Sotheby's To Auction Rare Stamp That Last Sold For $9.5 Million A stamp called British Guiana 1c magenta is expected to fetch around $15 million. The so-called Mona Lisa of the stamp world will be auctioned at Sotheby's on Tuesday.

Sotheby's To Auction Rare Stamp That Last Sold For $9.5 Million

Sotheby's To Auction Rare Stamp That Last Sold For $9.5 Million

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A stamp called British Guiana 1c magenta is expected to fetch around $15 million. The so-called Mona Lisa of the stamp world will be auctioned at Sotheby's on Tuesday.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A tiny scrap of paper is expected to be auctioned tomorrow for a not-so-tiny sum - $15 million. NPR's Neda Ulaby tells us about the most expensive stamp in the world.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Stamp prices for you and me just went up, but not as much as this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: On the telephone, that's $7,900,000. Fair warning...

ULABY: At its last Sotheby's auction in 2014, the British Guiana 1 cent black on magenta stamp ultimately sold for 9 1/2 million dollars. The lucky buyer was Stuart Weitzman, the famous purveyor of high-end shoes. The stamp's string of often eccentric former owners include the scion of one of America's richest families, John du Pont, who in 1997, was convicted of murdering a wrestler.

DANIEL PIAZZA: And he owned the stamp the entire time he was in prison.

ULABY: That's Daniel Piazza. He's chief curator for philately at the National Postal Museum. Philately is a fancy word for nerding out on stamps. The Postal Museum displayed the 1 cent magenta a few years ago.

PIAZZA: And it's fairly unremarkable looking.

ULABY: This is the truth. The stamp is a murky dark red, eight-sided and scribbled upon. It's actually kind of underwhelming, admits a fellow stamp nerd named Warachal Eileen Faison.

WARACHAL EILEEN FAISON: Maybe a little underwhelming. I don't - look. I don't want to get kicked out of the philately club for that (laughter).

ULABY: Faison stood in line to see the 1 cent magenta at the World Stamp Show in 2016. It was first issued, she says, during a postal crisis in British Guiana in 1865. Since then, it's been unearthed by a 12-year-old boy, passed through some of the world's greatest collections and was seized by the French in 1920 as reparations from Germany.

FAISON: How remarkable is that, I mean, if you think about it?

ULABY: A remarkable chance, says Faison, to reflect on how many of the ordinary, little things we touch today are also histories in miniature.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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