1856 British Guiana Takes Centerstage at Washington DC Display


Jul 16, 2015 Europe/London
1856 British Guiana on display at Smithsonian Museum

Every collector and enthusiast has a ‘dream collectible item’ that can redefine a collection, or change how the art of collecting will be seen. And in the world of philately, one of the more rare and treasured item for collection is the British Guiana (1856), generally considered as one of the most important and expensive piece of stamp in the world right now. Measuring 2.5 centimetres by 3.2 centimetres, this miniature piece of paper has become an iconic member of the world of philately, even motivating experienced and established stamp collectors to snap the stamp for nearly $10 million US dollars. The offer by a stamp enthusiast isn’t an aberration- according to Sotheby’s, this rare stamp is the most expensive and rarest in the bunch and it is expected that this will fetch nearly $20 million in the next few years. Another interesting fact about this stamp is that only a privilege few enthusiasts have seen the stamp in person, even though the British Guiana has been the subject of widespread rumours, wild stories and speculations. While this stamp has been reclusive lately, well there’s interesting news that will surely catch the fancy of stamp collectors and members of philately circles. This valuable item is now on display at the Smithsonian and will be in full view for the next two years.

Tracking the Value of British Guiana Stamp

So what’s the excitement behind this small piece of paper? Understanding this stamp requires the stamp collector to travel in time to Guyana, a South American company and British colony formerly called British Guiana. It was in 1855 when the story of the stamp began when a postmaster received 5,000 stamps, which was way below the expected 50,000 stamps. Since additional stamps will only be delivered after so many weeks, the creative postmaster ordered for the printing of temporary one-cent and four-cent postage stamps. Cheaper versions were used to send out daily papers, and the more expensive ones were for letters.

The presence of the one-cent magenta postage stamp has been linked to Vernon Vaughan, where he decided to take the stamp as a nice add-on to his collection in 1873. Ownership of this treasured stamp changed hands in the next few years, and was even sold for more than $900,000 in 1980 to the DuPont’s heir. His estate then turned over the item to Sotheby’s for public auction, and when verified for its authenticity, it was decided that the stamp will be shown to the public. Experts suggest that the public showing of the item will help put back the focus on philately and the art of collecting.