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World Records

Rare stamp delivers record, selling for $9.5 million

A 19th century stamp from British Guiana has been sold for the record sum of $9.5 million. London-based auctioneer Sotheby's claims the sale makes the stamp the most expensive object in the world by both weight and size.

The British Guiana One-Cent Magenta postage stamp, from 1856, sold to an anonymous bidder for $9.5 million (7 million euros) in New York on Tuesday.

Bidding for the piece of British colonial memorabilia - believed to be the only one of its kind still in existence - began at $4.5 million, with the auction taking only two minutes before the final price was reached.

"The stamp has just sold for approximately $9.5 million, which means it has set a new world record price for a stamp," said Sotheby's worldwide chairman of books and manuscripts, David Redden, adding that the sum included a buyer's premium.

"It has always been the world's most famous stamp," Redden explained ahead of the auction. "It is one of these objects around which a huge mystique has grown up over the years."

"It has a good story. It was discovered by a 12-year-old schoolboy," Redden added. "It's unique and is the only stamp of its kind that has survived."

Produced as emergency supply

With an area of 2.5 by 3.5 centimeters (one inch by one-and-a-quarter-inches) the black-on-magenta stamp becomes the world's most valuable object by weight and size, according to the auction house.

One of the first stamps to be produced in the world, it was made when a postmaster in British Guiana, now called the Republic of Guyana, asked a newspaper to print some stamps because of a failure in supply from Britain.

The stamp was sold by the estate of the late multimillionaire John du Pont, who was an heir to the du Pont chemical fortune. Du Pont died in prison in 2010 at the age of 72, serving a murder sentence for the 1996 shooting of US champion wrestler David Schultz.

The previous record for the sale of a single stamp was $2.2 million, in 1996, for the Treskilling Yellow - an 1885 Swedish rarity that was printed in the wrong color.

rc/crh (AFP, Reuters)