There were at least two unsuccessful attempts by the English on the conquest of the land, which will later be called British Guiana. Efforts were made in the 17th century when the Dutch had already colonized the region in two points: the Essequibo, which in commanding by the Dutch West India Company and Demerara, which was under the command of West India Company (fig.1).
Fig. 1: Map of British Guiana dated 1690
In 1796, during the French Revolutionary Wars, the English managed command and control, since then the Dutch were under the domination of French and English with the French were at war. An English expeditionary force, initiated from its own colony of Barbados for the conquest of territories that they were under the French domination, the so-called Batavian Republic. The settlers retreated without resistance and English, to meet the existing situation and policy have not changed the long existing laws in the colony. In 1802 the colony was returned to the Batavian Republic under the terms of the Treaty of Amiens, but the UK sized the colonies again less than one year later upon the resumption of hostilities with France in Napoleonic Wars in 1803. The colonies officially ceded to the United Kingdom, with the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. The British continued to have a separate administration in the colonies, when finally in 1831 were combined together and became a united colony known as British Guiana, with its capital Georgetown (Demerara). Guyana went on to become independent of the United Kingdom on 26 May 1966.
Nobody thought then that this British colony will issue the rarest stamp in the world today: the black on magenta 1 cent of British Guiana.
In 1856, the Postmaster of the British colony of Guyana, E T E Dalton, literally got frustrated when he heard that a cargo which included the British colonial stamps, failed to arrive in Georgetown! Because he believed that he could not leave the people of the colony without this much-needed and still relatively new, service facility, via a local printer, who edited and the local newspaper, the Royal Gazette, ordered the immediate production of stamps. The print was in black ink in various colors of paper depending on the denomination. These prints, which are quite rare, are known as “ cotton-reels”, because of the printing press used. Once the three types of stamps printed (a 4 cents in blue paper, a 4 cents in magenta paper and 1 cent in magenta for posting local newspapers) (fig.2), Dalton found that the printer did not fulfill the simple requirements that he had suggested and tried to put on print creative contribution, putting a ship emblem. Dalton did not like the design and ultimately used it as an urgent and necessary need. The stamps were without perforation with the colonial motto “Damus Petimus Que Vicissim” (We give and expect in return). He also ordered at all the post office clerks to sign the stamp to avoid phenomena of counterfeiting or other fraud. He would be astonished to hear that today his name is still mentioned as a result of these provisional stamps.
Fig. 2: The two provisional stamps of 4 cents, one in magenta and one in blue, printed at the same time with the rare one-cent stamp
Vaughan Vernon, a Scottish student, discovered a stamp of 1 cent in magenta paper (fig.3), cut into an octagon shape, in one of his uncle’s letters in Georgetown (Demerara), the capital of British Guiana in 1873. The stamp bears a heavy postmark of the local post office and the initials of the postal clerk E D Wright, who implemented the policy of Dalton. This was the beginning of the great tour that was made by the rarest stamp in the world.
Fig. 3: The famous stamp of 1-cent in magenta of British Guiana
Vernon sold it a few weeks later, a few shillings, about $1.50 in today’s match, at a local collector, N R McKinnon, as his stamp catalog had not a reference for it. Despite the dismal situation, the stamp is the only unique piece existed. The price begins to climb, passing through the hands of small and large collectors and dealers. But as a huge and rare philatelic item, attracted the large solitary collector of that time, Philippe Ferrary! Around 1880, Ferrary buys it for $750. During the 14 auctions of the sale of Ferrary’s collection from the French Government in 1922, Arthur Hind buys the stamps for more than $36,000 and after his death his widow disposed it for $40,000 to an engineer from Florida, USA. In 1970, a syndicate of investors from Pennsylvania, headed by Irwin Weinberg, bought the stamp for $280,000 and spent much of the decade, presenting it in a world tour. The athlete, philatelist and ornithologist John E. du Pont bought it for $935,000 in 1980. In 1997, John E. du Pont, convicted for the murder of his friend, Olympic wrestler David Schulz (fig.4). The court, after du Pont had no rational motive to kill his friend, decided that he suffers from schizophrenia. Today, as the owner is serving a sentence of 30 years, the stamp is guarded in a bank deposit. Experts estimate that the stamp is worth more than $7,000,000. For now it is hidden from the world.
Fig. 4: John E. du Pont while he was arrested
The line between fantasy and reality is often confused around this rare stamp. Sometimes there were allegations that the rare stamp of 1 cent was a four-cent counterfeit stamp in magenta paper, since they are very similar to each other. These claims were denied. Around 1920, a reputation was developed about a second copy that was discovered. The owner of the “unique” stamp known, Arthur Hind, bought it quietly and completely destroy it, making his first stamp unique again! Neither this reputation is established.
In 1999, a copy was discovered in Bremen, Germany. The stamp was found by Peter Winter, who is widely known for his production of many counterfeit copies on classic philatelic items, that he printed them on modern paper. Two European experts, Rolf Roeder and David Feldman, said that the stamp is genuine. The Royal Philatelic Society of London, having considered the stamp twice, concluded that this copy is a counterfeit 4-cent stamp!
The 1 cent magenta of British Guyana is so famous, that they brought it into play in cinema!
“The Saint in Palm Springs” is the name of a thriller movie screened in early 1941 (fig.5). It’s the film that inspired the well-known series “The Saint” with Simon Templar. The stamp was used as a plot device in the project and its value in the film was $65,000.
Fig. 5: Poster from the movie “The Saint in Palm Springs”
The stamp appeared along with the long known hero of Walt Disney, Donald Duck. In the comics of Carl Barks “the gilded man”, Donald, a philatelist, says in its story that the stamp “worth more than fifty thousand dollars!” (fig.6)
Certainly, all philatelists, but also all the collectors-investors, which they financially withstand to buy such a rare object, waiting anxiously the day when a famous auction house will announce the sale of the 1-cent in magenta paper of British Guiana.
Fig. 6: A page from Carl Barks comic
I wish them good luck!
Primarolia for eCharta
Bibliography – Websites:
1. Carlton, R. Scott (1997). The International Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Philatelics. Iola, WI: Krause. p. 36. ISBN 0873414489.
2. Rachlin, Harvey (1996). Lucy’s Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein’s Brain: The Remarkable Stories Behind the Great Artifacts of History, From Antiquity to the Modern Era. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-6406-0.
3. W.A. Townsend and F.G. Howe, Postage Stamps and Postal History of British Guiana, London, Royal Philatelic Society (August 1970) ISBN 0900631015
4. Proud, Ted. The Postal History of British Guiana. Proud-Bailey Co. Ltd., 2000. ISBN 1872465269
5. Sheryll Oswald, “Peter Winter and the modern German forgeries on eBay” (28 July, 2001)
6. “British Guiana 1c, 1856: Weltrarität oder Fälschung?” Bund Deutscher Philatelisten (BDPh) e.V. (in German)
7. “Is the British Guiana 1c unique?” Stamp Online
8. “The Saint in Palm Springs”, IMDb
9. “Donald Duck: The Gilded Man” COA
10. Website of Wikipedia