Lee's Illustrated Stamp Listopedia ©1999 


A sampling of well-known rare and valuable stamps.
British Guiana One Cent Magenta British Guiana One Cent Magenta Twelve-year old L. Vernon Vaughan discovered this rarity in1873 among letters in his family's attic. In 1980 it was auctioned to John Dupont for $935,000.   Long reputed to be the rarest stamp in the world, a second copy, still to be authenticated, recently surfaced in Germany.  (1856).
Sweden Three Skilling Banco, Yellow Error of Color Sweden Three Skilling Banco, Yellow Error of Color Normally issued in green, one instance of a yellow variety of this stamp was found in 1885.  It was printed with the ink color meant for the 8 skilling banco of the same set.  In 1996 the stamp sold for $2.27 million at auction.  (1855)
Post Office Mauritius Post Office Mauritius The British colony of Mauritius produced only 500 examples of each of its first two stamps. Fewer than 30 survive today. In 1993 a cover bearing both the 1d and 2d stamps sold for $3.8 million, the highest price ever paid for a stamp collecting item.  (1847)
U.S. Franklin Z-Grill U.S. Franklin Z-Grill The rarest of U.S. stamps, with only 2 known to exist, its "Z-grill" is a pattern of tiny squares pressed into the paper to allow  the canceling ink to be absorbed, thus discouraging postage cheaters from washing it out.  The use of grills was found to be impractical and was discontinued in the U.S. after 1871. (1867)
Hawaiian Missionaries Hawaiian Missionaries The first  four stamps issued by Hawaii are called the "Missionaries" because they were frequently used by island missionaries to send letters  back to the United States. The lowest denomination, the two-cent, is the rarest of the set. (1851)
France Tęte-Bęche France Tęte-Bęches Panes of several of France's early issues were released with at least one stamp upside down with respect to the others, or "tęte-bęche."  (1853-61)
British Guiana Cottonreel British Guiana Cottonreel The first stamps issued by British Guiana are referred to as "cottonreels" because of their resemblance to the cirular labels glued to the ends of  spools of cotton. (1850-51)
St. Louis Bears U.S. Postmasters' Provisionals Before U.S. government stamps appeared in 1847, local postmasters sometimes issued their own provisional stamps. Many are now very rare.  Pictured is  the "St. Louis Bears" provisional. (1845-46)
Canada St. Lawrence Seaway, Inverted Center Canada St. Lawrence Seaway, Inverted Center An example of a modern rarity is this printing error of the Canada St. Lawrence Seaway commemorative.   About 62 stamps with inverted centers were released. (1959)


See also
Link Australia's Most Valuable Stamp Previously unknown 1932 issue is found in Tasmania.
Link China Philatelic Rarities Rare stamps from China.
Link Error Stamps Stamp production mistakes that may result in scarce varieties.
Link Fake or Forgery? Has a second copy of the world's rarest stamp been found?
Link "Fake" say RPS Experts Second 1˘ Magenta flunks expertizing exam.
Link Gallery of Rarities Some high-priced sales by the Siegel Auction Galleries.
Link The Most Expensive Stamps Overview of valuable German and worldwide stamps.
Link The World's Most Famous Stamp Michael Mills’ history of the British Guiana 1˘ Magenta.
Link The World's Most Valuable Stamp Sweden Post page about the 3 skilling banco error of color.
Mackay, James  A.  The World of Classic Stamps, 1840-1870, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1972.
Williams, L.N. and M.  Rare Stamps, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1967.
Young, Walter G.  Stamp Collecting A to Z, New York: A.S. Barnes, 1981.
Linn's Stamp News.
Stamp Collector.