Although the advent of instant communication, such as fax and, more recently, email, is decimating the traditional mail system, stamps are just as collectable as ever. The stamps and mail system of the United Kingdom enjoy a rich history dating as far back as the 12th century. Various methods of marking and postal payment were used, and the Penny Black, issued in 1840, was the first adhesive postage stamp. Released as a means of regulating postage costs, the penny stamp provided for letters to be delivered at a flat rate, no matter the distance. Prior to this, postage was charged by the sheet and distance travelled. Other countries, such as Sweden and the Austrian Empire, had begun use of adhesive postage stamps at around the same time. The extensive history of U.K. stamps involves many commemorative or themed stamps, from U.K. historical event stamps to seasonal and Christmas stamps.The Penny Black Stamps
Released in mid-1840, the Penny Black revolutionised an inconsistent and expensive mail system. Not varying greatly from the adhesive stamps seen today, it featured a profile of a young Queen Victoria. This particular portrait was chosen for its difficulty to forge, and was used on British postage stamps until 1901, making it a very famous portrait indeed. The Penny Black, unfortunately, did not enjoy a long life, the red cancellation ink used was easy to remove, thus making the stamps possible to be fraudulently reused. It was replaced by a Penny Red, which featured a more effective black cancellation ink. Despite its short life, the Penny Black became a cultural icon and has been seen on the Google Search page, as well as the name of at least one British pub.U.K. Ship and Boat Stamps
The U.K. has a long history of seafaring, from explorers to the British Navy. U.K. ship and boat stamps showcased national pride combined with current events of the day. In addition to historical boat stamps, commemorative and anniversary stamps are released, such as the anniversary of the Titanic sinking and stamps featuring portraits of the survivors.U.K. Stamp Condition
Until the 1950s, stamps were used almost solely for function, and commemorative stamps were rarely issued. After the 1950s, the trend to feature relevant members of the Royal Family, both past and present, and contemporary events gained momentum. With this came the collector's editions; no longer did collectors have to painstakingly soak and peel off used stamps, but it was possible to buy sheets of stamps in mint condition for the sole purpose of collection. Stamp collecting is very popular amongst young children, and for those with a keen interest in history, can be a financially productive hobby.