Penny Blue - From the Collection of Proof Impressions of Rowland Hill


Oct 09, 2014 Europe/London

The Penny Blue, a one-penny postage stamp released in 1840 has been frequently mistaken as one of the many postage stamps issued by Britain. The wrong impressions often stem from the fact that the stamp carries an image of a regal lady with a crown. The stamp is actually a part of a collection of proof impressions designed and released when Roland Hill was looking for new inspirations for colors that can be used on stamps, as the replacement for the Twopence Blue and the Penny Black. The decision to change the colors of the stamps had already been approved, and the color of the ink for use in cancellations had been identified as black. While it was already agreed upon that the two pence value will still sport the color blue, the authorities still planned on using a different ink compared to what was used in the original. This is the reason why the stamps that were printed featured white lines just above and below the stamps’ inscription, to make identification of the new printing easier.

Playing with colors

By December 1840, Rowland Hill had toyed with the idea of stamps in a different set of colors, thus a draft design of the stamps in sheet form was made available. These
stamps were designed in red and brown planned for the one penny stamp, with additional two sheets in blue, since the color was yet to be selected. The two shades of blue used for the new stamps included Prussian blue and full deep blue. For the purpose of these sheets, plate 8 was adopted and was later used for the penny blacks. In the end, Rowland Hill selected the full, deep blue color for use in the two pence stamp. Stamps that were printed using red-brown shades were difficult to tell apart from the subsequent stamp printings that were made in the same color.

Paper die and plates not considered as postage stamps

Ever since the production of the first stamps, paper proofs, plates and die were included in the first few phases of stamp production. But these are not considered as postage stamps, thus should not be considered as such, but rather as representations of stamps. These stamp representations are usually considered to check how certain colors will react in special papers, and these stamp representations are also considered to check how a finished product would look like. This extra step was recommended during the early days of stamp production, in a time when metal and wooden plates were the materials used for imprinting, and certain types of ink would cause wear on the stamp plates.