Tag Archives: stamp album

Why I Collect Stamps…

We were recently contacted by Jai Sidpra, a young stamp collector from Berkshire. Jai was keen to find out more about the BPMA, in particular our collection of philatelic material. This is what Jai had to say about his passion for stamp collecting…

Jai Sidpra with his collection.

Jai Sidpra with his collection.

10c Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika stamp, issued 1 May 1935.

10c Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika stamp, issued 1 May 1935.

I started collecting stamps when I was seven years old, I suppose because I have always been interested in history – and stamps offer a keenly appreciated insight into some aspects of it – for example, my Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika (K.U.T.) stamps offer information about the British Empire.

1¼a Silver Jubilee stamp from India, issued 6 May 1935.

1¼a Silver Jubilee stamp from India, issued 6 May 1935.

In addition, my grandfather and father collect stamps – so they introduced me to the whole concept. They lived in East Africa (Kenya) for a long time – and my grandfather and father travelled a lot with work and for leisure – giving the opportunity to allow for the hugely varied collection that I now have – from around 113 countries globally – and comprises of 3800 – 4000 stamps.

1pi value stamp from Cyprus, issued 12 May 1938.

1pi value stamp from Cyprus, issued 12 May 1938.

– Jai Sidpra (13) , stamp collector.

Jai will be sharing his newfound knowledge of the BPMA with his classmates in a presentation. We’d like to wish him the best of luck!

Find out more about our Stamps in Schools programme, which offers free Outreach workshops for budding stamp collectors in schools throughout the UK.

Cataloguing Stamp Artwork – Phase II – 1975-1980

We have successfully applied for funding from the Aurelius Charitable Trust, the Leche Trust and the Charles Hayward Foundation to continue collection care, cataloguing and digitisation work of our collection of stamp artwork. Previous phases of the work have taken the management of the artwork from the reigns of George V to the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The second phase of work will see that cataloguing taken to 1980.

Before cataloguing and digitisation work is work carried a careful appraisal of the artwork is required to ascertain its condition, the accuracy of its caption and the security of its mount. This work is being undertaken by Richard West MBE, a respected philatelist and former editor of Stamp Magazine, in consultation with Douglas Muir, BPMA’s Curator of Philately, and Krystyna Koscia, our Conservator. This is a key process as the aim of the project is to preserve the artwork for future generations and it is reassuring to have Richard’s careful attention to detail deployed in this task.

Richard West MBE.

Richard West MBE.

Richard checks each sheet, writes and attaches the caption, before inserting it into a melinex sleeve (an inert, acid-free polyester) and placing it into an album. Richard has now completed albums up to 1979. This has been a pain-staking process and Richard has also been working backwards through the reign of Queen Elizabeth, making sure that captions written in the past are also accurate and re-writing them where necessary.

Stamp issues between 1975 and 1980 include Birth Bicentenary of JMW Turner (1975), Sailing (1975), 150th Anniversary of Public Railways (1975), Social Reformers (1976), Telephone Centenary (1976), British Cultural Traditions (1976), British Wildlife (1977), Horses (1978), Death Centenary of Sir Rowland Hill (1979) and London Landmarks (1980).

Here Richard West captions and sleeves artwork relating to the 1979 stamp issue Dogs.

Here Richard West captions and sleeves artwork relating to the 1979 stamp issue Dogs.

Anna Flood, one of our archivists, has been editing stamp artwork catalogue descriptions for the reigns of King George V and King George VI and is now preparing the artwork for Queen Elizabeth II for release in the near future.

Now that Richard has prepared a substantial number of artwork albums from 1975, Anna will create catalogue descriptions for these. Anna will use the captions written by Richard as the basis for each artwork description, noting particular features and the name of the contributing artist. This is time consuming work, requiring Anna to liaise between Richard and Douglas to ensure that the appropriate detail is captured.

Digitisation of the artwork will begin towards the end of the year as the cataloguing descriptions are formed. Again, digitisation is laborious work – artwork needs careful handling at this stage too, and the scanning equipment has to be calibrated to ensure that the resulting digital images match as closely the colour and detail of the original piece of artwork.

Finally, once the digital images have been processed, the masters carefully stored away and the digital surrogates attached to the relevant record, the descriptions will be proof-read first by Anna and Douglas, and then a second archivist will carry out a final read. This quality control minimises the risk of errors but, inevitably, they do occasionally slip through. The catalogue records, along with digital images of each piece of artwork, will be available for consultation in the first quarter of 2013.

Freddie Mercury: stamp collector

Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, was born on this day in 1946. Today would have been his 66th birthday. One of the lesser known facts about Freddie Mercury is that he was a childhood stamp collector, and that his stamp album is part of our collection.

Freddie was born Farrokh Bulsara, into a Zoroastrian family in Zanzibar. In line with his family’s religious beliefs all of his belongings were burnt upon his death, although his father Bomi decided to keep Freddie’s childhood stamp album. Bomi, who was also interested in stamps, originally inspired Freddie’s stamp collecting, and it’s believed that Freddie built up his collection between the ages of nine and twelve.

A page from Freddie Mercury's stamp album.

A page from Freddie Mercury’s stamp album.

Freddie Mercury’s collection includes stamps from a wide range of countries across the world. Many are from the British Empire and those of particular philatelic interest are from Zanzibar. The album also incorporates a wide selection of stamps from Eastern Europe.

One of the most interesting aspects of the collection is the manner in which the stamps are arranged. On some of the album pages the stamps are ordered by colour, size or type. On other pages balanced patterns are created, or letters from the alphabet formed. Perhaps for the future Freddie Mercury the appeal of stamps was as much about their designs and the ways in which they could be displayed as the stamps themselves?

A page from the album where the stamps are arranged to form the letter F.

A page from the album where the stamps are arranged to form the letter F.

Bomi Bulsara eventually decided to auction his and Freddie Mercury’s stamp collections and the BPMA, then the National Postal Museum, purchased the album on 17th December 1993. The amount paid was donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, an AIDS charity set up in remember Freddie.

Visit our website to see more Stamps & Philately from our collection.

Freddie Mercury’s stamp album on show

You can probably sing along to hits such as ‘I Want to Break Free’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ by the world famous rock band Queen, but did you also know that the front man Freddie Mercury was a stamp collector?

To celebrate the 65th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s birth we are delighted to offer an exclusive insight into his childhood, by putting his stamp album on display to the public. The stamp album is one of only a few of Mercury’s personal items that still exist in the public domain, and it will be on show at the Dominion theatre (home to the musical We Will Rock You) from 5th September to 3rd October 2011. The display is part of the world-wide event Freddie for a Day.

A page from Freddie Mercury’s stamp album. Mercury arranged his stamp collection carefully, by country and in manner which balanced colours and sizes.

A page from Freddie Mercury’s stamp album. Mercury arranged his stamp collection carefully, by country and in manner which balanced colours and sizes.

Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on 5th September 1946 in Zanzibar. Bomi, Freddie’s father, originally inspired his stamp collecting and it is believed that Freddie built up his own collection between the ages of nine and twelve.

Following Freddie Mercury’s death on 24th November 1991, the majority of his belongings were burnt in line with his family’s Zoroastrian religious beliefs but his father chose to keep the stamp album. Bomi eventually decided to auction his and Mercury’s stamp collections. and the BPMA, then the National Postal Museum, purchased the album on 17th December 1993. The amount paid was donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust.

Zanzibar fiscals in Freddie Mercury’s stamp album. These are the only stamps in the album of any monetary value.

Zanzibar fiscals in Freddie Mercury’s stamp album. These are the only stamps in the album of any monetary value.

Freddie Mercury’s collection includes stamps from a wide range of countries across the world. Many are from the British Empire and those of particular philatelic interest are from Zanzibar, Mercury’s birthplace. The album also incorporates a wide selection of stamps from Eastern Europe and Commonwealth countries. As pop memorabilia and for cultural reference, Freddie Mercury’s collection is priceless.

Stick it in the family album – Part 2

by Adrian Steel, Director 

My examination of the stamp albums left by my late Grandfather, Frank Steel, has continued recently, inspired by the International Stamp Exhibition at the Business Design Centre, part of London 2010: Festival of Stamps. I have found the special stamps issued for the 1970 and 1980 international shows in his albums and have taken a look at what I can find out about them.

The 1970 event, Philympia, took place in September of that year, and in the Royal Mail Archive posters advertising the event, showing the venue and the special stamps, survive. A second poster reminds us that (as this year) partnership led to items from the Royal Philatelic Collection being shown, and an exhibition from the Post Office’s collection of ‘Historic Treasures’. BPMA also holds the slogan die for the commemorative cancellation from 1970, and a medal from the event. My grandfather collected all three special stamps in ‘mint’ condition, and a number of the 5d value used, as the page from his album shows.

Stamps from Philympia 1970 from Frank Steel's stamp album

Stamps from Philympia 1970 from Frank Steel's stamp album

In 1980 the exhibition took place at Earl’s Court and a special stamp issue designed by Jeffery Matthews was produced. It now took place in May, opening on 6 May, the 140th anniversary of the first use of the 1d black. A copy of the catalogue for the event is held in the BPMA library, and among the posters in the Royal Mail Archive is one promoting the special stamp. Information about the issue can also be found elsewhere on the web. My grandfather collected the 50p stamp though not a miniature sheet as far as I can see; I cannot see any of the colour variations hinted at by the author of the last article linked to.

Jeffrey Matthew's stamps for the 1980 London International Stamp exhibition as they appear in Frank Steel's stamp album

Jeffrey Matthew's stamps for the 1980 London International Stamp exhibition as they appear in Frank Steel's stamp album

This year commemorative issues have centred upon King George V, the 100th anniversary of his accession to the throne being marked on 6th May. No doubt other collectors are following in my grandfather’s footsteps and gathering stamps, and more, related to the 2010 event.

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.