The very first adhesive postage stamp in the world was issued by Great Britain on May 1, 1840, for use beginning May 6. It is known as the Penny Black:
The Penny Black is not a rare stamp since 286,700 sheets were printed comprising 240 stamps each, for a total of 68,808,000 stamps. An estimated 1.5 million Penny Blacks still exist. A used Penny Black in FINE condition can be had for about $125, and an unused one in FINE condition can be had for about $3,500.
Of course, a postal system existed in many countries prior to 1840 but without postage stamps. When the carriage fee was paid, the postal clerk made a mark in the upper right corner indicating fee paid and took the envelope for delivery. Eventually postmarks came into use. Created by Henry Bishop of London, they were called a Bishop mark and were first used in 1661 at the London General Post Office.
Here in the United States, the first postal system was established in 1692 under a grant provided by King William and Queen Mary to Thomas Neale. The United States Post Office was established by the Second Continental Congress on July 26, 1775, and is one of only a few government agencies expressly authorized by the United States Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7; known as the postal clause).
The Congress also named Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General. Franklin had been a postmaster in the Colonies for decades so he was a natural choice.
Many States and Cities started issuing their own postage stamps after Britain got everything started. It was not until the Stamp Act of 1847 (March 3) that Congress authorized the printing of stamps by the United States Post Office, and the first stamp the Office issued on July 1, 1847, bore an engraved picture of Benjamin Franklin, the first Postmaster General:
Five cents paid the rate for a letter weighing less than one ounce and traveling less than three hundred miles. About 3,700,000 stamps were printed and many survive today. Used and unused stamps in very fine condition sell for, respectively, about $600 and $1,600. However, stamps in poor condition can be purchased for as little as 10% of those prices.
Contrary to today’s FOREVER postage stamps, the first United States postage stamp was declared invalid for postal use after July 1, 1851.
Following are other early United States postage stamps featuring Benjamin Franklin, each one above a trivia tidbit about Franklin. I have included their Scott Catalog number so you can easily find them to purchase for your own stamp collection.
Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572
If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!