10 October 2023
The recent Stampex exhibition in London saw collectors come together to buy and sell stamps, attend philatelic talks, and take part in meetings. However it was the appearance of the world’s most expensive stamp that stole the show, with collectors queuing up to see the British Guiana One Cent Magenta for themselves.
Complete with two security guards and a special viewing booth, the world famous stamp was acquired by Stanley Gibbons at a 2021 auction for $8,307,000, and has since been offered to collectors in a unique ‘fractional ownership’ scheme. Despite its value, previous owners, including John du Pont and Stuart Weitzman, have signed the back of the stamp.
Collector Mark told Stamp Collector:
‘It’s amazing really, this tiny piece of paper worth millions is right here for people to see, and I was surprised that I was even allowed to take a photo of it with my phone. I came along to Stampex today specifically to see this stamp and I’m very glad I did, now I am here I am definitely going to buy some stamps for my collection.’
Other highlights of the four-day event included the launch of a series of collectable hand-made books from Glasgow Stamp Shop which describe classic line engraved stamps such as the Penny Black and include space to add the stamps.
Next year’s Stampex is set to take place later in the year, between 23 and 26 October, and is likely to again be at the Business Design Centre, Islington. Find out more at: www.stampexinternational.com
A brief history of the famous stamp
The stamp can be dated back to 1856 and is officially called the British Guiana ONE CENT black on magenta.
The One Cent Magenta was discovered by a 12-year-old schoolboy, Vernon Vaughan, amongst some family papers in 1873. He sold the stamp for 6 shillings, always believing he would find another.
The stamp then exchanged hands until it was auctioned in 1922. At the time, it was bought for a little over £7k and it then became known as the world’s most expensive stamp. It was held privately until 1933, and sold to an anonymous collector in 1940.
In New York on 24 March 1970 a syndicate bought the stamp for $280,000 and later sold it at Gold PTS Member, Robert A Siegel of New York for $935,000 to John du Pont. In 2014 it was sold to Stuart Weitzman.
Today, the One Cent Magenta belongs to Stanley Gibbons, who returned the stamp to London. In an exciting twist, they also opened up ownership of the British Guiana One Cent Magenta to everyone through fractional share ownership.
The first stamps of British Guiana were in use from 1 July 1850. They were printed at the offices of the Royal Gazette in Georgetown, the capital of the colony.
The ‘design’ was created by bending a length of copper printer’s rule into a rough circle, setting ‘BRITISH GUIANA’ around the inside and placing the value in a straight line across the centre. To aid identification, each value was printed on a different coloured paper and, due to fears that the stamps would be relatively easy to copy, each had to be initialled by a postal official.
The design needed to be more secure, so Waterlow and Sons of London were tasked with this, and on 1 January 1852 the first of the Waterlow stamps were issued. However, supply didn’t always match demand and in 1856, officials had to print some stamps at the Royal Gazette.