A stamp described as the world’s rarest sold for $9.5 million on Tuesday, setting a new record.
Although the stamp was sold for less than the projected $10 to $20 million, many have called the sale a great moment for the world of stamp collecting.
The auction house Sotheby’s reports that the “British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta”, which has an intriguing history, was sold to a phone bidder who chose not to be identified.
The stamp previously belonged to John E. du Pont, heir to the chemical company fortune and a collector of stamps. He was also a patron of amateur wrestling, but was later convicted of murdering a freestyle wrestler after an argument.
The stamp was originally printed in the colony of British Guiana - now Guyana - in 1856 by a newspaper publisher after his supply had run out. Each stamp was signed individually to prevent fraud.
In 1873, a British school boy found the stamp in his late uncle’s collection of personal letters and convinced a local stamp dealer to buy it for six shillings, or about $1.50.
“Now look here, my lad,” the dealer reportedly said. “I am taking a great risk in paying so much for this stamp.”
According to the director of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, Allen Kane, the stamp is the rarest in the world. It has been called the Mona Lisa of stamps, and is the most valuable item in the world by weight and size.
During the auction, television cameras and stamp collectors filled the room.
“I don’t think they’d get that coverage for a van Gogh,” Frank J. Buono, a stamp dealer from New York, said.
The previous auction record for a single stamp was $2.2 million, held by a stamp called the “Treskilling Yellow”.