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 Rare Mauritius “Post Office” Stamp

Among the rarest stamps in the world, the Mauritius “Post Office” stamps have some of the most rumor surrounding them.

Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean, has made a name for itself in the world of philately. And this name started with the “Post Office” stamp of 1847.

The orange-red one penny stamp.

The orange-red one penny stamp.

It all starts with a stowaway on a ship. At age 22, a man named Joseph Osmond Barnard left his home in England and stowed away on the ship Acasta to Mauritius.

Barnard had luck on his side – he was allowed to disembark and live in the capital. As it so happened, Barnard specialized as an engraver and painter.

Barnard designed the stamps for Mauritius based on the Great Britain stamps at the time that showed the profile of Queen Victoria. They printed the stamps in two colors of one penny red brown and two pence blue. They are characterized by their primitive design.

Postage stamps were still very new at the time.

The printer made five hundred stamps of each value, printed in 1847. The wife of the Governor of Mauritius used many of them on invitations for a ball.

A set of two cancelled Post Office stamps, with the penny red brown and the two pence blue.

A set of two cancelled Post Office stamps, with the orange one penny and the two pence blue.

These stamps had the words “Post Office” printed on the left side. On the next printing, however, “Post Paid” replaced the phrase, making the stamps with “Post Office” rarities.

One particular legend says that using “Post Office” on the stamps had originally been a mistake. The book Les Timbres-Poste de L’Ile Maurice claims the mistake, and rumors surrounding the tale expanded to say that Barnard was a half-blind watchmaker and a forgetful old man who forgot what he was supposed to print on the stamps.

The two pence blue stamp.

The two pence blue stamp.

Anyone who pays attention knows that this can’t be true, since Barnard designed the stamps at 31 years old.

In 1864 the wife of a Bordeaux merchant found some of the stamps in her husband’s collection. She traded them with another collector, starting the ball rolling on the fame of these increasingly sought-after stamps.

In 1904 King George V paid roughly today’s equivalent of $190,000 for an unused two pence Mauritius stamp. And in 1993 a cover with two of the stamps sold for about $4 million, the highest price ever paid for a philatelic item.



Engraved memory