With the implementation of the postal reform, a national competition was launched on August 23, 1839 for the design of an innovative way of indicating that the sender had paid the postage. The idea of a postage stamp had not yet been conceived. Although the word stamp was used, it could refer to a strip of paper, an envelope or an adhesive label.

Over 2,600 people answered the call. Some suggestions were farfetched, but others were ingenious. Despite their aesthetic and visionary qualities, none resembled the Penny Black issued in 1840. However, the competition did make one thing clear to Rowland Hill: what was required was an adhesive paper stamp bearing Queen Victoria's profile.

Most of the competition entries are now lost. Her Majesty's collection, the most complete, contains over 100 of them.

= Additional information

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