Mauritius is an island in the Indian Ocean, dwarfed by its much larger neighbour Madagascar, it spans just 720 square miles.

It is, however, a giant in philately as it was the source of the first two postage stamps sanctioned by a British colonial government.

The first stamps, produced in 1847, resemble Britain's Penny Black and Two Penny Blue, bearing the image of Queen Victoria, though Mauritius's one penny stamp was orange, or red-brown.

They also bear the words 'Post Office' and 'Mauritius' on the sides.

Post Paid Penny Orange
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Mauritius Post Office Two Pence stamp
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The stamps were created by local engraver Joseph O Barnard (born 1816), who first settled in Mauritius after arriving as a stowaway in 1838.

The phrase 'Post Office' was replaced by the more common 'Post Paid' in 1848, and a myth soon sprung up that the former phrase was written in error, but too late to cancel.

Nevertheless, the change has rendered the 'Post Office' varieties exceptionally rare, as only 500 of each were ever printed, and they have set records at auction.

When legendary Philatelist Hiroyuki Kanai sold his famous collection of Mauritius stamps in 1993 a Post Office Penny Orange sold for $1,072,260 and a Post Office Two Penny Blue sold for $1,148,850.

A cover featuring one of each, sometimes referred to as 'the greatest item in all of philately', sold for $3,829,500 - the record price for a philatelic item. 

No wonder rare stamps are known as the most valuable commodity on earth by weight.



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