The June 17 auction of the legendary 1856 1¢ Magenta of British Guiana, often described as the world’s most famous stamp, is almost upon us.
Matthew Healey, Linn’s correspondent in New York City, where the sale is to take place, has additional details in his story on page 1 of this issue.
I was reminded of the stamp’s date with destiny when the slim single-lot auction catalog from Sotheby’s arrived in the mail a few days ago.
For potential bidders with the financial means to afford one of the hobby’s most storied crown jewels, the catalog provides all the necessary vitals concerning the stamp’s provenance.
For the rest of us, the volume is an indispensable reference work befitting a stamp that most collectors have known about from their earliest days.
Pictured nearby is the lot description from the catalog, which features an oversize image of the stamp, along with Sotheby’s terse description: “Initialed EDW, cut octagonally clear of design, April 4, 1856 DEMERARA circular datestamp, slight surface rubbing due to, according to RPSL certificate (2014), ‘over painting at some time in the past,’ the unique example, unpriced in Gibbons and Scott.”
The following page in the catalog offers a list of the previous owners that reads like a who’s who of philately.
The stamp first passed through the hands of Andrew Hunter, described in the catalog as the “original recipient of the mailed stamp.”
The last to own the stamp was John E. du Pont, heir to the du Pont chemical fortune who died Dec. 9, 2010.
Also listed in the auction catalog are the various exhibitions where the stamp made an appearance, including the 1986 Ameripex show in Chicago, where the stamp was the centerpiece of du Pont’s grand prix-winning exhibit of British Guiana.
In the Scott catalog, the listing for the stamp has for many years shown a dash in the used column.
If the stamp is in fact sold, it is likely that the realization, whatever it might be, will inform the Scott editors’ decision to assign a value to the stamp.
At this point, perhaps the biggest question to be answered is: Who will buy the stamp?
While there are a small number of stamp collectors with pockets deep enough to add the 1¢ Magenta to their collection, it is quite possible that the ultimate owner will not be a stamp collector. There are collectors who seek nothing but the finest or rarest, whether it be an impressionist masterpiece, a flawless gemstone or a unique stamp.
Sotheby’s has established a presale estimate of $10 million to $20 million — a range substantially above the $935,000 that du Pont paid when he purchased the stamp in 1980.
A colleague of mine, with decades of experience in the world of high-end philatelic auctions, recently told me that he doubts the stamp will sell for $10 million or more.
Fair enough, but I’d say all bets are off when it comes to this particular stamp.
In the closing statement in the catalog, Sotheby’s seems to agree: “The British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta is returning to the marketplace after its longest absence since it was in the Ferrary collection. ...
“All that can be known until the auctioneer gives fair warning is that the winning bidder will own the world’s most famous and valuable stamp.”
blogThis month marks my fifth anniversary writing the monthly auction report for Linn’s Stamp News. That’s 60 columns, totaling more than 100,000 words (enough for a decent-sized novel), all about our favorite hobby. Read More ›
blogWhen this cover was listed on eBay in mid-September, it didn't take long for some knowledgeable collectors to recognize this piece of postal history for the gem that it is: an early trans-oceanic survey cover for a Pacific route that included Midway Island, which would become famous as the location of a pivotal 1942 naval battle during World War II. Read More ›
blogIn mid-September I traveled to London, England, to attend Autumn Stampex, one of two British national stamp shows sponsored by the Philatelic Traders’ Society, Great Britain’s national stamp dealers association. The show took place Sept. 16-19 at the Business Design Centre in Islington (central north London), a comfortable and attractive venue for a stamp show. Read More ›
September 28, 2015 03:30 AMAfter the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, postal workers not only saved the mail, they saved the new post office building. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty discusses current events that relate to the stamp hobby, including the relocation of a stamp show in Sweden due to the Syrian refugee crises, and new stamps honoring Pope Francis and the British monarchy.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke talks about a record fifth win for wildlife artist Joseph Hautman in the federal duck stamp art contest, and see the painting that will appear on next year’s federal duck stamp
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz questions Bolivia’s choice for the design of a 2013 stamp honoring the country’s efforts to protect its migrants in foreign lands.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News managing editor Chad Snee discusses the discovery of the upright Jenny Invert pane received in an order from Stamp Fulfillment Services in Kansas City, Mo., and also reports on the Confederate Stamp Alliance.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.