Editor's note: The following is the first of a multi-part Coin
World series about the intersection of coins and postal history
prepared by Jeff Starck for the May 2015 monthly edition of Coin World.
On May 6, 1840, the postal reforms of Sir Rowland Hill went into
effect, and the world’s first pre-paid postage stamps, the Penny Black
and the Twopence Blue, launched a revolution in
The 175th anniversary of those postal reforms is celebrated in 2015.
Though the use of postage stamps has waned with the advent of
electronic bill payments and automated postal value imprints, the
postage stamp remains an integral piece of the postal landscape.
Read other pieces from the series:
Blue Mauritius stamp among world's most valuable issues
British Guiana's Penny Magenta stamp an expensive,
Canada's iconic beaver appears on first stamp,
2008 coin honors first stamp from Russia
Stamps also appear on numerous coins, providing coin collectors who
are also stamp collectors (philatelists) opportunities to combine
The first pre-paid stamp
Great Britain’s “Penny Black” stamp is not the most valuable stamp,
but it is famous for being the world’s first adhesive postage stamp used in a
Featuring a bust of Queen Victoria, the 1-cent stamp marked the
introduction of pre-payment of postage. The stamp made philatelic
history, with a simple design by Henry Corbould showing the cameo-like
engraved profile of the young Queen Victoria set against a finely
engraved black background (hence the name “Penny Black”).
But collectors may not realize the design was borrowed from a medal
by William Wyon.
The 55-millimeter-diameter medal had attracted the attention of
postal officials working on the stamp design, and the Penny Black
resulted. The stamp was used for only about a year; the stamps were
canceled with red ink, which did not show up clearly against the black
ink (and was easy to remove, for those tempted to reuse a stamp).
However, the Penny Black lives on in philatelic lore.
A Mint example is valued at $11,000, according to the 2015 Scott
Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940. A
used example will cost only about $320, however.
For those collectors who can’t afford the Mint-condition stamp, the
Wyon medal is a more affordable alternative, trading for about $600,
based on auction results.
In 1990, the Pobjoy Mint marked the 150th anniversary of the Penny
Black by issuing a coin to match the color of the stamp.
The “pearl black” 1-crown coin from the Isle of Man was struck in
Brilliant Uncirculated and Proof copper-nickel, Proof .925 fine silver
and Proof .999 fine gold versions.
In 2015, the Isle of Man and Pobjoy Mint are again celebrating the
anniversary of the postal milestone.
Ten different versions are available, counting finishes and alloys,
with several versions offered in the same “pearl black” finish as the
Both the BU copper-nickel and Proof .925 fine silver crowns are
coated with the pearl black finish , joining the Proof tenth- and
twenty-fifth-ounce gold coins that also sport the pearl black finish.
The Proof 1-ounce, half-ounce and fifth-ounce gold coins, and the
Proof fifth-ounce .9999 fine platinum coin all feature a blackened
center surrounded by a raised circle that lacks the blackening treatment.
Prices vary, but the range of coins is intended to allow collectors
at all levels to seek out a coin to mark the anniversary.
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£34 million worth of silver coins from SS City of Cairo wreck have
curious 1837 dime in an NGC black holder (or, when a coin in an
MS-65 slab is valued like an MS-67)
grades first Mint State 68 1884-CC Morgan dollar while still in
its GSA holder
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