Most Valuable Stamps in the World
The first stamp was created in Great Britain on May 1, 1840. It wouldn't take long for people to start collecting them.
Just one year later, a woman placed an ad in the London Times seeking "cancelled" stamps so she could wallpaper her dressing room with them. She already had succeeded in collecting 16,000 of them. Imagine how much that collection would be worth now!
For over 180 years, we’ve been collecting stamps, and philatelists have put a high price on the rarest of the rare stamps, from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. These are the most valuable stamps from around the world.
Bottom Line: Penny Black
One of the best-looking stamps in the world of philately is also one of the very first ever used — and the first to ever use an adhesive backing.
The British Penny Black is coveted among stamp collectors, and while your run-of-the-mill Penny Black could be had for less than $15, the most sought-after are much more expensive.
In June 2011, a Penny Black from the first registration sheets created in 1840 sold for $345,100 in Britain.
1904 6d Pale Dull Purple I.R. Official
Bottom Line: 1904 6d Pale Dull Purple I.R. Official
This 1904 British stamp is extremely rare because nearly all of the 19 sheets printed were immediately destroyed and the stamps were recalled the same day they were issued. Of course, some stamps survived.
The "I.R. Official" overprint was done to designate stamps only for official government usage.
One sold for £400,000 in 2010 ($535,000 today).
Plate 77 Penny Red
Bottom Line: Plate 77 Penny Red
While 21 billion Penny Reds were issued by Great Britain between 1841 and 1879, a few of them are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Specifically, those produced from plate 77, which resulted in a perforation error that rendered the stamp sheets useless.
All except for one sheet, which evaded destruction. Only five of these Plate 77 Penny Red stamps are known to exist, and they’re worth more than a pretty penny: One sold for £550,000 in 2012 ($735,850 today), and another sold for £495,000 in 2016 ($662,265).
1897 Red Revenue One Dollar Small
Bottom Line: 1897 Red Revenue One Dollar Small
The 1897 Red Revenue One Dollar Small stamp is the rarest of the Qing-dynasty area Chinese stamps, which were the first stamps issued in China.
The One Dollar Small version was quickly canceled as the text was too small, and there are only 32 of these stamps known to exist.
In July 2013, one of these stamps sold for $889,765 at auction in Hong Kong.
Benjamin Franklin Z Grill
Value: $935,000-$3 million
Bottom Line: Benjamin Franklin Z Grill
The Benjamin Franklin Z Grill is a 1-cent stamp from 1868 created with a briefly used grill that left tiny Z-shaped indentations.
The price of this stamp is a bit difficult to pin down. There are only two of these stamps known in existence, and one sold in 1998 for $935,000 at auction.
But then in 2005, the man who purchased the Z Grill traded the stamp for a block of four Inverted Jenny stamps, which were valued at $3 million.
Alexandria Blue Boy
Value: $1.18 million
Bottom Line: Alexandria Blue Boy
The only known stamp of its kind, the Alexandria Blue Boy is a circular blue stamp issued in 1847 or 1846 (it’s said to have been used as postage for a love letter between two cousins).
It sold for $1 million in 1981 and increased in value since then. And didn't have to wait long to find out just how much it's worth now.
The Blue Boy went up for sale at a public auction in June 2019. Bidding started at $1 million, and it sold for $1.18 million.
1868 George Washington B-Grill
Value: $1.035 million
Bottom Line: 1868 George Washington B-Grill
A normal 1868 George Washington stamp is only worth a few bucks. But if the stamp has a B-grill mark — meaning the tiny dents point upward — the value multiplies by the hundreds of thousands.
Only four of the 1868 George Washington B-grills are known to exist, and they are also the only B-grill stamps in existence.
One went for over $1 million in 2008.
Inverted 1869 Declaration of Independence
Value: $1.2 million
Bottom Line: Inverted 1869 Declaration of Independence
A rare, unused green and violet 24-cent stamp with an inverted depiction of the signing of the Declaration of Independence shocked auctioneer Philip Weiss when it sold for $1.2 million in 2008.
Only four are known to exist.
Two Penny Blue
Value: $1.4 million
Bottom Line: Two Penny Blue
The Mauritius Two Penny Blue sold for 1.6 million Swiss Francs in 1992 ($1.77 million today).
It held the award for highest price ever sold for a British Commonwealth stamp for over 20 years.
Baden 9 Kreuzer Error
Value: $1.545 million
Bottom Line: Baden 9 Kreuzer Error
The Baden 9 Kreuzer is an ultra-rare German stamp printed in 1851 and because of a printer error is colored green instead of rose. One sold for €1,314,500 ($1.5 million) at auction in 2008.
Up until very recently, only four of these stamps were believed to exist, but in May 2019, an American living in the Midwest found another 9 Kreuzer error while looking through a family album.
Looks like that lucky philatelist might be set for life.
1918 Inverted Jenny
Value: $1.593 million
Bottom Line: 1918 Inverted Jenny
Named after its upside-down biplane printing error, the 1918 24-cent Inverted Jenny is one of the most famous stamps in all philately.
There are at least 86 known in existence (only 100 were ever printed), but the one sold in 2018 is the most expensive because it was locked away in a safe deposit box for 100 years, meaning it had little exposure to light and remained in pristine condition.
An anonymous internet bidder paid $1.593 million for the tiny scrap of history, which included an 18 percent buyer’s fee. Previously, an exceptional Inverted Jenny sold for $1.3 million in 2016.
The Whole Country Is Red
Value: $2 million
Bottom Line: The Whole Country Is Red
This 1968 Chinese stamp from the Cultural Revolution is one of only nine known to exist.
The stamp features a mass of Chinese people happily touting the "Little Red Book" and features propaganda slogans like "Long live the total victory of the Cultural Revolution without the bourgeoisie," and "All mountains and rivers across the country are a sea of red," according to the South China Morning Post.
A pristine Big Patch of Red stamp sold for 13.8 million yuan ($2 million) in Beijing in late 2018.
Mauritius Post Office Stamps
Value: $3.8 million for a pair
Bottom Line: Mauritius Post Office Stamps
The Mauritius Post Office stamps were the first British Empire stamps produced outside of Great Britain.
Issued in 1847, only 27 are known to still exist, and they are one of the most famous and sought-after stamps in the world of philately.
A pair of these stamps, the One Penny red and the Two Penny blue, on an envelope known as the Bordeaux Cover, sold for $3.83 million in 1993.
1859 Sicilian Error of Color
Value: $2.6 million
Bottom Line: 1859 Sicilian Error of Color
The "Error of Color" is a misprinted Sicilian — printed blue instead of orange — that sold for €1.8 million ($2 million) in 2011.
Surprisingly, little information about the stamp itself is available, but the stamp is said to be in excellent condition and one of only two known in existence.
Value: $2.3 million
Bottom Line: Treskilling Yellow
The famed Treskilling Yellow is a misprinted three-skillings Swedish stamp produced in 1855.
The stamp was supposed to be colored green, but a printer error caused the stamp to be produced in a yellow color, which was the color designated for the eight-skilling stamp. Its true value is unknown, as it sold in 2010 for an undisclosed amount. Before then, it sold for $2.3 million in 1996, but little else is known about its true price now.
When it sold at a private auction in 2010, auctioneer David Feldman declined to say whether it had sold for more than $2.3 million, but said it was "still worth more than any other stamp," according to the Telegraph.
In 2014, it changed hands once more, again for an undisclosed sum.
British Guiana 1 Cent Magenta
Value: $9.48 million
Bottom Line: British Guiana 1 Cent Magenta
The first sale of this stamp was for six shillings ($1.44) in 1873. One hundred forty years later, the British Guiana 1 Cent Magenta sold for over 6.4 million times that amount and reached $9.48 million at a Sotheby’s auction in June 2014.
The stamp was printed in 1856 after the postmaster general of British Guiana ordered a set of three types of stamps to be made after a shipment from London was delayed. This is the only stamp known to exist.
Before its sale in 2014, the stamp belonged to John E. du Pont, the heir to the du Pont family fortune who murdered a man in 1997 on his Foxcatcher farm (Steve Carell plays du Point in the 2014 film, "Foxcatcher"). Du Pont had purchased it for a then-record-setting $935,000 in 1980. He died in prison in 2010, and the stamp was sold by his estate.
The high bidder? High-end shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, who tucked the $9.5 million stamp in his pocket after making the record-breaking sale.
"I figured the best way was not to use an armored truck. That would call attention," Weitzman told The Washington Post. "My goodness, an armored truck pulling out from Sotheby’s could give some hooligans something to think about."
Related: Most Valuable Pennies