The earliest mail emanating from St Helena did not carry postmarks of any kind being handed to ships captains’ left at the Government Secretary’s offices, or simply left under large stones one of which still exists inscribed “1645”. The first stamp of St Helena was decided upon “as a Public convenience and a probable saving of the labors of the Post Master” and Perkins, Bacon & Co received the order to print a 6d blue stamp which was eventually issued on 1 January 1856. Several orders followed and perforating began in 1861 with the printers using a perforated wheel and a plate with matching holes beneath, as the plate got clogged and the pins deteriorated the perforations reduced in quality and collectors recognise ‘clean- cut’ and ‘rough perf’ variants of this stamp.
This simple 6d plate remained in use as the colony expanded and unusually the same stamp was printed in a wide range of colours with different surcharges applied from ½d to 5s until the introduction of the De La Rue Universal key plate set in 1890. These issues with surcharges doubled or omitted include some of the rarest stamps of St Helena. St Helena also includes one of the rarest 20th Century stamps, the 1961 Tristan Relief Fund charity set was not sanctioned and had to be withdrawn however the stamps had been on sale for one week and a number had been sold including to passengers on a ship, so around 450 of each stamp were sold.