The Treskilling Yellow Stamp

It holds the record as the highest selling stamp in the world (though the auction for the British Guiana 1c stamp may pass it soon).

The three skilling banco error of color, of which only one exists, comes from Sweden. The stamp got its cancel at Nya Kopparberget on July 13, 1857.

It all started when Sweden issued its first postage stamps in 1855. The stamps displayed the Swedish coat of arms in denominations of three skillings in a blue-green color and eight skillings in yellow.

But one special three skilling stamp printed in yellow instead of blue-green.

The mistake went unnoticed for a number of years. The official Swedish currency even changed to ore as time passed.

But in 1886, a young philatelist named Georg Wilhelm Backman sorted through covers in his grandmother’s attic and found the rare stamp. Not realizing the true value of the stamp, he sold it to a stamp dealer for seven kronor, about the equivalent of a dollar today. The stamp collector reportedly sold it for the worth of $500.

After extensive searching, collectors realized that this stamp was the only of its kind.


The stamp changed hands many times throughout the years. Philipp von Ferrary, who had the largest known stamp collection in the world, bought it for 4,000 Austro-Hungarian gulden. Ferrary also owned the 1856 British Guiana 1c Magenta, the 1851 2c Hawaii Missionary cover, and the only cover with both Mauritius Post Office stamps.

Ferrary’s collection was auctioned off in the 1920s and the treskilling changed hands many times again. Even King Carol II of Romania bought it in 1950.

A number of questions arose about the legitimacy of the stamp throughout the years – was it all a forgery?

In the 1970s, the Swedish Postal Museum said the stamp was a forgery, but twice after that declared it to be a legitimate misprint.

Even if it was a forgery, the value placed upon it was immense thanks to the significance placed on it in the philately world.

In 2010, the treskilling sold in private auction for at least $2.3 million (the exact amount was not specified), a record amount for a single stamp.

Currently a Swedish nobleman named Count Gustaf Douglas owns the stamp.

The Rarest Stamp in the World: The British Guiana 1c Stamp

The British Guiana 1c magenta is quite possibly the rarest and most well-known stamp in the world.

Many consider it one of the ugliest stamps, too. It’s dirty, smudged, and postmarked, making the picture of the ship in the middle very difficult to make out.

The stamp came about when an order of stamps didn’t reach a post office, so the postmaster ordered an emergency issue of three stamps. He was unhappy with the resulting stamps, however, and asked post office clerks to sign the stamps to prevent forgery. The clerk E. D. Wight initialed this particular stamp.

A related question: When only one collectible item exists, what happens when a second one is introduced, and how does that affect the value of the first one?

Rumor has it that one stamp collector, Arthur Hind, had a definite view on the subject. When a second, previously unknown British Guiana surfaced unexpectedly, Hind bought it for a high price and immediately burned it. He made sure he had the only version of the stamp in the world.

As engaging as this story is, there’s no concrete proof that it actually happened. The earliest, most solid recording of the event comes from Hind’s obituary in 1933, which says “Because of his obsession with the ‘black on magenta,’ Hind (according to rumor) bought not only one of the stamps, but the other remaining one, and then destroyed one so that he would own the only one in the world…” (Sefi, A. J.)

You can better see the details in this 4c stamp in the same issue. (PD-1923)

You can better see the details in this 4c stamp in the same issue. (PD-1923)

The rest of the tales surrounding the Guiana are more rooted in truth, though arguably just as dramatic.

A Scottish schoolboy first discovered the stamp in 1873 (you can see the postmark of his town Demerara on the stamp). He couldn’t find the stamp in his stamp collecting catalog, so he sold it for six shillings (about a dollar fifty cents).

The stamp changed hands a number of times after that, increasing in purchase price each time. In 1940, Arthur Hind’s wife sold it through Macy’s for $40,000. Fred Small bought the stamp to complete his set of British Guiana stamps.

Eventually, the stamp reached multimillionaire John E. du Pont for a price of $935,000 in 1980. Years later, unrelated to the stamp, du Pont shot and killed David Schultz, an Olympic wrestler. The mentally ill du Pont was convicted of third degree murder and later died in prison, leaving behind the 1c stamp in a bank vault.

On June 17, 2014, the stamp went on auction in New York and sold for a record-breaking $9.5 million.

Who knows where it’ll go next?