1855 Swedish stamp to be auctioned, world's most valuable milligrams The last time it was sold it brought $1.2 million


A scrap of yellow paper is being offered for sale Friday by an auction house in Zurich, Switzerland. The last time collectors were offered this particular scrap -- an 1855 Swedish stamp printed in the wrong color -- it sold for $1.2 million, making it not only the world's most valuable stamp, but also milligram for milligram the most valuable thing in the world.

And the record set at its previous sale in 1990 could easily be broken.

The stamp is known as the Treskilling Yellow. This was Sweden's first stamp, a 3-skilling denomination usually printed in green. But this copy is the only yellow one yet found. Chemical tests have proved that it was printed with yellow ink and is not merely a green copy that has become discolored with time.

The auction Friday is being conducted by David Feldman, an Irish stamp auctioneer based in Geneva. He handled the sale in 1990 and an earlier one in 1984, when the stamp sold for almost $500,000.

Philatelic lore has it that a young Swedish boy, rummaging through his grandmother's trunk during a summer vacation in the mid-1880's, found the stamp and sensed that its odd color made it valuable. He sold it to a dealer in Stockholm for a few dollars.

The dealer in turn sold it to a collector in Vienna, Austria, who sold it in Paris to Philippe Arnold la Renotiere von Ferrary, a wealthy count who developed -- and still holds -- a reputation as the most acquisitive stamp collector ever.

When Count von Ferrary died in 1917, he willed his collection to the Berlin Museum. But in a legal tangle involving World War I reparations, France claimed most of the collection, and the Treskilling Yellow went back on the market. In 1937 it was sold to King Carol II of Romania. The stamp then passed through several collectors' albums before it arrived at the Feldman auction gallery in 1984.

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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