The rarest stamp in the world is returning to Britain for the first time in almost 150 years.
The British Guiana 1c Magenta (1856), dubbed the “Mona Lisa of the stamp world”, is believed to be the most valuable man-made item.
Gram for gram, it is worth around 2.5 million times more than 24-carat gold, said leading dealer Stanley Gibbons – which purchased the stamp for $8.3m (£6.2m) at auction in June.
The “one of a kind” octagonal stamp will be displayed at the Stanley Gibbons central London store after being housed in collections in the US for 143 years.
The highly-prized item will be protected by stringent security and greeted by an armoured truck when it is flown into Heathrow.
It will then be locked in a vault before being displayed in a specially commissioned, zero-oxygen frame.
Graham Shircore, chief executive of Stanley Gibbons, said: “The British Guiana 1c Magenta really is the Holy Grail of philately.
“It’s truly one of a kind, and we’re delighted to be welcoming it back on to British soil where we hope it will remain.”
Measuring 29mm by 26mm, the stamp is printed in black on magenta paper and features a ship with three masts and the motto: “Damus Petimus Que Vicissim” which translates to “we give and expect in return”.
It is the only survivor of a small batch printed on the former British colony, British Guiana – now known as Guyana – in 1856, after a ship from England, thought to be carrying 50,000 stamps, arrived with just 5,000.
Stanley Gibbons said it hoped to make the stamp available to collectors via a shared ownership scheme, with shares in major paintings selling from just £20.
The “bold plans” will allow everyone to “own their own piece of its marvellous history”.
The stamp was previously on display at the Smithsonian National Stamp Museum in Washington DC, on loan from American shoe designer, Stuart Weitzman.
Former owners also include the French government and former philanthropist John du Pont, who was convicted of the murder of American Olympic gold medallist wrestler David Schultz, as depicted in 2014 film, Foxcatcher.
The stamp is thought to have been used to deliver a newspaper which was forgotten about until it was found by a Scottish schoolboy in 1873.
Louis Vernon Vaughan, 12, sold the item to a local collector for six shillings.
Anyone interested in owning a piece of the stamp can find out more at www.1c-magenta.com