A postage stamp is proof of pre-paying a fee for postal services. Usually a small paper rectangle which is attached to an cover, signifying that the person sending the letter or package has paid for delivery, it is the most popular option to using a prepaid-postage envelope.


In it he argued that it would be well again for the sender to pay the cost of delivery, rather than the receiver who could refuse the letter if they could not or did not want to pay, as occasionally happened at the time. He also argued for a uniform rate of one penny per letter, no matter where its destination. Accounting costs for the government would thus be cut; postage would no longer be charged according to how far a letter had traveled, which required each letter to have an individual entry in the Royal Mail's accounts. Chalmers' ideas were finally adopted by Parliament in August, 1839 and the General Post Office launched the Penny Post service the next year in 1840 with two prepaid-postage symbolic envelopes or wrappers: one valued at a penny and one valued at two pence.

Three months later on the first prepaid-postage stamp, known as the Penny Black was issued with the profile of Queen Victoria printed on it. Because the United Kingdom issued the first stamps, the Universal Postal Union grants it an exemption from its rule that the recognition of the issuing country must appear on a stamp in Roman script for use in international mails. Before joining the U.P.U. many countries did not do this; there are very few violations of the rule since this time, though one example is the U.S. Pilgrim Tercentenary series, on which the country designation was inadvertently excluded. Because of this the numerous early issues of China and Japan often confound new collectors unfamiliar with Oriental scripts. A stamp must also show a face value in the issuing country's currency. Some countries have issued stamps with a letter of the alphabet or designation such as "First class" for a face value. Because of the U.P.U. rules their use is restricted to domestic mail, but breach of this rule is often tolerated. Exceptions to this are the British "E" stamp and the South African "International Letter Rate" stamp.