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Best Penny Black 150th commemoratives?


Penny Black stampsThis year, 2015, is the 175th anniversary of the first issue of Great Britain’s ‘Penny Black’ postage stamp. Looking back to 1990, the stamp’s 150th anniversary, we feature some of the stamps released that year to mark that first issue.

Naturally, Great Britain was at the forefront of the anniversary celebration and released the above commemorative set. The designer responsible for these, and many other, stamps was Englishman Jeffery Matthews (article about Jeffery to follow).
But Great Britain actually only reproduced the image of the Penny Black on a miniature sheet, which also featured the famous ‘Seahorse’ design first seen on British stamps in 1913.

Penny Black stamp  block

1913 George V Britannia-Seahorse stamp
1913 George V ‘Britannia/Seahorse’ stamp

Further afield, Hungary’s miniature sheet included a Penny Black recess-printed as the original, with a view of the Danube promenade in Pest around 1840. Design and engraving the work of Karoly Vagyóczky, who also designed the accompanying souvenir sheet, which also marked the 40th anniversary of the Hungarian Philatelic Society.

Penny Black stamp block

Black Penny stamp block

A fine issue from Czech Republic included a reproduction of the Penny Black accompanied by a portrait of a young Rowland Hill and William Wyon’s stamp essay. The design of the first stamp was based on the medal by William Wyon of Victoria taken at the age of 15, which would subsequently represent her until the end of her reign.  Under was a panoramic view of Westminster by Wenceslas Hollar (reminiscent of the GB 1965 2s.6d. Parliament stamp).

Czechoslovakia included a reproduction of the Penny Black

Portugal’s commemorative miniature sheet was rather unique. Its 250c. stamp showed a pair of hands affixing a Penny Black to a cover. The design continues into the sheet border, revealing the hands as belonging to Rowland Hill, seated at a desk, on which lays a part-sheet of the stamps. The gentlemen standing by him look on rather curiously as he performs the operation. The man in front of the window holds a glass of liquor and in the foreground is a decanter labelled ‘Port’, which cleverly links the stamp sheet to its issuing country.

The Isle of Man issued a number of items, one of which was unique among the 150th anniversary Penny Blacks, the only stamp to be issued as a normal sheet stamp. Sheets of 25x1p stamps were produced, with the added bonus that the margins of the sheet contained the same wording as the margins on the original 1840 sheets. In addition, the 1990 sheet follows the corner letter pattern of the original stamp, so you have the possibility of collecting 25 different stamps. On the actual day of the anniversary, 6 May 1990, Isle of Man residents were allowed to send their local mail using just this 1p stamp.

Penny Blackstampsheet Man

Stamp block Isle of Man

The above Isle of Man miniature sheet contains one £1 stamp which has a reproduction of four Penny Blacks and a reproduction of William Wyon’s medal. This particular item is also unique as the Penny Blacks are properly recess-printed, just like the original. The stamps were engraved by Inge Madlé (b. Amsterdam, 1963), and also have the added bonus of different corner letters.

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