ROYAL STAMPS

Amidst the family papers I was writing about last time were letters and stamps and after the death of the Queen I found myself looking at the stamps in a slightly different way. Noticing things I hadn’t before. Some of these I removed from family letters, thinking I should send them off to charities that can sell them. Some I found loose among the family effects.

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From the top, two penny reds, Queen Victoria, George VI, Edward VIII (who abdicated), George V and then George V and his wife (the late Queen Mother). This one celebrated the coronation in May 1937. The stamp of Edward VIII is actually dated 1937 but he abdicated in December 1936.  I suppose there will also be a delay before the head of Charles III appears on our stamps.

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What I found interesting in the above photo was that the first stamps of the Queen in the 1950s have her looking out at us; they are not a profile view. Now why was that done, I wonder? Was it because she was young and pretty? Will we get Charles looking out at us or in profile? Psychologically, I think the positioning of the head is interesting. After all if someone is looking at us, it is more intimate, warmer. She even seems to be smiling slightly. She becomes less symbolic and more human – a young woman, not just a queen. There was also clearly a certain point where the image of the Queen on the stamps stopped ageing. The ones bottom left being relatively recent. Incidentally none of Edward VII, King from 1901-1910. Maybe my family just stopped letter writing then!

I wonder how long stamps will last for. I love Christmas stamps and still send Christmas cards but I know lots of people don’t and I don’t blame them. A first class stamp now costs 95 pence, quite a cost when we are in a cost of living crisis.  Why do that when you can send an e-card with fireworks and dancing squirrels and tweeting birds? I love them by the way but they don’t hold history like a stamp, do they? It’s going to be a lot harder for social historians of the future with all those e-mails locked away behind password protected accounts.

When was the last time you put a stamp on an envelope?

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8 thoughts on “ROYAL STAMPS

  1. I really enjoyed this post Victoria! Stamps are so everyday and yet they’re real historical documents aren’t they? Your observation around the positioning of the queen’s head reminded me of Kevin Sharpe’s books about the image of the monarch, which I read when I was studying early modern theatre. A while ago now but I can definitely recommend him.

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  2. I love stamps! I collected used ones as a child, and came back to it as an adult, collecting special issue presentation packs of mint stamps for several years. Most people don’t realise that picture stamps are issued throughout the year, not just at Christmas.

    Beautiful, interesting and useful – that’s a winning combination for me. I always make sure I have a beautiful stamp to put on all personal letters, and am hugely appreciative on the rare occasion when I receive one.

    I was most interested in your observation about the queen looking out at us in those early stamps, and how different that is from all the other ones. I wonder what they will do with Charles?

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    • Hi Jen I don’t think I did realise that about picture stamps. I remember loving the stamps on post cards sent when my parents were in Africa. They were beautiful. The position of the queen is interesting isn’t it? I don’t think I’d have noticed if I hadn’t been going through all the family stuff and seen them. I don’t know at what point she returned to profile only either. It would be interesting to find out!

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  3. Well, I can tell you! I have just delved into my stamp collection and found an issue for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which tells me the history of her stamps. The first one was created from photos by Dorothy Wilding. Apparently the Queen preferred full profile, as did the designers, but the Postmaster General decided on the three quarter version. The first full profile, which was based on Arnold Machin’s sculpture for the forthcoming decimal coinage, went on sale on the 5th of June 1967, and was instantly considered a classic design.

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    • Well that’s fascinating, Jen. So presumably from the year she was crowned 1952 – 1967 she was three quarters. Very interesting that she preferred full profile. Who knew that the Postmaster General had all that power? And I wonder why he made that decision? Thanks Jen!

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      • Quite interestingly we love getting postcards and of course we don’t we don’t take the stamps off!
        I suppose we will just get photos of food from various countries now and no stamps!

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      • Hi Christine I always keep post cards. I’m looking at one now that my Mother sent to me when I was five when they were in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). She wrote in big letters Can you read this? I was five so I probably could!

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