The "world's most famous stamp" sold at auction for $9.5 million on Tuesday in New York City, Sotheby's said. With the sale, the 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta has now broken stamp auction records four times.
"We are thrilled with the extraordinary, record-setting price of $9.5 million -- a truly great moment for the world of stamp collecting. That price will be hard to beat, and likely won't be exceeded unless the British Guiana comes up for sale again in the future," said Sotheby's vice chairman David Redden.
Bidding for the stamp began at $4.5 million and the winning bid was phoned in to the auction house. The stamp was expected to sell for between $10 million and $20 million.
The sale got attention from both the media and stamp enthusiasts.
"I don't think they'd get that coverage for a van Gogh," stamp dealer Frank Buono told the New York Times. "And by weight and volume and size, it's the most valuable item in the world. Diamonds might fetch more, but they weigh more."
Before being displayed this spring in advance of the auction, the rare stamp had been out of public view since 1986.
The stamp's previous owner was John E. du Pont, heir to chemical company fortune, who paid $935,000 for it in 1980. He was later convicted of killing a wrestler, and was referred to by prosecutors as "the wealthiest murder defendant in the history of the United States."
"I'm a little sad to see it go -- when I was eight years old this was the most precious object in the entire world, and I never dreamed I would have it in my hands," Redden said.