The World's most famous postage stamp
The Penny Black was the World's first adhesive postage stamp and was first issued on the 1st May 1840 on trial and for official use from 6th May 1840.
68 million copies of the Penny Black were produced from 11 plates: 1a, 1b and 2 through to 11.
Plate 11 was originally intended for use with the Penny Black's replacement, the Penny Red, and only 168,000 stamps were printed, making it scarce and the most valuable Penny Black.
The Penny Black plate number can be identified by the plate wear from the printing press producing various flaws on the stars in the top corners and the letters on the bottom corners were hand stamped, making each Penny Black plate unique to the trained eye.
To prevent forgery, the paper has as small crown watermark that can be seen on the reverse of the stamp.
The Penny Black was originally cancelled with a black Maltese Cross, but being difficult to see, was changed to red ink. The red ink was thought to be easy to clean from the stamp, making the Penny Black reusable, so the Penny Black was replaced after a few months by the Penny Red with a black Maltese Cross cancellation. Some Postmasters, mainly in Scotland, purchased non-standard coloured ink pads for cancellations and some stamps may have a blue, magenta, yellow, or violet Maltese Cross, making them very desirable. Other colours and shades of the Maltese Cross on the Penny Black exist due to poor ink preparation of the red ink.
Penny Black stamps were printed on large sheets of 12 stamps by 20 (240 x 1d making £1 per sheet......Old Money, Pre 1971). They had to be cut apart by scissors and consequently all Penny Blacks do not have all four margins, which has an impact on value. A 'fine' stamp should have margins described as that of approximately half of the distance between two stamps on all four sides. Penny Blacks with only two or three margins are are not as valuable as those with four margins.
On a 'fine' Penny Black, the Maltese Cross cancellation should be reasonably clear and not smudged, while a central clear stamp with good to wide margins would be described as 'very fine' or 'superb'.
Other factors which have an impact on the value of a Penny Black include: a clean appearance on the surface of the Penny Black with no blurring, tears, creases, bends and thins. Stamps with any of the above defects will be worth a percentage of the full catalogue price.
Good Luck with your Penny Black collection
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