While stamp collecting is increasingly in popularity as a hobby, it can also be a great investment opportunity. In the last decade, mint condition stamps have appreciated by almost 50%, offering better returns on average than popular investments like real estate and gold. In fact, the most coveted stamps can easily sell for millions of dollars.
As philately picks up speed as both a hobby and a savvy investment option, we’ve taken a look at which stamps have fetched the highest prices on the market throughout history.
10) Hawaiian Missionaries, 1851 ($600,000)
Hawaiian Missionaries were the first stamps issued in 1851 by the Kingdom of Hawaii and, like their name suggests, were mostly used by Christian missionaries. While they weren’t unique, these stamps were printed on delicate, easily tearable Pelure paper, which means many did not survive. The shortage of these stamps has made them highly coveted by collectors.
9) 24c Declaration of Independence, 1869 ($625,000)
The 24c Declaration of Independence is a unique example of a stamp in high demand because it’s a true work of art. The design features a highly detailed, two-tone rendering of the presentation of the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress. There are over 40 figures on this stamp, and many are so tiny, you need a magnifying glass to see them.
8) Tiflis Stamp, 1857 ($700,000)
Also known as the Tiflis Unique, this stamp is one of the most interesting and rare stamps in the world. Using a metallic sheet with embossed lettering, the stamp looks more like a metal bookplate. Originating in Tiflis (now part of Georgia), it’s one of the oldest stamps from the Russian Empire. It’s highly valued due to its historical importance, the novelty of its design and its rarity – there are only five of these stamps left in the world.
7) 3c George Washington w/ B Grill, 1867 ($900,000)
This rose-pink stamp is one of many from the US Post Office featuring President George Washington. But the real high-value stamp is the 3c George Washington with a B Grill pattern on the back. It features a waffle-like design that’s used to deter forgeries. There are only four of these stamps in existence featuring this particular design.
6) 1c Benjamin Franklin Z Grill, 1868 ($935,000)
The 1c Benjamin Franklin Z Grill, sometimes referred to as the Z Grill, is one of the most valuable of all Benjamin Franklin stamps. The grill is an embossed design on the face of a stamp used to prevent its reuse. The US Postal Service used these grill designs in the early days of the office to deter fraud. There are only two stamps of this design currently in existence.
5) The Inverted Jenny, 1918 ($1.35 Million)
With a small print run and famous error in its design, the Inverted Jenny has been a cash cow for philatelists over the last 100 years. This misprinted stamp from 1918 features a Jenny biplane, accidentally printed upside down, that was used to carry mail by the US Post Office.
4) Baden 9 Kreuzer Error, 1851 (€1.31 Million)
The Baden 9 Kreuzer was one of the first stamps issued by the former German state of Baden. The colour error, it is believed, was due to a misreading by the printer. The green ink plate was meant to be used for the 6 Kreuzer stamp, but the printer likely simply misread the 9 for a 6, resulting in the fourth most valuable stamp in existence.
[Read our blog: Three reasons to collect stamps]
3) The Sicilian Error of Color, 1859 ($2.6 Million)
Most stamps that date back to the 1800s are worn out and in rough shape, But the Sicilian Error of Color stamp commands its high value because it’s incredibly well preserved. This stamp, featuring the side profile of a bearded man, looks like it was printed only yesterday. The stamp was initially printed in yellow, but in this version, it’s been misprinted in a stark blue. There are only two of these stamps currently in existence.
2) Treskilling Yellow, 1855 ($2.6 Million)
This is one of the very first stamps issued in Sweden. The three-skilling stamp was normally printed in a blue-green, but a printing error led to a batch of yellow stamps briefly going into circulation in the 1850s. Though there is only one Treskilling Yellow that is known to have survived, these stamps were printed in sheets of one hundred, leading many to believe there are more waiting to be uncovered.
1) British Guiana 1c Magenta, 1856 ($9.48 Million)
Here it is – the rarest, most valuable stamp in the world. In 1856, The British Guiana (now Guyana) post office issued an initial run of 1c magenta stamps for newspaper circulation. When a shipment of the stamps went missing, an emergency run of new stamps was produced. This run of stamps included a small boat in its design, distinguishing it from the official stamp. Only one copy of this emergency print run is known to exist.
The single stamp was first discovered by a young boy in 1873 who sold what would become the rarest stamp in the world for just six shillings! The stamp rose in value as collectors realized the rarity of the specimen. Since then, the stamp has traded hands many times, with shoe designer and collector Stuart Weitzman as its current owner. The final price of $9.48M made it the most expensive single stamp sale in the world and the fourth time the British Guiana 1c Magenta has broken that record.
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