...the sort of oddball, breezy read that’s perfect for a long flight or train trip ... Its current owner is the shoe designer Stuart Weitzman. Weitzman likes to collect rare things. 'It has been a record-setter time after time not because it is a stamp but because it is the only one of its kind,' Barron writes. 'What [Weitzman] wanted was the thing that no one else could have.' And that is the appeal of this unusual stamp, its mystique captured in this delightful book.
In tracing the path of the magenta over more than 160 years, Barron touches on the history of postal service, the legal wrangles of the rich and powerful, and the change in collectibles from hobby to investment portfolio. He describes the larger-than-life personalities who have owned the magenta, including John E. du Pont, the chemical heir whose privileged life devolved into madness and murder ... Barron got the idea for his book after writing a newspaper story about the stamp, and his work has the feeling of an entertaining, in-depth magazine story that’s been padded out to book length. But the key is 'entertaining.' The voyage into Stamp World is like the world itself: detailed, ruminative and filled with arcane detours ultimately leading to a destination whose rewards are subtle yet satisfying.
James Barron, in The One-Cent Magenta, tells a tale about the rarest stamp in the world, a story as compelling as fiction and as real as my childhood memories of collecting ...Barron’s story of a one-of-a-kind stamp is contextualized within its political, social, and economic history. The author follows that history as the magenta journeys from South America to Great Britain, France, and ultimately, the United States. The stamp becomes, really, the central, if not mute, anthropomorphized character in a kind of genealogical exploration spanning almost two centuries ...the real-life characters feel intimate and familiar. But his somewhat folksy style belies the significant research that undergirds the work ... That dull, ultra-rare one-cent magenta remains captured in amber. However, Barron’s layered, complex genealogy-of-motivations for the stamp’s suitors becomes the narrative’s yeasty and compelling attraction.