World Stamps

The stamp that started it all

Sep 16, 2021, 8 AM
Buy the 1840 Great Britain Penny Black stamp (Scott 1) with the greatest eye appeal that fits your stamp budget.

Stamp Market Tips by Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

Most stamp collectors know that the world’s first general issue postage stamp was the Penny Black issued by Great Britain in May 1840. That imperforate 1d black Queen Victoria stamp (Scott 1) is the one that started it all for us.

While there is ample potential for specialization by plating, check letters and cancellations, many collectors want just one example for their collection, even if they are not collectors of British stamps.

Also the Penny Black is the logical starting point for a collection of Scott No. 1 stamps of the world.

The Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940 values a generic four-margin example of the Penny Black at $375 in used condition.

If you are satisfied with an example with no margins, you can pick one up for $30 to $40. Four-margin examples are available for around $175 up to full Scott catalog value.

But while all are technically very fine grade, not all four-margin examples are equal. Eye appeal makes a great deal of difference.

Look for a four-margin stamp with balanced and even margins. That means stamps with roughly equal margins on all four sides. Also look for one where the margins are in a straight line and aligned with the stamp design.

A stamp with a larger margin on one side and a smaller margin on another has a lopsided appearance, as does one where the margin is wider at one end and narrower at the other.

The type and color of the cancellation also make a difference. The most common are Maltese cross cancellations in red or black ink. For values of colors and types of cancellations, see the Scott Classic Specialized catalog.

Buy the stamp with the greatest eye appeal that fits your stamp budget. Be sure to check for faults or repairs using watermark fluid.

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