Rarest UK stamps

that could be kept in your bureau

This article is devoted to top ten rarest stamps issued by Great Britain during different periods of time. Stamps from Great Britain are the Royalty of philately. British stamps are the most well-known and the most popular stamps collected worldwide. These philatelic items are found in collections from every country. This article will get you acquainted with the most valuable and rare stamps that are so desirable for every stamp enthusiast.


  • British Guiana 1-Cent Magenta, 1856 rare stamp

    British Guiana 1-Cent Magenta, 1856


    For a very long time, the 1856 one cent "Black on Magenta" of British Guiana was considered to be the world's rarest and most expensive stamp. In 1856, the former colony of British Guiana urgently required an extra supply of stamps and couldn’t wait for a fresh stock of new stamps to arrive from England where they were normally produced. The postmaster of British Guiana asked the publishers of the Official Gazette newspaper in Georgetown to print an emergency issue for local use. Rather crude looking designs were printed in one cent and four cent denominations. One cent stamps were meant for newspapers, while their four cent counterparts were intended for postal correspondence.

    The local designs were printed in black ink on low-quality magenta-colored paper. They featured an image of a sailing ship, the lettering “Black Guiana” and an inscription of the colony's Latin motto "Damus Petimus que Vicissim" ("We Give and We Seek in Return"). The stamp had a rectangular shape with its corners snipped off, which made it look more like an octagon. Each sample was initialed by a post office employee as a security measure against possible forgeries. However, production of the stamps was soon discontinued. In 1873, a 12-year-old Guaianian boy discovered an octagon-shaped one cent "Black on Magenta", postmarked April 4, 1856 and bearing the initials "E.D.W" in his family's attic. He later sold the stamp to N. R. McKinnon, a local collector, for a very small sum. Over the years, the uniqueness of this stamp created an uproar in the philatelic circles, as no other copy was ever discovered. In 1980, it was auctioned to John Dupont at a huge price of $935,000. British Guiana 1-Cent Magenta, 1856 stamp was sold in New York for $9.5 million at Sotheby's in June, 2014.

  • Penny Black stamp

    Penny Black


    Penny Black is one of the most collectible UK stamps, notable for being the first in the world to use an adhesive backing. This unique philatelic item was created in 1840. The stamp had one cent value and depicted the profile of Queen Victoria against a black background. Penny Black stamps have the interesting feature: each pane was cut by hand, resulting in great variance in consistency. As the stamps were issued in a great quantity, many Penny Blacks do still exist today, making them an excellent first purchase for anyone interested in beginning a collection of rare British stamps. Although the "Black Penny" cannot be called a rare stamp, many philatelists want to have it in their collection because of its historical significance. Only two pieces of the early issue can be found now and these are regarded as real treasures. A few years ago, a rich businessman bought a copy from a US auction house at the price of US $5 million.

  • The Two Penny Blue Stamp, 1841

    The Two Penny Blue, 1841


    The 1840 "two penny blue" stamp is a rare British stamp that was issued after Penny Black. It is considered to be the world's second official postage stamp. It was officially released in May 1840 and looked the same as the Penny Black stamp, but is blue instead of black.  Although both stamps have very similar design, two penny blue stamp is rarer and more valuable and its price has increased by up to five times in just the last 10 years. The peculiarity of this philatelic item is that Blue Penny lacks the country’s name – it makes a stamp more interesting and valuable. One of the specimens of Blue Penny was sold for nearly $4 million in 1993. 

  • Penny Red stamp

    Penny Red


    Penny Red is considered to be Great Britain's longest running stamp. The stamp succeeded Penny Black and was issued in 1841. The color of Penny Black was changed because of difficulty in seeing a cancellation mark on the Penny Black. The black cancelation was better discerned in the red background of Penny Red.  An incredibly rare Penny Red has become the UK’s second most valuable stamp after being sold to an unnamed British collector for £495,000. The rarest and most valuable variation of Penny Red is a plate of 77 Penny Reds, which date from 1863. This Plate of 77 stamps is very interesting because it was not meant to exist. The stamps were created but never sold by post offices after they were not considered to be of good enough quality. 

  • 6d Pale Dull Purple stamp, 1904

    6d Pale Dull Purple, 1904


    The 1904 Edward VII 6d Pale Dull Purple (aka the IR Official) was withdrawn almost immediately after it was issued on March 14, 1904. It is often described as "Britain's rarest stamp". This philatelic item is so special because it was issued on the same day that an official order withdrawing all official stamps from use. It is considered that only 19 sheets of the stamp were ever issued, and that all the sheets were destroyed when the official overprints were ceased. This rare philatelic item was sold by Stanley Gibbons for £400,000.

  • The Tyrian Plum stamp

    The Tyrian Plum


    The Tyrian Plum is one of the rarest British stamps that is valued at over £100,000. This interesting philatelic item was released during the reign of Edward VII. The stamp was released to replace the two-colour two-penny stamp that had the profile of King Edward VII. The majority of stamps was destroyed and immediately withdrawn because of the sudden death of the King that year in May. Only a tiny handful got into the market and only 12 known examples left undestroyed.  That is the reason why the Tyrian Plum stamps are so rare and valuable today. This stamp was sold from the Chartwell Collection for $159,500.

  • The Roses error stamp, 1978

    The Roses error stamp, 1978


    The Roses Error stamp with the face value of 13p was issued in 1978. The peculiarity of this issue is that its face value (13p) was not printed on three stamps. The reason of such an error is not known. The error was discovered before issue and all copies of the stamp should have been destroyed. So, there are only three Roses Error stamps left in the world. Two of the stamps are owned by the Queen and the third item is possessed by the anonymous stamp collector who bought it for $118,317 at Stanley Gibbons auction in 2015. Misprinted stamps are in enormous demand among collectors as they are very rare and valuable.

  • Prince Consort Essay stamp

    Prince Consort Essay


    The 1850 Prince Consort Essay Stamps are amongst the most sought-after and costly British stamps. This puts them out of reach of ordinary collectors. The stamps were issued in 1851. They were designed by the artist Robert Edward Branston, who used an engraving executed by Samuel William Reynolds.  The twelve positions of Prince Consort Essay have unique characteristics. The essays were printed in red, red-brown, black and blue. The 25 stamps perforated 16 by Archer are very rare. The majority is imperforate, and there is one rouletted example in the Royal Philatelic Collection. Nowadays the essays are worth approximately £40,000.

  • £1 brown-lilac stamp, 1884

    £1 brown-lilac stamp, 1884


    1884 £1 brown-lilac stamp is the scarcest Victorian issues, ensuring plenty of interest among stamp collectors. The peculiarity of this particular item is that it features its original gum - a key factor in determining value.  An example of the rare watermarked 1884 £1 stamp is worth over £25,000 in mint condition. These stamps were expensive even when they were first printed, with one costing more than the weekly pay of many workers. Today 1884 £1 brown-lilac stamp is considered to be one of the most interesting philatelic items ever issued.

  • Postal Union Congress £1 stamp

    Postal Union Congress £1 stamp


    The Postal Union Congress £1 stamp is considered to be the most beautiful British stamps ever issued. It was issued in 1929. The Postal Union Congress £1 stamp was only the second British commemorative stamp to be issued. The first were the British Empire Exhibition postage stamps of 1924-25. This particular item was released to mark the 1929 Postal Union Congress in London. Designed by Harold Nelson, the £1 features an intricate design of Saint George and the Dragon accompanied by a portrait of King George V. Nowadays this item is valued around £2,700.