Stamps market - 2014 auction review

There was one story in stamp collecting in 2014 that overshadowed all others - the June sale of John E Du Pont's British Guiana 1c Magenta, which set a new record for any stamp sold at auction: $9.5m.

The Sotheby's sale was followed by John Du Pont's wider collection of British Guiana at David Feldman, which saw dazzling - yet doubtful - bids from Qatar's Sheikh Al Thani.

Elsewhere, a record for US stamps was set by a plate block of the famous Inverted Jenny, which sold for $4.8m in a private sale to mark a 5.6% per annum rise for the item. A mint never-hinged single example of the renowned rarity made $575,100 at Spink in New York.

The market for US stamps was led by several important sales of US postal history, with the George J Kramer Collection of US Domestic Mails and the Constellation Collection of US Postal Card Fancy Cancels and Usages both seeing strong results.

Great Britain & Commonwealth saw renewed interest, with the British Guiana stamp sale highlighting the importance of British Commonwealth rarities and bringing a new wave of collectors to the market.

Top postage stamp sale of 2014

The 1c Magenta sale has reignited the market for British Guiana's early stamps, bringing new collectors and strong demand

The British Guiana 1c Magenta has long been a gem of the philatelic world, famous from the moment of its discovery and passing through the hands of several renowned collectors.

Yet when its previous owner John Du Pont (whose life if portrayed in the recent Foxcatcher film) died in 2010, there was no sign of the stamp, which would surely set a record should it come to auction.

Early in 2014, Sotheby's shocked us with the announcement of its sale of the legendary rarity, setting the stamp collecting world and international media abuzz.

Following debate as to its authenticity and condition, it made $9.5m to set a new world record for any stamp sold at auction, smashing the previous record of $2.3m set by the Treskilling Yellow in 1996.

Its anonymous new owner has confirmed the stamp will be put on display at the US' National Postal Museum in April 2015, as part of the museum's new William H Gross Stamp Gallery.

2014's important postage stamp sales

In February, renowned Australian collector Ron Brigham returned to the auction world, selling the 1868 2c Large Queen on laid paper - Canada's rarest stamp - for an impressive $427,193. It's one of just three known to exist, and the most desirable.

Dynasty Auctions witnessed strength in the Japanese market, as it auctioned the nation's postal history in April. Star lot was an 1871 Dragon 500 mon cover, which saw a 130% increase on estimate at $29,662.

The single mint never-hinged "locket" copy of the Inverted Jenny sold at $575,100 in New York in May, while a 2013 $2 Jenny appeared at Kelleher Auctions with a $20,000 estimate, more than 10,000 times its original value. With the Inverted Jenny flying high, the $4.8m private sale of the plate block came as no surprise to collectors.

Hawaiian stamps proved popular, as one of only eight covers bearing an 1851 5c Blue Missionary stamp sold for $110,000 at Robert A Siegel in October.

The Constellation Collection, featured at Siegel in September, saw a Kicking Mule fancy cancel on cover sell 401% above estimate, while the Filstrup Cover, one of only six to feature an 1860 90c stamp, made $36,500.

It was a breakout year for…

Great Britain and British Commonwealth stamps, which have seen strong sales throughout the year following a quiet auction market in 2013. The Smithsonian announced that a Penny Black Mulready cover will go on display as a highlight of the William H Gross Stamp Gallery.

It was a year to forget for…

David Feldman, which is owed $7.5m after Sheikh Al Thani made exaggerated bids at its June 2013 auction before failing to pay. With the sheikh dying in September, the auction house has now filed papers against his estate, and is hoping to recoup losses from Sotheby's, who hold many of the Qatari royal's valuables.

One you may have missed…

Brandon Stamp Auctions announced in February it had discovered an error of vignette stamp from the London 2012 Olympics issue, exciting modern collectors. It shows Jessica Ennis at the Istanbul ISAAF World Athletics Series instead of the London Olympics as intended.

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