Rare Stamp Sold For Staggering $9.5 Million
The world’s rarest stamp was sold for $9.5 million, which has set a new record.
The auction house Sotheby’s said the “British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta” was sold to a phone bidder who chose not to be identified.
The previous record for a stamp was $2.2 million, set by a stamp called the “Treskilling Yellow” in 1996.
The previous owner was John E. duPont, who was heir to the chemical company fortune and a collector. He was also a patron of amateur wrestling. He paid $935,000 for the stamp in 1980. Later, he was convicted of murdering a freestyle wrestler. In 2010, he died in prison.
The price estimated before last night’s pre-auction was $10 million to $20 million. But Sotheby’s vice-chairman David Redden said he was “thrilled with tonight’s extraordinary, record-setting price of $9.5 million.”
He said it was 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.
The stamp has its own story. A British schoolboy in British Guiana who was a fledgling stamp collector found it in 1873 while going through his late uncle’s personal letters.
It was printed in 1856 by a newspaper publisher in the colony of British Guiana after the local post office ran out of stamps from London. The postmaster wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the stamps and was concerned they might be counterfeited.
Then he ordered postal clerks to personally initial each stamp at the time of sale to prevent fraud, according to a history offered by the Kenmore Stamp Company.
Vaughn offered the stamp to a local dealer who agreed to buy it for six shillings, the equivalent then of about $1.50.
“Now look here, my lad,” the dealer said, “I am taking a great risk in paying so much for this stamp and I hope you will appreciate my generosity.”
“You’re not going to find anything rarer than this,” Allen Kane, director of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum told the AP. “It’s a stamp the world of collectors has been dying to see for a long time.”
David Beech, longtime curator of stamps at the British Library, retired in 2013, has compared it to buying the “Mona Lisa” of the world’s most prized stamps.
In 1980, DuPont bought it anonymously.
Du Pont, often named ”the wealthiest murder defendant in the history of the United States” by prosecutors in Delaware, shot Olympic wrestler David Schultz three times at point-blank range on Jan. 26, 1996, on the grounds of du Pont’s Foxcatcher estate, where Schultz lived.
According to the New York Times, at the auction “a crowd of stamp dealers and collectors filled the auction room, with a row of television cameras in the back.
“I don’t think they’d get that coverage for a van Gogh,” said Frank J. Buono, a stamp dealer from Binghamton, N.Y.
“And by weight and volume and size, it’s the most valuable item in the world. Diamonds might fetch more, but they weigh more.”