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The Ugliest Stamp in the World

A stellar stamp investment (38% pa growth over past 20 years)

Today’s stamp is widely regarded as the ugliest stamp issued during the reign of Queen Victoria. 

When it was first issued, the Queen was “not amused!”

So, why would you want to own such a beast, you may ask?

Let me explain why beauty is only skin deep… 

  1. This stamp was issued by a country famous for its philatelic treasures attracting the most elite of collectors
  2. Despite the disdain for its appearance when it was issued, it now holds legendary status in the philatelic world
  3. My stamp is one of the finest you could own for what is one of the rarest stamps in the world to find in mint condition. Most surviving mint examples suffer from major condition flaws
  4. The provenance of my stamp gives it premium value as it once resided in the award-winning collections belonging to the most renowned philatelists of all time
  5. It has proven a stellar investment over the past 20 years: rising in value by 757% (38% pa) as its true rarity begins to be recognised, yet still looks under-valued

Although this stamp is infamous for its design on account of being ugly, it is one of the most coveted stamps in the world today.

It is so rare in unused condition, this is the first time we have been able to offer one in over 20 years of trading.

I am delighted to present this to you for the first time…

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Technical description:

Mauritius 1859 'Lapirot' 2d blue, intermediate impression, SG38, position 2 on the sheet with generally large margins, fresh unused.

Pressed crease at top, still a lovely example of this delicate stamp with fine colour and impression.

Provenance: Ex Kanai (David Feldman 3 Nov 1993, lot 167) and Dale-Lichtenstein (Harmers 21 Oct 1968, lot 74).

Accompanied with a British Philatelic Association (BPA) certificate of authenticity (2020).

Price: £12,000


The story behind the Lapirot stamp issue of Mauritius

The volcanic island of Mauritius, located in the south-west Indian Ocean, became part of the British Empire in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars.

Mauritius is probably most famed for being the home of the dodo, but is also famous in the stamp world. 

In 1847, it became the first British colony in the world after the UK to issue postage stamps. 

One of the most famous of philatelic myths arose from the first stamp issue… 

William Gomm, the governor of Mauritius, commissioned a local engraver, Joseph Osmond Barnard, to produce 500 orange 1 penny stamps and 500 blue two-penny stamps.

Both stamps naturally featured Queen Victoria’s profile modelled on the British penny red and tuppence blue stamps.

However, contrary to the UK stamps, the words “POST OFFICE” appeared in the left panel. These were replaced by the customary “POST PAID” in the following issue in 1848. 

The philatelic myth which arose was that the “POST OFFICE” had been an error. There is, however, no evidence to support this assertion. 

There are only 12 known examples of the blue stamp and 14 or 15 of the orange, most of which reside in museums.

The last time the two-penny blue stamp appeared at auction in 2011, it realised just over £1 million. Here it is…

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By 1858, the “Post Office” stamps engraved by Joseph Barnard had finally worn away to almost nothing. 

Jules Lapirot, an actor and engraver, offered to produce a new plate for £10.

Unfortunately, these new stamps were very crudely engraved. There was no preparation of a master die.

Instead the stamps were engraved directly on a copper plate by hand, apparently a shaky one at that.

The weird and awful portrait of Queen Victoria on the stamp was considered so unflattering that some speculated Lapirot may have harboured a secret disliking of the monarch. 

Whilst the 1859 Lapirot issue has become widely adored now by collectors and considered one of the world’s classics, at the time it was considered an embarrassment. 

The English press went so far as to call it “the greatest libel on Queen Victoria ever perpetrated on a postage stamp”.

On the island itself, they were known as “Libel labels”.

The French nicknamed them as the “tête de singe” (monkey head) issue. 

The copper plate didn’t last long and soon yielded worn impressions. They were only in use for a very short time between March and November 1859 and were subsequently removed.

Fine quality examples are almost as extinct as the dodo 

As the copper plate became worn quickly, most examples of the 2d blue Lapirot stamp have worn impressions.

Most were used for postage at the time and mint examples are hardly ever seen.

Furthermore, it was printed on such delicate paper, on the rare occasion we find a mint example, they have suffered from material damage. 

To prove the point, I can’t remember the last time I saw a mint example in fine condition come up for sale.

This is the first time in over 20 years' trading we have been able to secure one. 

Defining “Fine” 

The definition of fine varies for the oldest of stamps.

Context is everything.

So, when we have a very rare stamp hardly ever seen without obvious condition flaws, the reason my stamp is quite exceptional is because:

  1. It has large margins (remember these stamps were cut from sheets manually with scissors or a blade)
  2. It remains fresh and in mint condition
  3. The colour is fine and with good impression

Its only flaw is a pressed crease at the top. In the context of this stamp, that can be entirely forgiven as you are unlikely to ever see a better-quality example.

The Premium Value which comes with Provenance 

The history of my stamp gives it a premium value…

That value is virtue of its illustrious previous ownership and absolutely watertight authenticity.

It originally belonged to the Dale-Lichtenstein Collection. 

Alfred F. Lichtenstein was an avid stamp collector, and upon his death in 1947, his daughter, Louise Boyd Dale continued building his collection. 

Louise Boyd Dale was prominent at the time in breaking the cultural mould of stamp collecting being a “men only” hobby. She became a leading philatelist and the “first woman” in taking up a number of prominent philatelic positions previously held only by men.

When Dale died in 1967 her collection was auctioned by H.R. Harmer of London, with this stamp being sold on 21 October 1968. 

It then passed to Hiroyuki Kanai (1925-2012), who was a Japanese philatelist, businessman and writer who entered onto the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1993.

Kanai is universally acknowledged as one of the very few philatelists to become a legend in their own lifetime. 

By 1967, he was focusing on his Mauritius collection and was therefore delighted to acquire the 1859 2d blue Lapirot stamp, the finest mint example he could hope to find. 

He won three Grand Prix awards at international exhibitions for his Mauritius collection. 

He then sold his entire Mauritius collection through David Feldman auctions, Switzerland in November 1993. 

As if this was not sufficient proof of authenticity… 

The stamp is also accompanied with an independent certificate of authenticity issued by the British Philatelic Association (BPA) in 2020. 

Available at 20% discount to catalogue value

The current SG catalogue value for a mint example of the 1859 2d blue Lapirot stamp is £15,000.

However, this value is almost irrelevant…

The fact is you won’t find another mint example you could purchase for any price, anywhere in the world. 

I don’t believe the current valuation truly recognises just how rare this stamp is. 

The first 1847 2d blue “Post Office” stamps from Mauritius are currently valued at £1.5 million in the SG catalogue.

Intermediate impressions of the 1854-57 2d blue “Post Paid” stamps are valued at £24,000. I have seen more of these come up for sale in the past 20 years than the 2d blue Lapirot. 

This may well be your only ever chance to own the infamous “monkey head” stamp.

We have never handled another example before in over 20 years.

You can take it home today for the price of £12,000.


A Stellar Investment 

When it comes to the investment credentials of rare stamps, I have always found the rarest of stamps and the most famous stamps show the highest levels of long-term growth in value. 

The 1859 2d blue Lapirot proves my point. Take a look at the table below tracking the catalogue values in 5-yearly intervals over the past 20 years…

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The 20-year growth in value of 757% (38% pa simple annual growth) is impressive by any yardstick measuring investment performance.

Such price appreciation is to be expected and illustrates the biggest secret to making money out of rare stamps… 

Hold them for the very long term. 

There will always be desperate buyers who have waited for years for the chance to own one.

And if it comes up at auction… 

There is going to be fighting in the room and the realisation will usually surpass expectations. 

The Once in a Generation Chance to own this iconic stamp

There is no doubt, this is an aspirational stamp to own.

It is quite possible we will have to wait another 20 years to see another of this quality. 

Owning stamps of legendary status is what high-end collecting is all about.

They make our heart beat faster when we encounter them.

I will be sad to part with it. 

To recap: 

  • A stamp legend virtue of its shocking design, which was a personal affront to Queen Victoria
  • The finest mint quality you are likely to ever find
  • With the most prestigious provenance of past ownership
  • Available to purchase today at a 20% discount to catalogue value
  • With a very strong track record of historic growth, yet still looking under-valued


Call me immediately on +44(0)1534 639998.

Or email me today at

Let me know as soon as possible if you want me to reserve this stamp for you. 

Kind regards

Mike Hall

PS. Interesting fact: Mauritius holds the world record for the most valuable philatelic item. A rare cover bearing an 1847 1 penny orange “Post Office” stamp sold at auction in June last year for more than double its presale estimate. The price realised was the equivalent to almost $12 million.

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