Tag Archives: colour trials

Stick it in the Family Album

by Adrian Steel, Director

The Lincoln Stamp Album and The Strand Stamp Album

Two of Frank Steel's stamp albums

The start of 2010, year of the Festival of Stamps, has inspired me to retrieve my Grandfather’s stamp collection from my loft and look at it properly for the first time. There is a good range of material that can be found to help explain the stamps, even to a relative newcomer such as myself.

Frank Steel was born in Croydon in 1915, and died in 1990. He served in the Territorial Army in the 1930s, and during the Second World War had various postings in the UK and in India. All his working life was spent at a building supplies yard in Croydon, but throughout this time he collected stamps as a hobby. Indeed, he was responsible for arranging my one and only visit to the old National Postal Museum in 1989. I inherited his collection shortly after my Grandmother moved into a nursing home in 2003, since when it has stayed, boxed up, in the loft.

Two pages of the Lincoln Stamp Album, showing stamps from Gibraltar and Great Britain

Two pages of the Lincoln Stamp Album, showing stamps from Gibraltar and Great Britain

On unpacking the first container, and removing the volumes, I chose to see what stamps I could find from the reign of King George V, which we are particularly celebrating this year. In addition to the first that caught my eye – stamps overprinted for use in Ireland after 1922 – those that particularly stood out were the 1929 Postal Union Congress stamps. He had secured the ½d, 1d, 1½d, and 2½d values; the £1 would probably have been beyond his means.

There is plenty to find online about these stamps, and my grandfather would have been online all day researching if such things had been available to him! BPMA’s catalogue reveals a wealth of resources related to this issue. In the Royal Mail Archive POST class 33 includes files related to the 1929 Postal Union Congress itself. POST 52 has records related to the production of the stamps. There are commemorative handstamps, and a publication in the search room library, the National Postal Museum-produced special stamp history dating from 1998. There are also of course philatelic materials themselves: POST 150 includes registration sheets, proofs, paper samples, colour trials, a first day cancellation, the submitted designs (successful and unsuccessful) and even some commemorative postcards from 1980. And all this just at the BPMA!

Two pages of the Strand Stamp Album, showing stamps from Great Britain

Two pages of the Strand Stamp Album, showing stamps from Great Britain

All the above are detailed on our online catalogue, and there are many images available particularly of the philatelic items. My grandfather got a lot out of studying his stamp albums and keeping his collection in order and up to date. I have discovered that it’s now possible to find out a good deal in a short space of time, so I will have a look through some of his other boxes and see what else he collected.

New London 2010 postcard available 8th January

The fourth in a series of philatelic postcards promoting London 2010: Festival of Stamps has now been issued. Postcard #4 features the original metal master die for Bertram Mackennal’s ‘Seahorse’ design with three colour trials, one of the treasures of the British Postal Museum & Archive’s philatelic collection. The postcard comes free with the February 2010 issue of Stamp & Coin Mart magazine sold in WH Smith from 8 January 2010. 

The postcard shows the original metal master die for the Seahorse design with colour trials (September 1912)

Original metal master die for Seahorse design with colour trials (September 1912). As the Union Flag on the shield was heraldically inaccurate, the flag was removed from the transfer roller and re-engraved on each master die for the different values.

Postcard #4 is exclusive to Stamp & Coin Mart, but postcards #2 and #3 can be obtained free of charge by visiting our Archive Search Room. Postcard #1 is no longer available, but limited edition complete sets of London 2010 postcards will be available for purchase later in the year.

The ‘Seahorse’ high value definitives were some of the most iconic stamps produced during the reign of George V.  A noted philatelist, George V, took great interest in the production of the ‘Seahorse’ definitives and suggested they be recess (intaglio) printed. The ‘Seahorse’ stamps are just one of the postal treasures and innovations from the reign of King George V that will feature in the exhibition Empire Mail: George V and the GPO, at Guildhall Art Gallery from 7 May – 25 July 2010.

For more on London 2010: Festival of Stamps visit http://www.london2010.org.uk/.

BPMA Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will be speaking on the stamp, medal and coinage designs of Bertram Mackennal at the BPMA on 7 October 2010. See our website for details.