ugly web site, and at a monopolistic institution at that.”

6 Mark Thorson February 18, 2014 at 10:41 am

Too late to invest in the Forever stamp before the price increase. That was a sure thing. Collectible stamps, not so much. They were a way to transfer assets out of the Third Reich before the war, because you could sew them into your clothes. Kind of like Bitcoin that way.

7 Paul February 17, 2014 at 5:15 pm
8 dearieme February 18, 2014 at 6:25 am

I’m fascinated to learn that British Guiana used cents in the mid 19th century. I don’t remember having met anyone from Guyana though a friend of mine fell hopelessly in love with an Indian from there. “Dot not feathers” as they say.

9 Enrique February 18, 2014 at 8:45 am

Simon Garfield wrote a beautiful memoir about stamp collecting ( … It is a wonderful book

10 nike air max 95 March 13, 2014 at 4:48 am

BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) — A Beijing-based Tibetology scholar has criticized the Dalai Lama’s Friday meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House, saying it was another “anti-China farce.” “Once again, the Dalai Lama slipped into the White House Map Room for a so-called ‘unofficial meeting’ with Obama. This was another farce against China,” said Lian Xiangmin, a researcher with the China Tibetology Research Center, in a signed article.

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