Pobjoy revisit the Penny Black stamp for the postal trailblazers 180th anniversary

Along with the Royal Mint, the British Pobjoy Mint are prolific issuers of the United Kingdoms’s seven-sided 50 pence coin. There has been a plethora of different designs this year, with Pobjoy’s eclectic mix of nature coins, and the Royal Mint seemingly trying to rule the world of popular culture releases with their Paddington Bear, Gruffalo, and Wallace & Gromit franchises.

Pobjoy are expanding their selection with a revisit to a subject they’ve covered before – the Penny Black stamp. The last time they did so was in 2015 for the 175th anniversary, although they have featured the Penny Red and Two Pence Blue in the interim. All of those were standard round format coins, however, so the use of the 50p is new.

Also new for the format is what Pobjoy is calling a “Black Pearl” finish. It looks from the images we have to be similar in appearance to a Rhodium or Black Nickel plating, but the renders are of a limited quality, so we’ll have to wait to see a finished coin for a true appreciation. A partially incused strike is also a first for the 50p coin.

There are four precious metal variants in the range, along with a solitary base metal coin. Two are sterling silver and two are 22kt gold (0.9167). All have the same dimensions, although one of each metal is a double-thickness Piedfort version. Each comes in a red coin box with a themed Certificate of Authenticity and all are available to buy now from Pobjoys website, or from their dealer network.



The Penny Black was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was first issued in the United Kingdom (referred to in philatelic circles as Great Britain), on 1 May 1840, but was not valid for use until 6 May. The stamp features a profile of Queen Victoria.

In 1837, British postal rates were high, complex and anomalous. To simplify matters, Sir Rowland Hill proposed an adhesive stamp to indicate pre-payment of postage. At the time it was normal for the recipient to pay postage on delivery, charged by the sheet and on distance travelled. By contrast, the Penny Black allowed letters of up to 1⁄2 ounce (14 grams) to be delivered at a flat rate of one penny, regardless of distance.

The total print run was 286,700 sheets, containing a total of 68,808,000 stamps. Many were saved, and in used condition they remain readily available to stamp collectors. The only known complete sheets of the Penny Black are owned by the British Postal Museum.

The portrait of Victoria was engraved by Charles Heath and his son Frederick, based on a sketch provided by Henry Corbould. Corbould’s sketch was in turn based on the 1834 cameo-like head by William Wyon, which was used on a medal to commemorate the Queen’s visit to the City of London in 1837. This portrait of Victoria remained on British stamps until her death in 1901, although by then she was 81 years old. All British stamps still bear a portrait or silhouette of the monarch somewhere on the design. The first stamps did not need to show the issuing country, so no country name was included on them. The UK remains the only country in the world to omit its name on postage stamps; the monarch’s image signifies the UK as the country of origin.

Although the stamps were not officially issued for sale until 6 May 1840, some offices such as those in Bath sold the stamps unofficially before that date. There are covers postmarked 2 May, and a single example is known on cover dated 1 May 1840. All London post offices received official supplies of the new stamps but other offices throughout the United Kingdom did not, continuing to accept payments for postage in cash for a period.

The Penny Black lasted less than a year. A red cancellation was hard to see on the black design and the red ink was easy to remove; both made it possible to re-use cancelled stamps. In February 1841, the Treasury switched to the Penny Red and began using black ink for cancellations instead, which was more effective and harder to remove. However, people still reused stamps by combining the uncancelled parts of two stamps to form an unused whole, so in 1864 as a further safeguard the top corner stars on the Penny Red were replaced by the lower corner check letters in reverse order.(Wikipedia)

DENOMINATION £0.50 UKP £0.50 UKP £0.50 UKP £0.50 UKP
COMPOSITION 0.925 silver 0.925 silver 0.9167 gold 0.9167 gold
WEIGHT 8.0 grams 16.0 grams 8.0 grams 16.0 grams
DIMENSIONS 27.3 mm 27.3 mm 27.3 mm 27.3 mm
FINISH Proof Proof Proof Proof
MODIFICATIONS Black Pearl Black Pearl Black Pearl Black Pearl
MINTAGE 4,500 1,500 299 99
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes