The Basel Dove is one of the rarest stamps in the world.
Before 1848, Switzerland had 26 “cantons”, or member states, which were their own fully sovereign states. Basel was the last of the Cantons to make its own stamp.
In 1843, Basel’s Postmaster General Johannes Bernoulli proposed a stamp for the city.
A prominent architect named Melchior Berri stepped up to design the stamp. Berri influenced much of Swiss architecture in the 19th century and designed decorative letterboxes for Basel, including some with the same dove as is on the stamp. His stamp featured a white dove carrying a letter over red and green. The Basel Coat of Arms is shown at the top. The Dove was the first tri-colored stamp ever made.
It took two years, but finally in 1845 Basel issued the stamp, worth 2 ½ Rappen. The stamps were sold to the public in sheets of 40 or half sheets of 20.
But the stamp didn’t last long; stamps from single Swiss Cantons had previously failed to catch people’s attention, and the Basel Dove was no different. It was withdrawn from print in 1848, and Federal stamps became available in 1850.
The number of Basel Dove stamps that have been printed is up for debate. One 1930s article claimed that about 20,000 had been printed, while a more recent report suggested upwards of 40,000, judging by the archived information from the Basel Postal Administration.
The last Basel Dove stamps can be found on covers from as late as 1851.
Today, a Basel Dove stamp has an estimated value of $18,000.