01 May 2020
The First Postage Stamp (Penny Black) 180th Anniversary
180th Anniversary Of The Penny Black -Overprint Stamp
k-245 Overprint stamp
Face value: 1500
Size of Seal: The number of stamps on the page: 40
Overprints and surcharges on stamps issued on 20 March 1977 with the original denominations being 10 and 20 Mongolian möngö, respectively (Scott #944-945).
The Penny Black was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was first issued in the United Kingdom (referred to in philatelic circles as Great Britain), on 1 May 1840, but was not valid for use until 6 May. The stamp features a profile of Queen Victoria.
In 1837, British postal rates were high, complex and anomalous. To simplify matters, Sir Rowland Hill proposed an adhesive stamp to indicate pre-payment of postage. At the time it was normal for the recipient to pay postage on delivery, charged by the sheet and on distance travelled. By contrast, the Penny Black allowed letters of up to 1⁄2 ounce (14 grams) to be delivered at a flat rate of one penny, regardless of distance.
The portrait of Victoria was engraved by Charles Heath and his son Frederick, based on a sketch provided by Henry Corbould. Corbould’s sketch was in turn based on the 1834 cameo-like head by William Wyon, which was used on a medal to commemorate the Queen’s visit to the City of London in 1837. This portrait of Victoria remained on British stamps until her death in 1901, although by then she was 81 years old. All British stamps still bear a portrait or silhouette of the monarch somewhere on the design. The first stamps did not need to show the issuing country, so no country name was included on them. The UK remains the only country in the world to omit its name on postage stamps; the monarch’s image signifies the UK as the country of origin.
Initially, Hill specified that the stamps should be 3/4 inch square, but altered the dimensions to 3/4 inch wide by 7/8 inch tall (approx 19 x 22 mm) to accommodate the writing at the bottom. The word “POSTAGE” at the top of the design distinguishes it from a revenue stamp, which had long been used in the UK; “ONE PENNY.” at the bottom shows the amount pre-paid for postage of the stamped letter. The background to the portrait consists of finely engraved engine turnings.
The two upper corners hold Maltese crosses with radiant solar discs at their centres; the lower corner letters show the position of the stamp in the printed sheet, from “A A” at top left to “T L” at bottom right. The sheets, printed by Perkins Bacon, consisted of 240 stamps in 20 rows of 12 columns. One full sheet cost 240 pence or one pound; one row of 12 stamps cost a shilling. As the name suggests, the stamp was printed in black ink. A two penny stamp printed in blue and covering the double-letter rate (up to 1 oz or 28 g) was issued on 8 May 1840.
Although the stamps were not officially issued for sale until 6 May 1840, some offices such as those in Bath sold the stamps unofficially before that date. There are covers postmarked 2 May, and a single example is known on cover dated 1 May 1840. All London post offices received official supplies of the new stamps but other offices throughout the United Kingdom did not, continuing to accept payments for postage in cash for a period.
The Penny Black lasted less than a year. A red cancellation was hard to see on the black design and the red ink was easy to remove; both made it possible to re-use cancelled stamps. In February 1841, the Treasury switched to the Penny Red and began using black ink for cancellations instead, which was more effective and harder to remove. However, people still reused stamps by combining the uncancelled parts of two stamps to form an unused whole, so in 1864 as a further safeguard the top corner stars on the Penny Red were replaced by the lower corner check letters in reverse order.