The hefty price, which includes the buyer's premium, makes
the one-inch by one-and-a-quarter-inch stamp (2.5 cm by 3.2 cm)
printed in black on magenta paper the most expensive stamp ever
sold at auction, and the most valuable object by weight and
size, according to the auction house.
An anonymous telephone bidder purchased the stamp during the
bidding in the packed auction.
"Every time it has come up for auction and sold, it has brought
the highest price ever paid for a stamp," said David Redden, the
worldwide chairman of books and manuscripts at Sotheby's.
"It has always been the world's most-famous stamp. It is one of
these objects around which a huge mystique has grown up over the
years," he said.
The previous record auction price for a single stamp was 2.87
million Swiss francs (about $2.2 million). It was set in 1996
for the Treskilling Yellow, a Swedish stamp that is a misprint
of an 1855 shilling stamp in the wrong color.
The British Guiana stamp was sold by the estate of the late
multimillionaire John du Pont, an heir to the du Pont chemical
fortune, who died in prison in 2010 at the age of 72. Du Pont
was serving a murder sentence for the shooting of David Schultz,
a champion U.S. wrestler, in 1996.
Earlier this year, the Royal Philatelic Society of London
re-authenticated the stamp, which du Pont, an avid stamp
collector, purchased in 1980 for $935,000. The stamp's
authenticity was previously verified in 1935.
[to top of second column]
The British Guiana One-Cent Magenta is one of the world's first
postage stamps. In 1856 in British Guiana - now the republic of
Guyana - the local postmaster asked a newspaper to print some stamps
after supplies from Britain, where its stamps were printed, were
There are still a few four-cent stamps issued by the South American
country, but this is the only one-cent. Until this year, the stamp
had not been on public view since 1987, according to Sotheby's.
The stamp was discovered in 1873 by a 12-year-old schoolboy named L.
Vernon Vaughan, who was living in British Guiana with his family. He
found it among his family papers.
He kept it in his collection and later sold it to another collector
in British Guiana. It surfaced in Britain in 1878 and was then
purchased by Count Philippe la Renotiere von Ferrary, a noted stamp
The count's collection was donated to the postal museum in Berlin
and was later seized by France as war reparation from Germany and
sold in 1922.
It was sold several times before du Pont purchased it. Part of the
proceeds of the sale will go to the Eurasian Pacific Wildlife
Conservation Foundation, which du Pont supported.
(Editing by Richard Chang and G Crosse)
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