Stamps Are Art

Protection, Preservation, and Care

An Open Letter to the New Owner of the British Guiana Magenta Stamp

June 19, 2014

Now that the Sotheby’s auction is over and the British Guiana philatelic treasure has found a new home, I have some personal philatelic observations and thoughts.

During it’s world tour, I wonder how many people had the chance to view the British Guiana 1 cent Magenta stamp, only to be left with the same lingering questions that it left me with.

How in the world did the Guiana achieve its philatelic status as most expensive piece of  stamp art, and yet look as mistreated as it does?

Is it just me, or does the stamp look faded, written on, ink stained, and generally ready to disintegrate at the next slightest bit mistreatment (as evidenced by the image below).

The stamp has been held by many world class stamp collectors, and yet appears to have been given the care one would expect from an amateur. Yes, I know that it was known to be in bad condition from its first discovery, but how much more damage has been inflicted by its subsequent owners, via their storage in wallets, pockets, briefcase, and under pillows?

The stamp’s condition oozes mistreatment and lack of preservation and care.  What  have all its owners been thinking?  Their signatures and other  markings have been left on this stamp like a dog marking its territory.

Perhaps this is because the stamp is thought of by those who belong to the .1% only as a status symbol and not as a privilege that comes along with an obligation to preserve this rarity for future generations.

The stamps fragility can be attested to by the fact that the National Postal Museum declined to dip it in benzene stamp fluid during its analysis/expertization process. As far as I can tell, the stamp museum also did rear British-Guiana-Stampnot try to expose the stamp to UV expertization light, choosing to use the VSC6000, Leica Microscope, X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF) and the Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscope (FT-IR) instead. If so, kudo’s, as both dipping fluid and UV light have been discussed by me as  DO NOT USE WITH stamps.

Further to it’s condition, the stamps history is replete with its display at multiple philatelic exhibitions, each associated with their own exposure of the stamp to photons – lux – lumen and their cumulative irreversible contribution to the fading of the stamp.

If the amount of light in the display case at Sotheby’s is representative of the amount of light the stamp has been displayed under during its numerous stamp exhibitions, world tours, and auctions, the British Guiana has not much life left before it fades away before it’s new owners eyes.  Aside from its previous public displays, I can only imagine how much further light exposure each of the previous owners exposed the stamp to during their personal and private viewing pleasures, all which have and will cumulatively lead to its eventual demise. 

So, I end this post with a plea to the owner, take care of your little stamp treasure a little bit more than the trivial amount the 10 million dollars you paid for it must represent to you.  The more care you afford your new stamp art, the more status you will gain – at least on, and who knows, if the stamp survives, by philatelia and the future generations that will give you the credit you will deserve for saving your piece of philatelic enjoyment for them to enjoy.

And, one final request, try not to sleep with your stamp.  😉

Watch Video of World Record Price for British Guiana 1 cent Magenta Stamp at Sotheby’s Learn to Measure the Amount of Light Your Collection Has Been Exposed To – Part 1
Watch Video of World Record Price for British Guiana 1 cent Magenta Stamp at Sotheby’s
Learn to Measure the Amount of Light Your Collection Has Been Exposed To – Part 1

Comments to “An Open Letter to the New Owner of the British Guiana Magenta Stamp”

  1. Reply

    I actually agree with your post. How can one spend around 10 million dollars for a beat-up stamp just like the British Guiana Magenta stamp? I am a stamp collector myself, but it amazes me to learn that some stamp collectors sleep with their stamps beneath their pillows! Seeing the stamp upclose in this post of yours, I am not sure if it looks like a stamp anymore. I am glad to have found this blog of yours about stamps, as not many do write about them online.

    In case you and other stamp readers are interested, one of my favorite websites with a catalogue to browse on for stamps is Register for a free account and you get lots of benefits like being able to view their catalogue of stamps, make new friends all over the world who also collect stamps, find postal offices in your area, participate in auctions, get to know dealers in your area, and much more! It’s a great site for everyone who is into stamp collecting. I hope you enjoy browsing there as much as I do.

    • (Administrator)

      Thanks for the comment



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