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UN postal union acquires world’s first postage stamp issued in 1840

Thursday, February 16th 2012 - 21:00 UTC
Full article 7 comments
A rare large mint block of the Penny Black stamp. (Photo: UK Post Office) A rare large mint block of the Penny Black stamp. (Photo: UK Post Office)

The United Nations postal union reported this week it has acquired what is probably the world’s best-known stamp – the Penny Black – which was issued 172 years ago and shows a profile image of United Kingdom’s Queen Victoria on a black background.

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) now also owns two other Victorian stamps, the Penny Red and the Two Pence Blue, as well as an envelope bearing the Penny Black and cancelled on 22 July 1840, only two months after the famous stamp was officially issued on 6 May 1840.

The Penny Black will add to UPU vast stamp collection, which contains more than 800.000 stamps. The historic philatelic items were purchased for a total of 1.800 Swiss francs (1.965 US dollars), the agency said in a press release.

The Penny Black shows a profile image of Queen Victoria looking to the left. Although it is known as the world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black is not considered rare.

More than 70 million copies of the stamp were issued and it can easily be purchased. The other particular feature of the famous Penny Black are the Roman letters that are printed at the bottom two corners to identify the stamp’s line and column position on the printed sheet. The technique was also designed to discourage counterfeiters.

“The Penny Black is unique and its creation is one of the great moments in world postal history,” said UPU Director General Edouard Dayan. “The postage stamp has a certain magic; each stamp is a tiny ambassador that informs about the history, the art, the culture and the national heritage of our member countries.”

The acquisition of the Penny Black was the idea of Jean-François Logette, the manager of the philatelic programme at UPU International Bureau.

“The stamps in the collection are a testimony to great moments in the history of our member countries and the world and constitute an important philatelic heritage,” said Mr. Logette.

Before stamps existed, the recipient of a letter paid for the delivery cost, based on a complex tariff scheme. The postage-paid letter bearing a stamp was the brainchild of Rowland Hill, who initiated a reform of the British postal system and was knighted for his services.

He apparently proposed the postage stamp’s creation after noticing that the postal service was losing significant mailing revenues because recipients could refuse to take delivery of an item.

Switzerland and Brazil followed in the United Kingdom’s footsteps by issuing their own stamps in 1843. Stamps appeared in the United States in 1847 and in France and Belgium in 1849.

Today, all countries issue their own and even the UN Postal Administration issues stamps, 80% of which are sold to collectors, while the rest are used on mail leaving UN offices in New York, Geneva and Vienna.

UPU Member States are expected to send a copy of each postage stamp they issue to the International Bureau in Berne.

The newly acquired stamps and envelope have been framed and will be displayed in the International Bureau conference room.


Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • briton

    What the hell does a the UN want with stamps,
    And who paid for them, with whose money,

    On a brighter note, if they ever tried to use them,
    It would take the P.O. just as long to deliver them .lol.

    Feb 16th, 2012 - 11:08 pm 0
  • Fido Dido

    Why on earth there is a The United Nations postal union is just troubling.

    “And who paid for them, with whose money,”

    Taxpayers of the nations who are a member of the UN.

    I say abolish the UN..a.s.a.p.

    Feb 16th, 2012 - 11:39 pm 0
  • stick up your junta

    I say abolish the UN..a.s.a.p.

    You would say that being Dutch

    Dutch peacekeepers remember Mladic, the general who humiliated them
    Srebrenica was the worst humiliation in the recent history of the Dutch army, an experience which scarred the minds of hundreds of young soldiers who were there on UN peacekeeping duties.

    Feb 17th, 2012 - 08:08 am 0
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