A sophisticated system such as the Royal Mail may seem like a modern invention but in actual fact the humble stamp dates back 174 years! Far from being a product of recent times, the stamp and postage system has been in place since the 19th century. The idea of being able to send items across the country to each other was introduced for the first time by King Henry VIII, an innovation of his reign which has stood the test of time. The stamp was originally launched in 1840 following the major reform, with the famous Penny Black being the very first postage stamp 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However, the postage stamp has been mainly superseded now as many businesses have found it more cost effective to use franking machines to send their post and even couriers for parcels.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.