A rare Sicilian “error of colour” issued in 1859 has become the world’s second most expensive stamp after selling for €1.8 million (SFr2.18) at auction in Basel.
The stamp, which was printed erroneously in blue instead of orange, was the centre piece of the four-day auction by Galerie Dreyfus which ended on Friday.
It had been expected to fetch between €1 and 1.2 million.
According to the auction house catalogue, there are only two known examples of this error of colour; the one sold is the only one with a date stamp. The other was removed from the same envelope and kept by the collector in Syracuse who originally discovered them, and who sold the letter with the remaining stamp to a dealer in Paris. The catalogue does not say when this happened.
The auction house said the stamp was sold on Thursday to an on-line bidder in the United States, who was described by a spokesman as “based in France”.
Other rare stamps sold in the auction included the Swiss “Champion” letter of 1855, with a rare colour misprint, which had never been sold at auction before. It went for €1.5 million.
A Swiss stamp featuring film actress Audrey Hepburn fetched €126,000. It was one of only ten known to have been sold over the counter before the edition was withdrawn by the post office when Hepburn’s relatives complained that it showed her smoking.
The world’s most expensive stamp is still the Swedish “Treskilling Yellow” – also printed in the wrong colour – which was last sold at auction in Geneva in May 2010 for an undisclosed price, but for “at least the $2.3 million" (SFr2.9 million at the 1996 exchange rate) it fetched when it was previously sold in 1996.