A 12-pence Canadian stamp more than a century old has sold for $260,000 US at a New York auction, the highest price ever paid for a single Canadian stamp.

"It's an amazing accomplishment to get that kind of price for that stamp," said Charles F. Shreve, president of Spink Shreves Galleries, the New York company that conducted the auction Thursday.

"Whether it's the U.S. or any other country in the world, it puts it in the top one per cent of the world's rarest stamps," he said of the price.

The 1851 black 12-pence pre-Confederation stamp bears a image of Queen Victoria and is one of the finest surviving examples from that era and the auction price sets a record, said Shreve.

"It's just an iconic stamp of Canada," he said Thursday night in a phone interview after the auction. "This was one of the first issues of Canada, 1851, the first stamps in the world weren't issued until 1840 in Great Britain. The stamp is obviously very rare," Shreve added.

"When the stamp was issued only 50,000 were issued and printed, but most of them were never used and only approximately 1,400 were ever distributed at post offices and of that 1,400, only a tiny fraction were ever saved."

There is no information on the buyer. The stamp was purchased at the auction by a New York stamp dealer on behalf of the purchaser, Shreve said.

The stamp was part of a collection sold by Bill Gross, a Wall Street executive and one of the world's foremost stamp collectors.

It was among 133 British North American stamps that Gross sold along with 81 Civil War-era Confederate stamps to raise money for the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. In all the stamp auction raised $3.2 million for the museum.