Object of the Week: The world's oldest postage stamp, as carried in a bomb-proof briefcase

By Culture24 Reporter | 02 June 2016

The world's first sticky stamp has temporarily moved from London's Postal Museum to New York

A photo of someone taking a look at an ancient stamp of queen victoria at london's postal museum
© The Postal Museum
Only a handful of sheets of the world’s first stamp, the Penny Black, exist anywhere in the world. All of them are held at London’s Postal Museum, but one sheet of the 176-year-old stamps left the UK for the first time last week, transported under armed escort in a specially designed bomb-proof briefcase for a trip to the World Stamp Show in New York, which happens once every ten years.

The briefcase has been fitted with sensor and shock alarms. Issued in 1840, the Penny Black, with its profile of Queen Victoria, was the first ever adhesive postage stamp, credited with revolutionising and democratising communication in allowing its senders to post a letter to anywhere for a penny.

A photo of someone taking a look at an ancient stamp of queen victoria at london's postal museum
© The Postal Museum
A sheet of Two Penny Blue stamps, introduced two days after the Black to be stuck on heavier items, has also travelled to New York, where it is being shown alongside John Lennon’s stamp album and the British Guiana 1c Magenta – the world’s most expensive stamp, sold at Sotheby’s in 2014 for almost $9.5million.

After returning to their secure, humidity-controlled environment in London, the stamps will go on permanent public display for the first time when The Postal Museum opens its doors in spring 2017.


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A photo of someone taking a look at an ancient stamp of queen victoria at london's postal museum
© The Postal Museum
A photo of someone taking a look at an ancient stamp of queen victoria at london's postal museum
© The Postal Museum
A photo of someone taking a look at an ancient stamp of queen victoria at london's postal museum
© The Postal Museum
A photo of someone taking a look at an ancient stamp of queen victoria at london's postal museum
© The Postal Museum
A photo of someone taking a look at an ancient stamp of queen victoria at london's postal museum
© The Postal Museum
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