Britain's most spectacular commemoratives, No18: 1986 Halley's Comet 17p

The appearance of Halley’s Comet in the night sky, hailed as a ‘maybe twice in a lifetime’ event, was celebrated internationally on stamps, but nowhere in such an original way as in Britain.

Not for Royal Mail the unimaginative approach of showing a portrait of Edmond Halley, historical illustrations of the comet or photographs of the probes sent to study it. Instead, a caricaturist was commissioned to design four colourful but crazy images.

The lowest value portrayed the ‘dirty snowball’ with Halley’s bewigged head as its nucleus, corona and tails, with the name and dates of its discoverer in the artist’s distinctive script. It was an extraordinary way to celebrate an extraordinary event.

Design: Ralph Steadman.

Printing: gravure by Harrisons.