First Issues - 1840 to 1849

and aspects of first issue collecting

page 1.1

Guinness Book of Stamps Guinness Book of Stamps

This display is part of a collection of the first stamp issues from every country. It comprises (where available) the first stamp, commemorative, airmail, charity stamp, official and post due label. The full collection can be seen online at

The two formative influences in starting the collection were the excellent US-based First Issue Collectors' Club, which studies the subject, and The Guinness Book of Stamps by James MacKay, which includes a listing of most of the relevant stamps for the period 1840 to 1986.

One of the advantages of this topic it that it introduces the collector to the full breadth of the history and geography of stamp history while limiting the effort and expense involved.

Great Britain

GB SG2 GB SG430 GB SG2358 GB SG970 GB SG O1 GB SG D1
The first stamp
6th May 1840
SG2 Sc1
British Empire Exhibition
1924 SG430 Sc203
SG2358 Sc-C1
Health and Handicap Funds
1975 SG970 Sc-B1
SG-O1 Sc-O2
Post Due
SG-D1 Sc-J1

It starts, of course, right here on 6th May 1840, thanks largely to the efforts of Rowland Hill. It is interesting to note that the first GB charity issue was not until 1975 and was not popular: there was another attempt with charity stamps for the Christmas 1989 issue, again unsuccessful.

GB's first official airmail issue was in 2003 (please form an orderly queue for discussions on what was the first GB airmail).


[December 2013] A convention has developed in building these displays of showing miniature sheets celebrating first issues within the display on the reverse of the first page. In a variation of that practice, all the GB commemorations of the Penny Black will be shown overleaf.

[Feb 15] Guidelines were gradually developed as these pages were written, including preferences for substitution, stating "An arbitrary standard I favour is that I would prefer the commemorating entity to be (or be related to) the original issuer". An exception will now be made for a set from Umm al-Quwain issued at the 1966 Cairo Stamp Centenary Exhibition, shown on one of the overleafs.


original page March 2008
rewritten April 2013