British Guiana 1c magenta

common_name = British Guiana 1¢ magenta

country_of_production = British Guiana (now Guyana)
location_of_production= Georgetown
date_of_production= 1856
nature_of_rarity = Very limited printing
number_in_existence= 1
face_value = 1¢
estimated_value = US$935,000

The British Guiana 1¢ magenta is " [r] egarded by many as the world's most famous stamp." [ R. Scott Carlton, "The International Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Philatelics" (1997), p. 36. ] It was issued in limited numbers in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1856, and only one specimen is now known to exist.

It is imperforate, printed in black on magenta paper, and it features a sailing ship along with the colony's Latin motto "Damus Petimus Que Vicissim" (We give and expect in return) in the middle. Four thin lines frame the ship. The stamp's country of issue and value in small black upper case lettering in turn surround the frame.


s issued in that year and was intended for use on local newspapers. The other two stamps, a 4¢ magenta and 4¢ blue, were intended for postage.

The issue came through mischance. An anticipated delivery of stamps never arrived by ship in 1856, so the local postmaster, E.T.E. Dalton, authorised a printer, Joseph Baum and William Dallas, who were the publishers of the "Official Gazette" newspaper in Georgetown, to print out an emergency issue of three stamps. Dalton gave some specifications about the design, but the printer chose to add a ship image of his own design on the stamp series. Dalton was not pleased with the end result, and as a safeguard against forgery ordered that all correspondence bearing the stamps be autographed by the post office clerks. This particular stamp was initialed E.D.W. by the clerk E.D.Wight.

Description and history

Only one copy of the 1¢ stamp is known to exist. It is in used condition and has been cut in an octagonal shape. A signature, in accordance to Dalton's policy, can be seen on the left hand side. Although dirty and heavily postmarked on the upper left hand side, it is nonetheless regarded as priceless.

It was discovered in 1873, by 12-year-old Scottish schoolboy Vernon Vaughan in the Guyanese town of Demerara, amongst his uncle's letters. There was no record of it in his stamp catalogue, so he sold it some weeks later for a few shillings to a local dealer, N.R. McKinnon. After that, the price escalated. It was bought by a succession of collectors before being bought by Philippe la Rénotière von Ferrary in the 1880s for US$750. His massive stamp collection was willed to a Berlin museum. Following Ferrary's death in 1917, the entire collection was taken by France as war reparations following the end of World War I. Arthur Hind bought it during the series of fourteen auctions in 1922 for over US$36,000 (reportedly outbidding three kings, including King George V), and it was sold by his widow for US$40,000 to a Florida engineer. In 1970, a syndicate of Pennsylvanian investors, headed by Irwin Weinberg, purchased the stamp for $280,000 and spent much of the decade exhibiting the stamp in a worldwide tour. John E. du Pont bought it for $935,000 in 1980. Today it is believed to be locked away in a bank vault, while its owner serves a 30-year sentence for murder. [cite book | author=Rachlin, Harvey | title=Lucy's Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein's Brain: The Remarkable Stories Behind the Great Artifacts of History, From Antiquity to the Modern Era| publisher=Henry Holt and Company | year=1996 | id=ISBN 0-8050-6406-0]


At one point, it was suggested that the 1¢ stamp was merely a "doctored" copy of the magenta 4¢ stamp of the 1856 series, a stamp very similar to the 1¢ stamp in appearance. These claims were disproven.

In the 1920s a rumor developed that a second copy of the stamp had been discovered, and that the then owner of the stamp, Arthur Hind, had quietly purchased this second copy and destroyed it. The rumor has not been substantiated.

In 1999, a second 1¢ stamp was claimed to have been discovered in Bremen, Germany. The stamp was owned by Peter Winter, who is widely known for producing many forgeries of classic philatelic items [ [ Sheryll Oswald, "Peter Winter and the modern German forgeries on eBay" (28 July, 2001)] ] , printed as facsimiles on modern paper. Nevertheless, two European experts, Rolf Roeder and David Feldman, have said Winter's stamp is genuine [ [ "British Guiana 1c, 1856: Weltrarität oder Fälschung?" Bund Deutscher Philatelisten (BDPh) e.V. (in German)] ] . The stamp was twice examined and found to be a fake by the Royal Philatelic Society London. In their opinion, this specimen in fact was an altered 4¢ magenta stamp [ [ "Is the British Guiana 1c unique?" "Stamp Online"] ] .

Popular culture

* The Guyana 1c was used as a plot device in the 1941 movie, "The Saint in Palm Springs" [ [ "The Saint in Palm Springs", "IMDb"] ] . In the movie its value was stated to be $65,000.
* The stamp was sought after in the 1952 Carl Barks comic "The Gilded Man" [ [ "Donald Duck: The Gilded Man" "COA"] ] , in which Donald Duck, the philatelist, said it was "worth more than fifty thousand dollars!"


ee also

* List of notable postage stamps

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