The One-Cent Magenta: Inside the Quest to Own the Most Valuable Stamp in the World

The One-Cent Magenta: Inside the Quest to Own the Most Valuable Stamp in the World

by James Barron

Hardcover

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Overview


An inside look at the obsessive, secretive, and often bizarre world of high-profile stamp collecting, told through the journey of the world’s most sought-after stamp.
 
When it was issued in 1856, it cost a penny. In 2014, this tiny square of faded red paper sold at Sotheby’s for nearly $9.5 million, the largest amount ever paid for a postage stamp at auction. Through the stories of the eccentric characters who have bought, owned, and sold the one-cent magenta in the years in between, James Barron delivers a fascinating tale of global history and immense wealth, and of the human desire to collect.
 
One-cent magentas were provisional stamps, printed quickly in what was then British Guiana when a shipment of official stamps from London did not arrive. They were intended for periodicals, and most were thrown out with the newspapers. But one stamp survived. The singular one-cent magenta has had only nine owners since a twelve-year-old boy discovered it in 1873 as he sorted through papers in his uncle’s house. He soon sold it for what would be $17 today. (That’s been called the worst stamp deal in history.) Among later owners was a fabulously wealthy Frenchman who hid the stamp from almost everyone (even King George V of England couldn’t get a peek); a businessman who traveled with the stamp in a briefcase he handcuffed to his wrist; and John E. du Pont, an heir to the chemical fortune, who died while serving a thirty-year sentence for the murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz.
 
Recommended for fans of Nicholas A. Basbanes, Susan Orlean, and Simon Winchester, The One-Cent Magenta explores the intersection of obsessive pursuits and great affluence and asks why we want most what is most rare.
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616205188
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 03/07/2017
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 590,958
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author


James Barron is a reporter for the New York Times, where his writing has appeared in virtually every section of the paper. He is the author of Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand, and he also edited The New York Times Book of New York. He and his wife live in New York City.

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