November 2023

The club had an enormously enjoyable afternoon in November when we were entertained by Bill Barrell, a well-known dealer of GB material. This afternoon Bill displayed his award-winning collection of Postal Reform and the Penny Red value from 1840 to 1880.

Before 1840 we were informed of the postal system before the Postal reform and displayed a letter dated 1661 from Samuel Pepys referring to the plague.

The postal system at that time was highly complex and very expensive. Letters were charged by distance and the number of sheets of paper they contained. Normally, the charge was paid by the recipient. As a result, people often ‘cross-wrote’ their letters to save money. After the Napoleonic Wars postage rates were high. They were designed as a tax to raise revenue. A typical single letter from Dublin to London would cost 1s 3d – a lot of money in those days. Two sheets of paper doubled the cost, three tripled it. Then in January 1837 Rowland Hill published his pamphlet Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability. He had no doubt that the source of trouble lay in the complexity of the charges and the mixture of paid and unpaid letters. This was eventually to become the Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp.

Bill showed us various examples of very rare notices pertaining to the Postal Reform. A cross-written letter, various rare essays, competition examples, superb specimens of bocks of Penny Blacks, and a cover dated the first day of issue – the 6th May 1840. The Two Penny Blue postage stamp became the world’s second official stamp and was intended for double rate letters. It was officially issued in May 1840, and looked the same as the Penny Black stamp, but in blue. Although the official issue was the same date the 6th of May, 1840, there is some doubt about this as the earliest post mark seen on a two-penny blue stamp was the 8th of May 1840, two days later than the Penny Black.

In February 1841, just nine months after the issue of the Penny Black, it was replaced by the Penny Red for various reasons. The imperforate Penny Red then covered the standard letter rate in the United Kingdom until the arrival of the first officially perforated stamps in 1854.

Bill displayed numerous blocks of imperforate and perforated stamps and explained why the penny red from Plate 77 is so rare, in fact there are only 5 still in existence. We also saw varieties, the Treasury roulette, errors and the difference between Die 1 and Die 2.

A fantastic display which was enjoyed by our biggest attendance of the year – 49.