UK

What Is A Penny Black? A Look At The 175-Year-Old Stamp Fascinating Everyone

01/05/2015 12:52 BST | Updated 01/05/2015 12:59 BST

Stamp collecting might not be everyone’s idea of excitement but (arguably perhaps for the first time in history) it seems to have got everyone worked up today.

One particular stamp was trending on Twitter throughout the morning and today’s Google Doodle shows a book of the postage tokens.

penny black

Today's Google Doodle showing the Penny Black

Why? It’s the Penny Black’s 175th anniversary.

We had to look it up too.

penny black stamp

Today is the Penny Black's 175th anniversary

The Penny Black went on sale on May 1, 1840, for use on letters being delivered anywhere in the UK, a system that is still in place today through the one-price-goes-anywhere universal service.

It featured the head of a 15-year-old Queen Victoria, according to the British Postal Museum and Archive.

It was the world’s first adhesive stamp and in today’s terms would cost £3.07.

The Penny Black was part of huge changes in the postal service, including charges by weight for a letter to go anywhere, as opposed to prices being worked out by distance and number of sheets in a letter.

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Philip Parker of the Royal Mail said: "Royal Mail has a long and rich heritage which includes issuing the Penny Black, the world's first and arguably most famous, postage stamp.

"The Penny Black also signified a communication revolution, enabling people to send letters anywhere in the country for the same price.

"It was the internet of its day as mail became accessible for more people than ever before. The universal service is still the principal that underpins Royal Mail's service today and helps us to connect people and businesses together for a uniform price, wherever they are in the UK."

The set of stamps, which include images of the Penny Black and the Twopenny Blue stamp, goes on sale from May 6.