(LONDON TELEGRAPH)Investors attracted to the Royal Mail share sale could look back in time to the legacy of stamps for an alternative return. And far from being dull, stamp collecting is complete with tales of murder, rivalry and scandal – as well as hapless human error.

There are estimated to be more than 30 million stamp collectors worldwide. And one particularly rare stamp, the Swedish Treskilling Yellow (which should have been green), is said to be the most valuable thing in existence by weight and volume: it last went up for auction three years ago with a price tag of £1.6m.

Sadly, treasured collections inherited from relatives are unlikely to be worth a fortune. Even the famous Penny Black is not a guarantee of a big return: millions were printed and they can change hands for as little as £20 – although a perfect one might sell for £30,000 or more.

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