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History of Postage Stamps

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Great Britain was the first country to introduce postage stamps in 1840. Other countries soon followed with their own stamp issues. When you look at all the world stamps circulating today you can hardly imagine a time when there were no postage stamps. Mail delivery was a hectic affair during those days. In Britain the mail system was in total disarray up to 1840 when the first stamp known as the Penny Black went on sale on 1st May.

Before stamps were introduced postal services all over the world found enforcing payment and tracking mail very difficult. In some countries quite rudimentary methods were used. For instance, the post office would place a ‘stamp’ with an inked wooden stamp on a piece of mail to indicate that the sender had paid for its delivery. In Britain the recipient was the one who paid for postage upon delivery of the mail. This system was quite problematic as you can imagine. Often, the recipient could not afford to pay or simply declined to pay. With the mail safely in the recipient’s hands there was rather little that the postman could do to collect his dues. Further, the postal service billed according to the weight of the parcel. Since the recipients were the ones responsible for footing the bill, senders didn’t care about the size, weight or number of the parcels they were sending. Understandably, people did not look forward to receiving mail.

The post office wasn’t very happy either. It was having trouble collecting payments from unhappy people upon whom hefty bills had been foisted. Something had to be done quickly both to ensure that the postman would get his dues and to transfer the cost of sending mail to the sender. The solution came with the introduction of what would be the forerunner of world stamps in 1840.

World stamps effectively revolutionized the postal system in Britain and the rest of the world. For the first time people could pay upfront for mail delivery simply by purchasing postage stamps. Because the mail arriving in one’s mailbox was already paid for, people stopped dreading receiving mail. Also, with the introduction of world stamps postal services were able to better collect revenues, expand and modernize their services.

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