The “superstar” of rare stamps, the 1856 1¢ British Guiana Magenta, sold Wednesday evening at an auction for $7.9 million dollars, plus a 20% premium, for a total of $9.48 million. (Earlier reports had the net figured at $9.5 million. Hey, if you want to quibble about $20,000….)
Sotheby’s, which sold the stamp at a New York City auction, points out that it is the fourth time the stamp has set a record price, and that the final price is nearly one BILLION times the stamp’s face value!
“We are thrilled with tonight’s extraordinary, record-setting price of $9.5 million – a truly great moment for the world of stamp collecting, David Redden, Sotheby’s vice chairman, said in a statement. “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.”
“When I was eight years old this was the most precious object in the entire world, and I never dreamed I would have it in my hands,” Redden added.
Before the sale, Redden had called the Magenta “the superstar of the stamp world.”
The stamp was sold by sold by the estate of John du Pont, the eccentric heir to the chemical fortune who was convicted of the murder of a wrestling coach. Some of the proceeds will go to the Eurasian Pacific Wildlife Conservation Foundation that du Pont championed during his lifetime.
The stamp had not been on display since 1986. Du Pont would display it at major shows, but his arrest put an end to that. The Magenta was shown in New York, London, and Hong Kong as promotion for this sale. It also made a stop at the U.S. National Postal Museum in Washington for testing. The NPM hopes its new owner will allow the stamp to be exhibited there this fall.
According to Sotheby’s, the previous record for a single stamp was US$2.2 million for the Swedish Treskilling Yellow in 1996. Sotheby’s provides the Magenta’s auction history:
ARTHUR HIND, UTICA, NEW YORK
Purchased at the auction for then-record price of $35,000
IRWIN WEINBERG STAMP CONSORTIUM
Purchased at the auction for then-record price of $280,000
JOHN E. DU PONT, PENNSYLVANIA
Purchased at auction for then-record price of $935,000
Purchased at auction for new record price of $9.48 million
The stamp was produced by a local newspaper printer in 1856 after the South American colony’s supply of regular stamps had run out. It was discovered by a 12-year-old Scottish boy living in South America in 1873 on his uncle’s mail, and sold for six shillings.
Sotheby’s has produced a video on the history of the stamp. You can view it here.