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Penny Black Stamp Penny Black Stamp
Penny Black Stamp Penny Black Stamp

Penny Black

Issue Date

May 1, 1840 (for use on May 6)


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Known For

World's first prepaid adhesive postage stamp

Approximate Value

Used: $200 (as of 2000)
$240 (as of 2007)
Unused: $3000 (as of 2000)


Before the Penny Black was issued, post offices of the era had to take payments for mail delivery in cash. This was, of course, not very efficient as people had to wait in line much as we do at the post offices today to deliver every piece of mail. In addition, post offices had to handle cash and count the number of pages each person has. Postage was charged by the sheet and the amount of distance traveled.

In 1837, Rowland Hill proposed to reform the British postal system by wrapping the letter in an extra piece of paper (envelopes) and attach an adhesive stamp to indicate the prepayment of postage.

The picture in the stamp is that of Queen Victoria. It is based on a sketch done by Henry Cole who based his work on that of William Wyon. Wyon orignially sketched a head for a medal that commemorated Queen Victoria's visit to London in 1837, the year she ascended the throne (she was 15 at the time). The stamps were printed by Perkins Bacon.

The Penny Black Stamp was only used for one year because the red cancellation mark was hard to see on the black background. As a result of this, the Treasury reprinted the stamp as a red stamp so that the black cancellation marks that are later used are easier to see and harder to remove.

The Penny Black Stamp was not perforated. In fact, perforation was not introdued until 1854. Because of wear and tear, eleven different plates were used during the life cycle of the Penny Black.

Full List of Rare Stamps
Penny Black Stamp Penny Black Stamp
Penny Black Stamp Penny Black Stamp