Tag Archives: 1948 Olympics

Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games

Opening today at the British Library is Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games, an exhibition telling the fascinating story of the past and present of the Olympic Games through the medium of postage stamps and related memorabilia. The exhibition includes stamp artwork and stamp designs from our collection related to the 1948 London Olympic Games stamp issue.

Submitted design by Harrison & Sons with 'Olympic Games' in Esperanto.

Submitted design by Harrison & Sons with ‘Olympic Games’ in Esperanto.

While no stamps were issued for the 1908 London Olympic Games, the Post Office could hardly refuse to issue stamps in 1948 as the precedent had been established by host nations in previous years. A range of designs were prepared, with four eventually chosen for issue.

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

You can see the designs and the issued stamps for the 1948 London Olympics at Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games along with more than 2,500 other Olympic Games stamps until 9 September 2012. Or visit the Stamps & Philately section of our website to see the stamp designs and stamp artwork for a number of historic British stamp issues.

The first London Olympics stamps

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. 

The first of the London 2012 Olympics stamp issues

The first of the London 2012 Olympics stamp issues

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.

The first day cover cancellations for the first London 2012 Olympics stamps

The first day cover cancellations for the first set of London 2012 Olympics stamps

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?

References
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