An Australian collector has set a new world record after paying a small fortune for one of the world’s rarest and most-mysterious stamps.
The collector bought the strip of four 1948 Gandhi 10-rupee purple-brown ‘SERVICE’ stamps for $855,000 last week.
Only 13 of the stamps exist in private collections around the world.
The price paid is a new high-water mark for Indian stamps. The most ever paid for a stamp was the $US9.5 million paid at auction for an 1856 British Guiana 1 cent magenta.
Stanley Gibbons, the collectables merchant that sold the stamp, said the Australian bidder was a private investor in world rarities who also owned Britain’s rarest stamp, a ‘plate 77’ Penny Red.
“I would love to know who it is – people keep asking me,” Brisbane-based Indian stamp dealer Troy Sequeira told Fairfax Media
He estimated there were less than 1000 serious stamp collectors in Australia, with very few having the ability to make such a large purchase.
“Let me put it this way, this is the most sought-after stamp in Indian collecting.”
Only two sheets of 50 were ever printed in 1948, with one sheet held in a museum in Delhi.
Of the remainder only 13 have been located, four of which are held in the Queen’s royal collection.
It is not known what happened to the rest of the stamps, with rumours abounding they are being secretly held in private collections, or have been sold by Indian government members. Or lost.
The stamp’s rarity, combined with an explosion in interest in Indian stamps, underpins the price paid.
Mr Sequeira said a large number of rich Indian collectors had started to enter the market. “So stamps that are rare, they are paying staggering prices.”
In the world of high-end stamp collecting, the most valuable stamps are those that have been used on an envelope – known as “on cover”.
None of the 13 existing stamps is an “on cover”, and most of the collecting community do not believe any exist, Mr Sequeira said.
But they are wrong.
“I have personally seen one. A distant relative of mine had it – I saw it at age 11.”
The relative was offered 40,000 rupees for the stamp back in 1972, “a royal sum in those days”, but turned the money down. Should that stamp ever be found, it would be easily worth more than $1 million, Mr Sequeira said.