The Two Pence Blue and The Penny Red

The Two Pence Blue and The Penny Red

In the previous article, we talked about the first stamp issued, the Penny Black. There is no doubt that it was an innovative concept but still, we could look at it as on the prototype. Some disadvantages were noticed when people started using it. Today we’ll talk about two important successors of this stamp – The Two Pence Blue and The Penny Red..

Two Pence Blue (1840)

The story behind Two Pence Blue (or Two Penny Blue) is pretty simple. It was planned for it to go live along with the Penny Black but due to some difficulties it went into sales on the 8th of May 1840 and became the second official postal stamp ever issued.

While the Penny Black could be used to send mail weighing up to half an ounce, the Two Pence Blue doubled both, the denomination and the weight.

The design of the initial series was exactly the same except the color used and of course the denomination of the stamp.

Unlike the Penny Black (we’ll see that later), the Penny Blue was in use from 1840 to 1880. During that time, it went through several design changes like adding white lines to the design, adding perforation (starting from 1854), adding letters in all four corners, using white or blued paper.

Two Pence Blue

Two Pence Blue, “original” 1840 design

Copyright© 1840 Royal Mail. All Rights Reserved.


Denomination: 2 Pence

Two Pence Blue (1841)

As already mentioned, the Two Pence Blue, went through several design changes during the time. Adding white lines to the design was maybe the most important change. That happened in “second” series of this stamp, printed in 1841. White lines, below the “POSTAGE” and above the “TWO PENCE” stayed in the design all the way until 1880. So, yes, the first series from 1840 is the only one without these lines.

Two Pence Blue - white lines added issue

Two Pence Blue, “white lines added issue”

Copyright© 1840 Royal Mail. All Rights Reserved.


Denomination: 2 Pence

The first series of Two Pence Blue included 6,46 million stamps compared to 68,15 million Penny Black stamps issued. That makes the 1840-series Two Pence Blue pretty rare and therefore valuable.

Used Two Pence Blue cost in the hundreds of dollars while unused could be sold in tens of thousands of dollars.

It might be interesting to note that Mauritius issued 1p (orange) and 2p (dark blue) stamps in 1847 with almost the same design as their British relatives. These two stamps were printed in small series (around 500) and are extremely valuable, valuing from a few hundred thousand to even millions of dollars. So, if you have one – congratulations!

“Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there.” – Josh Billings (real name Henry Wheeler Shaw – 19th-century American humorist (April 21, 1818 – October 14, 1885))


The Penny Red (1841)

The Penny Black had one major flaw. It was black and the cancellation used was red. The red cancellation on the black stamp was not so visible and people could also remove the cancellation from the used stamp in order to reuse the stamp. That is the main reason that after the initial series of Penny Black there were no others.

Instead of new Penny Black series, in 1841, the Penny Red was introduced. It was reddish-brown and the cancellation used on it was black. That undermined the effort some would make in order to reuse stamps. Similarly, to Two Pence Blue, it underwent many design changes and remained in service until 1879.

“That which is not measurable is not science. That which is not physics is stamp collecting.” – Ernest Rutherford (30 August 1871 – 19 October 1937, a New Zealand-born British physicist who came to be known as the father of nuclear physics)

The Penny Red

The Penny Red

Copyright© 1841 Royal Mail. All Rights Reserved.


Denomination: 1 Penny

2,46 billion of these stamps were printed in the original 1841 series, so yes, it’s not so rare as you would expect. You won’t earn a fortune if you own one of these, but still, you’ll own a nice piece of history.

“I don’t think being obsessed with sex is any stranger than being obsessed with stamp collecting.” – Annie Sprinkle (an American certified sexologist, sex educator, former sex worker, feminist stripper, pornographic actress)

Today we saw first descendants of Penny Black. I wish you all to have all three of these beauties in your collection one day.

Continue reading: Postal History: Ancient Greece

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