11 Weird and Rare Postage Stamps

About eleven strange and rare postage stamps, history of the stamps for collectors.

11 STRANGE POSTAGE STAMPS

1. GREAT BRITAIN "PENNY BLACK" AND "TWOPENNY BLUE" (1840)

On May 1, 1840, the world's first postage stamps were issued by a government. Picturing Queen Victoria, the stamps were first used only in Great Britain and lack the country's name--a tradition still followed on British stamps.

2. MAURITIUS "POST OFFICE" ERROR (1847)

The British colony of Mauritius issued their first two stamps engraved "Post Office" instead of "Post Paid." Only 500 each of a one-penny and two-penny value were printed; 26 still exist. Most of the one-penny stamps were used by the governor's wife on invitations to a fancy-dress ball.

3. HAWAII "MISSIONARY" STAMPS (1851)

Issued by the native government and used mostly by American missionaries serving in Hawaii, an unused set of eight is valued at about $100,000. In the 1890s, a French collector murdered his best friend when he would not sell him his single copy of the 2 cent missionary--the rarest of the set, with only 15 known to exist.

4. BRITISH GUIANA 1 cent MAGENTA (1856)

The world's rarest and most valuable stamp was printed when a supply of stamps failed to arrive from London. In 1873 a teenage boy found the only copy known to exist and sold it for 6 shillings, or 84 cent In 1970 it was sold at auction for $280,000.

5. NEW BRUNSWICK "CONNELL'S FOLLY" (1859)

Postmaster General Charles Connell used his own portrait on the 5 cent stamp--the value most commonly used in the colony. The public was convinced that he was promoting his own political ambition to become an absolute monarch or dictator. He was forced to resign from office and retire from public life.

6. ECUADOR, HONDURAS, NICARAGUA, AND EL SALVADOR "SEEBECK REPRINTS" (1889-1899)

Nicholas F. Seebeck, a representative of the Hamilton Banknote Company in New York, contracted to print stamps for these nations at no charge--provided all unsold stamps were invalidated and returned to him. He sold these and other stamps reprinted from the original plates to collectors at a fraction of their face value.

7. CHINA SPECIAL DELIVERY ISSUE (1913-1914)

The world's largest stamp, it was printed in strips with five different designs. The entire stamp measures 9 3/4 in. by 2 3/4 in., or almost 27 sq. in. in area.

8. U.S. INVERTED AIRMAIL (1918)

One sheet of the first U.S. airmail stamp was printed with the Curtiss "Jenny" biplane on it flying upside down. A collector purchased the sheet, containing 100 stamps, at a Washington, D.C., post office for $24. Each stamp is now valued at $42,500.

9. GERMANY INFLATION ISSUE (1923)

Due to rampant inflation, Germany had to issue stamps at phenomenally high values. The stamp valued at 50 million marks represents one of the highest denominations ever to appear on a postage stamp. The highest U.S. denomination appears on the $50,000 Distilled Spirits Excise Tax stamp issued in 1950.

10. U.S. "FARLEY'S FOLLIES" (1935)

Postmaster General James A. Farley favored selected friends and VIPs, especially President Franklin D. Roosevelt, by giving them ungummed and unperforated sheets of certain commemorative issues. After strong and continued protests from American stamp collectors, the government was forced to reissue the stamps in an ungummed and unperforated form and make them available to the general public.

11. U.S. DAG HAMMARSKJOLD ERROR (1962)

Two collectors, one in New Jersey and one in Ohio, each bought a sheet of this commemorative, which had the yellow background inverted. On discovering the existence of the error, the Post Office Dept. reissued the stamp--with the error--and eliminated the premium value of the original sheets.

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