The most famous stamp in the world: Who will own the $820,000 Mauritius 2d blue?

Spink's exciting auction of the legendary Chartwell collection is coming ever closer, and philatelists are practically salivating at the prospect of owning, or even just seeing some of the stamps.

One which is naturally attracting a great deal of attention is the Mauritius 2d 'Post Office' stamp, which is expected to raise a startling £400,000-500,000 ($820,000), and may be worth even more.

As anyone with a fair knowledge of philatelic history will know, Mauritius was the first place in the British Empire outside of Britain itself to issue adhesive stamps, initially in very small quantities so that Lady Elizabeth Gomm could issue ball invitations.

In 1842, Gomm accompanied her husband Sir William Maynard Gomm to Mauritius, where he was Governor, and proved to be a popular socialite. Her famous ball of September 30, 1847, featured entry cards which likely bore the new one penny Post Office stamps.

These first stamps of 1847 resemble Britain's Penny Black (the world's first adhesive postage stamp, issued in 1840) and Two Penny Blue, also bearing the image of Queen Victoria - although Mauritius' one penny stamp was orange, or red-brown.

Mauritius Post Office 2d Chartwell

They were also created bearing the words 'Post Office' and 'Mauritius' on the sides. The next year the design was changed such that 'Post Paid' appeared in place of 'Post Office', meaning that only 500 of the stamps as originally designed were ever issued, and some (such as Hiroyuki Kanai) have devoted their lives to studying them.

Far fewer than the 500 survived. The example offered in Spink's sale is regarded as the lightest cancelled of all, with just a small part of the 'Mauritius Post Office' double-ring datestamp in the lower left corner.

It has been very lightly and sympathetically restored, and presents wonderful deep colour and freshness.

Originally found by Madama Borchard and obtained by Bordeaux collector Martineau in 1869, it passed through the hands of Madame Desbois and J B Moens into those of Baron Arthur de Rothschild within just three years.

Count Ferrary acquired it in 1893 when he bought de Rothschild's whole collection for £5,600, and it was sold on to another great collector, Maurice Burrus, 30 years later.

Burrus held it for a full 40 years before it was sold in 1963, and exhibited as part of Stanley Gibbons' exhibition in Belgium in 1972, from which time it has been a part of the Chartwell collection.

Who will possess it next?


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