The World's First Postal Order

On January 1st 1881 Great Britain became the first country in the world to issue Postal Orders. Ten different denominations were issued and they were serially numbered at each of the issuing Money Order Offices. This initial issue was the only one to be numbered in this manner, subsequent issues being numbered nationally. The 1881 issue was also different in shape to subsequent issues, being longer and not having a counterfoil. It contained the watermark, “POSTAL ORDER / ONE SHILLING” as a counter forgery device. Victorian postal orders are rare and the first issue is particularly scarce.

Our February 2010 Collectables auction contained an example of the 1881 one shilling Postal Order, issued on the first day and bearing the serial number 000001, of Lombard Street Money Order Office. Our vendor’s great grandfather queued up to buy it on January 1st 1881 and retained it in his family as a souvenir.

After contacting the Postal Order Society we established that only 5 other 1881 postal orders bearing the serial number 000001 are known to have survived, this one not having been recorded previously. The others known are also of one shilling denomination. This important find was offered on February 10th 2010, estimated at £2,500. Much interest was shown in it and the final realisation was £4,485.

By Colin Such.

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