National first postal dates part 1: 1840 to 1868

First still means a lot.

The Penny Black is probably the best-known stamp in philatelic history because it was the first.

That’s why people who have no interest in stamps have heard of it.

But haven’t heard of the Penny Red.

First national issues of stamps are almost always among the most desirable and collectible for that country. 

Here is an international compilation of the years in which countries produced their first stamps or postal services.

The world is always changing.

Boundaries shift, empires rise and fall, and the postal world reflects this. Not every state or statelet province or territory is included here - though we may add them. If you know of any we’ve missed then please let us know using the contact form linked at the end of this post. 

National postal firsts:

1840: January 10. The UK starts a Uniform Penny Post.
1840: May 1: The Penny Black is issued.

Great Britain 1840 1d penny black plate 1b, SG2

The world's first stamp sparked a global revolution in communication.

1843: March 1. Zürich issues Zürich 4 and 6.

1843: August 1: Brazil’s issues Bulls Eyes.

1843 September 30: Geneva issues Double Geneva.

1847 July 1: The United States of America issues 5c Franklin and 10c Washington.

1847 September 21: Mauritius issues Red Penny and Blue Penny.

1849 January 1: France issues first stamps illustrated with the goddess Ceres.

1849 July 1: Belgium issues the "Epaulettes" type 10 and 20 centimes stamps. named for the uniform King Leopold I is wearing in the portrait.

1849 November 1: Bavaria issues the 1 Kreuzer black, the first stamp issued anywhere in what is now Germany.

1850 January 1: New South Wales issues its first stamps, the “Sydney Views”, the first part of Australia to issue its own stamps.

1850 January 1: Spain issues a set of five stamps denominated from six cuartos to ten reales. All show a portrait of Queen Isabella II.

New South Wales "Sydney View" first stamp

These New South Wales stamps were the first produced in what would become Australia. 

1850 January 3 (or 9): Victoria in Australia issues a set of three stamps, 1d, 2d, and 3d, with a half-length portrait of Queen Victoria.

1850 April 7: Federal Switzerland issues stamps that can be used across the country. All carry a Swiss cross.

1850 June 1: Austria issues its first stamps under the KK Post-Stempel label. Austria was an imperial power, and the stamps could be used in most of northern Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Austria and Hungary.

1850 June 29: Saxony issues stamps.

1850 July 1: British Guiana issues its first stamps.

1850 November 15: First Prussian stamps.

1851 April 1: Denmark issues its first stamp a 4 rigsbankskilling stamp in brown with a crown, sword, and sceptre.

1851 April 23: The Three-Penny Beaver is the first stamp issued by the province of Canada.

1851 Hawaiian Missionaries are the first stamps issued by the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Dawson cover with Hawaiian Missionary stamps
Hawaiian Missionary stamps are now among the rarest and most valuable in all philately.
1852 New Brunswick first stamps.

1852 The Netherlands issues its first stamps, showing King William III.

1852 Barbados first stamps.

1853 Portugal issues first stamps.

1853 November 1: Tasmania issues first stamps, a 1d stamp labelled for Van Diemen’s Land.

1854 October: 1/2 anna, 1 anna, 2 annas, and 4 annas are the first stamps issued in India.

1854 Western Australia first stamps.

1855 South Australia first stamps.

1855 July 18 - 20: New Zealand first stamps are "Chalon head" Queen Victoria issues.

1856 August 1: Mexico’s first stamp issue features a portrait of independence hero Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. Almost all have overprints showing the district in which they were used.

1856 August 21: first stamps of Corrientes, in what is now Argentina.

1856 Danish West Indies (which were sold to become the US Virgin Islands) issue first stamps.

1857 April 1 Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) issues first stamp, a 6d brown with a portrait of Victoria, enough to send a letter from the island to England.

1857 Newfoundland first stamps.

1858 April 29: Buenos Aires first stamps.

1858 May 1: Argentine Confederation issues its first stamps.

1858 July 21: Moldavia issues its first stamps. The first were circular. The state was almost immediately dissolved into a union with Wallachia, and would shortly become Romania.

1859 Bahamas issues first stamps.

1860 November 1: Queensland issues its first stamps after a period of using New South Wales stamps.

1860 December 1: Malta issues its first stamp, the halfpenny yellow, for domestic use only, continuing to use British stamps for international post.

1860 Jamaica issues its first stamps, a five-value issue up to 1 shilling. They had a pineapple watermark.
First stamp of Jamaica
Jamaica's first stamps were similar to many issued around the British Empire.
1861 Confederate States of America, the rebel southern states issue their own stamps.

1861 October 1: Greece issues the "Large Hermes heads", their first stamps.

1862 January 11: Argentine Republic issues its first stamps, showing the seal of the republic.

1862 Antigua issues its first stamps with a delivery of 8,000 stamps from England.

1863 Ottoman Empire issues its first stamp showing the tughra of Sultan Abdülaziz.

1865 November 1: British Columbia issues first stamps.

1865 Bermuda has its first regular stamp issue. An 1848 local issue had preceded them.

1866 Serbia first stamps.

1866 British Honduras (now Belieze) issues its first stamps in a design that is used until 1891.

1866 January 1: Egypt issues its first stamps, in Arabic with initially Turkish as a second language.

1867 Bolivia issues its first stamps.

1868 April 1: Dominion of Canada issues its first stamps, now known as “Large Queens”, replacing previous provincial issues.

1868 Persia’s first stamps are issued. They come after a period using Anglo English stamps and a long gestation period. Finally, violet, blue, green and red stamps are printed with a lion and rising sun design. Persia is a predecessor state of modern Iran.

1868 Azores issues its first stamps. Most early stamps from the islands are Portuguese stamps with over prints.

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Thanks for reading. 

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