The Penny Black and me

For years, my collection contained just one “number 1” stamp – the first stamp issued by a country. That, of course, was Haiti #1, the first postage stamp issued by the country of Haiti, and a quite affordable one.

It fits nicely with my Haiti collection, Haiti being one of the areas in which I specialize.

Haiti #1.

Penny Black

The first adhesive postage stamp in the world is known as the “penny black.” It is Great Britain number one (going by the Scott Catalog numbering system).

Issued starting in May 1840, around 63 million were printed, and the stamp features the image of Queen Victoria.

Relatively common, she’s not the most valuable stamp in the world. A used copy can run from roughly $150 and up, and most mint versions probably top out at around $3,000, although I’ve seen a few listed for more.

Some of the Penny Black stamps still on covers they were used to mail, can fetch quite a lot of money, and I’ve seen them going for as much as $350,000.

My Penny Black

For years, I resisted purchasing a Penny Black. To me, it was an oddity and didn’t align with my collecting interests. For years, I was focused on Haiti, Scouts on Stamps, Ireland, and my collection of US Coast Guard postal history. Great Britain, where the Penny Black belongs, didn’t fit my collecting areas.

Penny Black
My Penny Black, Great Britain #1.

But a weird thing started to happen.

A few years ago, I started to, well, I guess, despecialize. I purchased a Scott International Album and used that to begin building a general worldwide collection. I’ve added quite a bit of Great Britain to it (especially the 1840-1940 edition) and suddenly, a Penny Black began to make sense.

I put it off for a while, and finally, I saw a listing in July. Pulling the trigger, I spent $130 for a piece of philatelic history. It is likely the most expensive single piece of paper (small single piece of paper) I’ve ever purchased, but it really wasn’t a bad price for a Penny Black. It was position P-K on the printing plate. There’s nothing overly special about my Penny Black, except maybe that it is mine.

And to be honest, I found it exciting to place the stamp in a mount and mount it in my Scott International.