London: A set of 1948 stamps picturing Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi has sold for a record half a million pounds ($598,000).

The “unique" strip of four ten-rupee stamps is considered the most important and desirable item of post-Indian independence philately, Jersey, UK-based dealer Stanley Gibbons said in a statement on Wednesday. Its shares rose as much as 7% in London.

The purple-brown stamps are emblazoned with the word ‘SERVICE’ and were issued to the governor-general’s secretariat for official use. Only single stamps of this kind have previously been recorded to exist in private collections.

The purchase by an Australian investor is the latest in a number of transactions highlighting the strength of the market for rare Indian stamps. Stanley Gibbons sold a single Gandhi ten-rupee stamp to a client in Uruguay last year for £1,60,000. In March, an Indian stamp where the head of the young Queen Victoria had been inverted in error sold for £110,000.

“The market for high-quality Indian rarities is supported by the on-going desire of the wealthy, Indian diaspora and savvy international clients to own these historic assets," the dealer said.

Although the company highlights the strength of the Indian collectibles market, it reported a pretax loss of £29 million last year amid financial restructuring and discovery of errors in its accounting methods.Bloomberg

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