The most valuable postage memorabilia

Philately, the study of stamps and postal history, is something that interests people across the world. To some, stamps are just small pieces of paper designed to show evidence of postage payment; to others, they're highly collectable works of art. Buy a first class stamp from a British post office and you'll be expected to hand over around 62 pence, but some rare examples are worth a fair bit more. With this in mind, let's take a look at some of the most expensive in history.

1840 Penny Black - Value varies greatly

The fact that more than 68 million Penny Blacks were issued between 1840 and 1841 means it's not too difficult to get hold of one these days, but as the first ever postage stamp, it deserves an early mention. The Penny Black is perhaps the most famous postage stamp n history, and can either cost £10 or thousands - depending on a number of factors.

The stamps were produced in various batches, with those from plate 11 - the final run - being the rarest. Unused examples are also worth considerably more, especially in pristine condition.

1847 Mauritius 1d Red 'Post Office' - Approximately £620,000

Based on the aforementioned Penny Black, the Mauritius 1d Red was issued in 1847. Despite being designed by Portsmouth painter Joseph Osmond Barnard, the stamp was actually produced in Mauritius, making it particularly rare.

Of the 500 made, the vast majority were given to the wife of Mauritius' governor and used to invite people to a special ball held in the island nation. At first, many experts believed the printing of the words "Post Office" down the side of the stamp to be an error, suggesting that it should've read "Postage Paid" instead. This theory, however, was disproven.

1968 China 8 fen (The Whole Country is Red) - £680,000

Issued more than 120 years after the previous example, The Whole Country is Red stamp is actually worth slightly more for one main reason: this Chinese stamp contained a number of design errors. Although it features a map of China, the stamp does not include the Paracel and Spratly Islands, so it was quickly withdrawn. Designers also failed to correctly draw the borders with Myanmar (then Burma), Mongolia and Bhutan. In fact, the stamp was only officially available for half a day.

While nobody's quite sure how many of the stamps are still in existence, they are considered some of the rarest in Chinese philately circles. One actually fetched approximately £680,000 at a recent auction in Beijing.

1855 The Treskilling Yellow - £1.42 million

It took Sweden just 15 years follow Britain's postage lead, but the first attempt didn't quite go to plan. The Treskilling Yellow, as it is now known, was supposed to be printed in a blue-green colour, but a machinery error caused it to come out in golden yellow instead. Now, with only one known example in existence, the stamp is worth a cool £1.42 million. At least this is what the last auction finished at in 2010.

The Treskilling Yellow has often been compared to our next example, simply because it is so rare, but a recent sale clearly defined the more valuable of the two.

1856 British Guiana 1c Magenta - £5.83 million

The British Guiana 1c Magenta was produced as part of a limited run in what is now the South American coastal nation of Guyana (then British Guiana). Again, there is only one known example of this stamp in existence, and it is considered by many philatelists to be the holy grail of collectable postage memorabilia.

This was confirmed in June 2014, when it sold at auction for a staggering £5.83 million. It took just two minutes for the item to be purchased by an anonymous bidder at the Sotheby's in New York. What's more, it has broken the world record for the price paid for a single stamp each of the last four times it has changed hands.

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