175th Anniversary of the Penny Black

Royal Mail is celebrating Britain’s invention of the adhesive postage stamp with a 175th Anniversary of the Penny Black miniature sheet to be issued on May 6, the precise anniversary of its issue.

It features stamp-on-stamp designs reproducing the 1840 Penny Black and its baby sister the Twopenny Blue, with superimposed 1st class values, each appearing twice in a chequer formation.

The 1d is shown with corner letters SC and the 2d with corner letters QB.

The miniature sheet border features a photograph of the hand-operated printing presses at Perkins, Bacon & Petch, the company which printed the original stamps.

Designed by Sedley Place, the issue was printed in lithography by International Security Printers.

1st class PENNY BLACK

The world’s first adhesive postage stamp became valid for use on May 6, 1840, pre-paying domestic postage for an item weighing up to ½oz, anywhere in the United Kingdom.


The world’s second stamp became valid for postage on May 8, 1840, pre-paying domestic postage weighing up to 1oz.


A press sheet of uncut miniature sheets is available with a limited print run of 1,000, each with a unique serial number.

The Penny Black design is also available in self-adhesive format in a 6 x 1st class retail stamp book, with the inside front cover devoted to London 2015 Europhilex promotional information and a short description of the rationale behind the original stamp issue.

Both stamps also feature on a 175th Anniversary of the Penny Black & Twopenny Blue generic Smilers sheet. Ten of each design are accompanied by 10 labels (chosen in consultation with Douglas Muir, the Curator of Philately at the British Postal Museum & Archive) highlighting milestones in the development of the stamps: a postal reform petition poster, a portrait of Rowland Hill, a Treasury Competition entry, William Wyon’s City Medal, the original sketch for a stamp, the first die of an unissued design, the “old Original’ master die for the Penny Black, a detail of the die, a Maltese cross cancellation and an issued Twopenny Blue. The border has an image of part of a printed sheet of Penny Blacks.

The new 1st class Penny Black stamp will also be available on personalised Smilers sheets of 10 or 20.

Royal Mail first day covers can be cancelled either with a handstamp reprising the original Maltese cross design of 1840 or one reprising the Bath postmark which was famously used to cancel a Penny Black on May 2, 1840, four days before the official issue date. To reflect the original colour of stamp cancellations, both will be applied in red ink.

Other products include the usual stamp cards, a special medal cover and even a Penny Black pin badge.


Miniature sheet                   £2.48

Presentation pack               £3.00

Stamp cards                        £1.35

Press sheet                          £40.92

First day cover                   £3.45

Medal cover                         £14.95

Retail stamp book              £3.72

Smilers generic sheet         £12.90


COMMEMORATIVE WORTH                  5/5

The first ever stamp issue is the starting point of all philately, and it’s only right that its major anniversaries should be celebrated

QUALITY OF DESIGN                    2/5

Placing a modern value on an iconic design looks awkward, the miniature sheet is (whisper it) ever so slightly dull

WOW FACTOR                              2/5

Usage on cover should catch the eye, but dare we have hoped for a recess-printed issue as a one-off on this occasion?