Published on June 19th, 2014 | by Sally Wenham

Stamping A Mark In The Record Books

On 17th June, Sotheby’s Auctioneers in New York sold the 1856 British Guiana 1-cent magenta postage stamp which has once again become the most expensive stamp in the world. This stamp sold within two minutes of the auction starting for a world record fee of $9.5 million (£5.6 million), eclipsing the previous world record of $2.2 million which was paid for the Swedish Treskilling Yellow in 1996. The 1-cent Magenta was sold to an anonymous bidder.

This tiny piece of history has exceeded the previous world record for the sale of a single stamp each of the three previous times it has been sold. The 1-cent Magenta is the only recorded surviving stamp of its kind and therefore commands a seven figure asking price from ardent philatelists who want to add it to their collection of special stamps.

This small but yet oh so valuable stamp was created in 1856 due to a delay in a shipment of postage stamps from London which British Guiana (now known as Guyana) usually used. In fear that this delay would cause severe disruption to the postal service, the postmaster E.T.E Dalton commissioned the printers of the local Royal Gazette newspaper to produce a contingency supply of stamps. The 1-cent magenta was produced then along with the four-cent magenta and the four-cent blue.


The British Guiana stamp was intended to be used on newspapers and its four cent counterparts were intended for posting letters. Printed in black on magenta paper, the one-cent was cut in an octagonal shape to distinguish itself from the four cent stamp. The stamps were printed featuring a sailing ship in the middle and include the Latin motto of the colony “Damus Pettimus Que Vicissim”, meaning we give and expect in return.

The stamp was found in 1873 by a 12 year old Scottish schoolboy and stamp collector, L. Vernon Vaughan. As there was no record of the 1-cent magenta in his stamp collecting book, he sold it to collector N.R. McKinnon a few weeks after discovering it. Since then, this highly collectible stamp has sold for $120, $150 and World Record fees of $35,000 in 1922, $280,000 in 1970, $935,000 in 1980 and $9.5 million yesterday.

The Post Office Shop sells a wide range of postage stamps and collectible stamps of varying values. You never know, perhaps our humble first class stamps will command such high fees in the future!

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