Our June 30th-July 1st 2020 auction series features a mint nh example of the extremely rare and iconic 1948 Gandhi 10R Service stamp (lot 31658). When we sold an example of this stamp in May 2011 for a world record price for €120’000 plus commission (at the time a World Record price for an Indian stamp), it inspired me to look at the most expensive individual stamps issued post-World War II that had ever sold. So here is my list of the top 10.
1. China’s 1968 “Whole Country is Red” 8f (horizontal format)
This stamp, one of only 8 known, sold for ¥7’300’000 (incl. commission, which was about €918’000) by China Guardian in May 2012. Commonly called the “Whole country is red”, it thought that it was withdrawn because Taiwan is not coloured red. Although Taiwan is self-ruled, it is regarded by China to be a renegade province.
2. 1953 800f Military stamp in blue
This stamp sold for ¥2’702’500 (incl. commission, which was about €918’000) by China Guardian in May 2012.
This stamp sold for a HK$2’190’000 (incl. commission, which was about €202’000) by Interasia in January 2010. What is even more staggering is that it is only half a stamp, as it was salvaged from being destroyed. It shows Lin Biao standing on a podium in Tiananmen square. It is thought that a few examples of this stamp exist. Interasia had this stamp again in December 2012, but it was unsold at an estimate of HK$3’000’000-3’500’000.
4. Germany’s 2001 Audrey Hepburn 110+50pf unissued stamp
This example was sold by Felzmann for €169’000 (incl. commission and taxes). It is only one of five used copies to have surfaced, after 14 million of the stamps were ordered to be destroyed. This was because one of her son’s, Sean Ferrer, objected to the stamp design at the last minute because it shows her smoking.
5. India’s 1948 10R Gandhi with SERVICE overprint
This example was sold by us for €120’000 + 20% commission in May 2011. At the time it was the highest price paid for a single stamp of India. In unmounted mint condition, it is one of the finest of only 18 known examples.
6. China’s Unissued 1964 20f Peking Opera Mask
Described as having “two small surface irregularities including tiny central defect at top of nostrils which has been discreetly touched in, faults in margin, fine appearance” by Interasia in their December 2012 sale, this stamp still managed to sell for HK$1’092’500 (incl. commission, which was about €106’000).
7. China’s “Chairman Mao’s Inscription to Japanese Worker Friends” 8f unissued stamp
This unmounted mint example sold for HK$920’000 (incl. commission, which was about €82’000) by Interasia in January 2010. However another unmounted mint example remained unsold at an estimate of HK$350’000-400’000 in Interasia’s December 2012 auction.
8. China’s “The Whole Country is Red” 8f (vertical format)
This mint example sold for HK$793’500 (incl. commision, which was about €71’000 at the time) at Zurich Asia in August 2011, despite having a repaired tear affecting the character “fen”
9. China’s 1949 Flying Geese
This example sold for HK$727’375 (incl. commission, about €65’000 at the time) at Zurich Asia in August 2011. Mint without gum (as issued), it is described as superb without fault, and one of only 6 known in private hands.
It was produced in order to be overprinted with different denominations, but was never issued.
10. China’s 1956 “Views of Peking” 8f
This example was sold by Zurich Asia in August 2011 for HK$634’800 (incl. commission, which was about €57’000 at the time), in spite of the fact that it had a small repair on the back. Another example with only a minute surface scuff in margin at foot sold at Interasia in December 2012 for HK$552’000 (incl. commission, which was about €53’400 at the time).