President Irfaan Ali saw the most expensive Stamp in the world
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Farrier with Postmaster-General Karen Brown at the American Postal Museum in Washington D.C., USA, when the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta stamp was on display there
Farrier with Postmaster-General Karen Brown at the American Postal Museum in Washington D.C., USA, when the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta stamp was on display there

By Francis Quamina Farrier
THE world-famous and most valuable postage stamp on the planet – the British Guiana One Cent Magenta, which is valued at over U.S.$9 million – was recently seen by President Irfaan Ali while he was on a visit to Europe.

The president also met the present owner of the stamp, American footwear magnate Stuart Weitzman, who bought the stamp at an auction in 2014. Weitzman graciously allowed the stamp to be put on display at the American Postal Museum in Washington, DC, USA, for a number of years. During that period, many Guyanese, myself included, availed themselves the opportunity to see the Stamp. Also among them were Postmaster-General Karen Brown and Guyanese diplomats Dr. Kenrick Hunte and Dr. Riyad Insanally. Retired Jet aircraft pilot Capt. Beverley Drake, whose image is on a Guyana postage stamp, has also seen the world-famous British Guiana Magenta stamp during its display in the United States.

At that Washington DC location, scores of international stamp collectors and enthusiasts turned up to view that precious and famous British Guiana (Guyana) postage stamp. There are literally tens of thousands of stamp collectors worldwide, and they include not only millionaires and billionaires, but also individuals of simple means. Among international personalities who are avid stamp collectors are His Holiness Pope Francis of Vatican City, Rome, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, head of the British Commonwealth of Nations. A report stated that some years ago Her Majesty failed in her attempt to buy the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta from American Stuart Weitzman.

Retired jet aircraft pilot Capt. Beverley Drake, whose image is also on a Guyana postage stamp, views the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta Stamp at the American Postal Museum, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

Many Guyanese and International philatelists regard the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta postage stamp as the world’s most famous stamp. The batch in which it was printed was issued in limited numbers in British Guiana in 1856 on a printing press which was located on Church Street, Georgetown, just east of the National Library. That printing press has since been put on display on the ground floor of the National Museum in Georgetown.

What most Guyanese are unaware of, is that British Guiana was among the first countries in the world to have printed and used postage stamps. Because of its location on the northern shoulder of South America, and just a few hours to the Caribbean sea, Port Georgetown was a hub of activities by mariners in the past, and many letters using postage stamps were posted from there to destinations around the world.  Some of the stamps have images of Guyana’s flora and fauna. Millie, the infamous Guyanese cursing macaw, whose image was placed on a Guyana postage stamp, created much controversy. The bird learned curse words both in English and French, while at the EXPO in Montreal, Canada in 1967. Its bilingual ability at cursing was rewarded with its image being placed on a Guyana Christmas postage stamp. Many citizens were outraged and expressed the view that instead of that cursing macaw, it should have been the image of the Mother Mary and Baby Jesus on that Christmas stamp that year.

During colonial times, the images of English Kings and Queens were regularly placed on British Guiana stamps. After independence, the images of such individuals as Forbes Burnham and Dr. Cheddi Jagan, two of the Founding fathers of the nation, adorned stamps. However, let it not be forgotten that the image of an Indigenous man shooting fish in a river with an arrow and bow was one of the most popular British Guiana postage stamps during the 1940s. Later, images of citizens such as the Guyanese international superstar Eddy Grant, cricketers Clive Lloyd, Rohan Kanhai and Alvin Kalicharran and mountaineer Adrian Thompson were also placed on Guyana stamps. However, the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta remains superior, not only to other Guyana stamps, but stamps all over the world.

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