Auction News

Early Penny Black envelope’s £2 million auction


Mulready envelope with Penny Black Stamp

An extraordinarily rare historic envelope featuring the world’s first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, is set to go up for auction next month.

The iconic envelope, known as a Mulready letter sheet, dates back to 1840 and is regarded as the oldest in existence sent with a prepaid stamp.

It is estimated to sell for around £2 million when it goes under the hammer at a London auction house on February 2.

The full document is intricate and beautifully preserved.

The Mulready envelope, designed by William Mulready, was originally posted with a Penny Black stamp on May 2, 1840. It was then repurposed and reposted on May 4, making it a remarkably early example of pre-paid post.

The Penny Black, featuring a profile portrait of Queen Victoria, was released alongside the Mulready envelope on May 6, 1840. The new system revolutionized communication by allowing senders to pre-pay postage rather than require recipients to pay on delivery.

Though the contents of the letter have been lost over time, the envelope itself remains in exceptional condition. It is addressed to iron works manager William Blenkinsop Jr and bears a Penny Black stamp.

Sotheby’s describes the envelope as marking “a significant leap forward in human communication.” The auction house expects global interest in this postal history treasure that demonstrates some of the first pre-paid mail ever transmitted.

Philatelists and museums are expected to show keen interest in acquiring the envelope and it is the brightest highlight of stamp sales so far this year.

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