Rare British Guiana 1-penny stamp could net $10M to $20M at NYC auction

A 1-cent postage stamp from a 19th century British colony in South America is poised to become the world’s most valuable stamp—again. The 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta could bring US$10 million to $20 million when it goes on the auction block at Sotheby’s on Tuesday. Three times in its long history, the little stamp has broken the auction record for a single stamp.

It’s a stamp the world of collectors has been dying to see for a long time.

Allen Kane, director of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum

First found in a child’s collection, the stamp went on to have a fascinating history. The Postmuseum in Berlin inherited it, only to see it confiscated a year later by France as part of World War I reparation payments. In 1922, while in French hands, the Magenta fetched $35,000 at auction, breaking the stamp price record for the first of two—and soon to be three—times in its history. The buyer was an industrialist from Utica, New York, who outbid King George V. By 1980, it had fallen into the hands of John Du Pont, a tycoon in the chemical industry convicted of murder in 1997, who died in prison four years ago. Now, in 2014, Du Pont’s estate has yet again put the stamp up for auction.

[Despite the rapid appreciation of rare stamps in recent years, there has been a] definitive decline in [their] organised selling.

Ken Martin, executive director, American Philatelic Society