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The One-Cent Magenta
The One-Cent Magenta: The Obsessive Quest to Own the Most Valuable Stamp in the World | James Barron
7 posts | 5 read | 48 to read
An inside look at the obsessive, secretive, and often bizarre world of high-profile stamp collecting, told through the journey of the world's most sought-after stamp. When it was issued in 1856, it cost a penny. In 2014, this tiny square of faded red paper sold at Sotheby's for nearly $9.5 million, the largest amount ever paid for a postage stamp at auction. Through the stories of the eccentric characters who have bought, owned, and sold the One-Cent Magenta in the years in between, James Barron delivers a fascinating tale of global history and immense wealth, and of the human desire to collect. One-cent magentas were provisional stamps, printed quickly when a shipment of official stamps from London did not arrive in what was then British Guiana. They were intended for periodicals, and most were thrown out with the newspapers. But one stamp survived. The singular One-Cent Magenta has had only nine owners since a twelve-year-old boy rediscovered it in 1873 as he sorted through papers in his uncle's house. He soon sold it for what would be $17 today. (That's been called the worst stamp swap in history.) Among later owners was a fabulously wealthy, downright odd Frenchman who hid the stamp from almost everyone (even King George V of England couldn't get a peek); a businessman who traveled with the stamp in a briefcase he handcuffed to his wrist; and John E. du Pont, an heir to the chemical fortune, who died while serving a thirty-year sentence for the murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz. For fans of Nicholas A. Basbanes, Susan Orlean, and Simon Winchester, The One-Cent Magenta explores the intersection of obsessive pursuits and great affluence and asks why we want most what is most rare.
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smilingshelves
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These are not the books I was planning to get at the library. (And yes, I plan what books I'm going to get. I miss the fun of browsing, but this is a lot faster when going with little kids.) Despite checking the catalog the night before to make sure the ones I wanted were available, they were both checked out when I got there in the morning! So I grabbed these instead. I'm sure I'll enjoy these just as much (still sightly disappointing, though).

RaimeyGallant I order everything into my library. :) 5mo
smilingshelves @RaimeyGallant I guess I'll need to start doing that! 😊 5mo
25 likes2 comments
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msford88
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Pickpick

I didn't know the first thing about stamp collecting when I dug into this book. It didn't matter. It was incredibly interesting, and there's very little "fat." It's very well written, and you're given only what you really want to know. It's a fast read, and I definitely recommend. You'll surely lose yourself among the interesting characters who've made it their ultimate goal to own the most valuable stamp in the world.

Lynnsoprano I‘m definitely going to have to read this, but for a very different reason. The summer after I graduated from high school, I worked for Crayola, packing the old big flat boxes of 72 crayons. You were known by the name of one of the 4 crayons you put in each box as it came down the conveyor belt, and I was “magenta.”😄 2y
msford88 @Lynnsoprano Haha. That's a great story. Love it. 2y
123 likes10 stack adds2 comments
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LauraBrook
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Pickpick

A fascinating look at not only this, the "rarest stamp in the world", but at its history, & of the lives of everyone who has owned it. It's a fairly quick read, & it's gotten me interested in stamps again, something I haven't gotten into since I was a little girl. Going through my family's big box of stamps from all over the world, my Dad and I were happily absorbed for hours.
If you like micro histories, non-fiction, & philately this is for you!

Cinfhen Great review! I'm fascinated and can't wait to read this book... 2y
LauraBrook @Cinfhen Thanks! I predict you will enjoy the heck out of it! 2y
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LauraBrook
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Hoping to finish this one up today in between clients. It's good!

Hobbinol This is in my shopping cart right now! I rekindled my interest in stamps a couple years ago and I can't wait to read it! (I confess I even get stamp magazines 🤓) 2y
LauraBrook @Hobbinol I've always found stamps so interesting, and the last couple of years I've been thinking about collecting them. It's funny, but in the book the author mentions how philately seems to be a private, secret hobby, and that people don't really talk about it much. It's been true for me and my family! My parents have a box and album of stamps that I used to look through as a kid. Maybe I could take it tomorrow!What stamp mag? Might subscribe. 2y
Hobbinol I subscribe to the American Philatelist and I love it. Don't let the title fool you-- they have articles about stamps from all over the world. And if you like American stamps (I can't remember where in the world you live--sorry), you must get the USA Philatelic: The Official Source for Stamp Enthusiasts. It has gorgeous pictures of stamps (not so many articles) and it's really a catalog issued regularly by the USPS and it's FREE! 2y
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Hobbinol It will help you stay on top of new releases-- I preordered my Flannery O'CONNOR stamps-- I just couldn't wait and I was worried my local PO wouldn't get them. https://about.usps.com/publications/pub9/PUB9_508.htm 2y
Hobbinol Sorry to nerd-yak at ya!🤓🤓🤓 2y
LauraBrook @Hobbinol No worries, this is all excellent info! Yes, I'm in the US (Wisconsin), and I was overwhelmed when I started looking online tonight. 😳Thank you for this, it's really helpful. And a free catalog sounds like just the ticket to get started. Will check out American Philatelist too! 🤘🏼😊🤘🏼 2y
54 likes1 stack add6 comments
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WanderingBookaneer
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Pickpick

Absolutely riveting! You do not need to be a stamp collector to be sucked into the history of this one-of-a-kind stamp. You'll travel around the world meeting collectors & experts from around the world as a timeline of ownership takes place.

This book will appeal to fans of The Billionaire's Vinegar as well as anyone who has dreamt buying something at a flea market or garage sale and discovering it is a priceless gem.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Cinfhen Sounds really good! 2y
WanderingBookaneer @Cinfhen : It truly is. 2y
Zelma I love weird, slice-of-life, random topic, nonfiction books like this! 2y
82 likes9 stack adds3 comments
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WanderingBookaneer
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Never heard of the stamp, but really digging this book!

IamIamIam The philatelist in me just freaked a little!!! Lol 2y
73 likes1 comment
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AlgonquinBooks
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Just landed on our desks - advance copies of THE ONE-CENT MAGENTA by James Barron. #obsession #scandal #intrigue and, of course, #stamps - you can't beat it! #bookstagram #books

Cinfhen I love non fiction reads...this sounds good! 3y
Rhondareads Sounds perfect for me . 3y
LeahBergen This sounds great. 3y
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TNbookworm Sounds like an interesting book. 3y
WanderingBookaneer Just started reading my NetGalley ARC. Riveting! 2y
73 likes29 stack adds6 comments