As part of the British Empire, Guyana experienced a shortage of English-made stamps in 1856. Had there been no stamps at all the postal service there would have come to a grinding halt. As a last minute solution the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta stamp was issued as a stop gap measure. This South American stamp was only in print for a few months at most, making them an extremely rare type of stamp- so rare in fact that this specimen is thought to be the only surviving stamp of its kind left in the world.

British Guiana one cent stamp
Via: Sotheby’s

The stamp was hastily made at the only location that could handle printing in British Guinana at the time: a local newspaper. The Royal Gazette of British Guiana was commissioned to print these stamps using a stock image of a ship in imitation of stamps printed in Britain that featured naval themes.

The burgundy stamp was cost one cent and featured the colony motto in Latin: damus patimus que vicissim, which means “we give and seek in return” though the Latin is misspelled thanks to the English engraver that informed the stamp’s design. This unusual wine-colored stamp is octagonal in shape and a cyan blue 4-cent stamp was also issued at the time in the same shape.

British Guiana 4-cent Stamp
The cyan British 4-Cent Stamp. Via: Sotheby’s/ YouTube

The stamp was not in circulation long and the local authorities sought to remove it from public use as soon as “official” stamps were again available. All these factors combined to effectively destroy all of these stamps save for the one that is known today.

The first realization of the value of this stamp came in the 1870s when it was bought by noted stamp collector, Count Philippe la Renotière von Ferrary and for a time this stamp was held by the government of France as the spoils of war following Word War I.

British Guiana one cent stamp
The other side of the Magenta One-Cent. Via: Sotheby’s/ YouTube

Since then each sale of the stamp has yielded higher and higher dollar amounts. It was sold for $45,000 USD in 1945, and later sold for $935,000 in 1980 when it was bought by the heir to the DuPont chemical fortune. Shoe designer, Stuart Weitzman, paid $9.5M for it in 2014.

Weitzman marked the stamp with his initials and a small drawing of a stiletto shoe to commemorate his ownership. Had someone unknown defaced a valuable stamp like this it might have hindered the value, but since this is now an autographed rare stamp evaluations of the value are still the highest of any stamp ever to be put up for sale.

British Guiana one cent stamp ship image
Enhanced close-up of the Magenta One-cent stamp. Via: Sotheby’s

This rare British Guiana One-Cent Magenta stamp is coming up for sale again through Sotheby’s and is anticipated to fetch between $10M to $15M at the upcoming auction on June 8, 2021.

UPDATE: the rare stamp sold for $8.3M, still the most expensive stamp in the world. Despite keeping its record, the stamp sold for $1.2M less than the last time it was sold and fell far short of the pre-auction estimate. Among the other items sold during the same auction was a valuable “Inverted Jenny” stamp block and a 1933 double eagle coin, all of which had been collected by Weitzman.

The winning bid of the Guiana stamp was made by stamp collector, Stanley Gibbons, who plans to offer fractional shares of the stamp fo sale to increase access to valuable stamps like this one.

Find out more about this singular stamp in the video below from 2014.