The World's Rarest Stamp Is On Display In London This September

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 10 months ago

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Last Updated 17 August 2023

The World's Rarest Stamp Is On Display In London This September
A vermillion coloured eight sided stamp
The British Guiana One Cent Magenta is the world's rarest stamp — there's only one of them after all.

The world's rarest — and most expensive — stamp is going on display in London this September.

It's thought there is only one British Guiana One Cent Magenta in existence; dating back to 1856, the vermilion-hued, eight-sided stamp was last sold at auction in 2021, when it fetched £6.5 million. Considered the most expensive item by weight in the world, it's going on display at London's Stampex fair in Islington from 27-30 September.

the back of an eight-sided stamp - coloured light red, and with signatures on it
The back of the British Guiana One Cent Magenta.

The stamp is rare for various reasons: it was only fleetingly produced as a temporary stamp to stand in for a delayed shipment; and it's also signed by its previous owners, including John du Pont (of Foxcatcher fame) and shoe designer Stuart Weitzman. (If you buy it now, we wouldn't necessarily recommend taking to it with a biro.) The Magenta was initially discovered in 1873 by 12-year-old schoolboy, Vernon Vaughan, who flogged it for six shillings, which sounds like a raw deal, but could probably score you quite a few barley sugars back then.

Now owned by the world's longest established rare stamp dealer, Stanley Gibbons (who are displaying it at Stampex), it's the only major postage stamp missing from Britain's Royal Philatelic Collection, which must gnaw away at them inside. The pair of Mauritius Post Office stamps actually fetched more than the British Guiana One Cent Magenta at their last auction, but as they're a twosome, technically the Magenta is still the most valuable.

The stamp on display in a glass case
Got a feeling that glass is going to be alarmed...

If the idea of seeing this — and many other headline-making stamps — has piqued your interest, the good news is that anyone can visit Stampex, and what's more, it's free on 28-30 September (on 27 September it's £10 to get in).

Elsewhere at the fair, there are dozens of stallholders selling and displaying their (often valuable) philatelic wares, including The Royal Philatelic Society London, The Postal Museum and Martin Townsend. For young 'uns, there's also the chance to take part in a kids' auction, and join Stamp Active for free.

Stampex, Business Design Centre, Islington, 27-30 September (free 28-30 September), book ahead