The coveted 18th-century rarity, known as the Penny Black, was the world’s first postage stamp and represents the very dawn of social communication. Measuring less than 1 square inch, it originally cost a single penny in 1840, but could fetch in excess of $8 million at Sotheby’s Treasures sale on December 7.
Featuring a profile of Queen Victoria, the Penny Black allowed Brits to send a letter weighing up to half an ounce anywhere in the country for a flat rate of just one penny. Prior to that, the recipient had to cover the postage cost. It was a huge success, and, eventually, more than 68 million stamps were sold.
“This is the first-ever stamp, the precursor to all stamps, and unequivocally the most important piece of philatelic history to exist,” Henry House, head of Sotheby’s Treasures sale, said in a statement. “Though there are many hugely important stamps in collections both public and private around the world, this is the stamp that started the postage system as we know it.”
The stamp is one of three Penny Blacks believed to have survived from the very first sheet of printed stamps. The other two are part of the collection at the British Postal Museum.
It is the first of its kind to be offered at auction, Sotheby’s said, giving it a price estimate of $5.50 million – $8.25 million.
:earn more at www.sothebys.com.