LONDON (TIP): An inch wide, dirty and heavily postmarked stamp has set a new world auction record by getting sold for $9,480,000. The British Guiana one-cent black on magenta sold for nearly 1 billion times more than its original face value. The previous auction record for a single stamp approximately $2.2 million set by the Treskilling Yellow in 1996. No stamp is rarer than the sole-surviving example of the British Guiana, a unique penny issue from 1856, which has been heralded as the pinnacle of stamp collecting for more than a century.

The auction made it the most expensive object by weight and size ever sold. The stamp was rediscovered by a 12-year-old Scottish boy living in South America in 1873 and from there passed through some of the most important stamp collections ever assembled. Until Sotheby’s international exhibitions in London earlier this year, the British Guiana had been out of public view since the 1986. Most recently, it owned by the estate of murderer John du Pont. On March 17 the expert committee at the Royal Philatelic Society London convened a special meeting with the singular purpose of reauthenticating the unique British Guiana One- Cent Magenta.

After close examination by each of the committee’s six experts including spectrometer analysis, it certified the British Guiana as genuine. In 1852, British Guiana began receiving regular postage stamps manufactured in England by Waterlow & Sons. But in 1856, a shipment of stamps was delayed which threatened a disruption of postal service throughout British Guiana. The postmaster turned to the printers of the local Royal Gazette newspaper and commissioned a contingency supply of postage stamps: a one-cent magenta, a four- cent magenta, and a four-cent blue.

The sole-surviving example of the one-cent magenta was first rediscovered not far from where it was initially purchased. In 1873, 12-year-old Scottish schoolboy L Vernon Vaughan living with his family in British Guiana found the stamp among a group of family papers bearing many British Guiana issues. He later sold the stamp to another local collector in British Guiana for several shillings. From then on it has periodically been in circulation.

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