Mystery buyer pays £450 for Falkirk stamp

The high price stamp
The high price stamp

It cost just one penny when it was first bought in a Falkirk post office nearly 160 years ago.

Now a small red stamp has been sold for a staggering £450 ... and that was £350 less than expected!

The sale at Spink auction house in London on Tuesday attracted a number of philatelic experts from across the country.

The reason for their interest was the rarity of this particular postmark - it is one of the earliest surviving examples of a perforated stamp in the world.

It is attached to a letter posted from Falkirk on August 6, 1853, more than six months before perforated stamps were officially introduced.

Perforation was invented by Irishman Henry Archer in 1850. Before its introduction, stamps had to be laboriously cut by hand from sheets.

The ‘penny red’ was the world’s first adhesive perforated postage stamp, and replaced the famous ‘penny black’, which was first introduced in 1840.

The example auctioned on Tuesday was originally posted on an envelope to the Very Reverend George Hull Bowers, Dean of Manchester.

The letter it contained - and the identity of who wrote it - has been lost in the mists of time.

It was eventually sold to an anonymous bidder for a knock-down price of £450 - it had been expected to fetch up to £800.

George Hull Bowers was a man of considerable influence at the time he received the letter.

Born in 1794, he was educated at Clare College, Cambridge, and was ordained in 1819.

He became Dean of Manchester in 1847, a position he would hold until his death in 1872.

His daughter, Georgina, was a famous illustrator and cartoonist, and was one of the first woman to work for the well-known satirical magazine ‘Punch’.

The year the letter was sent - 1853 - was an eventful one.

The Crimean War broke out between Russia and Great Britain and France, and would rage for three years.

‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens was published.

In Falkirk, the so-called ‘lunatic wards’ were opened at the public work house.

The Falkirk Herald was entering its eighth year of publication.