The Penny Black Blunder

The Stamp Man

The Stamp Man

2019-03-01 13:59:45

This is your chance. Own a scarce piece of early stamp history 

The City of London is quiet tonight.

The last of the bankers have gone home.

On the omnibus to Hampstead. Pimlico. And Peckham Rye.

St Paul’s. The grand old cathedral that has stood here 143 years…

Strikes 11.

Heard by no one. Except one man…

A street away – on St. Martin's Le Grand – the sound of the bells carries through an open window.

Inside, by bright gas light, a solitary clerk remains at his desk. 

Hunched over his work.

He’s a postal worker. At the London Chief Office.

Keen to go home.

But a pile of freshly posted letters awaits him before he can. 

Cancel the stamp. On to the next. 

Cancel the stamp. On to the next.

'It’s repetitive work,' he thinks.

'But my goodness, it’s important.'

You see, it’s the evening of May 7, 1840. 

A Thursday evening to be precise.

But more importantly: just the second day that the world’s first postage stamp – the Penny Black – has been in use.

This is the start of stamp collecting.

Each letter in his pile is a piece of history.

Yet there’s one letter that makes the postal clerk pause. And mutter.

The Royal Mail has instructed letter writers to affix the stamp:

“Above the address and towards the right hand side of the letter”.

It’s all to help right handed postal clerks cancel the stamps as quickly as possible.

But this letter is different. The placement of its stamp is entirely contrary to guidelines. Way over in the left corner.

Stamp affixed incorrectly to the left. Incredible condition. A "second day" May 7, 1840 London Chief Office evening duty dispatch stamp. One of philately's finest pieces.

Our postal clerk is a forgiving soul.

‘It’s still early days,’ he thinks. ‘People are still getting used to it.’

He cancels it anyway. With a large, brownish-red Maltese Cross.

The briefest episode from 179 years ago. Yet a moment that will resonate down the years. 

Because in the rich history of postage stamps...

This letter. With its glaring faux pas. Was at the start of it all.

Now it’s the following afternoon. 

And we’re just 60 miles to the north.

But a world away from the City.

Newmarket. Home of the UK’s racing industry.

And there’s a knock at the door of William P Isaacson esquire - the 41-year-old local solicitor.

It’s the post boy. With a letter for Mr Isaacson. “No, no need to pay me”, says the boy to Mr Isaacson. “The sender’s already done it. See? It’s got this special stamp on it. Penny Blacks they’re calling them.”

“A Penny Black! Well, well,” muses Mr Isaacson.

Look at those four large margins

Whether he realises the historical importance of his letter we can’t know for sure. But we can surmise he does. How else do you explain its survival?

Mr Isaacson was a clever fellow. It’s just the kind of thing he would keep for posterity. Perhaps even in the hope of it being worth something one day.

Yet even the most forward thinking solicitor could not have predicted the clamour that exists for it today.

I’ll explain everything:

Rarity + historical importance

Just over 70 first day Penny Black covers still exist.

This, of course, is a second day cover.

Less desirable? 

Well here’s the thing.

Any Penny Black cover with a May 1840 postmark is desirable.

And May 7 covers are even rarer than first day covers.

Which is why all May 7 covers are so sought after.

Yet this is far from a regular second day cover.

This is the pinnacle of May 7 single stamp covers. 

Why? 9 key reasons: Because:

  1. As you’ve seen – it contains a hugely rare “contrary to guidelines” stamp location
  2. The stamp has four large entire margins. Scarce and desirable
  3. The stamp is from the prestigious first plate: Plate 1a. Making this stamp among the first printed
  4. The stamp is a particularly rare greyish-black shade
  5. The envelope is in exceptional condition for an early May date cover – they’re normally tatty
  6. It features a superbly bold London Chief Office evening duty circular date stamp. With that all important date: May 7
  7. The Penny Black is cancelled with a beautiful and rare brownish/red Maltese Cross
  8. The content of the letter is fascinating and so timely: regarding troop movements to Bombay of the East India Company in the first Afghan War 
  9. And it comes with flawless authenticity: courtesy of a British Philatelic Association certificate

And want the best news of all? 

You can own this cover in seconds.

The price? 

Right now, a Penny Black first day cover is selling for £145,000 ($197,360) at Stanley Gibbons.

This letter. Sent just 24 hours later. And rarer than a first day cover. Is yours for just:


That’s only $23,819.

That is incredible value for money.

 Buy now

Just to emphasise the point about rarity.

This is the only second day Penny Black cover available anywhere in the world right now.

You could be waiting years for the opportunity to purchase another.

Thank you for reading,

Mike Hall

CEO, Just Collecting

PS. Any second day Penny Black cover is rare. One of this quality? With this story to tell? A once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Buy now

PPS. You get free delivery to anywhere in the world and 28-day no quibble returns if you change your mind. 

 Come and join us on JustCollecting – the community for collectors

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