Speed Reads

the rarest of them all

Rare stamp sells for a record $9.5 million (yes, million)

For the low, low price of $9.5 million, an anonymous bidder now has bragging rights as the owner of the world's rarest stamp.

Sotheby's sold the "British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta" for less than expected, The Washington Post says; the pre-auction estimate was $10 million to $20 million. The stamp's former owner, chemical company heir John E. duPont, was an avid collector of stamps, and purchased it for $935,000 in 1980. He was also a convicted murderer (the victim was a freestyle wrestler he had a falling out with); he died in prison in 2010.

The stamp was discovered by a British child in 1873, while looking through his late uncle's letters. The stamp had been printed in British Guiana in 1856 after the post office ran out of stamps from London, but the postmaster was unhappy with the quality and thought they could easily be counterfeited. To prevent fraud, postal clerks initialed each stamp at the time of sale. Little did that postmaster know that this simple step would turn a minuscule piece of paper into a multimillion-dollar collectible.