Great Britain

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Jeff Dugdale  |  Nov 05, 2021  |  0 comments

A stamp marking the development of the astronomical telescope as an achievement of the millennium, and name-checking Isaac Newton as a pioneer of the science, carried a very simple and yet absolutely breathtaking image.

It’s a photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, presenting false-colour imagery of the gas giant Saturn, the most visibly dramatic planet in our solar system, against the backness of space.

The planet’s mysterious and fantastically complicated ring system, first observed by Galileo in 1610, is made up of ice, rock debris and dust, with the darker Encke gap caused by the presence of the tiny moon Pan between the inner and outer elements.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Nov 04, 2021  |  0 comments

This stamp depicts a magnificent piece of regalia worn only once in any monarch’s lifetime: the solid gold St Edward’s Crown first used for the coronation of King Charles II, who had it made to replace the one destroyed by Oliver Cromwell.

Reproduced in gold and a very regal shade of red, the image is classier than it would have been if it had attempted to show the emeralds, rubies, sapphires and pearls which adorn the crown in full colour.

The glorious detail remains, including the cross pattées and fleurs-de-lis above the ermine border, the gold monde at the intersection of the arches and the jewelled cross atop it.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Nov 03, 2021  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2021  |  0 comments

In an attempt to plug the hole it had punched in its traditional issuing policy, the GPO insisted this was not an issue honouring Shakespeare himself, whose 400th birthday it was, but one commemorating the Shakespeare Festival as an event.

Nevertheless, this was a ground-breaking and controversial issue, the first to depict a commoner.

In a multi-coloured set of five showing scenes from plays, the only recess-printed stamp, and the only one to name the play in question, was the monotone top value in deep slate purple illustrating the hapless Hamlet contemplating mortality.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Nov 03, 2021  |  First Published: Nov 02, 2021  |  0 comments

The set of six marking the centenary of Nobel Prizes broke new ground in that each used a different printing technology.

The 40p, for example, was a scratch-and-sniff stamp and the 2nd class changed colour when exposed to heat.

But the star was the 65p, Britain’s first holographic issue.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Nov 03, 2021  |  First Published: Nov 02, 2021  |  0 comments

One of the most joyous Christmas issues ever took as its theme that beloved personality of the British winter, the robin redbreast.

Whilst four of the stamps were akin to Christmas card images, the lowest value was a gem.

Its simple beauty lies partly in the contrasts between the red of the postbox and that of the bird’s plumage, and between the silvery white of the smattering of snow and the silver of the Queen’s head.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Oct 31, 2021  |  0 comments

The only joint entry in our countdown is the the oddest se-tenant pair ever.

Not having much to boast about for the Europe in Space theme of 1991, Britain commissioned a France artist to come up with an imaginative angle.

Accompanying a lower value pair entitled Man Looking At Space, the 37p stamps purported to show Space Looking At Man.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Dec 22, 2016  |  0 comments

Until the Millennium series a decade later, few British issues were as revolutionary in design as this one addressing 1989’s Europa theme.

The design of each of the four stamps is bold, colourful and primitive, in this case depicting a number of traditional play objects including a doll’s house, a rigged yacht and a crude robot made out of a cardboard box.

The style is appropriately that of illustrations in a children’s book.

Julia Lee  |  Dec 21, 2016  |  0 comments

Amongst the most magnificent of all Christmas issues was the 1989 set of five celebrating important architectural features of Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, on its 800th anniversary.

Stunning in gold and silver, it was also unusual in having a charity surcharge of 1p on four of the five values.

The 37+1p shows the Triple Arch from the West Front of the cathedral, in silver, within which is a golden figure with exaggerated features, possibly inspired by the carvings on misericords inside the building.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Dec 21, 2016  |  0 comments

The Christmas issue of 1985 took the great British institution of pantomime as its theme, with the 22p presenting that jolliest of characters, the dame.

All the typical characteristics of the role are included: the ridiculous highly coloured wig, the rosy cheeks and nose, the flouncy padded dress, the fan behind which ‘she’ (the dame is traditionally played by a man) will make mildly rude asides to the audience, and the assertive attitude suggested by the left arm akimbo.

Dusted with stars and sparkle, this design sums up the fun of going to the panto.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jul 27, 2016  |  0 comments

This set of 10 self-adhesive stamps illustrated popular fruits and vegetables (most eye-catchingly a strawberry), with two twists.

Firstly, the designs extended beyond the rectangular frame of the stamps.

Secondly, they came with an interactive element, by way of stick-on facial features such as eyes, lips, bow-ties, hats and feet.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jul 07, 2016  |  0 comments

Showing scenes from the Bayeaux Tapestry, the stamps marking the 900th anniversary of the battle that secured the Norman Conquest were truly astonishing in their day.

The 4d values provided Great Britain’s first ever se-tenant strip of six, but arguably the stars of the show were the two higher values, both of which had the new cameo Queen’s head embossed in gold.

The 1s 3d top value was also of extra-wide format, allowing one scene of combat to be presented on a single stamp in all its primitive energy.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jul 06, 2016  |  0 comments

The second of a series of three poppy designs in the Lest We Forget series, from a miniature sheet commemorating the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, is dominated by the intense red of the flower, almost like a spreading pool of blood.

A closer look at the black stamen reveals a group of soldiers going over the top, advancing through what was a once a grove of trees, now reduced to broken stumps.

This is a very potent image indeed, as we realise that, like half a million men in the bloody battle, they are leaving us, never to return.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jul 05, 2016  |  0 comments

The four designs issued on the day of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London do not sit well as a set, but the 3d violet was the most dynamic and original.

The aptly named designer adopted a poster art approach, showing an athlete’s head pushing ahead out of a globe, apparently straining for the finish line.

The parallel lines trailing behind him also suggest speed, and variations in the background shade suggest the transition from day to night in what was the first global sports festival since the end of World War II.

Julia Lee  |  Jul 04, 2016  |  0 comments

One of eight stamps in a joint issue with the USA – but one of only two designs which were used in both countries’ sets – the Very Hungry Caterpillar 68p is unique among British stamps in having die-cut holes deliberately incorporated into it.

American writer and illustrator Eric Carle made his name in 1969 with his tale about the cute little creature that likes biting holes in things, and it has become very popular with parents teaching young children to read simple words.

Sadly, the US version of this stamp did not have holes, which makes it much less eye-catching! Design: Rose Design.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jun 02, 2016  |  0 comments

Britain’s second ever royal silver jubilee set strongly echoes the first, for George V in 1935, and harking back to another era is a clever way to suggest a sense of continuity.

This issue, however, rather more ostentatiously screams ‘silver’ – in the value frame, in the hexagonal cartouche for the Queen’s head and in the floral decorated capitals ‘ER’ – with a three-dimensional effect making them stand out still further.

The 11p value is particularly pleasing, with its rose pink and grey background suggesting rich satin curtains, and the deep magenta colour used for the Queen’s head extremely rare in a commemorative.