British Guiana 1c magenta
|British Guiana 1c magenta|
|Country of production||British Guiana (now Guyana)|
|Location of production||Georgetown|
|Date of production||1856|
|Nature of rarity||Very limited printing|
|Number in existence||1|
|Estimated value||US$9,480,000 (last sale, 17 June 2014, including buyer's premium)|
The British Guiana 1c magenta is regarded by many philatelists as the world's most famous rare stamp. It was issued in limited numbers in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1856, and only one specimen is now known to exist. It is the only major postage stamp ever issued that is not represented in Britain's Royal Philatelic Collection.
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. Four thin lines frame the ship. The stamp's country of issue and value in small black upper case lettering in turn surround the frame. With its $9,480,000 sale on 17 June 2014 to Stuart Weitzman, this item has broken the world record for a single stamp auction price each of the last four times it has been sold.
The 1c magenta was part of a series of three definitive stamps issued in 1856 and was intended for use on local newspapers. The other two stamps, a 4c magenta and 4c blue, were intended for letter postage.
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.
Description and history
Only one copy of the 1c stamp is known to exist. It is in used condition and has been cut in an octagonal shape. A signature, in accordance with Dalton's policy, can be seen on the left hand side, along with a heavy postmark.
It was discovered in 1873 by a 12-year-old Scottish schoolboy, Louis Vernon Vaughan, in the Guyanese town of Demerara (whose postmark the stamp bears), amongst his uncle's letters. There was no record of it in his stamp catalogue, so he sold it some weeks later for six shillings to a local collector, N.R. McKinnon. In 1878 McKinnon's collection was sold to a Liverpool stamp dealer, Thomas Ridpath, for £120. Shortly afterwards, the same year, Thomas Ridpath sold the 1c to Philipp von Ferrary for about £150. His massive stamp collection was willed to a Berlin museum but following Ferrary's death in 1917 the entire collection was taken by France as war reparations following the end of World War I.
Arthur Hind bought it during a series of fourteen auctions in 1922 for over $36,000 (reportedly outbidding three kings, including George V); on 6 April 1922, sale 3, lot 295, the stamp sold for 300,000 franc + 17½% tax (@48 frs to £1 = £7,343). On 30 October 1935 it was offered for sale at Harmer Rooke & Co auction 2704, lot 26, where a bid of £7,500 was received from Percival Loines Pemberton. However the lot was withdrawn and returned to Mrs Scala (formerly Mrs Hind). In 1940, she offered it for private sale through the philately department of Macy's department store in New York City. It was purchased for $40,000 by Fred "Poss" Small, an Australian-born engineer from Florida, who had wanted to own the stamp since he first heard about it as a boy. In acquiring it, Small completed a full set of stamps from British Guiana. In 1970, Small auctioned his entire stamp collection (estimated to be worth $750,000), and the 1c stamp was acquired by a syndicate of Pennsylvanian investors, headed by Irwin Weinberg, who paid $280,000 for it and spent much of the decade exhibiting it in a worldwide tour. John E. du Pont bought it for $935,000 in 1980, setting the world's record for a single stamp price again. Subsequently it was believed to have been locked in a bank vault while its owner was in prison. Dupont died while still incarcerated on 9 December 2010.
It was sold from the DuPont estate on 17 June 2014 at a Sotheby's New York auction, sale number N09154, for $9,480,000, including buyer's premium. It took only two minutes to sell to an anonymous bidder, and was the fourth time the stamp had broken the world's record for a single-stamp bid; this time, the sale broke the 1996 record of $2,300,000 for the Treskilling Yellow, an 1855 Swedish stamp. The purchaser has since identified himself as shoe designer and businessman Stuart Weitzman who collected stamps as a child. 
At one point, it was suggested that the 1c stamp was merely a "doctored" copy of the magenta 4c stamp of the same series, a stamp very similar to the 1c stamp in appearance. These claims were disproven.
In the 1920s a rumour developed that a second copy of the stamp had been discovered, and that the then owner of the stamp, Arthur Hind, had quietly purchased this second copy and destroyed it. The rumour has not been substantiated.
In 1999, a second 1c stamp was claimed to have been discovered in Bremen, Germany. The stamp was owned by Peter Winter, who is widely known for producing many forgeries of classic philatelic items, printed as facsimiles on modern paper. Nevertheless, two European experts, Rolf Roeder and David Feldman, have said Winter's stamp is genuine. The stamp was twice examined and found to be a fake by the Royal Philatelic Society London. In their opinion, this specimen in fact was an altered 4c magenta stamp.
In November, 2014 the National Postal Museum of the Smithsonian Institution announced that the anonymous owner of the stamp had agreed to display it at the museum in Washington, D.C. for three years beginning in April 2015. Organizers of the World Stamp Show-NY 2016 are also hoping that the current owner agrees to display the stamp in a place of honor at that exhibition taking place in New York City from May 28-June 4, 2016.
In popular culture
- The Guyana 1c was used as a plot device in the 1941 film, The Saint in Palm Springs. In the film its value was stated to be $65,000.
- The stamp was sought after in the 1952 Carl Barks comic The Gilded Man, in which Donald Duck, the philatelist, said it was "worth more than fifty thousand dollars".
- The stamp was mentioned in John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series The Scarlet Ruse as being worth $325,000.
- The stamp was also a key element of the plot in the 1957 film Lady of Vengeance.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to British Guiana 1c magenta.|
- "The British Guiana". Sotheby's. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
- "The British Guiana" (PDF). Sotheby's. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
- Carlton, R. Scott (1997). The international encyclopaedic dictionary of philatelics. Krause Publications. pp. 36–37. ISBN 0-87341-448-9.
- Feinberg, Ashley (1 March 2014). "Why This Red Smudge Is The Most Valuable Stamp In The World". Gizmodo Australia. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- "Rare British Guiana stamp sets record at New York auction". BBC News. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
- Williams, L. N. and M. (1946). Famous Stamps. Chambers. p. 26.
- McGann, George (8 April 1970). "What did it feel like to own the most valuable piece of paper in the world?". Australian Women's Weekly. pp. 2–3.
- Rachlin, Harvey (1996). Lucy's Bones, Sacred Stones and Einstein's Brain. Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 0-8050-6406-0.
- "Stuart Weitzman to Display Rare Stamp That Fulfilled Boyhood Dream", New York Times, 4 June 2015
- "Part 5: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Stamp from 1892 to 1922". Sotheby's. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- "British Guiana: the rarest stamp in the world?". Stamp Magazine. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- Oswald, Sheryll (28 July 2001). "Peter Winter and the modern German forgeries on eBay". Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- "British Guiana 1c, 1856: Weltrarität oder Fälschung?" (PDF) (in German). Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- Pearson, Patrick (May 2000). "British Guiana Four Cent and One Cent of 1856". The London Philatelist (1275). pp. 108–120.
- "World's Most Valuable Stamp Will Be Exhibited in Washington", Linn's Stamp News, 6 November 2014
- "Unique British Guiana 1¢ Magenta Stamp Sells", Linn's Stamp News, 17 July 2014
- The Saint in Palm Springs in the Internet Movie Database
- Donald Duck: The Gilded Man in the INDUCKS
- Lady of Vengeance at Turner Classic Movies