Earliest surviving envelope sent with a postage stamp, mailed to Northumberland in 1840, fails to sell at auction
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The item, a nineteenth century envelope posted from London to Bedlington Iron Works that is considered the world’s first use of a prepaid stamp, was under the hammer at Sotheby’s in New York last week but failed to find a buyer.
The historic envelope was mailed with a Penny Black, the first ever adhesive postage stamp, on May 2, 1840, the day after the stamps were first sold and four days before they officially entered public use.
It was then turned inside out and reposted on May 4, this time making use of the fact that it was a Mulready envelope, a prepaid postage wrapper that also held a value of one penny.
The only combined Penny Black and Mulready cover known to exist, it had been expected to fetch between $1.5m and $2.5m.