The Penny Black Story

The Penny Black stamp is where it all started for stamp collecting.  It was the first pre-paid, self-adhesive stamp to be used for posting a letter by a public postal system.  It all began in Britain in May 1840, and many other countries soon followed. Today, there are millions of stamps that have been issued, and the hobby of stamp collecting is one of the most popular hobbies.


History Of The Penny Black

The penny black StampsThe penny black stamp was issued in 1st May 1840 to implement the change in the postage system where the sender paid and not the receiver.  To be technically correct, there is indication there are other contenders to the title of first postage stamp.  But, it definitely was the one that is the best known and most successful in kick-starting the "snail" mail explosion.

Prior to the penny black, the receiver of the letter paid for the post, and it was charged by the number of sheets delivered.  Rowland Hill proposed the change to this system.  Part of his motivation was due to an experience when he was a child where his family struggled to find the money to pay for a delivery.  This was hugely embarrassing, and people would not answer the door to avoid accepting and paying for their mail.

The red ink used to cancel the stamp was hard to see, while it was found to be easy to remove and could be used again.  Due to this, the penny black was only in use for about a year, replaced by the penny red, which was canceled using a black ink postmark that was easier to see and harder to remove.


Penny Black Description

The stamp was black and cost a penny; that is how it got its name.  The penny black was printed in sheets of 240.  They were not perforated, so they had to be cut to separate them.  The picture above is of a penny black.  The image is Queen Victoria at the age of 15 based on a drawing by Henry Corbould.  The letters at the two bottom corners of the stamp indicate the position of the stamp in the sheet it was printed.


Penny Black Stamp Value

There was 286, 700 sheets of the penny black printed, giving a total of 68,808,000 stamps issued.  There are estimated to be about one million still in existence.  So, it is not a rare stamp, and this affects its value today.  The penny black stamp value depends on its condition, grade, and which of the 11 plates it was printed from.  The value of penny black can vary from around $100 to $12,000, depending on these factors.