Remarkable story of the £12m stamp owned by a millionaire murderer that is about to become one of the most expensive objects ever sold...

A rare one-cent magenta postage stamp last owned by murderer John du Pont is going on sale and is expected to fetch £12m

When it goes on sale in New York this June, a rare one-cent magenta postage stamp, printed in British Guiana in 1856, and most recently owned by the estate of murderer John du Pont, will be the most valuable object by weight and size ever sold.

Just an inch wide, dirty, and heavily postmarked, the stamp, which is regarded as the “holy grail” of collecting, is expected to fetch £12m at auction; nearly ten times the current record value for a stamp.

The sale will be the culmination of a bizarre journey, begun in British Guiana in 1856 and featuring most recently a multimillionaire murderer imprisoned for killing an Olympic champion wrestler.

This rarest of stamps is being sold by the estate of the late John du Pont, who died aged 72 in a Pennsylvania prison in 2010 where he was serving a sentence for the 1996 shooting of wrestler David Schultz.

 

The 'British Guiana One-Cent Stamp' is seen at the Sotheby's gallery in New York, February 14, 2014. The 'British Guiana One-Cent Stamp' is seen at the Sotheby's gallery in New York, February 14, 2014.

The stamp has since been re-authenticated by the Royal Philatelic Society of London and is the only one of its kind known to exist.

"It is one inch by one and a quarter inches, it's tiny and when it sells it will be the most valuable object by weight and size ever sold," David Redden, Sotheby's vice chairman and director of special projects, told Reuters.

"Our estimate on this stamp is $10m to $20m (£6.06m - £12.13m). That seems like an awful lot, but in the great scheme of things, across the entire collecting world, the most extraordinary objects in every field, that price suddenly becomes a little modest."

Chris Harman, chairman of the Philatelic Society's expert committee, said the stamp printed in what is now called the Republic of Guyana was without peer.

"It's one of the first stamps in the world, 1856, British Guiana was one of the first countries in the world to issue their stamps, and this was a locally printed stamp, of which there are very few four-cent, and there's only one one-cent, so it has gained this iconic status," he said.

The stamp was printed in British Guiana in 1856 after a shipment of stamps from England was delayed, which threatened a disruption of postal service throughout the colony.

The sole-surviving example of the one-cent was first rediscovered not far from where it was initially purchased.

In 1873, L. Vernon Vaughan, a 12-year-old Scottish schoolboy living with his family in British Guiana, found the stamp among a group of family papers bearing many British Guiana issues.

A budding stamp collector, Vaughan added it to his album and later sold the stamp to another collector in British Guiana.

The one-cent entered Britain in 1878, and shortly after, it was purchased by Count Philippe la Renotiere von Ferrary, one of the greatest stamp collectors in history.

France seized his collection, which had been donated to the Post Museum in Berlin, as part of the war reparations due from Germany, and sold the stamp in 1922.

It changed hands several times after that before du Pont, an avid philatelist, paid $935,000 for the stamp in a 1980 auction, marking its most recent record-setting price.

"I don't think any of us will probably see it again in our lives, and so that is a milestone," Harman said.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum