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News Postage stamp sells for $9.5 million

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  1. Jun 18, 2014 #1

    jtbell

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    Staff: Mentor

    Yesterday, the British Guiana one-cent magenta postage stamp of 1856 sold at auction for $9.5 million:

    http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/18/luxury/stamp-auction/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Guiana_1c_magenta

    It thereby reclaimed its position as the world’s most valuable stamp from the Sweden three-skilling yellow of 1855:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treskilling_Yellow

    Its most recent previous owner was John E. du Pont, who bought it in 1980 for $935,000. He was convicted of murder in 1997, and died in prison in 2010. His estate was the seller in yesterday’s sale.

    I’ve seen it on probably two occasions: the big international stamp shows in Philadelphia in 1976, and in Chicago in 1986. During the shows in San Francisco in 1997 and Washington DC in 2006, du Pont was in prison; maybe the new owner will show it in New York in 2016. In Philadelphia, it was displayed by itself in a “court of honor” along with several other famous philatelic items; but in Chicago it was among the “normal” exhibits as part of du Pont’s comprehensive collection of British Guiana, with a guard standing nearby:

    attachment.php?attachmentid=70687&stc=1&d=1403104549.jpg

    attachment.php?attachmentid=70688&stc=1&d=1403104549.jpg

    Thanks to Photoshop, I can pull out some details from the apparently featureless blob in the scanned slide above:

    attachment.php?attachmentid=70689&stc=1&d=1403104549.jpg
     

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  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2014 #2

    adjacent

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    Gold Member

    :surprised What's so special about it? Why would someone buy an old stamp for 9.5 million?
     
  4. Jun 18, 2014 #3
    You have got to be kidding me. Paying $9.5M for that is a crime against humanity.
     
  5. Jun 18, 2014 #4

    D H

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    The only thing that is special about it is that there's only one of them. It is unique.

    One of the driving factors in the value of a stamp is how many others just like it are out there in stamp collections. The value of a stamp escalates exponentially with rarity. The greatest rarity is one and only one. For this stamp, along with the Treskilling Yellow mentioned by JT, there is only one.
     
  6. Jun 18, 2014 #5

    jtbell

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    Staff: Mentor

    The "collecting disease" does strange things to people. :uhh: I have a mild case of it myself, so I can see where du Pont and Philipp von Ferrary and Bill Gross and others like them come from. (If any of you all invest your savings in one of the PIMCO bond funds, you're helping Bill with his stamp collection.)

    There aren't many truly unique stamps. I think the British Guiana stamp takes the prize because it's from a British colony, it started to issue stamps early on, and the British were among the first to take up stamp collecting seriously in the 1840s and 1850s. Think of those eccentric rich Britons of the Victorian era.

    British Guiana is small, and most of its early stamps are scarce to begin with. They're among the "blue chips" of philately, so to speak. A collection of British Guiana is manageable in size (number of stamps), but nevertheless expensive to do well, even without the one-cent magenta. With the one-cent magenta, only one person at a time can have a complete collection. It doesn't take many millionaires who collect British Guiana to drive the price up.
     
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