Strictly speaking, from the circulation figures, the red Mercury is the rarest stamp to come out of Europe. This rarity relies upon the early colour issues of the first newspaper stamps from the 1850s. At this time, the colour of the stamp was the only indication as to how many newspapers were being shipped. By 1855 there were three Mercurys in different colours. The blue was for the shipment of one issue, the yellow for ten and the rose coloured Roman god of speed and communication was for 50 issues.
The shade of the yellow Mercury was relatively poorly chosen, the picture of the god was hard to recognise, moreover with relatively common chemicals, someone could turn the cheaper blue Mercury into a yellow. All of this led to the conception of the red Mercury, which would replace the yellow in 1856.
However, the same fate that had cost the rose Mercury its life, also quickly overtook the red: due to the low demand, the red Mercury, after almost two years of circulation was declared invalid.
This is exactly the reason why this stamp is worth so much today. Less than 120,000 pieces were produced, they were only issued for a very short time and perhaps most importantly the newspapers wrapper, where you would find the stamp, were in almost all cases simply thrown away.
In good condition and with original glue, the Red Mercury can be found in today’s price catalogues for €150,000.00
An unused piece with original gum was auctioned for a hammer price of €40,000 plus commission, by Auktionshaus Felzmann on the 5th of November 2015.
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