WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE STAMP IS GOING ON DISPLAY AT A FREE EXHIBITION HOSTED BY STANLEY GIBBONS IN LONDON (8TH NOVEMBER – 18TH DECEMBER)
“The world’s most valuable stamp has been bought for $8.3m by Stanley Gibbons, which plans to offer investors a chance to buy fractional ownership of the unique asset.” Financial Times (9 June 2021)
On Monday 8th November the world’s most expensive stamp, the 1c Magenta, will be going on display as part of a free exhibition hosted by Stanley Gibbons, the world’s longest standing stamp merchant.
Stanley Gibbons has created a series of exhibits around the 1c Magenta and its history displayed on the gallery floor of its head office at 399 Strand, London. Visitors can discover the full story of the stamp, and its owners, from schoolboys to shoe designers via governments and murderers. They will also be able to discover other members of this rare stamp’s philatelic family tree and join in the trend of signing the back with our communal wall mural.
The exhibition will also introduce a limited-edition artwork of the 1c Magenta, by London-based sculptor Guy Gee. Renowned for exploring the merging boundaries between design and contemporary art Guy Gee has been working with Stanley Gibbons on a number of projects as an extension of his “Terrence Stamps” series. The Magenta piece will be the first exclusive launch from this collaboration.
The exhibition will be open to the general public every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8th November to 17th December. There are also Saturday openings on November 20th and the 4th and 18th December. Opening times are 11.00 – 18.00 and the full address for Stanley Gibbons head office is 399 Strand, London, WC2R 0LX.
ABOUT THE 1 CENT MAGENTA
There are any number of 'unique' philatelic items, but only one which is accepted as being 'The World's Rarest Stamp'. The 1856 British Guiana ONE CENT black on magenta is indeed unique in that all other contenders for the title are errors or varieties of more widely available stamps or have been rendered 'unique' by their postmarks or postal use.
It was first discovered by a local schoolboy, 12-year-old L Vernon Vaughan, amongst some family papers in 1873; he soaked it off and placed it briefly in his collection, before selling it to a local collector Neil R McKinnon for the sum of six shillings. Vaughan was apparently convinced that he would be able to find a better example of the stamp, but no one ever has. A few years later McKinnon sold his collection to a Liverpool stamp dealer Thomas Ridpath, for £120 and Ridpath subsequently sold the ONE CENT on to the renowned collector Philipp la Renotière von Ferrary, an Austrian living in Paris, for an undisclosed sum, believed to be around £40. Ferrary died in 1917, intending to leave his collection to the Postal Museum in Berlin. However, it was confiscated by the French Government as part of Germany’s war reparations and sold in a series of auctions between June 1921 and November 1925, with the ONE CENT going under the hammer on 6 April 1922, when it was bought by Arthur Hind, a British-born American millionaire for a total sum of £7343 including taxes, making it the highest price ever paid for a single postage stamp and leading to it being widely regarded as 'The World’s Rarest Stamp'.
Hind died in 1933 and after a legal battle between his wife and his estate, the stamp passed to Mrs Hind, who attempted to sell in London in 1935 when it failed to reach its reserve. It was finally sold for a sum believed to be around $45,000 in 1940 to an anonymous buyer who was eventually revealed to be Frederick Small, an Australian living in the United States. His name did not become known until the stamp was next sold in 1970, but it was exhibited on a very few occasions, most famously at the Stanley Gibbons Catalogue Centenary Exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall, London, in 1965, the programme for which quoted a valuation of £200,000. This proved to be reasonably accurate, because when the stamp sold in New York on 24 March 1970 as part of the ‘Great’ collection it reached the equivalent of $280,000, the buyer being an investment syndicate one of whom was stamp dealer Irwin Weinberg. Ten years later Mr Weinberg, on behalf of the syndicate, again offered the stamp for sale at Robert A Siegel of New York and this time, including commission, the sum paid totalled $935,000.
At first the name of the new owner was again a mystery but was eventually revealed to be John E du Pont, heir to the Du Pont Chemicals fortune. In 1997 du Pont was convicted of murder and spent the rest of his life in prison, dying on 9 December 2010. For most of its 30 years in du Pont’s ownership the stamp was in storage, but an extensive promotional ‘tour’ took place before it went under the hammer again, this time at Sotheby’s New York salerooms on 17 June 2014. This time the selling price was slightly more than ten times its previous peak, the buyer paying a total of $9,480,000. The new owner was shoe designer Stuart Weitzman. Over the next seven years the ONE CENT black on magenta remained in the limelight, being widely exhibited until it once again returned to the auctioneer’s rostrum, also at Sotheby’s in New York, on 8 June 2021, when it achieved a total price of $8,307,000. The buyer was Stanley Gibbons Ltd. who had proudly shown the stamp at its Catalogue Centenary Exhibition 56 years earlier, stating its value to be £200,000.
Announcing the purchase, Stanley Gibbons stated that the ONE CENT black on magenta would once more be returning to the UK, where it would be made available for public viewing at its flagship store at 399 Strand, London. In addition, Stanley Gibbons also announced its intention to make ownership of the item, in part at least, available to a much wider audience through shared ownership – a concept which has become increasingly popular in recent years and will hopefully create greater enjoyment of this rarest of philatelic artefacts for a far greater number of people. For more information see: www.showpiece.com
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