On 11 July the British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) will be selling 191 lots of surplus, duplicate philatelic material at Sotheby’s auction house. The proceeds of the sale will support the significant fundraising efforts currently being undertaken by the BPMA to deliver an important new postal museum and archive in Central London. In this blog Julia Lee, Assistant Editor at Stamp Magazine gives her thoughts on the auction.
I’m very excited about the Sotheby’s sale. It will be the first major sale I’ve been to since the Sir Gawaine Baillie sale, and I can’t wait to see what some of this material goes for. And, of course, to write screaming headlines about it.
The BPMA asked me to pick an item to talk about, and while the journalist in me wants to highlight the most expensive, it’s the King Edward VIII 2 1/2d registration sheet that I’d buy if I had the chance.
In fact, King Edward VIII helped me get the job as Assistant Editor on Stamp Magazine. ‘What happened with his stamps?’ I wondered in the interview.
Now I know the answer. A set of four stamps was issued in September 1936, at a time when, even though there was a voluntary press blackout on King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson‘s relationship, the General Post Office must have known a constitutional crisis was looming. In fact, three months later, in December, the GPO was asked by the Cabinet Office to bug the King’s phones.
The stamps’ simplicity and the very obvious break with the previous florid tradition appeals to me. They’re also very much of their time, with the clean styling of head, crown and value.
The 2½d bright blue registration sheet makes a real impact on the page. We didn’t have space to put it in our June issue, but I wish we had. It’s a great colour – far better than any bistre or olive-green!
And while all postal history of any kind tells a story, Edward VIII’s references a very specific period in British history. Almost anyone you show the stamps to will grasp their significance immediately and ask you whether or not they were issued.
Like all the best stamps, it provides an easy way to suck people into the historical and social stories philatelists know are lying under the surface of our hobby.