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Letter sent with the first-ever Penny Black stamp up for auction, can fetch up to $2.5 million

The first letter with the stamp is expected to fetch $1.5 to 2.5 million dollars at Sotheby's auction.

Letter sent with the first-ever Penny Black stamp up for auction, can fetch up to $2.5 million
Cover Image Source: YouTube | Sky News Australia

Technology has made a great leap over the past decades. Every accomplishment has been celebrated while the previous advancements are respected, preserved and treasured gladly by many. CNN reported that the first mail with a prepaid stamp is one of the pieces to treasure as a reminder of the progress made. Everyone remembers the little stamps fixed on letters and mail earlier to get messages across far and wide. What was purchased then for a few cents is now up at Sotheby’s auction in New York with an approximate price of $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

Representative Image Source: Pexels| Nur Yilmaz
Representative Image Source: Pexels| Nur Yilmaz

If the true value of the mail piece is determined and realized, it could be one of the greatest and most valuable pieces in postal history. The letter, which is dated May 2, 1840, was sent to a man named William Blenkinsop Jr. in Bedlington, England. The letter hasn’t been traced, just the envelope was maintained. While the sender’s details are not known, the prestigious letter comes from London, 300 miles to the south. The letter was sent with the help of the Penny Black stamp. Blenkinsop Jr. turned the letter inside out to modify it as a Mulready, another vintage postal envelope used back in the day. 


The second letter was sent to another Mr. Blenkinsop, presumed to be the recipient’s father. However, the contents of this letter too haven’t been traced. Sotheby’s head of books and manuscripts, Richard Austin said, “Surviving over 180 years, the ornate Mulready envelope sealed with a Penny Black revolutionized the way people from all walks of life correspond, exchange ideas, share news and express themselves.” He highlighted how communication was earned and effortfully made compared to today’s hassle-free, automated and quick age.


“At the dawn of the AI age, this remarkable object speaks to our innate human desire for connection and how it has evolved to new heights in the two centuries since,” he said. The envelopes and stamps bear the dates of May 2 and 4, 1840, which is reported to be 2 days short of the official launch and release of the Penny black stamps. Fine Books Magazine shared the thoughts of experts and historians on the precious find and its potential value. Allen Kane, former director of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, said, “There is something special about viewing the earliest, or first, example of anything.”

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“In this case, the May 2, 1840 cover connects us to the very beginnings of philately and the modern postal system.” Austin added, “This unassuming envelope marked a significant leap forward in the history of human communication.” Sotheby’s shared more on their Instagram in a video starring the iconic Penny Black stamp. “For this letter, it’s not about what’s on the inside. Valued at $1.5-2.5 million, the pre-paid envelope is the earliest known in existence to be successfully sent. The letter covered a combined journey of over 400 miles, all before the official start date for the stamp on 6 May,” the caption read.


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