A scrap of dark-red paper faintly printed in black, the only surviving example of a legendary stamp that sold for one cent in 1856, is to be auctioned in New York for an estimated $20 million, reinforcing its reputation as the world’s most famous and valuable stamp. It was most recently owned by an American millionaire who died four years ago in a prison cell.

If the British Guiana one-cent magenta reaches the predicted price at a Sotheby’s sale in New York on June 17, it will set a new auction record for a single stamp.

The stamp was one of an emergency printing of several denominations by the local Official Gazette newspaper in British Guiana in 1856, when storms delayed a shipment from the U.K. and the postmaster was in danger of entirely running out of stamps. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2014

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