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World's most valuable stamp bought for $8m by UK's Stanley Gibbons

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Photo: Stanley Gibbons
The stamp's previous owner was shoe designer Stuart Weitzman. Photo: Stanley Gibbons

UK rare stamp dealer Stanley Gibbons (SGI.L) purchased the world’s most valuable stamp, the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta created in 1856, for $8.3m (£5.9m). The company's shares surged 8% on Wednesday morning.

The stamp's previous owner was shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, who bought it for $9.5m at Sotheby’s New York in 2014. 

Stanley Gibbons bought the stamp from the same auction house and will display it for public viewing at its flagship store in Strand, London, but it also plans to "democratise the ownership of this unique item" going forward. 

"For the first time ever, you will be able to own your very own piece of the British Guiana 1c Magenta," the company said, but has not as yet provided more details.

Stanley Gibbons' stock spiked on Wednesday morning. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK
Stanley Gibbons' stock spiked on Wednesday morning. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

It is possible that the firm uses a potential upcoming partnership with Castelnau Group, which is looking to develop a digital platform to buy and sell collectibles, to this end.

Sotheby's website calls the One-Cent Magenta the holy grail of stamps, and states that "no stamp is rarer than the sole-surviving example of the British Guiana, a unique yet unassuming penny issue from 1856, which has been heralded as the pinnacle of stamp collecting for more than a century".

It said the stamp was rediscovered by a 12-year-old Scottish boy living in South America in 1873. Until Sotheby's 2014 international exhibitions in Hong Kong, London and New York, the British Guiana had been out of public view since 1986.

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"In terms of size, weight and material" the stamp is "arguably the most valuable object in the world," the Guardian said.

Stanley Gibbons' purchase will be financed through an interest-free loan from Phoenix S.G. Ltd, the firm's majority shareholder. 

Harry Wilson, Stanley Gibbons' group chairman, said the purchase "represents a new and highly significant next step in the rebuilding of the world's oldest stamp dealer".

"Not only does it demonstrate the belief of our majority shareholder in its prospects but also the group's increasing confidence in its own prospects."

The Sotheby's auction also included other items from Weitzman's personal collection. A block of four stamps misprinted with an upside down airplane was sold for $4.9m and a $20 US gold piece minted in 1933 went for $18.9m.

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