The world’s first-ever postal order which was bought for just one shilling 129 years ago was sold at auction for £ 4,485
The perfectly-preserved payment, which has the serial number 000001, was the first of millions produced by the Post Office in Lombard Street, London, in 1881.
Only five other 1881 postal orders bearing the same 000001 number are known to have survived but this is the first one ever produced by the main Lombard Street post office.
Postal orders were invented by the Victorians as a safe and secure method of sending money through the post.
Even the first ones contained the watermark ‘POSTAL ORDER / ONE SHILLING’ as a counter forgery device.
The first one was bought by Arthur Bull on January 1, 1881, after he queued for three hours outside the Lombard Street post office.
It was signed by the clerk A.G. Emery but Arthur never cashed it, predicting that it would one day be a collector’s item.
He kept it in a leather case and locked it in his family’s safe before passing it down to his son, also named Arthur Bull.
When Arthur Bull junior died in 1953 the postal order passed to his son Brian Galpin, who kept it safe in his home in Surrey.
After he passed away in 2005 aged 72 the postal order passed to his widow Audrey, 75, who has agreed to auction it.
Grandmother-of-five Audrey watched as the postal order went under the hammer at Warwick and Warwick Auctioneers, Warks., with a guide price of £2,500.
Audrey, from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, said she wanted the postal order to be properly protected.
She said: ”It has been hard to sell the postal order because it has been in my family for over 120 years but it was bought as an investment and this feels like the right time to cash it in.
”It has been lovingly cared for and is still in mint condition. It was passed to my husband by his father after he died in 1953 who had inherited it from his father, Arthur Bull.
”It has proved a very sage investment and is an important piece of postal history.”
Arthur Bull senior worked as an engraver at the Bank of England opposite the post office in Lombard Street in the 1800s.
After learning that the first ever one was going on sale, he made sure he was the first in line to buy it.
The postal order – measuring 21cm (8.5in) by 9cm (3.5in) – is smaller than modern versions and did not come with a counterfoil or stub for the bank teller to keep as a record of the transaction.
Auctioneer Richard Beale said: ”This is a fascinating piece of postal history. Not only is the postal order one of the very first ever issued it has also been kept blank.
”The only writing on it is the postmaster?s signature along with the official stamp which bears the date 1881.
”?Mr Bull obviously recognised how valuable it was as a collectors’ item and kept it safe for future generations. We are delighted to be able to auction such a rare item.”
The Postal Order is a direct descendent of the money order which had been established by a private company in 1792.
During World War One and World War Two, British Postal Orders were temporarily declared legal tender to save paper and labour.
Postal Orders can be bought and redeemed at post offices in the UK, although a crossed Postal Order must be paid into a bank account.