Great Britain

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Julia Lee  |  Nov 01, 2021  |  0 comments

It’s the biggest commemorative stamp ever issued by Great Britain, and we think it’s also the best! The 50p value issued for the London 1980 international stamp exhibition (whose logo appears in the top left corner) had an unusually large format, one which has never been used again.

And it made full use of this by offering an impressive montage of London landmarks, engraved in superb detail and attractively recess-printed in dark brown on white.

Below wispy clouds and an unusual reproduction of the Queen’s head in a cartouche, rising above the Thames we can clearly see (from left to right) Westminster Abbey, Nelson’s Column, the Shaftesbury Memorial fountain (statue of Eros) at Piccadilly Circus, the Post Office Tower, the Houses of Parliament’s Big Ben clocktower, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Nov 01, 2021  |  0 comments

The first ever British stamp which could be called spectacular was the top value in a set of five issued to coincide with the ninth Congress of the Universal Postal Union in London.

It is still worshipped by collectors.

At the centre, engraved with amazing finess, is the figure of St George killing the dragon.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Nov 01, 2021  |  0 comments

This wonder of elegance was the fifth essay produced by the designer to this particular remit, but it was well worth waiting for.

With its narrow frame and bevelled border, the high-value from the Royal Silver Wedding set of two is a stunningly handsome stamp.

A bold but distinguished design, based on a regal photograph by Dorothy Wilding, it resembles the photo-portraits of the King and Queen that many British families had on the walls of their lounges during the war years, in order to assert their national pride and keep up their spirits.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Nov 01, 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 01, 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  |  Oct 31, 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 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  |  Oct 31, 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.

Julia Lee  |  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  |  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.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 30, 2016  |  0 comments

Using photography might be a ‘lazy’ approach to design, but a stunning photo can still make a great stamp.

A fine example is the lower left of the quartet in the Astronomy miniature sheet.

It depicts the Ant Nebula, a young bipolar planetary nebula in the constellation of Norma in the southern Milky Way, with its stupendous glowing spherical shells of gas and plasma, the residue of dead stars.

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.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jun 01, 2016  |  0 comments

Another of the stunning photographic essays used for the Millennium series, this one takes as its subject the heart-shaped face of the common barn owl.

Owls always seem inscrutable, but this one from the World Owl Trust sanctuary at Muncaster seems to be looking into the lens with complete disdain.

Alternative nicknames for the species, such as ‘demon owl’, ‘ghost owl’ or ‘hobgoblin owl’, seem very apt when you are confronted by such a stare.