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Masterpieces in miniature

The first adhesive postage stamp was the famous Penny Black. It was issued in 1840 and showed the head of the monarch of the time, Queen Victoria. Printed in sheets of 240, each had to be cut from the sheet by hand until the Irishman, Henry Archer, came up with an early perforating machine.

Posted in Dublin on May 8, 1840, the Fitzpatrick-Thomas letter is the first clear use of the Penny Black on an Irish letter.

When Ireland became independent from Britain in 1922, it began to issue its own Irish stamps. The first Irish stamps were standard British stamps overprinted in Irish. Later, new Irish designs were chosen, the first being a twopenny green one showing a map of Ireland.

At first, the designs were quite formal such as a monarch’s head or a national symbol. Gradually, the subject range expanded and now new stamps, reflecting different aspects of Irish life or marking significant events and anniversaries, are regularly issued.

A history of Irish life in stamps

Since 1922, the Irish Post Office has commissioned artists to create distinctive and attractive stamps on subjects ranging from Irish fashion designers to flora and fauna. Each year, a series of these special and commemorative stamps is produced following approval by the Government.

If you have an idea for a commemorative stamp for the 2021 programme, for which we are currently accepting suggestions, email it to or send it to The Philatelic Advisory Committee, General Post Office, O’Connell Street Lower, Dublin 1, D01 F5P2.

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