StampNews.com hurries to inform the latest and surprising facts from the world of philately to our readers. During its special campaign Royal Mail has unearthed one of the first postcards to carry a stamp.
The postcard, which is postmarked 1 September 1894, was submitted by Christopher Pearce from Leatherhead in Surrey.
Letters of Our Lives, which is part of Royal Mail’s celebrations of 500 years of the postal service, is asking people to look in their attics, rummage around their garages and search their sheds for letters or postcards that give a personal account of life in the UK, from centuries ago to present day
Before 1894, postcards were printed with a half-penny stamp as part of the design.
The rare card, which is postmarked 1 September 1894, states 'This is the first day that a written postcard with a half-penny stamp affixed is allowed to pass through the Post Office. This will be a curiosity one day.' It is addressed to a Mr Andrew Puer Esq of West London. Before this date, all postcards were issued with pre-printed postage.
The postcard was submitted by Christopher Pearce from Leatherhead in Surrey. He purchased the card, along with a number of prints, from a stall at the annual May Fair on Esher Green in 1964. He said: "As stamp collecting was one of my hobbies at that time it became one of my prize trophies because I thought that it was unique and that no other postcard like this could exist. Thanks to the creativity and foresight of Andrew Puer over 120 years ago this is a fascinating piece of philately history."
History of the postcard
The first recorded postcard was sent by writer and practical joker, Theodore Hook, in 1840. It was sold at auction in 2002 for £31,750.
Thirty years later, plain postcards were released with a half-penny stamp printed as part of the design. By 1894, these had proved so popular that non-pre-stamped postcards – cards which users could affix a stamp to themselves – were allowed in the post.
In the early 1900s, picture postcards began to circulate featuring images of the Boer War and royal events. This led to the creation of the postcard format we recognise today with a picture on the front and the address and message on the back. More than 871 million were being sent every year by 1910.
After the First World War, colourful comic images provided the perfect antidote to the pressures of battle. Consumers embraced the saucy cartoons - which many regard as the ‘golden age of the picture postcard’ – with sales hitting 16 million a year by the early 1930s.
This passion for the colourful, and often bawdy-in-nature, postcards gave rise to deltiology – the practice of collecting postcards.