Country of production United Kingdom
Location of production London
Date of production 1 May 1840- February 1841
Notability World's first adhesive postage stamp
Face value 1 penny
Estimated value £3–4,000 (mint)
A Penny Black, with a red cancellation that was hard to see and easily removed
The Jacob Perkins' press, which printed the Penny Black and the 2d Blue, in the British Library Philatelic Collections
The Penny Black was the world's first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It first was issued in Great Britain on 1 May 1840, for official use from 6 May of that year. It features a profile of Queen Victoria.
In 1837, British postal rates were high, complex and anomalous. To simplify matters, Sir Rowland Hill proposed an adhesive stamp to indicate pre-payment of postage. At the time it was normal for the recipient to pay postage on delivery, charged by the sheet and on distance travelled. By contrast, the Penny Black allowed letters of up to 1⁄2 ounce (14 grams) to be delivered at a flat rate of one penny, regardless of distance.
Postal delivery systems using what may have been adhesive stamps existed before the Penny Black. The idea had at least been suggested earlier in the Austrian Empire, Sweden, and possibly Greece.