Page last updated at 18:39 GMT, Thursday, 12 June 2008 19:39 UK

Stamp 'inventor' items go unsold

Chalmers' item up for auction
James Chalmers submitted his stamp designs in 1839

Documents associated with the man many credit with creating the first adhesive postage stamp have gone unsold at auction.

They had been expected to fetch 150,000.

James Chalmers was born in Arbroath in 1782 and later worked as a bookseller and printer in Dundee.

It is claimed Mr Chalmers thought of the idea of an adhesive stamp in about 1834 and passed his plans to parliament in 1839.

However, when the Penny Black was introduced in 1840 the credit went to Kidderminster man Rowland Hill.

Robert Murray, who owns a stamp shop in Edinburgh, said: "Rowland Hill wasn't very keen on the idea of adhesive postage stamps; James Chalmers was one person who strongly put forward the idea.

"It seems Rowland Hill only wanted to take the claim for it once they had become popular with the public.

"It's always the winners that write history. Rowland Hill, after the event, became a very admired and acknowledged person in the UK, given positions of power, including within the Post Office.

Penny Black
The Penny Black, the first adhesive stamp, was introduced in 1840

"Even if he didn't rewrite history, he was able to push it in one direction."

The items which had gone on sale at auctioneers Spink included essays and designs.

Speaking before the auction, Guy Croton, stamp specialist with the firm, said: "It's an extremely rare thing, quite an important historical thing for Great Britain's stamp collectors.

"This is probably one of the finest known examples that there is and to have all those six things in the lot, it'd be very difficult to buy them individually, if at all, because they're so scarce."

In Chalmers' home town people are certain of his place in history.

Ron Marr, from the Arbroath and District Stamp and Postcard Club, said: "Locally there is not any controversy.

"The members and supporters are quite settled in our own minds that James Chalmers can be credited as being the inventor of the adhesive postage stamp."

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