The history of UK stamp prices
Many of you may believe that the stamp is relatively recent invention with most of us assuming it to be a 20th century product. However, you may be surprised to know that the UK postage stamp originates as far back as 174 years ago! Our once beloved Royal Mail system was originally introduced by King Henry VIII to enable us to send mail to one and other across the country with ease, with the stamp adding to that ease in 1840 with the postal system reforms. Following the reform in 1840, the Penny Black was the first of many stamps to be issued in the UK.
Why were stamps introduced for mail?
Up until the invention of the postage stamp in 1840, there was no easy way to track the cost of the mailing system in the UK and the early system suffered from corruption and refusal from recipients to pay for the post being delivered. By introducing a postage stamp with a clear cost association, the Royal Mail could now track costs, but also force senders to pay up front for postage and also consider the cost implications of what they were sending. The new postage system helped to make the postal delivery system far more efficient and also increased the amount of post being sent, with figures showing that before 1840 an average of 76 million letters were being sent, compared with a staggering 350 million being sent by 1850!
The postage stamp also served as proof that a letter had been sent through the Royal Mail system, to prevent any corruption. Each stamp was designed to bear the image of the current reigning monarch, making it almost impossible for people to replicate.
How have the prices of stamps changed?
In 1840, there were was only one postal service and a pre-paid envelope cost one shilling (12 old pence) which would be equivalent to around five pence today. However, today there are a range of postal options, which vary in price depending upon the level of service you choose, from first class to second class for both parcels and letters.
Changes as of April 2014
With the latest Royal Mail stamp price increases, as of April 2014 it will cost you as much as 53 pence for a second-class stamp and as much as 62 pence to send a letter first class, which is an increase of 416% from what it originally cost!
However, the postage stamp has been mainly superseded now as many businesses have found it more cost effective to use franking machines to send their post and even couriers for parcels. For larger consumer mailings, many businesses now choose to use mailing houses like Baker Goodchild. The Royal Mail has certainly advanced and changed dramatically since its introduction in 1516, with it now being easier than ever to send mail throughout the UK as well as internationally.