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The Penny Black is 175 years old today

The Penny Black was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp to be used in a public postal system.



The Penny Black is one of the world’s most iconic stamps. It was issued in Britain on May 1 1840.

It has become a stamp collector’s holy grail: the little black stamp that made post affordable for a normal Victorian. Rare Penny Blacks are valued at tens of thousands of pounds and have increased in price for decades.

Before the Penny Black was issued, post offices had to take payments for mail delivery in cash. People had to wait in line to deliver every piece of mail. Postage was charged by the number of letter papers and the amount of distance traveled.

The Penny Black was printed from 11 plates, but as plate 1 was completely overhauled due to excessive wear, it is generally considered to be two separate plates, 1a and 1b. Plate 11 was originally intended solely for the printing of new red stamps, but a small number were printed in black. These are scarce.