fVVKB7R The Unique British Guiana 1856 One-Cent, Black on Magenta Surface-Colored Paper (Stanley Gibbons no.23, Scott no.13).

Sotheby’s New York will, on June 17th, auction the only surviving example of a legendary stamp that sold for one cent back in 1856. The British Guiana one-cent magenta is estimated to sell for $20 million. If it reaches this estimate it will set a new record for a single stamp.

The stamp was owned by an American millionaire, who died four years ago whilst in prison. It is an emergency stamp which was printed by the local Official Gazette newspaper in British Guiana, when storms meant the postmaster was in danger of running out of stamps.

In 1980, John du Pont (1938-2010), the heir to the DuPont chemical fortune, paid almost $1 million for the stamp. Suffering from mental illness, du Pont shot dead the Olympic gold-medal wrester Dave Schultz, who he had sponsored for many years. The stamp was last seen in public at an international exhibition in Chicago in 1986, until now whilst it is on its promotional tour. Some of the money from the sale of the item will go to the Eurasian Pacific Wildlife Conservation Foundation.

The stamp’s first owner was Vernon Vaughan, a 12 year old schoolboy from Scotland who found it in 1873 whilst living with his family in British Guiana.In the 1880s it was bought by Count Philippe la Renotière von Ferrary, one of the wealthiest men in Europe, who kept a mansion full of stamps that he never sold or exhibited. He wished to leave his collection to Berlin's postal museum but the French state seized it as part of post-war reparations, and sold it in 1922, when it set its first world record. The American collector Arthur Hind outbid several rivals, including the stamp-obsessed King George V, and paid £7,343. According to the legend, a second copy did turn up soon afterwards, which Hind bought and set fire to, saying: "I still possess the only copy."

Initialled EDW, cut octagonally clear of design, April 4 1856 DEMERARA circular datestamp.  The Certificate issued by the Royal Philatelic Society in March 2014 records that the stamp is genuine and notes “surface rubbing reduced by over-painting at some time in the past – possibly while the stamp resided in the Ferrari collection.” Initialled EDW, cut octagonally clear of design, April 4 1856 DEMERARA circular datestamp. The Certificate issued by the Royal Philatelic Society in March 2014 records that the stamp is genuine and notes “surface rubbing reduced by over-painting at some time in the past – possibly while the stamp resided in the Ferrari collection.”

David Redden, Sotheby's chairman and a books specialist, said he was overawed to have the stamp in his care.

"For me, as a schoolboy stamp collector, it was a magical object, the very definition of rarity and value, unobtainable rarity and extraordinary value. That schoolboy of long ago would be bemused and astonished to think that he would one day, years later, be temporary guardian of such a world treasure."

Selection from du Pont's British Guiana colelction at David Feldman. Selection from du Pont's British Guiana colelction at David Feldman.

If you are looking to expand your stamp collection but feel that the $20 million estimate is too high, you are in luck! David Feldman will be auctioning out the remainder of du Pont's Grand-Prix prize-winning British Guiana collection, 200 lots with estimates ranging from $270 to $270.000 will, on June 27th, be on sale in Geneva.

See more stamps on Barnebys here.

 

 

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