The world's oldest picture postcard, dating from 1840, was sold at auction yesterday for more than £31,000.
It was bought by Eugene Gomberg, of Riga, Latvia, in a telephone bid at the London Stamp Exchange auction. Mr Gomberg decided to take part in the auction after spotting a newspaper advert about it just before he flew home from a London business trip.
The hand-coloured card, complete with a Penny Black postage stamp, was addressed to Theodore Hook in Fulham. He was a playwright and novelist noted at the time for his "wit and drollery". It pokes fun at the postal service by showing a group of post office "scribes" with pens in their hands seated around an enormous inkwell. It was probably sent by Hook to himself for his own amusement.
It had been thought the postcard was either an Austrian, German or American invention created during the 1860s, but Hook's card was discovered last year by the postal historian Edward Proud. It has been authenticated by the British Philatelic Association.
Mr Proud said: "It is the earliest postcard so far discovered and predates anything else by a substantial amount. Before this, the earliest postcard that had been recorded dated from about the 1860s.
"It substantiates Hook's claim that he invented the picture postcard. It is also the only use of a Penny Black on a postcard that we have."
The hammer went down at £27,000, but the total price is increased by commission and VAT to £31,750.
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