The 1840 One Penny Black – Great Britain Scott #1

Penny blacks are not scarce, there were about 69 million of them. Our mail bid sales usually have 10 or more examples.

Stanley Gibbons list basic used examples at £375. The real market prices vary considerably depending on condition. A space filler might be in the £10 - £20 range and good, sound used examples tend to be in the £45-£95 range. Those over £100 ($130) should be exceptionally nice examples or be a scarce variation (of which more later).

plate 11

They were printed in sheets of 240 and, being imperf, individual stamps were separated with scissors. The gaps between stamps was not large and examples with 4 clear margins around the design are relatively scarce. Many examples have fewer than 4 margins and the design might be just shaved or even cut into. The dim gas light at the time did nothing to ensure each was cut out as a philatelic gem. The number of clear margins and their size is a key factor in determining value.

Thins, creases, tears and neatness of cancellation affect value as for any other stamp.

For a 69 million issue, the price is high. For any other stamp it would probably be less than £10. The 1d black is different. Demand is abnormally high because:

The 1d black from plate 11 is scarce – there were only 700 sheets rather than an average of 25,000 for most other plates. By the time this plate was used in February 1841, the red Maltese Cross cancel had been almost phased out in favour of black ink. A plate 11 with a red Maltese cross is rare; about 10 copies are known. Of these 10 only one example is known with marginal inscription. County Auctions sold this unique item a few years ago.

It has a certificate of authenticity and is a lovely looking example but is expertly repaired. Gibbons list the plate 11 with red MX at £25,000. Needless to say our price was very much less.