At first look it might be an outdated scrap of paper that has had blackcurrant juice knocked over it. In actuality it’s, when it comes to dimension, weight and materials, arguably probably the most invaluable object on the earth. When it goes to auction in June it’s anticipated to promote for between $10m and $15m – greater than a billion instances its unique worth.
The scrap of paper is the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, which was created in 1856 and is probably the most well-known and invaluable stamp on the earth. “It’s the Mona Lisa of philately,” mentioned David Beech, a philatelic skilled. “It’s the one stamp that each philatelist and each collector would have heard about and seen an illustration of.”
The stamp, the one one in every of its type, has gone on show at Sotheby’s London headquarters earlier than its sale in New York and can be on public view this week. Beech, previously the curator of the British Library philatelic collections, mentioned its fame was enhanced by the individuals who had owned it – and people who desperately needed to personal it.
The stamp was created in British Guiana, now Guyana, when a scarcity of stamps normally imported from England threatened to disrupt the colony’s postal service. The one cent stamp was primarily used for delivering newspapers, and most of these would have been thrown away. Beech mentioned the shock was much less “why does just one exist right now?” and extra “it’s a miracle that one stamp has survived”.
It was found in 1873 by a budding 12-year-old philatelist known as Vernon Vaughan, a Scottish boy residing in British Guiana. He discovered it in his uncle’s papers, thought it regarded invaluable and bought it for six shillings.
The stamp was handed via collectors earlier than being noticed by Rely Philipp La Rénotière von Ferrary of Paris, who devoted his life to philately and amassed the best and most complete assortment of stamps in historical past. He died of a coronary heart assault in 1917, leaving his stamps “with delight and pleasure to my German fatherland”.
France seized the gathering from Berlin in 1920, promoting the stamps at public sale with the proceeds deducted from Germany’s battle reparations. The public sale was attended by the brokers of the world’s biggest collectors, together with King George V of England and King Carol II of Romania. The profitable bidder, setting a world file for a single stamp, was a Bradford-born industrialist known as Arthur Hind, who made his fortune within the US making upholstery materials.
Subsequent homeowners included an Australian engineer known as Frederick T Small who saved his possession so quiet that, it’s mentioned, his spouse didn’t even know he had purchased it.
It was bought in 1980 for a file $935,000 to an nameless bidder, who was later revealed as John du Pont, the eccentric millionaire, beginner sportsman and devoted stamp collector who murdered the wrestler Dave Schultz – a weird story informed within the movie Foxcatcher starring Steve Carell.
Its present proprietor is the American designer Stuart Weitzman, referred to as the shoe designer to the stars.
Earlier homeowners have made their very own small marks on the again of the stamp. Weitzman’s mark is a stiletto heel alongside his initials SW.
In philately the stamp is one thing of a holy grail. Beech recalled seeing it an exhibition in Brussels in 1972. “You considered the factor inside a small protected and there was a queue of individuals. It was a bit like seeing the crown jewels, you had about 5 seconds to look into this darkish protected.”
Every of the 4 instances the stamp has bought at public sale it has achieved a world file worth for a single stamp, and that’s anticipated as soon as extra on the 8 June sale in New York. Proceeds will profit charitable ventures, the public sale home mentioned.
David Goldthorpe, a senior director at Sotheby’s, mentioned the stamp’s provenance was fascinating. “It’s the final collectible, it speaks concerning the mania of accumulating, the joys of the chase. And there is just one.”