British Africa has its fair share of immensely rare stamps: the primitive manuscript surcharges of Uganda and of the Oil Rivers high values, some of the Boer War local provisionals, the scarcer Madagascar “missionaries” all jump to mind. But the regularly issued £100 Cherry Red “Arms” of Rhodesia, issued primarily for fiscal purposes but also available for postage (for possible sending of elephant tusks or bars of gold?) is undoubtedly the “King” of the philatelic spectrum of High Values of the entire British Empire.
It’s not even granted a “major number” in the Gibbons cqatalogue, which does mention that it was ordered in June 1901 and that several fiscally-cancelled examples are known. As a mint stamp, to the best of our knowledge only the example shown here, and one other unused (with a thin), are known at present.
£100 in 1901 was the equivalent of £29’000 today; the stamp is listed in the South Africa Colour Catalogue at 4’500’000 rands (approx. € 400’000) which befits its status as a superlative rarity of Rhodesia, British Africa and indeed the entire British Empire. This example was last certified by Brandon, in 2008, and is offered in our December 2011 Geneva Auction series.