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MAURITIUS `RED PENNY’ IS UP FOR BID RARE STAMP, PART OF WORLD’S GREATEST COLLECTION, IS EXPECTED TO BRING MORE THAN A MILLION DOLLARS

SHARE MAURITIUS `RED PENNY’ IS UP FOR BID RARE STAMP, PART OF WORLD’S GREATEST COLLECTION, IS EXPECTED TO BRING MORE THAN A MILLION DOLLARS

What is expected to be the world's most expensive stamp - worth perhaps $1.8 million - is being put up for sale. It appears likely to join the exclusive world of fine art, classic cars and French furniture.

The stamp is the legendary Mauritius "Penny Red" (it is, in fact, deep orange). Only 15 are known to exist. Most are in museums.The "Penny Red" is being sold as part of the break-up of possibly the greatest stamp collection in the world, put together since the World War II by Americans Raymond and Roger Weill of New Orleans.

The stamp's estimated value comes not only because it is rare, but also because of a printing error. It should have read "Post Paid" but, according to legend, a forgetful watchmaker who engraved the plates wrote instead "Post Office." As a result, the stamp was only used for one function: to enable the wife of the governor of Mauritius to send out invitations to a ball. Then it was withdrawn.

The brothers bought the stamp in 1968 for what was then a record price of $380,000. The same year the Weills bought the "Penny Red," a fine Renoir oil was auctioned for about $45,000.

Although the Mauritius is the jewel in the Weills' collection, there are several other legendary rarities in the sale, which is expected to net more than $18 million. Many of these are the famous "upside down stamps." Most celebrated of these is the U.S. 24-cents air mail stamp on which a biplane, printed blue on red, appears to be halfway through a loop-the-loop. A block of four of these is worth around $900,000.

The collection will be sold in a series of auctions at Christie's around the world during the next two years, beginning in September in either London or New York, depending on the relative strenghts of the pound and the dollar.