Tag Archives: twopenny blue

The 175th Anniversary of The Penny Black

Today we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive stamp, a truly great British achievement that changed the postal service forever. In a world of email and text we can forget the impact it had on communication. To mark this event we are exhibiting one of the original sheets of Penny Blacks in our Search Room until the 7 August.

Penny Black

Penny Black

Before 1839 postage was paid by the recipient not the sender, which limited those who could afford to receive their post. High prices and private franking also restricted who could send letters. To offset this, letters were cross written and codes were devised so that recipients could understand a letter’s contents without paying to receive it. This put the Post Office’s profits significantly at risk.

Cross Written Letter

Cross Written Letter

To counteract these problems Rowland Hill introduced a list of postal reforms, stipulating that postage should be paid by the sender, at a unified price based on weight not distance. These proved successful and in 1839 an act was passed to introduce Hill’s reforms. After a public competition it was proposed that the image of the Queen’s head should be used on the stamp as for security reasons minor differences could be detected in forgeries.

Pioneers of Communications Sir Rowland Hill

Pioneers of Communications Sir Rowland Hill

The design of the first stamp was based on a medal by William Wyon of Victoria taken at the age of 15, which would subsequently represent her until the end of her reign. Arnold Machin took inspiration from the Penny Black’s simplicity when he produced the Royal portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for modern day stamps.

William Wyon Medal

William Wyon Medal

Arnold Machin Plaster Cast

Arnold Machin Plaster Cast

The image was then engraved, in reverse, on a die by Charles Heath and rolled 240 times onto a copper plate to produce the sheet. For security, letters were placed in the corners of the stamps; contemporary stamps continue to adapt to stay one step ahead of the forgers.

Penny Black Die

Penny Black Die

The Penny Black was actually put on sale on the 1 May 1840 but was not valid for postage until the 6th. The Twopenny Blue however did not begin to be printed until the 1 May. The process was pretty quick and 600,000 stamps where being produced daily.

Twopenny Blue

Twopenny Blue

To celebrate 175 years a miniature sheet has been produced by Royal Mail with two Penny Blacks and two Twopenny Blues, each with a First Class value. The background to the miniature sheet features a photograph of the printing presses at Perkins Bacon & Petch – the original printers of the Penny Black.

Penny Black Miniature Sheet

Penny Black Miniature Sheet

This is not the first time we have commemorated the Penny Black in modern day postage. The Penny Black 150th anniversary stamps were produced in 1990 where five differing values depicted Queen Elizabeth alongside Queen Victoria.

Penny Black 150th Anniversary 1990

Penny Black 150th Anniversary 1990

The Penny Black 175 exhibition at the BPMA is available to view Monday to Friday in Freeling House, London.

-Georgina Tomlinson

Her Majesty The Queen Patron of London 2010: Festival of Stamps

Her Majesty The Queen has graciously agreed to be Patron of London 2010: Festival of Stamps, a year-long festival of philatelic exhibitions and events, marking the centenary of the accession of George V, the philatelist king. This continues a long standing tradition of philatelic patronage by the UK Royal Family.

The Queen has been Patron of the London International Stamp Exhibitions each decade since 1980. She is also Patron of the Royal Philatelic Society London, the oldest philatelic society in the world, of which George V was executive President until succeeding to the Throne, when he agreed to be the society’s Patron.

The Queen’s private collection – the Royal Philatelic Collection – includes many exceptional rarities, among them unique items such as drawings and proofs, and is said to be the world’s most comprehensive collection of postage stamps of Great Britain and the Commonwealth.

The Royal Philatelic Collection began in 1856, when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and his younger brother Prince Alfred (later Duke of Edinburgh), were given examples of the then new 6d stamps. Prince Alfred continued to collect and served as Honorary President of what became the Royal Philatelic Society London from 1890 until his death in 1900. His collection passed to his nephew (later King George V) whose own collection was already substantial. The form and structure of the Royal Philatelic Collection today is the creation of King George V and his philatelic advisers. After his death his successors have continued to add to the Collection.

The London 2010: Festival of Stamps will combine a wide range of exhibitions and events such as the International Stamp Exhibition at the Business Design Centre, and the exhibition ‘Empire Mail: George V and the GPO’ at Guildhall Art Gallery, featuring material from The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) and the Royal Philatelic Collection. The BPMA is also coordinating this wider festival, which includes special displays at the British Library, the Royal Philatelic Society, London, the British Museum, Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord’s, and several other venues across London. A range of philatelic events throughout the UK are also being coordinated by the Association of British Philatelic Societies.

2010 also sees the 170th Anniversary of the Penny Black and Twopenny Blue, the world’s first adhesive postage stamps.

Michael Sefi, Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection, commented: “We are delighted to have The Queen as Patron for this very exciting Festival, which will bring stamps and philately to a wider audience”.