Lot 30017
British Guiana » 1850 Cotton-Reels (SG 1-8)
Price realised
90’000 GBP
100’000 – 150’000 GBP
Auction date
Thu 14 Oct 2021 at 15:00 (Europe/Zurich)


1850-51, 2 cents black on pale rose, Townsend Type A, with initials of postal official Smith “JBS”, cut round, with central 7 October 1851 Demerara datestamp, usual defects (see certificate) of no significance for such an important rarity; (SG £325’000).

The rarest stamp of the legendary “Cotton-Reel” primitives, being one of the only two single examples remaining in private hands. Two pairs, each on cover, are also known outside institutions, of which one is offered in this sale; the other two single stamps belonging to the collections of the British Library in London and the Post and Telecommunications Museum in Bonn (Germany).

IN TERMS OF CLASSIC WORLDWIDE RARITIES, THIS “NUMBER ONE” OF BRITISH GUIANA IS CONSIDERED TO BE AMONGST THE GREATEST OF ALL PHILATELIC TREASURES. With only two singles off cover and two pairs on two covers in private hands, this worldwide gem is still remarkably underestimated in the SG catalogue in comparison to other primitive rarities like the ‘Blue Mauritius’ (SG £1’500’000, with five singles off cover known in private hands) or the ‘Missionary’ of Hawaii 2 cents (Scott $250’000, with eleven singles off cover known in private hands).

Note: This 2 cents value was issued in 1851 to pay a local town letter rate (the Georgetown Penny Post), a service which was unpopular and little used, with no town post usages being known to have survived. This is the first example of the 2 cents circular to be found, being discovered by N. R. McKinnon in 1877, a local resident and well known vendor of British Guiana stamps at that time.


Philipp von Ferrary

Sir William B. Avery

Théodore Champion

King Farouk (Lot 1231, H.R.Harmers, February 1954)

Ernest Hunt

René Berlingin (David Feldman SA, 1978, sold for CHF66’000)

John E. du Pont (Lot 60000, David Feldman SA, June 2014, sold for €190’000)

Expertise: Cert. BPA (2014)

Catalogue reference: SG 1