The ‘Mona Lisa of the stamp world’ is coming to Britain


he world’s rarest stamp is returning to Britain permanently for the first time in 143 years.

The British Guiana 1c Magenta (1856), which has been described as “the Mona Lisa of the stamp world”, was bought for 8.3 million US dollars (£6.2 million) by rare stamp dealer Stanley Gibbons at auction last month.

For nearly a century and a half, the stamp has been held in collections abroad, but it will now go on display at the Stanley Gibbons flagship store in central London.

Stanley Gibbons said gram for gram, the stamp is thought to be the most valuable man-made item in the world, around 2.5 million times more valuable than 24-carat gold.

The world’s rarest stamp, the British Guiana 1c Magenta (1856) (Sotheby’s/PA) / PA Media

Security surrounding the stamp is tight. It will be flown into Heathrow and met by an armoured truck, before being driven to the showroom, where it will be stored in a vault before going on display in a specially commissioned, zero-oxygen frame.

The octagonal stamp, printed in black on magenta paper and measuring 29 x 26 millimetres, features a three-masted sailing ship, as well as the motto “Damus Petimus Que Vicissim” which translates to “we give and expect in return”.

The merchant said it is drawing up plans to make the stamp available to collectors through a shared ownership scheme, suggesting shares in major paintings can sell for as little as £20.

Graham Shircore, chief executive of Stanley Gibbons, said: “The British Guiana 1c Magenta really is the Holy Grail of philately.

“It’s truly one of a kind, and we’re delighted to be welcoming it back on to British soil where we hope it will remain.

“In the coming weeks we look forward to announcing bold plans, which will allow everyone to own their own piece of its marvellous history.

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