In 1856 in British Guiana (now Guyana) stamp supplies were running out, so the Georgetown printers of J. Baum and W. Dallas were asked to produce an emergency ‘provisional’ supply. The design featured a picture of a sailing ship in the centre and were 4 cent values in black on magenta surfaced paper. In 1875 local schoolboy L. Vernon Vaughan was searching through family correspondence to look for stamps to add to his collection when he came across one of the provisionals inscribed ‘ONE CENT’ instead of ‘FOUR CENTS’. Soon afterwards he sold it to N.R. McKinnon for six shillings to get money for other stamps.
Over the years this 1c version of the stamp was believed to be unique and it has been owned by a number of famous collectors including Count Phillippe von Ferrary and Arthur Hind. However, the original now resides in a bank vault in Philadelphia because it is now owned by the US chemical fortune heir John Du Pont who is serving 30 years for the murder of a professional wrestler. Du Pont originally paid $935,000 for it back in 1980
Legend has it that a second British Guiana 1c magenta had been owned by the rich US industrialist Arthur Hind but that Hind had burnt it and proclaimed: ‘There’s only one magenta One Cent Guiana’. However, in late 1998 a German opera singer by the name of Peter Winter claimed to have a second 1c magenta. Winter’s tale was that he had met a Romanian dancer, called Mia Corojeanu, whose grandfather had worked as a valet for Grand Duke Alexei Michailovich. Mia told Winter that the Grand Duke – a keen philatelist who was a member of the Philatelic society, London – had given the stamp to her relative and it had stayed in the family. As she needed money Mia sold it to Winter for just under 10,000 Deutschmarks.
Doubts were raised because Winter had been known in Germany for producing a large number of copies of stamps and philatelic material. He also had the second Guiana 1c magenta repaired as it had a tear down the left hand side.
The alleged second 1c magenta has twice been before the Expertising Committee of the Royal Philatelic Society London – in 1987 and 1999. The committee’s verdict in January 1999 was: ‘1c Black on magenta – imperf. – used is not SG 23 but it is a 4 cent stamp faked to resemble a 1 cent, extensively repaired and mounted on backing paper’. Contrary to this experts in Germany and Switzerland – Herr Rolf Roeder and the philatelic auctioneer David Feldman respectively – have stated that they believe Winter’s 1c magenta to be genuine. Whether it is or not remains to be seen, but if it is it will become one of the great modern philatelic finds. It’s current owner is Peter Winter’s son who received it on his 21st birthdfay in 1992.