If you’re counting the top fifty most collected rare items within the United States and even around the world, postage stamps will fall somewhere in the first ten ranks. The worth of these ordinary-looking objects can vary between tens of dollars to thousands and sometimes millions of dollars. This may seem unbelievable, especially if you do not belong to the philating community.
Within the last ten years, new high records have been set for the prices of the rarest postage stamps across the globe. These items have generated lots of buzz within and around the collector’s community. And truth be told, it has encouraged more individuals (across all age groups) to get interested in the fun and addictive hobby of stamp collection.
I can vividly remember that while growing up, I was actively involved in collecting stamps with my siblings. I feel this budding happiness whenever I see the younger folks doing the same now. With how rare some postage stamps are, you never can tell when you’ll behold some of the most valuable symbols in mint conditions with high returns. Since it is nearly impossible to fit all the valuable postage stamps into this post, I’ll touch on the top fifteen most expensive (valuable) stamps within and around North America.
Fasten your seat belts, and pay attention as I take you on a journey to discover the most valuable postage stamp ever made.
What makes a Stamp valuable?
When you come across a highly-priced postage stamp, one of the first things that come to mind is how is this mundane object worth this amount. The value of a stamp depends on different factors, including:
- Condition:if a stamp is still in the same condition as the time it was issued, the chances of its value being high is increased. Not all postage stamps can be found in pristine conditions. Note that damaged, torn, or unhinged stamps are not worth as much as others.
- Rarity:This is expected of all vintage or antique items. The rarer a postage stamp is, the more value it can generate. For example, stamps with a higher denomination, especially those above one shilling, are very hard to locate because they were produced in limited quantities.
- Number of errors:More often than not, the rarest postage stamps have at least one error.
- Age:collectors say the older the stamp, the more valuable it is. A stamp tells the postal history; the older it is, the more historical stories it could offer.
- Region: Some countries like the U. S and the United Kingdom boast of extremely rare and early stamps that date from the 1800s. These artifacts are often described as classics, and they are worth more than regular stamps.
- Perforations: These are noticeable holes found on stamps. A valuable stamp would have neat perforations with beautiful edges.
- Colors: a valuable stamp has brought fresh, original colors.
- Damage: The number of bends, creases, and tears on a stamp influences its value. Minimal cracks or wrinkles are more preferable to unhinged or torn features.
- Marks:Antique postal stamps sometimes have a unique, distinguishable pattern. Sometimes these marks are more or less a mistake due to printing or production errors, and other times, they are deliberate cancellation marks applied to prove a stamp’s authenticity. The more unique or rare a mark is, the more valuable the stamp could be.
15 Most Valuable Stamps in the World
In no particular order, read on to discover the most valuable stamps in the world.
1. Treskilling Yellow, Sweden
Sold for: $2.6 million
The Treskilling Yellow, aka three Schilling banco error of color, is a fascinating item prized for its color. Funny enough, but for an unavoidable printing error, Sweden’s treskilling yellow would have been green.
This yellow piece of history was found in the garbage bin by George Willhelm Baeckman in 1885. The brilliant lad sold it about twelve months later to a local stamp dealer for six Kroners.
Today, this stamp is currently owned by a billionaire businessman, Gustaf Douglas, one of Sweden’s renowned aristocrats and politicians.
2. Tiflis Stamp
Sold for: $700,000
The Tiflis Stamp, with its metallic appearance, is one of the oldest stamps from the Russian empire. It was named after the city of Tiflis, now known as Georgia.
A first look at the Tiflis Stamp would show a metal sheet and embossed lettering. Many have mistaken this stamp for a metal bookplate a few times.
There are only five surviving Tiflis Stamps. Collectors are often drawn to the aesthetic novelty of these antique items.
3. British Guiana 1 Cent Magenta
Sold for: $9.5 million
The British Guiana 1 Cent Magenta stamp, alias the Mona Lisa of Philately, was a product of necessity. At the time, the British Colony was fresh out of stamps and couldn’t exercise patience for new stamps to come in from England. The local publishers were tasked with printing limited quantities of one-cent stamps and four-cent octagonal stamps.
This item features a sailing ship and a phrase that reads, “We give and we seek in return” (the motto of the Damus Petimusque Vicissim colony).
4. The Sicilian Error of Color
Price: $2.6 million
Currently holding the record for the most expensive Italian stamp, this piece shows the side profile of a bearded individual. There are only two pieces of the Scilly Error of Color. One of these two was sold at an auction in 2011 for a staggering 2.6 million dollars.
5. Red Revenue One Dollar Small
Sold for: $889,775
This item is one of the rarest stamps from the Qing dynasty area. The Chinese stamp is one of the first few stamps issued in China.
As of today, there are only 32 separate pieces of the one-dollar miniature version. This is majorly because the piece was discontinued due to its small text.
6. Alexandria Blue Boy
Year: 1847 or 1846
Sold for: $1. 20 million
The Alexandria Blue Boy is a unique circular-shaped stamp (the only known stamp of this nature). Reports claim it was used as a postal stamp for a love letter between two family members.
In 1981, the Alexandria Blue Boy was purchased for $1 million. By 2019, it was worth $1.18 million.
7. The Whole Country Is Red
Sold for: $475,000
First dispensed in 1968, this Chinese stamp was prized for its error prints. The Whole Country is Red features a Chinese red map with a soldier, a worker, and a farmer all holding Chairman Mao’s handpicked works.
The error wasn’t immediately discovered, as the stamp was in use for at least half a day before it was withdrawn. The stamp was worth 1 US cent at the time. The most recent record of this item reports that it was sold for $1.5 million about four years ago.
8. 1918 Inverted Jenny
Price: $1.6 million
The Inverted Jenny stamp is an upside-down 24-cent stamp. The “inverted” stems from the reverse biplane printing error.
The Inverted Jenny is not as limited as the other unique stamps. There are about 80 of these Philatelic items. The most expensive inverted Jenny is worth as much because it was safely stored in a safe deposit box for a century. When the tiny scrap of history was finally sold in 2018, it was still in pristine condition as though it was newly minted.
9. Two Penny Blue
Sold For: $1.4 million
In 1992, this stamp was worth about 1.6 million Swiss Francs. This was the highest value of a British Commonwealth stamp for two decades.
10. Mauritius Post Office Stamps
Price: $3.8 per pair
These stamps were the first official British Empire Stamps minted outside Great Britain. Only 27 pairs are in good condition since they were produced more than 150 years ago.
The Mauritius Post office Stamps are highly sought-after and are often sold in pairs. A pair comprises one penny red and two Penny Blue. The current owner of the most expensive pair has been in possession since 1993.
11. Edward VII 6d Pale Dull Purple
Sold For: $470,000
This stamp is one of the U.K.’s rarest stamps. Currently, only 3 of these stamps are surviving in good condition out of the 19 sheets produced. These three are safely kept in private collections and museums.
12. Baden 9 Kreuzer Error
Sold For: $1.70 million
This German vintage stamp is highly valuable. There are only five known Baden 9 Kreuzer Error Stamps across the globe. In 2019, an American stamp collector disclosed that he found one of these rare stamps mounted on a page in his collection. Once he figured out how much it could fetch, he listed the stamp for auction, generating up to $1.7 million.
These German stamps are popular because of their color error. They would have been rose-colored but are not on blue, green papers.
13. Canadian 12d Black Express
Sold for: $445,000
This Canadian stamp is not as rare as some items on this list. However, it still commands as much prices at auctions. Many of these 12d black express stamps are used, while the unused few are valued at $400,000 and higher.
14. Inverted Declaration of Independence
Sold for: $1.2 million
There are 4 of these stamps existing today. They feature an inverted rendition of the declaration of independence. It was sold for $1.2 million over a decade ago. Its value may be higher than this today.
15. Benjamin Franklin Z Grill
Sold for: $3 million
The Franklin Z Grill is an 1868 1-cent stamp with tiny z-shaped indentations. In 2005, one of the two surviving stamps was traded for a collection of found inverted Jenny stamps (worth $3 million). The second stamp had been previously sold in 1998 at auction for close to a million dollars.
Factors Affecting Value of Stamps
Multiple elements can influence the value of postage stamps. In fact, a highly-priced stamp can be worth a fraction of its price if any of the following factors are altered.
Condition of the stamp
Stamps are antique items, and as such much care has to be taken to ensure their condition is maintained. If you purchase a stamp in superb condition, put in the work or inquire how the stamp can remain in this condition. If you allow your stamp to get wrinkled, torn, or dirty, there’s a high chance you won’t get as much as you could from selling the piece.
It is worthy to note that stamps are best left in place if they are found on envelopes or covers. Many of these contain valuable historical information that could add to the value of these stamps.
Unique stamps were produced in limited quantities in whatever region of the world they were used. Common stamps are not as valuable as the rare authentic pieces.
The buyers interested in a stamp can influence its value. For example, if a stamp is being pursued by show dealers, renowned collectors or sellers, museums, or large stamp store owners, the price could be altered. Antique items like stamps do not have a fixed price; the demand for them plays a huge role in their value.
The available quantity of a stamp can affect its value. If an original stamp is found in pairs or blocks, it would most certainly be sold at higher prices. Collectors often advise that paired or connected stamps be left or marketed the way they are.
Dozens of valuable stamps have been destroyed or deemed worthless due to the absence of proper maintenance practices. Poor storage conditions can affect the worth of a stamp. For instance, if a rare authentic stamp is exposed to heat, light, or moisture, the value has most definitely been affected. Stamps must be kept in cool, dark, and dry spots to ensure their values are maintained.
How To Tell How Much Your Stamp Is Worth
Experienced stamp collectors can often tell at first glance the range of price a stamp could command. As you grow into your stamp-collector skin, you’ll learn about the most exciting features to watch out for. As they say, practice makes perfect. In no time, you’ll have a good sense of market value.
An inherited stamp collection will indeed contain clues that would point you to its estimated price.
—even collected items. To determine how much your stamp is worth, you must first classify it based on the used or unused (minted) condition.
Next, you can go on to check antique postage stamp catalogs like Scott Standard (a clean, easy-to-understand guide for US stamps with illustrations to crosscheck). Generally, stamp guides are revised yearly. So you can be rest assured that you’re with updated information.
I must point out that identifying an expensive stamp isn’t the only way to conclude its price. The condition and sentimental value of the stamp play another role. The Scott Standard postage stamp catalogs list the actual perceived value of an original stamp, but most times, the price in real life ends up being a fraction of the recommended value due to the present condition of the stamp.
How to determine how much your Stamp is worth
To determine the exact worth of your stamp, you must first discover its past and possible auction price, catalog value, retail price, and replacement value. These would give you an estimate of what your stamp could be worth.
To skip these strenuous processes, you can pay a token (about $30 to $100) to registered appraisers to expertly assess your stamps and give you a value. Fortunately, appraisers only consider stamps which they consider essential in Philately. Experienced stamp appraisers can be contacted by the National Stamp Dealers Association, American Stamp Dealers Association, and the Philatelic Society of America.
If you cannot afford to hire an expert appraiser, you can contact members of the Philatelic society or dealers who would be willing to do it for free. Apfelbaum Inc offers free appraisals for written insurance appraisals.
For an appraisal, you either take your stamps personally to the appraiser, send visuals (images and videos), or transport your stamps through the mail.
To determine the current market price of your stamp yourself, check online sources like eBay to compare prices of similar-looking stamps. You could also visit physical and online stamp auctions to check for similar items. Another tip is to put your stamps up for sales on different auction websites to see how many potential buyers would be willing to give for them. A sales attempt is usually an effective way to gather information about the market value of an antique. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sell at that point.
Where To Sell Stamp
Figuring out the best location to sell your stamps is not as difficult as some make it to be. If you have a collection of a few pieces of valuable stamps, there are various spots, and collectors who would be willing to buy your stamp. In fact, dozens of websites offer these services for a cut. Tens of thousands of rare and valuable stamps have been sold offline and online in two decades.
Some of the stamps that get picked up fast are mint stamps, singles, used stamps, US stamps, foreign stamps, vintage stamps, albums, and blocks. If you have any of these, just head on to list your stamp on one or more of the following websites.
- Apfelbaum, Inc
- Sell Unused Stamps
- Miller’s stamp company
- West Coast Stamp Company
- American Philatelic Society (APS)
- Mystic Stamp Company
If perhaps you find yourself situated close to stamp dealers, stamp shows, yard sales, or pawn shops, you can go there with your stamps to get an evaluation or cash in your item immediately.
Stamps Selling Tips
A few tips to consider when listing or cashing in your stamps online or in-person includes:
- Ensure you get an accurate appraisal before the sale
- Use a reputable stamp dealer or website
- Know the historical significance of your stamp
- Attend stamp events to make contact with larger group of stamp lovers
What do I need to start collecting stamps?
There is some basic equipment you need to purchase before making your first stamp purchase. Some of these equipment are stamp tweezers, perforation guides, atlas/map, hinges, watermark detector fluid, stamp reference guide, and a magnifying glass.
Can I get my stamps insured?
It is always a good idea to safeguard all your investments with the right insurance company and package. Postage stamps, most especially the rare and valuable ones, can be insured with partial or all-risk coverages. All you need to do is find an insurance company that specializes in collectibles and fine art.
How can I separate a used stamp from the envelope?
Most people collect used stamps. These stamps can easily get disfigured if care isn’t taken when removing them from the envelope. First, you have to trace and cut out the stamp with a small margin. Then you proceed to soak the stamp (facedown) in cool water for about 18 min. You’ll observe that the stamp would float free, go ahead and remove it with your stamp tongs. Dry it between paper towels. The Smithsonian National Postal Museum recommends the stamp be put underneath a heavy flat book to prevent creasing or curling.
The hobby of collecting stamps isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Thousands of collectors around the world are keenly interested in it. Although, I can’t deny that the popularity of this habit has dwindled compared to the mid-1900s.
Thanks to online marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, Amazon, and other Philatelic societies, non-collectors with inherited collections of valuable stamps can sell them off to people like you and me who crave stamps from historical eras or specific regions.
Have fun finding missing pieces in your stamp albums, adding unrelatable stamps to create a unique collection, and generally improving the value and worth of your postage stamp collections.