Tomorrow Royal Mail is releasing the first ten of 30 1st class stamps which will be issued over the next three years in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The thirty stamps not only represent the 30th Olympiad but will showcase thirty different Olympic and Paralympic sports. Each stamp is designed by a different contemporary artist or illustrator, giving this issue a distinctive and modern look.
But London 2012 is not London’s first Olympics and these are not Britain’s first Olympics stamps; London hosted the Games in both 1908 and 1948 (the only city apart from Athens to be awarded the Games three times) and a set of stamps was released to celebrate the 1948 Games (there were no 1908 Olympics stamps as commemoratives were not issued in Britain until 1924). Unfortunately we are unable to show pictures of the 1948 Olympics stamps, but we can tell you a little about them.
Four Olympics stamps were issued on 29th July 1948 (the day of the opening ceremony) in 2½d, 3d, 6d and 1/- denominations. The designers were S. D. Scott (of Waterlows stamp printers), Edmund Dulac, Percy Metcalfe and Abram Games. Scott’s 6d design was also selected for use on air letters, as it was suitable for both photogravure (stamp) and letterpress (air letter) printing.
A special slogan die bearing the impression of the Olympic rings set against a background of wavy obliterator lines was produced and a special stamp cancelling machine was installed at Wembley Stadium (the main Olympics venue). The Olympic rings slogan was used on all unregistered letters (provided they would pass through the machine) that were posted in specially-marked pillar boxes in the Wembley grounds or at the Olympics Games Post Office.
Overprints for use in Bahrain, Kuwait, Muscat, Morocco Agencies and Tangier were produced, but according to a press report of the time one of the Muscat overprints was faulty. On 11th August 1948 The Evening News reported that Mr J G Clive, managing director of a stamp wholesaler in Maidenhead, received an order of 9000 of the 1/- stamps overprinted 1 Rupee for Muscat. They arrived in 75 sheets of 120, and Mr Clive found that one sheet had a fault: the 1 Rupee overprint had been printed twice. Mr Clive told the Evening News that his find was worth at least £3,000 (more than £81,000 in today’s money).
In total 3.5 million sets of the 1948 Olympics issue were sold, earning the GPO £340,000 – and the stamps were much admired by the public and collectors. The magazine Stamp Collecting even published an anonymous poem on the subject in their issue dated 14th August 1948.
To the Very Refined Lady on the 1/- Olympic Stamp
Dedicated without permission, to the Postmaster General, by his humble and obedient servant a Member of the Public
She bounces on a weary world
Skittish, coy, and fat and forty.
Her wings askew, her hair is curled,
She hopes she’s looking rather naughty.
Oh Whitehall, dashing, carefree, frisky.
How did you draw a dame so risqué?
Perhaps you wished to make us start
With admiration at your art-
Or was it just a double whisky?
POST 102/12 – Commemorative stamp issues, Channel Islands, Olympic Games and U K regional issues
POST 122/8232 – Postage stamps. Obliteration and sales to dealers etc.: philatelic revenue from new issues. Accountant General’s Department calculations on the Silver Wedding, Channel Islands and Olympics special issues