Sotheby’s, a renowned auction house, is preparing to showcase a significant piece of postal history in New York next month. The star of the event is an envelope dated May 2, 1840, featuring the inaugural use of the iconic Penny Black stamp.
Crafted by Sir Rowland Hill, the Penny Black stamp marked a revolutionary moment in postal service history. Introduced on May 1, 1840, the stamp, adorned with a youthful Queen Victoria, simplified the complex and expensive postal rates of the time. For just one British penny, a letter weighing half an ounce (14 grams) could be sent anywhere within the UK. This innovative system quickly gained global acceptance.
Accompanying the Penny Black stamp is the Mulready envelope, designed by artist William Mulready. Although intended as another prepaid postage option, the intricate illustrations representing the British Empire failed to capture the public’s favor. In a unique twist, the recipient of the historic mail, William Blenkinsop Jr., repurposed the Mulready envelope by turning it inside out before forwarding it to Mr. Blenkinsop in Dalston, Cumbria.
The significance of the May 2, 1840, date on the envelope lies in the fact that the Penny Black stamp was initially scheduled for release on May 6, 1840. Both sides of the envelope bear stamped dates: May 2 and May 4. Sotheby’s highlights that Penny Black stamps from May 1840 are highly sought after by collectors.
This remarkable piece of postal history is set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s “The One” event, showcasing an array of rare and valuable items.
The auction features unique items such as six championship sneakers worn by Michael Jordan, valued at up to $10 million, and the Hope Cup, a vase carved from the largest block of jasper, expected to fetch up to $2.5 million. From the 13th century to the present day, “The One” auction promises to captivate collectors with its diverse and exceptional offerings.