World’s first postage stamp the Penny Black expected to sell for millions at auction
One of the first postage stamps ever printed is going on sale with potential buyers expected to spend up to $11 million.
The Penny Black was the first postage stamp made
Sotheby’s will auction one of the stamps printed on the original sheet
The stamp was originally in the possession of Britain’s leading postal reformer, Robert Wallace
The Penny Black was the world’s first stamp and one from the first sheet printed will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in London on December 7.
The adhesive stamp that features a profile of Queen Victoria is attached to a document dated April 10, 1840, from the archive of British postal service reformer Robert Wallace, a Scottish politician.
The Penny Black, which introduced a flat rate, was used from May 6, 1840.
Before that, the recipient paid the postage cost.
There are believed to be only two other examples of perfect, ungummed Penny Blacks from the first printing, both in the collection of the British Postal Museum.
The stamp and the Wallace Document is owned by philatelist and businessman Alan Holyoake.
As one of the world’s leading stamp collectors, he has seen many rare items in his time.
But for Mr Holyoake, this one is exceptionally special.
“It is a world icon. It’s a world icon because it actually is the very first stamp,” he said.
“So, it’s a stamp that came from the very first sheet of stamps that were printed.”
Mr Holyoake bought the Wallace Document 10 years ago for less than 50,000 pounds ($92,000).
At the time, rumours circulated that the stamp was one of the first Penny Blacks ever printed.
It took three years of research to prove that was true and get official authentication from The Royal Philatelic Society, London, and the British Philatelic Association.
That certification has raised its value significantly and a recent stamp sale has stoked Mr Holyoake’s hopes that The Wallace Document would fetch a record-breaking price.
Earlier this year, Sotheby’s auctioned a British Guiana One-Cent Magenta for $US8.3 million ($11 million) and Mr Holyoake believes his stamp is worth even more.
“The value that’s being put at the moment for the auction of the Wallace Document is in sterling between four and six million [pounds] ($7-11 million),” he said.
“I would be disappointed if it doesn’t make far more than that because, unlike the One Cent Guianan, it is a stamp.
“Most people don’t even know where Guyana is, whereas here you have a world icon, and I would submit already that that doesn’t happen every day.”
Also included in the Wallace Document is proof of the Mulready Stationary — an official printed envelope that was designed to be the primary method of prepaying postage, with the Penny Black stamp a top-up option for excess postage costs.
Mr Holyoake said he hopes whoever buys The Wallace Document appreciates its historical significance.
“I do hope that someone who buys it actually understands its importance as being a world icon,” he said.
“A world icon, not as a stamp, but a world icon as being an important first when it comes to social history and communication.”