World Coins

British Guiana's Penny Magenta stamp an expensive, ugly, stamp

Editor's note: The following is the third of a multi-part Coin World series about the intersection of coins and postage stamps prepared by Jeff Starck for the May 2015 monthly edition of Coin World.

The Pobjoy Mint’s colorful celebration of colorfully named stamps continued in 2004, with the issuance of the first red-colored coins using colored titanium, for the British Virgin Islands.

The coins fittingly depict the 1-cent, magenta-colored stamp issued by British Guiana in 1856, a stamp currently among the rarest and most valuable in that collecting field. 

Read other pieces from the series:

Coins that leave their stamp on history

Blue Mauritius stamp among world's most valuable issues

Canada's iconic beaver appears on first stamp, 3-cent coin

2008 coin honors first stamp from Russia

The “Penny Magenta,” though, might also qualify as one of the world’s ugliest. The unique surviving example of the rectangular stamp had its corners clipped, making the stamp octagonal. Black cancellation markings obscure much of the stamp’s underlying scene, a ship.

The stamp was discovered in 1873 by a Scottish schoolboy, L. Vernon Vaughan, living in British Guiana. He did not realize the stamp’s rarity and sold it for a modest $1.50, according to Linn’s Philatelic Gems. The stamp eventually wound up in famous collections and most recently was sold by Sotheby’s in 2014 for $9.48 million. 

The Penny Magenta coin also commemorates the 125th anniversary of the death of Sir Rowland Hill, the father of the postal system.

The obverse features an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley.

Two versions of the reddish colored coin were issued — a .990 titanium $5 piece and a ringed-bimetallic $75 piece minted from 9 grams of .9999 gold (the outer ring) and 2 grams of .990 titanium (the core).

The $5 coin had a mintage limit of 7,500 pieces. The $75 coin had a mintage limit of 2,500 pieces.

The $5 coin currently trades for about $35 to $65 U.S. No recent auction records for the gold coin could be determined; the “spot” or precious metal value of the gold alone is $347 at press time.

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