Tag Archives: Royal Philatelic Collection

Royal Philatelic Collection podcast

We have just uploaded a new podcast featuring Michael Sefi speaking at the BPMA about the Royal Philatelic Collection. Michael Sefi has been Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection since 2003 and he, along with several assistants, cares for and describes the collection, as well as enabling public access to it.

Bermuda ‘Perot’; one of only 12 surviving examples of this locally-produced stamp.

Bermuda ‘Perot’; one of only 12 surviving examples of this locally-produced stamp.

The Royal Philatelic Collection is Queen Elizabeth II’s private collection and includes material collected by her ancestors over the past 120 years. The majority of the holdings were collected by King George V, aka the philatelist king, but since his death the collection has been added to. It is considered to be the finest collection of its type, and consists almost entirely of British and Commonwealth material, including stamps, covers and stamp artwork, some famous errors and oddities, and a number of unique and highly valuable items.

‘Post Office Mauritius’. This item from the Royal Philatelic Collection is considered to be the finest of the four surviving examples of this stamp.

‘Post Office Mauritius’. This item from the Royal Philatelic Collection is considered to be the finest of the four surviving examples of this stamp.

In his speech, given here in February, Michael Sefi described the history of the Collection and discusses some of its highlights. These include George V Silver Jubilee covers from almost all Commonwealth Countries, stamp artwork from the era of Edward VIII (some of which was repurposed for George VI), and the rarities illustrating this blog.

2d Tyrian Plum on a cover sent to the Prince of Wales the day before he became George V. The Tyrian Plum was never issued, and this is the only used example.

2d Tyrian Plum on a cover sent to the Prince of Wales the day before he became George V. The Tyrian Plum was never issued, and this is the only used example.

Items from the Royal Philatelic Collection are often shown publically. Upcoming displays include Masterworks Museum, Bermuda – 19 to 28 April 2012, Planète Timbres (Stamp Planet), Paris – 9-17 June 2012, and Australia 2013 World Stamp Exhibition, Melbourne – 10-15 May 2013. In 2010 the British Postal Museum & Archive and the Royal Philatelic Collection collaborated on Empire Mail: George V & the GPO at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Download the Michael Sefi podcast from www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast or subscribe to the BPMA podcast on iTunes.

Spring Stampex 2012

As the days are getting longer, there are also more and more events to look forward to – including Spring Stampex, from 22-25 February at the Business Design Centre (BDC) in Islington. Come and visit the Friends of the BPMA at stand 20 and learn more about upcoming BPMA events and exhibitions, get the latest postal heritage products or simply have a chat about some exciting finds at the stamp show.

Stampex at the Business Design Centre

Stampex at the Business Design Centre

Use your visit to Stampex to get more information about our new Diamond Jubilee exhibition which will offer an exclusive insight into the variety of the stamps released to mark the occasion. It will be on display at the BPMA Archive Search Room from 10 May 2012. One of the world’s greatest collections of stamps is the subject of a talk by Michael Sefi, Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection, on 23 February 2012 at the Phoenix Centre, for which you will be able to buy tickets at the stand, too. Another highlight of the postal heritage events calendar is the launch of The Post Office in Pictures exhibition at its exciting new touring venue. The exhibition (along with a host of activities) will be at the Lumen URC, London, from 19 May to the end of August 2012.

Among many popular BPMA products, we will offer a new postcard pack of six Mail Rail themed images at Stampex. On the occasion of Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee there will also be a beautiful collector’s item for sale at the stand: a Wedgwood Jasperware plate featuring one of the most famous portraits of Queen Elizabeth II – the ‘Machin head’.

Mail Rail postcard pack

Mail Rail postcard pack

Royal Mail will again have a substantial presence and offer the full range of current stamp issues and provide posting boxes for collectors to post covers for the special Stampex handstamps. On Thursday, 23 February, Royal Mail will launch the Britons of Distinction stamps and the following day will see the issue of new pictorial Post and Go Stamps featuring British sheep. As usual, admission is free and the exhibition opens 11.30am-7pm on Wednesday, 10am-6pm on Thursday and Friday, and 10am-5pm on Saturday.

The Friends of the BPMA are looking forward to meeting you there!

Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection to speak at BPMA

Marking The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, Michael Sefi, the Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection introduces and discusses aspects of this famous collection at The British Postal Museum & Archive. In his talk on Thursday 23 February he will cover the history of the collection, illustrate some highlights from it and outline the current structure and operation of what is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest stamp collections.

Waterlow’s accepted design for the Colonial Silver Jubilee omnibus (Image reproduced by gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen)

Waterlow’s accepted design for the Colonial Silver Jubilee omnibus (Image reproduced by gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen)

Highlights featured in the talk include the Post Office Mauritius, the development of the colonial design for King George V’s Silver Jubilee, stamps and artwork from the British Empire, high value stamps, and famous errors such as the Cape of Good Hope “woodblock” error of colour and the stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Falkland Islands, featuring HMS Glasgow instead of HMS Kent.

An example from the British Empire can be seen below. The hand-painted, stamp-sized watercolour was created as artwork for the 1848 Courbould Britannia design. Underneath the image, the painter has written: ‘The engraver, with a magnifying glass (such as I have not) can finish the toe nails rather more’.

1848 Courbould Britannia design

1848 Courbould Britannia design (Image reproduced by gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen)

For further information and bookings please see our website.

Bertram Mackennal

As part of our continuing series of events on themes related to George V, the BPMA’s Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will give a free talk next month on the work of Bertram Mackennal. Mackennal was a noted sculptor who designed coins, stamps and medals during the reign of George V. Douglas Muir’s talk will include images from the Royal Philatelic Collection and the Royal Mint as well as the BPMA, together with examples of Mackennal’s work in sculpture.

The unpopular “Downey Head” (left), the frame of which was designed by Bertram Mackennal and G.W. Eve. George V disliked the three-quarter profile and the replacement “Profile Head” (right) was issued the following year. The “Profile Head” effigy of George V was designed by Mackennal and the frame by Eve.

The unpopular “Downey Head” (left), the frame of which was designed by Bertram Mackennal and G.W. Eve. George V disliked the three-quarter profile and the replacement “Profile Head” (right) was issued the following year. The “Profile Head” effigy of George V was designed by Mackennal and the frame by Eve.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1863, Edgar Bertram Mackennal received his early training in sculpture from his Scottish immigrant father John Simpson Mackennal and at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School. At age 19 Mackennal left for Europe, where he undertook further study in London and Paris and began to be commissioned to produce reliefs, figures and busts.

Having completed a number of significant works in England, Australia and India, including statues of monarchs and other notable persons, Mackennal was commissioned to design the medals for the 1908 London Olympic Games. Two years later, when George V ascended the throne, Mackennal was commissioned to prepare an effigy of the King for coins and medals. The Post Office was also keen to employ Mackennal to work on the new definitive stamps, and although initially reluctant, Mackennal agreed.

The popular Seahorses design depicts Britannia being driven through the sea on a chariot pulled by three horses. In her hands are a trident and a shield bearing the Union Jack. Mackennal took inspiration from Greek and Roman depictions of chariot races for this design.

The popular Seahorses design depicts Britannia being driven through the sea on a chariot pulled by three horses. In her hands are a trident and a shield bearing the Union Jack. Mackennal took inspiration from Greek and Roman depictions of chariot races for this design.

Mackennal was involved in the design of all definitive stamp issues during the reign of George V, including the much-loved Seahorses design. Originally issued by the Post Office on 30th June 1913 this design was seen as revolutionary for its time, being the first British stamp to bear a pictorial illustration alongside the monarch’s head and the value. In many ways it can be said to be the pre-cursor to the first British commemorative stamp, issued to celebrate the opening of the British Empire Exhibition 11 years later.

Douglas Muir’s talk on Bertram Mackennal will take place on Thursday 7 October at the BPMA. Information on how to book can be found on our website. Tickets are free.

Douglas Muir’s book George V and the GPO: Stamps, Conflict & Creativity is available from the BPMA online shop.

A weekend at Bletchley

Several BPMA staff and Friends had a very enjoyable two days at Bletchley Park over the Bank Holiday weekend.  We were there as part of the Post Office at War weekend, an event organised as part of the London 2010 Festival of Stamps.

BPMA Friend Richard West and Exhibitions Officer Alison Norris staff the BPMA table

BPMA Friend Richard West and Exhibitions Officer Alison Norris staff the BPMA table

The BPMA had a table where we could meet visitors to Bletchley Park and let them know about the BPMA and its collections. Several of the BPMA Friends made a much valued contribution, helping to promote us and sharing their personal expertise on a number of different topics with visitors. 

They also helped us sell a variety of BPMA products, including books and postcards.  The new Shire Post Offices book by our curator, Julian Stray, was particularly sought after, selling out on the second day.

Some of the creative designs for stamps

Some of the creative designs for stamps

Our activities for younger visitors proved very popular, particularly designing your own stamp and making secret codes.

Curator Vyki Sparkes gave a well received talk about the vital and difficult work of the GPO Rescue and Salvage Squad during the Second World War.  They salvage squad had the responsibility of rescuing mail from pillar boxes that had been damaged or buried by enemy air raids.

Visitors enjoying the BPMA display

Visitors enjoying the BPMA display

It was standing room only in the cinema at Bletchley Park where films were being shown from our third collection of GPO films – If War Should Come.  We also took a graphic display of ten panels illustrating the essential work of the GPO on the home front during the Second World War.

1940s postman, complete with authentic bicycle

1940s postman, complete with authentic bicycle

There was much else going on during the weekend including tours, WW2 re-enactors, several other talks (including Christine Earle’s ‘The Post Office Went to War’) some rarely seen items from the Royal Philatelic Collection and other children’s activities, including letter writing and games with a former evacuee.

Bletchley Park is well worth a visit and your ticket allows admission for a whole year.

De-installation of the Empire Mail Exhibition

by Miriam Hay

As someone doing three weeks work experience at The British Postal Museum & Archive, I was given the opportunity to attend the first two days of the de-installation of the recent Empire Mail exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery. It was a unique chance to see behind the scenes of the BPMA at the work that goes into such an event, much of which will go unnoticed by the public if all goes to plan.

Conservator at work

Conservator at work

The speed with which the exhibition began to be disassembled was quite surprising – by the time I arrived at 10am on Monday it appeared to be the second week at work, rather than only an hour’s worth. Some objects like the telegraph table and blue air mail box had already been removed, and tables for the wrapping of objects and the conservators had been set up instead.

The Morris Minor van is carefully pushed out of the Guildhall

The Morris Minor van is carefully pushed out of the Guildhall

The GPO Morris Minor van which took centre stage in the exhibition was dispatched that morning, steered slowly out through the narrow entrances with a member of BPMA staff at the wheel.  Its accompanying motorcycle followed early the next day. Even after nearly eighty years since their construction the engines had been leaking oil into the drip trays underneath, serving as a reminder that these are not just static and unchanging museum pieces, but were once working machines.

Some pieces featured in the display were to be transported a little further than others: the stamps from the Royal Philatelic Collection are to be returned to their home in St James’s Palace. The large printing press, which had to be carefully lifted back onto its pallet base before having its crate built around it, would be collected and taken back to Holland.

The printing press is lifted back onto its pallet base

The printing press is lifted back onto its pallet base

A lot of thought has to go into displaying all the objects, for example using glass that is both low reflective for easier viewing, and UV filtering to protect the artefacts inside. As much effort has to be spent on removing them, with conservators checking the condition of each object against the original paperwork. Some of the stamps shown were extremely valuable and great care had to be taken in de-installing them.

The pillar boxes have left the building

The pillar boxes have left the building

One of the most time consuming jobs, surprisingly, was removing and packing the information panels, graphics and captions. Attached to the walls with Velcro (another surprise!), they were quick to tear down, being careful not to be squashed by some of the larger ones, but most had to then be individually wrapped in several layers of plastic packaging. While overhead other visitors were viewing the art in the gallery above that opened out onto the exhibition space, we made our way through several enormous rolls of bubble wrap and tape, packaging up frames and the legs from display cases as well.

I certainly will not be able to go to another exhibition now without picturing all the hard work put into it, both before and after, or without trying to peer behind the information panels to see what was used to attach them!

Empire Mail: last chance to see

Our exhibition Empire Mail: George V and the GPO ends this Sunday after almost three months at the Guildhall Art Gallery. Putting together the exhibition was a huge undertaking for our curators and exhibitions team, as well as many others.

Empire Mail: George V and the GPO at the Guildhall Art Gallery

Empire Mail: George V and the GPO at the Guildhall Art Gallery

We were particularly pleased to work in partnership with the Royal Philatelic Collection – one of the greatest collections of stamps and postal history in the world – and to exhibit some of its treasures alongside our own.

Treasures from the Royal Philatelic Collection on display

Treasures from the Royal Philatelic Collection on display

While there are no plans to re-mount Empire Mail, we have now uploaded photos of the exhibition to Flicker, and you can continue to enjoy the online version of the exhibition on our website.