World Stamps

By Denise McCarty

The world’s most famous stamp in stamp-on-stamp designs

June 20, 2014 10:55 AM

  • Figure 1. A 1967 stamp-on-stamp design from Guyana honors “the world’s rarest stamp.”

  • Figure 2. Guyana commemorates Rowland Hill and the 1856 1¢ Magenta on this 1979 stamp.

  • Figure 3. Guyana issued this souvenir sheet in 2006 to mark the 150th anniversary of the 1856 British Guiana 1¢ Magenta.

  • Figure 4. The 1856 British Guiana 1¢ Magenta is among the rare and famous stamps shown on a souvenir sheet from The Gambia.

Although there is only one 1856 British Guiana 1¢ Magenta, this famous stamp has been pictured on other stamps, known as stamp-on-stamp designs.

The 1¢ Magenta (Scott 13) is featured on four face-different stamps from Guyana, the republic that once was the crown colony of British Guiana.

Two of these stamp-on-stamp designs were issued Feb. 23, 1967 (Scott 26-27).

In addition to showing the 1¢ magenta, the stamps are inscribed “The World’s Rarest Stamp.” Figure 1 shows the 5¢ stamp. The other stamp is denominated 25¢.

The 1¢ Magenta is pictured with a magnifying glass on a 30¢ stamp marking the 100th death anniversary of Rowland Hill (1795-1879), the British postal reformer who is considered the inventor of the postage stamp.

Figure 2 shows the 30¢ stamp (Scott 299), issued June 11, 1979. The stamp is known with various surcharges and overprints, including one commemorating the 250th birth anniversary of President George Washington in 1982 (Scott 480).

Also, the $3 stamp in the 1979 Rowland Hill set (Scott 301) depicts the printing press used to print the 1¢ Magenta.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1¢ Magenta, Guyana issued a souvenir sheet July 27, 2006 (Scott 3933), shown in Figure 3.

The $400 stamp in the sheet features the stamp-on-stamp design. Guyana’s Kaieteur Falls, one of the world’s most spectacular and powerful waterfalls, is shown in the selvage.

An inscription in the selvage reads: “One Cent Black on Magenta. The year 2006 marks the 150th anniversary of the printing of the rarest and most valuable stamp in the world, the ‘One Cent Black On Magenta.’ The stamp was printed in British Guiana by the firm of Joseph Baum & William Dallas, publishers of the then Official Gazette of Georgetown, Demerara.”

Other postal administrations, including Ajman in 1965 (Scott 39), Nicaragua in 1976 (C915), North Korea in 1980 (1939) and The Gambia in 2004 (2871a), have issued 1¢ Magenta stamp-on-stamp designs. Figure 4 shows the last-mentioned stamp. It was printed in a souvenir sheet along with images of other rare and famous stamps.