Rarest stamp sells for £400,000

A stamp that became one of Britain's rarest when it was withdrawn within hours of being issued has sold for £400,000.

Only 19 sheets of the Edward VII pale dull purple 6d stamp overprinted with "IR Official" were issued on 14 May 1904 and most were destroyed by the Post Office.

The single stamp, which is believed to be the only one surviving outside a museum or the Royal Collection, has now been sold to a private collector by Stanley Gibbons Investment, the Jersey-based stamp dealership.

Stamps overprinted with "IR Official" were used from 1882 by the Inland Revenue and other government departments. It was a criminal offence to possess or sell them. The order to withdraw all IR Official stamps, including the new 6d version, on the day they were issued was taken hurriedly by the postal authorities following the prosecution of some of the world's most prominent philatelists.

Since 2005 the stamp, which was on display at the London 2010 International Stamp Exhibition last month, has trebled in value. Keith Heddle, of Stanley Gibbons, said: "The 6d IR Official is one of the most sought-after stamps in the world."

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