Great Britain is a large island off the Western coast of Europe. It is a combination of the territories of England, Scotland, and Wales. Since the 18th Century, it has been known as the United Kingdom, or simply U.K.
The United Kingdom is such a tiny little place, in the scheme of the map of the World.
One might think it quite insignificant. However, since the late Middle
Ages, when it began to emerge as one of the major maritime powers, this
little island kingdom has had a greater influence on the history of the
World than any other country on the face of this vast planet.
During the 18th and 19th Centuries, they embarked on a massive program of colonial expansion, establishing colonies on every continent and in every ocean. By the beginning of the 20th Century the British Empire was the largest empire on earth. The famous saying was absolutely true, that "THE SUN NEVER SET ON THE BRITISH EMPIRE". Even today, many countries around the globe owe their cultures, civil laws, and even their languages to Britain, including the United States.
Postal systems have existed for over 2,000 years. The earliest systems generally involved couriers delivering government or military communications over great distances. Letter mail came into use in the Middle Ages, and by the 17th Century, some towns began using postmarks to identify the place or origin and the date the letter was mailed. The postal fees were always paid by the recipient, upon the receipt of the letter.
"Stamps" have been
around since the Middle Ages, though they were primarily tax stamps,
embossed on legal or financial transaction documents.
In the 1830's, Great Britain began studying the idea of implementing inexpensive letter postage rates that would be prepaid by the sender with an adhesive postage stamp at the point of origin of the letter.
On May 6, 1840, Britain became the first country in the world to issue adhesive stamps, for the prepayment of postage, to be affixed to the letter envelope by the sender. The new stamps featured the portrait of the twenty-one-year-old Queen Victoria. They are shown in the image above.
As no other
country at the time was issuing adhesive postage stamps, the country
name was not used. For their distinction of being the first stamp
issuing country, to this day, Great Britain is the only country in the
World that is NOT required to print their country name on their postage
From the specialist willing to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars required for a specialized Victorian collection, to the general collector buying sets of modern commemorative or definitive stamps, there are many possibilities for collecting the stamps of Great Britain.
For the novice collector, a basic collection of used 19th Century issues, such as the Penny Reds or the less expensive Surface Printed stamps, is possible for a modest investment.
A great starting point for new collectors of Great Britain stamps may be all the mint stamps from the coronation of King George VI in 1937 to modern times. Collecting this period can give the new collector many hours of enjoyment, a great looking historical collection, and the cost of all the stamps will not break the budgets of most dedicated stamp collectors.
As far as the content page links of this category go ....
The nineteenth Century postage stamps of Great Britain are very complex. Most specialists prefer to use the Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Specialised Catalog, Volume I. The stamps of Queen Victoria's reign are separated into three major groups .... Line Engraved Issues, Embossed Issues, and Surface Printed Issues. These categories will be used for this website's 19th Century content page links, though the stamps within them will be illustrated and reviewed in Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue number sequence.
The most complex area of 19th Century British philately is that of the Line Engraved Issues. This group includes the Penny Black, Penny Reds, and the Two Pence Blues. There are philatelists that spend their entire lifetimes working on this one area. There are literally thousands of varieties.
Twentieth Century postage stamps will be presented as Definitives and Commemoratives pages for each monarch. They will all be illustrated and reviewed in their Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catelogue sequence.
For the specialist, the issues of King Edward VII and King George V can be a bit complex, as there are many variations that are not sufficiently detailed in the Scott catalogs. For specializing in this area, it is strongly recommended that one use the Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Specialised Catalogue, Volume 2 -- King Edward VII to King George VI. In my 1980 edition, the analysis of the issues of King Edward VII and King George V take-up the first 240 pages of the book!
A Question of Notation
The abbreviation "P" for "Penny" is used in all the category and content pages on this website, where the stamps are denominated in Pounds Sterling. It does seem a bit unusual that the denomination on United Kingdom and British Imperial postage stamps has always been abbreviated as "d" for "denarium", yet the denomination on United Kingdom coins has always been expressed as "PENNY" or "PENCE".
The proper way to express ONE POUND is "₤ 1" and NOT "1 ₤". In this website, if it is expressed in the latter way, it is usually for aesthetic purposes, in an effort to left-align the denomination columns evenly.
Line Engraved Issues - Overview
Line Engraved Issues of 1840-1853
Line Engraved Issues of 1854-1879
Embossed Issues of 1847-1854
Ephemera - A Royal Commission - 1855
Surface Printed Issues - Overview
Surface Printed Issues of 1855-1862
Surface Printed Issues of 1865-1872
Surface Printed Issues of 1873-1881
Surface Printed Issues of 1882-1900
King Edward VII - A Brief History
Definitives of 1902-1911
King George V - A Brief History
Definitives of 1911-1922
Definitives of 1924-1935
Commemoratives of 1924-1935
King Edward VIII - A Brief History and Definitives of 1936
King George VI - A Brief History
Definitives of 1937-1951
Commemoratives of 1937-1951
Definitives of 1952-1968
Commemoratives of 1953-1960
Commemoratives of 1961-1963