Uniform penny postage began in Great Britain Jan. 10, 1840. The new postal scheme meant that a letter could be sent from any place in the kingdom to any other place, no matter how far, for 1 penny.
Two things were required. First, the letter had to weigh less than ½ ounce, and second, the 1d postage had to be prepaid.
Prepayment of postage was encouraged with financial incentive.
A letter could be sent for 1d as long as the postage was paid at the time of mailing. If the postage was to be collected from the recipient at the time of delivery, the cost was double, 2d.
According to the Newark circular datestamp on the back, the folded letter shown in Figure 1 was mailed to Nottingham Jan. 27, 1840, just 17 days after the start of uniform penny postage. The “P.1” manuscript marking in red ink indicates that 1d was paid at the time of mailing.
After the start of uniform penny postage, charges that were prepaid were indicated in red ink. Charges marked in black ink meant they were to be collected from the recipient upon delivery, and the charge would have been indicated with the numeral “2.”
Figure 2 shows a nonprepaid cover. Mailed in June 1841, a year and five months after the start of uniform penny postage, the 1d postage was not paid at the time of posting. Therefore, the number “2” in black ink indicated the postal carrier had to collect 2d at the time of delivery.
The first adhesive postage stamps, which stamp collectors call Penny Blacks and Tuppenny Blues, are shown in Figure 3. They were not available to use on mail until May 6, 1840, almost four months after the start of uniform penny postage.
Until post offices could provide postage stamps as receipts for the payment of postage charges, they marked prepaid items in red ink with some indication that the tariff had been paid. This often was simply a vertical pen stroke denoting the numeral “1.”
To make processing the new high volume of prepaid mail quick and easy, post offices around the country began to have handstamps made.
The cover shown in Figure 4 bears an example of one of the custom-made handstamps.
A large numeral “1” with the “D” abbreviation for denarius or penny in red ink makes a visually stunning marking.
The double arc datestamp in black to the right of the large paid stamp indicates this particular uniform penny postage handstamp was used by the post office in Hull.
Handstamps of the uniform penny postage period were made locally by postmasters, not provided by the post office from central locations in London and Edinburgh. Therefore, these postmarks are individual in design.
An abbreviation for paid, “Pd.,” in italic letters and a large, slightly bowed and serif number “1” shown on the cover in Figure 5 was used by the city of York to indicate the prepayment of the penny postage at the time of mailing on March 14, 1840.
Collecting examples of the more than 400 identifiably different types of 1d paid handstamps makes a visually attractive and challenging specialty for British postal history collectors.
A monograph by Steve Walker, Uniform Penny Post: Handstruck Paid Postage Stamps of England and Wales 1840-1853, illustrates many of the recorded penny post handstamp markings.
Published in 2013 by the Great Britain Philatelic Society, it is the most recent and definitive research book on handstruck penny paid postage handstamps.
Walker’s book is available from the society for £15 (about US$25) plus postage of £5. It can be ordered from the society at www.gbps.org.uk/publications/books/uniform-penny-post.php.
In his book, Walker reproduces more than 300 tracings of the documented penny post 1d paid handstamps and matches them with the towns and cities that used them. Figure 6 shows two examples of differing styles.
Many markings are a simple vertical stroke indicating the number 1, such as the example on the left in Figure 6, which was used at Leeds.
Other styles included the word “PAID” or some abbreviation of it such as “P” or “Pd.” The tracing on the right in Figure 6 was used on mail accepted at the post office in Hastings.
A few handstamps include the name of the place where they were used, such as the handstamp in Figure 7 from Ipswich.
The entire marking is surrounded by an oblong frame.
In addition, ovals, rectangles, squares and even a shield were used as frames.
Handstruck penny paid markings also were used in Scotland and Ireland, but Walker limits his presentation to those of England and Wales.
Sharp, clearly inked impressions are much sought after by collectors. They are collected both as whole covers or as pieces cut from covers.
The use of uniform penny postage handstruck penny paid marks was discontinued around 1859, when the post office made it compulsory that the prepayment of postage on inland mail had to be paid using adhesive postage stamps.
blogWhen this cover was listed on eBay in mid-September, it didn't take long for some knowledgeable collectors to recognize this piece of postal history for the gem that it is: an early trans-oceanic survey cover for a Pacific route that included Midway Island, which would become famous as the location of a pivotal 1942 naval battle during World War II. Read More ›
blogThis month marks my fifth anniversary writing the monthly auction report for Linn’s Stamp News. That’s 60 columns, totaling more than 100,000 words (enough for a decent-sized novel), all about our favorite hobby. Read More ›
blogIn mid-September I traveled to London, England, to attend Autumn Stampex, one of two British national stamp shows sponsored by the Philatelic Traders’ Society, Great Britain’s national stamp dealers association. The show took place Sept. 16-19 at the Business Design Centre in Islington (central north London), a comfortable and attractive venue for a stamp show. Read More ›
September 28, 2015 03:30 AMAfter the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, postal workers not only saved the mail, they saved the new post office building. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty discusses current events that relate to the stamp hobby, including the relocation of a stamp show in Sweden due to the Syrian refugee crises, and new stamps honoring Pope Francis and the British monarchy.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke talks about a record fifth win for wildlife artist Joseph Hautman in the federal duck stamp art contest, and see the painting that will appear on next year’s federal duck stamp
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz questions Bolivia’s choice for the design of a 2013 stamp honoring the country’s efforts to protect its migrants in foreign lands.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News managing editor Chad Snee discusses the discovery of the upright Jenny Invert pane received in an order from Stamp Fulfillment Services in Kansas City, Mo., and also reports on the Confederate Stamp Alliance.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.