Rare block of four Penny Blacks emerge for sale for £80,000

Rare block of four Penny Blacks in ‘mint condition’ which carried image of Queen Victoria emerge for sale for £80,000

  • Penny Blacks are on sale with auctioneers Just Collecting in St Helier, Jersey 
  • Stamp was adopted by the Post Office in May 1840 but lasted less than year 
  • In February 1841, the Treasury switched to the Penny Black to the Penny Red 

A rare block of four Penny Blacks – the world’s first postage stamp – has emerged for sale for £80,000.   

The adhesive stamp, which featured an image of Queen Victoria, was adopted by the Post Office in May 1840 and allowed users to send letters weighing up to 14g for the price of one penny. 

However, it lasted less than a year after it was found that the red Maltese Cross postmark, which was used by postmasters to cancel a stamp, was difficult to see on the Penny Black. 

The red ink was also easy to remove, making it possible to re-use cancelled stamps.  

The rare block of four Penny Blacks has emerged for sale for £80,000 with auctioneers Just Collecting, of St Helier in Jersey

In February 1841, the Treasury switched to the Penny Red and began using black ink for cancellations instead, which was more effective and harder to remove.

With an identical design to its predecessor, the new stamp was introduced to prevent fraud and allow the Maltese Cross cancellation mark to be seen more clearly. 

Now, the rare block of Penny Blacks, which is lettered AD to BE and is in ‘mint condition’, has been consigned from a private stamp collection with auctioneers Just Collecting, of St Helier in Jersey.

Mike Hall, chief executive of Just Collecting, said: ‘This philatelic rarity belongs to an elite group of stamps.

‘Those which usually feature in the world’s finest and most valuable stamp collections.

‘Finding just one mint unused Penny Black with original gum is hard enough.

‘We are lucky if we manage to find more than one or two a year we can offer to clients.

‘Finding a block of four can take much longer, sometimes decades.

‘Owning something like this is a real privilege. It is such a key piece of our postal history.’

The sale also features a rare ‘Prussian Blue’ George V stamp which was printed in error to mark his 25th anniversary as king in 1935. 

Also on sale with the auctioneers are the rare 1935 Silver Jubilee ‘Prussian Blue’ George V stamps

The Treasury switched to the Penny Red in February 1841 and began using black ink for cancellations. (Stock image)

Despite the Royal Mail’s desperate attempts to destroy them, 480 Prussian Blue stamps made it into public circulation.

It created the most desirable British stamp mistake in history, with this example tipped to fetch £4,000.

Mr Hall added: ‘This mistake was hugely embarrassing for the Royal Mail, especially as the king himself had chosen the colour he wanted.

‘Quite simply, you’re bidding on a stamp that should not exist. That is a tantalising prospect for collectors.’

The sale takes place on Tuesday.

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