Hello all you stamp friends out there. I represent “Stampstars”. We bring you all the exiting stamp stories from around the world. Today I will tell you the exciting story of the “one cent magenta from British Guiana”, one of the most rare and expensive stamps of the world. On June 17th 2014 it was sold at Sotherbys for the record price of 9.480.000 $. It is thus by far the most expensive single stamp ever sold. My name is Vagn Juhl-Larsen. I am from Denmark and have been a stamp collector for more than 50 years.
First a little bit of pre-history
British Guiana is located in the northern part of South America. The country was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1498. In 1580 Dutch explorers built settlements in the country and in 1831 “The Crown Colony of British Guiana” was founded.
Fig. 1. British Guiana is situated in the northern part of South America.
The first postal service to the British Colony dates back to 1796. The first primitive stamps were issued in 1850. These stamps were printed by the local newspaper, the “Royal Gazette” in Georgetown. They are called “Cottonreels” – cirkular stamps with just the name of the country, BRITISH GUIANA, printed around the edge, and the denomination, f. ex 8 Cents in the middle, as you can see on the picture. Today they are very rare stamps, especially the 2 cent stamp, that was issued in 1851. Only 10 copies are known and the catalog value is 70.000 £ for a used copy.
Fig. 2: An example of the so called cottonreels, the first “stamps” from British Guiana issued in 1850.
The story of “1 cent magenta” from British Guiana
In 1855 a shipment of 1 and 4 cent stamps was ordered in England. The shipment was delayed, and when it finally arrived in November 1855, it contained only 10.000 stamps instead of 100.000 stamps. Because of the 90 percent reduction, the postal service of British Guiana was about to run out of stamps during the first months of 1856.
Because of the shortage of stamps, the local postmaster in Georgetown, Edward Thomas Evans Dalton, authorised the publishers of the local newspaper, The Royal Gazette, to print an emergency issue of three different stamps. A one cent stamp for newspaper postage and two four cent stamps for letters. The stamps were printed in sheets of just four stamps. The 1 cent stamps were printed in black on magenta-colored paper. Both of the four cent stamps were printed in black. One on rose-carmine paper and the other on blue paper.
As you can see from the pictures, the design of the stamps is very primitive. At the top of the stamp is: “British”, and at the bottom: “Guiana”. To the left: “Postage” and to the right the denomination: “one cent”. In the middle a picture of a three-masted ship and the latin words: “Damus Petimus Que Vicissim” . That means: “We give an expect in return”. Four thin lines surround the center of the stamp.
Fig. 3. The “one cent magenta” from British Guiana issued in 1856.
Fig. 4: The two four cent stamps from 1856.
Postmaster Dalton was not satisfied with the design and ordered, as a security measure, that the stamps should all be signed. The unique “one cent magenta”, as well as the two 4 cent stamps shown is signed E.D.W. by the postal clerk E.D. Wight in Georgetown.
It is supposed, that the stamps were in use for only eight to ten weeks until new stamps arrived from England. They are therefore very rare. Especially the one cent stamps because people do not keep old newspapers.
How was the unique “one cent magenta” found, and what happened to the stamp later.
In 1873 the 12 year old Scottish schoolboy, Louis Vernon Vaughan, who lived in Guiana, found the stamp among the letters of his uncle. Some weeks later he sold it to Neil Ross Mckinnon, who was a local stamp collector, for six schillings.
Fig. 5. The finder of the “one cent magenta”, Louis Vernon Vaughan, and the local stamp collector Neil Ross Mckinnon, who bought the stamp for six schillings.
As you can see from the table belowthe unique “one cent magenta” have had 13 owners during the last 167 years. Among them the most famous stamp collector ever, Phillip von Ferrary. He assembeled the most complete worldwide collection that has ever existed, or is likely to exist. He also owned other extremely rare stamps as the unique “Treskilling Yellow of Sweden”, the “Two cent Hawaii Missionary of 1851” and the only known cover featuring both values of the first Mauritius “Post office” stamps.
|List of owners and personal marks since 1856|
|Name||Year(s) owned||Personal mark||Nationality||Notes|
|Andrew Hunter||1856-1873||None||United Kingdom||Original recipient of the stamp by mail|
|Louis Vernon Vaughan||1873||None||United Kingdom||Hunter’s nephew who, aged 12, found the stamp among his uncle’s personal letters in Georgetown, Guiana|
|Neil Ross McKinnon||1873-1878||None||United Kingdom||A local collector, he at first declined to buy it, feeling it was a bad specimen; while he owned the stamp, British Guiana started to garner attention from the philatelic world|
|Thomas Ridpath||1878||None||United Kingdom||Liverpool dealer. He recognized its rarity and bought it “on the spot” for £120. Just days later, he sold it to Ferrary in Paris, perhaps for about £150|
|Philipp de la Rénotière Von Ferrary||1878-1917/20[a]||Purple trefoil within a circle||Austria/
|The famous collector, who kept the stamp for several decades; during this time, it became known as the “Rarest Stamp in the World”|
|French government||1920-1922||None||France||Ferrary died in 1917, and France seized his stamp collection. It was auctioned in Paris between 1921 and 1926; at this time, the wider world finally saw an image of the famed 1c magenta|
|Arthur M. Hind||1922-1932||Clover leaf bearing his initials, “AH”; it is within a seventeen-point star||United States/
|Paid over $32,500 in 1922 at the Ferrary sale, making world headlines; he showed the stamp at various exhibitions|
|Ann Hind Scala||1932-1940||Perhaps applied the seventeen-point star handstamp to “obscure her husband’s mark”||United States||Arthur Hind’s estranged wife, she displayed the stamp at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair; sold it to Small for $45,000|
|Frederick Trouton Small||1940-1970||A comet handstamp; his agent, Finbar Kenny, also initialed “FK” in pencil||Australia||Finbar Kenny, manager of the Macy’s stamp department, brokered the purchase|
|Irwin Weinberg and Associates||1970-1980||“IW” in pencil||United States||Purchased for $280,000; Weinberg carried the stamp “in a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, with an ever-present armed guard.”|
|John Eluthiere Du Pont||1980-2010/14[c]||“JEdP” in pencil||United States||Heir to the DuPont fortune, murdered wrestler Dave Schultz and died in prison|
|Stuart Weitzman||2014-2021||A stiletto and the initials “SW,” both in pencil||United States||American shoe designer, paid $9,480,000 at Sotheby’s New York on June 17, 2014|
|Stanley Gibbons PLC||2021-present||None||United Kingdom||London stamp dealing company since 1856, with a royal warrant; purchased at Sotheby’s in New York on June 8, 2021 for $9.480.000 (including premium)|
Fig. 6. The famous stamp collector Philipp von Ferrary. He owned the “one cent magenta, the unique “Treskilling Yellow of Sweden”, the “Two cent Hawaii Missionary of 1851” and the only known cover featuring both values of the first Mauritius “Post office” stamps. Se below.
The ”One cent magenta from British Guiana” has been shown to the public on several occations. Latest it was on display at the National Postal Museum in Washington from 2015 to 2018. From 1873, when the stamp was found, the price has risen from six shillings to 9.480.000 $ when it was last sold in 2021.
That was all for this week, but don’t forget to join us for next weeks story. Here we present the exciting story of the very rare “red and blue post office stamps” from Mauritius. The 1 cent magenta from British Guiana I still the most expensive single stamp. But in 2021 a cover with the red “post office” stamp was sold by a German auction house for no less than 9.600.000 $, a new world record for a filatelic item.