The Penny Black was issued on the 6th May 1840, It was not only the world’s first postage stamp, but it also heralded a social revolution in the way we communicate. Prior to 1840 postal rates were high and complex, calculated by the sheet and distance travelled.
The cost often equating to more than an average weekly wage, but with prepayment not compulsory it was generally the recipient that was saddled with these exorbitant costs!
To simplify matters, Rowland Hill proposed a uniform 1d rate prepaid with an adhesive stamp to indicate payment of postage allowing letters of up to half an ounce (14g) to be delivered within the United Kingdom (Inc. Ireland) at a flat uniform rate, regardless of distance. Although prepayment was still not compulsory it almost immediately became the norm with non-payment being charged double.
Sending letters instantly became affordable for all, reading and writing which for many up until then had been an unnecessary luxury were incentivised to learn.
Despite all of the problems associated with being first in a completely new and revolutionary field, the Penny Black was conceived, designed, engraved, printed and put on sale, all in the space of five months.
The design was deceptively simple, and although other security devices and its value were added, the country name was not and without any rivals, there was no need.