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.”
August 01, 2015 07:37 PMIt didn’t take long for the doom-and-gloomers to weigh in with their prognostications following the July 24 announcement from the American Philatelic Society that it hired former political aide Scott English to be the next executive director of the nation’s largest stamp club. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 08:04 PMIn the Editor’s Insights columns in the July 20 Linn’s Stamp News monthly and the Aug. 10 weekly Linn’s, I mentioned Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board without giving too much detail. Linn’s goal is to engage its audience both in print and online and to grow this audience. The role of the newly formed Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board is to assist us achieving these goals by keeping us focused on the needs of our audience and helping us adapt to today’s market. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 09:01 AMAs in previous years, Rarities Week, the series of sales conducted June 22-26 by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, included several name sales as well as an assortment of notable items from around the world. The week kicked off with something of a do-over: a sizable assortment of better United States stamps and covers that had appeared in four previous sales, but whose winning bidder then failed to pay for them. Read More ›
July 23, 2015 04:35 PMThe Tieton, Wash., post office is a simple 1935 cement block building with a slat wood facade. Townsfolk in the agricultural community of 1,200 in central Washington believe the post office could become a landmark, if only the United States Postal Service would allow them to cover the front with a stamp-like mosaic. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s senior editor Denise McCarty discusses the hiring of a new executive director of the American Philatelic Society, the new Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board and the upcoming APS Stampshow.
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz discusses the largest souvenir card produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The card is one of three issued to honor the centenary of San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke discusses Canada’s recently recalled $1.20 Dinosaur Provincial Park stamps featuring inaccurately described Hoodoo rock formations.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman discusses the discovery of another pane of the intentionally created upright variety of the $2 Jenny Invert stamp.
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.