Published on May 6th, 2015 | by admin

Penny Black Stamp Came Into Service 175 Years Ago To The Day

The Penny Black, which was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp, came into service exactly 175 years ago on May 6, 1840. Post Offices had been issued with stocks of black one-penny stamps bearing an image of a young Queen Victoria on 1st May in preparation.

Reissued to mark the 175th anniversary, the Penny Black stamp is widely regarded as one of the most important moments in history of that time having transformed the world of communication forever.

Sir Rowland Hill takes much of the credit for the Penny Black stamp becoming a reality having instigated postal reform which then led to the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee in November 1837.

Before the Penny Black stamp existed, postage was generally paid by the recipient rather than the sender and the entire postal system was seen as both expensive and confusing. The amount paid by the recipient depended on a number of factors including distance and the number of sheets of paper the letter contained.

Only the very richest in society could even afford to use the postal system prior to the emergence of the Penny Black stamp.

Amongst the facts illustrated in our Penny Black infographic, these stamps were printed using the engraved printing method from 11 plates on sheets of 240 stamps but they weren’t perforated so the Post Office staff had to cut them out for use. The total print run of Penny Black stamps was 286,700 sheets with 68,808,000 stamps.

However the lifespan of the Penny Black stamp proved to be short-lived because the franking mark was a red cross that could be rubbed off. For this reason the Penny Black was replaced by the Penny Red just a year later.

However that isn’t to say that Penny Black stamps were not a success. In the year the Penny Black stamp was issued in 1840, more than 160 million letters had been sent which was more than double the previous year.

Even though they were only printed for one year, the Penny Black survival rate is estimated to be around 2%, meaning approximately 1.3 million are still in existence. The high survival rate is largely due to fact that envelopes were rarely used in Victorian times – letters were most commonly folded and sealed with wax instead with stamp stuck on outside of folded letter. Both the letter and stamp were often kept.

To mark 175 years since the Penny Black stamp was first issued, here at the Post Office Shop we are running a competition to giveaway an original Plate 1a Penny Black featuring the letters ‘G’ ‘B’ in the lower corners (indicating the position of the stamp in a sheet).

PennyBlack infographic


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