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The coming of the Internet has made a vast amount of information available to ordinary people. You can find out all about the origins and values of postage stamps. Furthermore, it is now possible to buy and sell them online, including perhaps the most famous stamp in the world, the Penny Black.

A Brief History Of The Penny Black

The first adhesive postage stamp in the world was issued on 1 May 1840. It became known as the Penny Black as it was printed in black ink and had “ONE PENNY” printed on it showing this was the amount that had been prepaid to send the letter. The head of Princess Victoria design was thought to be easily recognisable but difficult to forge. The stamps were printed in sheets of 240 so a full sheet would cost one pound (240 pennies). The sheets were not perforated, so they had to be cut with scissors. Due to heavy wear, eleven plates were used for the printing of Penny Blacks, but Plate 1 was overhauled, giving Plate 1a and 1b. Plate 11 was meant for the printing of new red stamps but was used for a small number of Penny Blacks which are rare. Because red ink was used for cancellation it was difficult to see against the black background and was easy to remove so people reused the stamps. This is why the Penny Black was only in use for just over a year. The Penny Red was introduced in 1841 and black ink was used for cancellation.

Stamp Collecting Is Now Easily Accessible To Everyone

Buying Penny Blacks Today

Penny Blacks are not as rare as you might think. Over 68 million of these stamps were printed and many survived because envelopes were rarely used. The address and the stamp would be on the back of the letter, so would be kept if the letter was filed away. What determines the value of Penny Black stamps is their condition, particularly the margins. Many of the stamps had their design cut into when clerks were cutting them off the sheets as the margins were so narrow, so this has an impact on value. Some stamps were spoilt by being threaded into strings to sell to collectors.

Online sales of stamps are very popular because the buyer can examine true images of the stamps before placing a bid and detailed descriptions are given. Reputable companies offer to refund payments if the buyer is not satisfied with the stamps when they are received. Both individual stamps and collections are sold and it does not matter where in the world the buyer and seller are, the transaction can be completed much more easily than in past times. Stamp collectors often specialise in particular stamps so, for example, someone interested in a collection of Penny Black stamps, could just enter that into the search box and see what is available.

A collection of Penny Black stamps can vary a great deal in value, depending on the condition of the stamps and whether it includes stamps from a rarer plate, but is always an interesting item to show guests and discuss with fellow enthusiasts. 


Shirley Jones is a keen philatelist with an impressive collection of Penny Black stamps. She has contributed articles on Penny Black stamps to many websites and magazines.