A stamp of the past

Special Cover

A special cover release to celebrate the 175th year of issuance of ‘The Penny Black’ stamp was held recently in the City.

 Attended by numerous philatelists, the event took place at the General Post Office. After a short invocation, the cover was released by MS Ramanujan, Chief Post Master General, Karnataka. 

Seetha Bhatija, a philatelist and an owner of an enviable collection of stamps, gave an introduction to the ‘Penny Black’. She referred to its story as a ‘romantic evolvement’. It was a part of Sir Rowland Hills, ‘Post Office Reforms’ in 1837.

 At that time, letters were charged on weight and distance travelled, and the introduction of this rebutted the idea of paying on delivery and instead payment on postage. MS Ramu, a philatelist and the owner of some ‘Penny Black’ covers, displayed his stamps at the GPO.

“The stamp was called ‘Penny Black’ as the cost of the stamp was a penny and it was black in colour,” he explained.

Ramanujan in his speech, said, “The stamp was issued only for a year and underwent mutation and turned red.” 

   The red stamp was called ‘Penny Red’. The reason for this was the cross was not seen against a black background. They were laboriously cut by hand from a sheet of stamps He brought forward the stamp to the crowd from MS Ramu, and said its estimated value today is $8 million.

He spoke further about the stamp informing the crowd that it was the first adhesive stamp used in a public postal system. It was issued in Britain on May 1, 1840 and for official use on May 6. There were 68 million stamps issued. He regarded it as the fourth or fifth most expensive stamp.

“When it was first put out by Sir Rowland Hill, it changed communication,” he said. 

   He referred to the stamp as the Victorian equivalent of the modern day internet. He also the addressed the issue of stamp collecting as an esoteric activity. Although he worries that the interest is waning and not many people appreciate the beauty or value of it. 

   He even made a suggestion to his fellow philatelists to take a step to protect the diminishing culture. He even said that they must involve the young generation who are uninformed of this activity and inform them on where to collect, how to collect and what to collect. Limited edition covers were also being issued to those who wished to purchase them. 

   The programme was well received by the audience. Deepak, a philatelist present in the audience, said, “The event is informative and well organised. As a philatelist, I enjoyed it and met some interesting people here.”

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