There is a common assumption that the first British stamp, the Penny Black, is rare and valuable.
In fact, Spalding stamp collector Joyce Boyer says more than 60 million were produced. Letter-envelopes sealed with wax were in use then, and so many survived still attached to correspondence in the archives of banks and solicitor’s offices.
Joyce says: “You can possibly pick up a poor quality Penny Black for £20-£25, and good copies go up to £100. On paper, they go up even more. They can command a big price, but they are not as expensive as they were when I started collecting them.”
Joyce is acting secretary of Spalding & District Stamp Club, which meets at the Fraiser Room in Surfleet on the first Wednesday of the month at 2pm and the third or fourth Tuesday evening at 7.30pm.
It’s a new venue as the 20 or so philatelists in the club met at the Constitutional Club in Spalding for many years.
While many members focus on stamps, Joyce has branched out in to the postal history of this area as well as collecting Austrian items.
She has fascinating items in her collection, such as the pre-paid postal letter-sheet, known to collectors as Mulreadys, which is marked ‘Spalding Penny Post, August 27, 1840,’ or the postcard of Surfleet church and village sent on November 28, 1918, to Mrs J Dickinson at the Globe Inn at New Bolingbroke.
Naturally, Joyce has a Penny Black cancelled with a red Maltese cross at Spalding – year not known.
It started as a collection of Spalding’s postal history as the town was the main post office for quite a large area, but as interesting material from surrounding villages cropped up at fairs or on auction sites it has expanded.
Joyce says prior to 1750, people living in villages in this area would take their letter to a local receiving agent who put his stamp on it and arranged for it to be taken to the designated postal agent in Spading, where the cancellation mark was applied.
It would then be sent on by mail coach.
One of the letters in Joyce’s collection, from Spalding to Southwell, bears the words ‘turn at Stilton’. All mail went through London until the Cross Post was introduced in 1770s, reducing the distance post was carried and so the cost to the recipient.
Joyce says when the cost of postage was becoming too expensive for ordinary people in the early 1800s the system was reformed, leading to the introduction of the Penny Post in 1840.
Joyce says: “It is because the letter and envelope was one thing that early material is available.
“Postal history started as a sideline collection, but it’s grown and it gives me enormous satisfaction.”