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The world’s first postage stamps on a budget

The world’s first postage stamps on a budget

32% saving on the entire collection

In the year 1840, Great Britain changed the world.

All it took was a small piece of paper with some sticky gum on the back.

You know what I’m taking about – the penny black.

And on that day a new hobby was born…

Even back then, many people bought copies of the penny black, not for postal use, but to save as souvenirs.

Today, the hobby of stamp collecting has become the passion of over 60 million people around the world.

The concept of prepaying postage with an adhesive postage stamp proved a huge success. 

Today, every country in the world issues postage stamps.

And, the first stamps issued by each country will always be the most sought-after.

The Importance of SG1

The Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogues assign unique reference numbers to every stamp issued in the world.

Obviously, the first stamp issued from each country is assigned the number SG1.

Imagine owning the first stamps issued from every country in the world. Now, that would be something! 

The first stamps will always be the most historically important. They will always be desirable to collectors.

They mark each country’s entry into the communications and cultural revolution taking place at that time in our history. 

These small pieces of paper brought the world closer and enabled international trade to prosper.

Unfortunately, unless you have some serious money you will never own the first stamp from every country in the world.

For example, the first postage stamp from the island of Mauritius is the 1847 1d orange-red…

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You would be lucky to ever get the chance to acquire a mint example of this stamp as there are only two known.

And, if you did, it would set you back £1.3 million+!

But you don’t need £millions to buy some of the first postage stamps issued in the world.

Today, I give you the opportunity to buy some of these first stamp issues, but on a tight budget.

Let’s start at the beginning…

The World’s First Stamp

A fine mint example of the penny black with large margins and full original gum is worth around £20,000.

I probably shouldn’t say this but, personally, I prefer used penny blacks.

I’ve always felt the distinctive Maltese Cross postal cancellations are integral to the overall charm. 

What’s interesting is that a standard penny black is actually numbered SG2. 

SG1 is reserved only for the early impressions of each printing plate, where there is no plate wear and the black colour is more intense…

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Great Britain 1840 1d intense black plate 6, SG1

A very fine used example lettered ‘FK’ with good to large margins, neatly cancelled by the red Maltese Cross.

The Stanley Gibbons catalogue lists the 1840 intense 1d black at a value of £525.

OUR PRICE: £425 (19% discount)

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We travel down under to uncover our next first stamp issue…

A devil of a stamp

Tasmania, an island just off south-eastern Australia, was one of the six British colonies that merged to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

Van Diemen's Land was established in 1803 and was the second British colony after New South Wales in 1788. Van Diemen's Land was renamed Tasmania in 1856.

The first stamps issued in 1853 with a portrait of Queen Victoria are known as “Couriers” after the Hobart Town Courier newspaper office, where they were printed.

As an early colonial Australian stamp, they are keenly sought after by collectors but rarely found in fine condition…

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Australia Tasmania 1853 1d pale blue on soft yellowish paper, position 2 on the sheet, SG1.

A fine used example with good to large margins, lightly cancelled by "64" numeral of Hobart. A fine and attractive example with fresh colour.

The stamp is accompanied with a Royal Philatelic Society (RPS) certificate of authenticity (1941).

The Stanley Gibbons catalogue value is £1,500.

OUR PRICE: £1,100 (27% discount)

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We have another long journey ahead to visit our next philatelic first in the Caribbean…

The proof is in the stamp

The volcanic island of Nevis is in the West Indies, southeast of Puerto Rico and only 2 miles off the south coast of St. Kitts.

Nevis only produced their own stamps for a short time from 1862 to 1890. After 1890, Nevis used stamps of the Leeward Islands until 1903.

In 1778, the Bath Hotel was built to take advantage of the hot springs in the area. This was the first attempt at tourism in the Caribbean.

The medicinal spring ended up being the theme of the first stamp issues of Nevis. 

They produced a lovely classic Victorian design depicting the seal of the colony showing women at a medicinal spring. The stamp shows two women taking advantage of the therapeutic spring water…

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Nevis 1862 1d imperforate proof in carmine-lake on thin wove, SG1.

A re-joined horizontal pair (positions 2-3 on the sheet), respectively with large and clear to large margins, with large part strike of the dramatic '(SP)ECIMEN/(NISSEN &) PARKER. LONDON' HANDSTAMP in blue, for use as printer's samples.

This comes even before the first stamp issue of Nevis…

It is a very rare and important printer’s proof of the very first postage stamp issue from Nevis.

It also comes with strong provenance being first recorded in 1869 by E.L. Pemberton, on the basis of examples in the collection of Judge Philbrick.

OUR PRICE: £1,600

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Next stop is Africa where I have found a stunning first stamp issue from 1869, which remains remarkably affordable today…

A Cameo Appearance

The first stamps issued for the West African colony of Gambia are noted for their simple but effective design. They were printed from 1869 by the London printers, De La Rue & Co.

The coloured background was typographed first, showing the name ‘Gambia’ in white letters at the top and the value in words in a matching panel at the bottom.

A profile head of Queen Victoria was then embossed in white on it. This gave a cameo effect, similar to a brooch. The stamps are known as the "Cameos"…

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Gambia 1869-72 4d brown (deep shade), no watermark, imperforate, SG1.

A very fine mint example with large margins and original gum.

Although there are some trivial gum wrinkles, mentioned for accuracy, this is a really fine example of the first postage stamp issued by Gambia with intense colour.

The Stanley Gibbons catalogue value is £600.

OUR PRICE: £495 (discount 18%)

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Back to Europe now to visit an island in the Mediterranean Sea… 

A First Stamp Issue for under £100!

The British Empire took over administration of Cyprus in 1878, following the end of the Russo-Turkish War and conclusion of the Congress of Berlin.

In exchange, Britain guaranteed to use the island as a base to protect the Ottoman Empire from further aggression by Russia. 

The island eventually became a major military base to protect Britain’s colonial trade routes from Africa and Asia. 

The first stamps used were British stamps overprinted ‘CYPRUS’…

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Cyprus 1880 ½d rose, type 1 overprint, plate 15, lettered 'AF', SG1.

This is one of those stamps which is extremely challenging to find in fine condition.

This is an attractive mint example of the first postage stamp used in Cyprus with most of its original gum still intact.

It is typically off-centre, which is normal for this issue, and is, overall, a highly appealing example.

The Stanley Gibbons catalogue value is £120.

OUR PRICE: £85 (discount 29%)

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Let us now bounce back to Africa again to see a late addition to the British Empire… 

A reference set to protect against forgeries 

Nigeria was formed on 1 January 1914 from the former protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria. These King George V stamps were the first issued as Nigeria…

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Nigeria 1914-29 set of 12 to £1, watermark MCA, overprinted 'SPECIMEN', SG1s/12s.

A very fine mint set with large part original gum and lovely fresh colours.

These "SPECIMEN" examples were used solely by postal administrations for reference purposes to help spot any attempted forgeries.


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We now travel great distance to visit one of the remotest of places, a tiny island in the South Pacific Ocean…

A Pleasant set of overprinted British stamps 

The island of Nauru (originally called “Pleasant Island”) is on the equator south of the Marshall Islands. As it is surrounded by coral reefs, mail can only be transported via the small boats, which can access the island.

Nauru was occupied by Australian forces following the outbreak of World War I. During this time, Australian stamps overprinted 'North West Pacific Islands' were used from 1914 to 1916.

The British government took control of the island and British stamps were then overprinted 'NAURU' and were first issued in October 1916…

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Nauru 1916-23 Set of 10 to 1s, (excluding the 1½d and 2d die II). All stamps in the set show the constant variety 'short left stroke to N' (R1/8). The 9d is a non-marginal single, the other values are all in top marginal horizontal pairs (2d, 3d, 5d, 1s with positional guide mark), SG1/12VARS.

A fine mint set with original gum and most of the stamps are unmounted mint. The 3d stamp has a tone spot and the 1s pair with faintly toned gum, but overall a fine, scarce and desirable group of the first British stamps overprinted "NAURU".

The Stanley Gibbons catalogue value is £600.

OUR PRICE: £450 (25% discount)

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You won’t find mail coming from further away than our next destination…

The largest British Overseas Territory

The British Antarctic Territory was formed on 3 March 1962 after being claimed by Britain as one of its 14 British Overseas Territories. It is by far the largest territory by area, extending to the South Pole.

The Antarctic Treaty of 1961 is important historically as it was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. The treaty set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, provided freedom of scientific investigation and banned military activity on the continent.

The very first stamps released by the British Antarctic Territory were a lovely set of engraved definitive stamps featuring scenes of the Antarctic with values ranging from ½d to one pound…

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British Antarctic Territory 1963-69 set of 16 to £1 (both), SG1/15a.

A highly attractive set of stamps in superb quality. All stamps in the set are unmounted mint with full original gum.


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And finally, we round off our trip back in Great Britain… 

As historically important as the penny black

Whilst not an SG1, I felt compelled to include this final item in my selection…

Mainly because I am able to offer it to you today at a great price.

The beautifully illustrated Mulready covers were issued in competition with the penny black, on 6th May, 1840, as a means of prepaying postage of letters.

Unfortunately, the public hated them and within two months they were withdrawn and most were destroyed.

As such, they are rare and highly collectible. To find one which was sent on the very first day the prepaid postal system changed the world is a real treat…

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Great Britain 1840 1d Mulready Envelope Forme 2 Stereo A148, SG ME2.

A very fine used example sent from London to Torquay, neatly cancelled by a crisp strike of an orange-red Maltese Cross with a blue T.P Charles St West handstamp at lower left.

It is also backstamped with a London dispatch circular datestamp for MY.6.1840. (First day of issue) on top flap which opens out well for display.

Minor soiling as usually seen (most seen are heavily soiled) and couple of trivial wrinkles.

Overall, it remains a most attractive and very rare 'First day of issue' Mulready being a highly important piece of postal history.

The Stanley Gibbons catalogue value is £18,000.

As you would expect, such key philatelic rarities can prove a sound long term investment…

In 2004, a first day cover of the Mulready was listed in the Stanley Gibbons catalogue at a value of £8,000.

Based on the current catalogue value of £18,000, it has increased in value by over 7% pa on average over the past 17 years.

OUR PRICE: £12,000 (33% discount)

Click here to buy now

Own the Entire Collection

It seems a shame to break up this collection of the first stamp issues from countries across the globe.

The total price of the collection is £16,755.

This compares to a listed catalogue value of £23,545.

I am willing to sell the whole collection intact at an additional discounted price of £16,000 (32% discount).

If you want to secure the entire collection, you will need to let me know ASAP.

Call me immediately on +44(0)1534 639998.

Or email me today at

The first of anything is always the most important.

History shows that interest in the first stamp issues of each country are always in the highest demand.

As such, they generally provide stable and reliable growth in value and are attractive as a long term investment.

Thanks for your time.

Kind regards

Mike Hall

PS. You will need to come back to me promptly if you want to secure the entire collection as all items are ALSO available to purchase individually.

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