The world’s first postage stamp, hailed as the most important piece of philatelic history in existence, will go under the hammer in an auction at Sotheby’s.
The Penny Black, the earliest securely dated example of the very first postage stamp, is expected to fetch between £4 million and £6 million when it is sold at Sotheby’s in December as part of the Treasures collection.
The unused stamp, which transformed communication, is part of a document from the archive of leading British postal reformer Robert Wallace, dated from 1840.
It is from plate 1a, the first printed sheet, and lettered A-I and features a small portrait of the young Queen Victoria’s head in profile, with the words Postage One Penny on handmade watermarked paper with gum on the back.
The stamp’s identification began when British businessman and philatelist Alan Holyoake came into the possession of The Wallace Document, to which the stamp is attached, almost 10 years ago.
Henry House, head of the Treasures sale at Sotheby’s, said: “This is an extraordinary opportunity for a collector to acquire an object bursting with history; an object that is the earliest known of an iconic design; an object produced by the highest levels of technical excellence; and an object that is the progenitor of mass and global communication.
“This is the first ever stamp, the precursor to all stamps, and unequivocally the most important piece of philatelic history to exist.
“Though there are many hugely important stamps in collections both public and private around the world, this is the stamp that started the postage system as we know it.
“The Wallace Document represents the very dawn of social communication, and this stamp was a game-changer, allowing people to communicate from all levels of society and business to flourish.”