Dating back to 1856, “The British Guiana 1c Magenta” is considered the world’s rarest stamp and will now return to Britain (permanently) for the first time in 143 years. The piece was purchased for $8.3 million, equivalent to more than 7 million euros, by the famous collectible stamp company, Stanley Gibbons, at an auction last month.
Octagonal, printed in black on purple paper, measures 29 x 26 mm and engraved with a three-masted sailboat, as well as the motto “Damus Petimus Que Vicissim” in Portuguese “Damos e Esperamos Retribuir”. For nearly a century and a half, they have been kept in international collections, passing through the hands of 12 owners including famous philatelist Philippe von Ferrari, the French government, philanthropist John du Pont and, most recently, American shoe designer Stuart Weitzman who loaned it to the Smithsonian National Philatelic Museum in Washington, D.C., where it was on display.
This being is the only “survivor” of a small batch stamped in the former British colony (now Guyana) after a ship supposedly delivering 50,000 stamps arrived with only 5,000. Postal agent ETE Dalton allowed the editors of the Royal Gazette to run a small printed batch of stamps, requiring each stamp to be signed by a clerk (to avoid forgery).
According to Graham Shirkur, CEO of Stanley Gibbons, “The remaining stamps were used to deliver a newspaper that was forgotten until 1873. Until 12-year-old Scottish student Louis Vernon Vaughan found this treasure among his uncle’s papers and sold it to a local collector.”
“This seal is the most valuable manufactured item in the world, with a value of about 2.5 million times that of 24-karat gold, for example,” the company said, adding that it was “making plans to make the seal for collectors, creating a common ownership scheme.” “In the coming weeks, we hope to announce bold plans that will allow everyone to have a piece of their wonderful history. This doesn’t just include collectors. We are developing a pricing model that covers all other things,” Shircore explained, stressing the object’s value: “It’s unique. We are really happy to welcome him back on British soil, where we hope he will stay.” From now on, the seal will be on display at the Stanley Gibbons flagship store in central London, in an “extremely safe” setting, without oxygen.