Tag Archives: stamp cancelling machine

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?

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

Slogan dies

By Claire McHugh, Cataloguer (Collections)

At present I am waist deep sorting through and cataloguing slogan dies ready to go onto the online catalogue in a couple of months.

Postal slogans were first applied (by hand) to mail some 300 years ago. However, the majority of collectors think of slogans as the special dies which replace the normal wavy-line obliterators in stamp cancelling machines.

The accepted thought is that the British Post Office was late in adopting the use of slogan dies and it wasn’t until 1917 it agreed reluctantly to assist the War Savings Campaign by authorising the ‘Buy National War Bonds Now’ slogan. This established a precedent for using slogans as an alternative to the wavy-line stamp cancellation marks.

Though strictly not a slogan die, it should be noted that the BPMA does hold a Victoria Jubilee obliterator dating from 1896. The obliterator was sent by the Imperial Marking Machine Company (the Canadian subsidiary of The American Postal Machine Company established by Martin Van Buren Ethridge) and offered to the Post Office along with their Imperial Cancelling Machine for trials in July 1896, although it wasn’t until 1897 that the Post Office would trial the machine. It is believed no mail was processed during the trial, so contemporary examples of this postmark are rare, if non existent (though it is thought that this die was used in Canada for a time).

Postmark of Victoria Jubilee Obliterator, (Postal History Society Bulletin [1964] No. 126)

Postmark of Victoria Jubilee Obliterator, (Postal History Society Bulletin {1964} No. 126)

Not all slogans and obliterators have been patriotic; some have unintentionally done the opposite. In 1960, Dame Laura Knight designed a slogan cancellation for the World Refugee Campaign. The die’s design showed a hand raised in supplication. Unfortunately the thumb tended to point to the Queen’s nose if stamps were fixed in a certain way. The slogan was withdrawn on the account of causing offense, but prior to this the postmaster of Halifax had the hand filed from the slogan die used at his office. Examples of the defaced Halifax slogans are now scarce.

Slogans I have so far catalogued range from the eye opening ’12th World Naturist Congress Orpington (North Kent) 10-14 August’ to proud local claims such as ‘See Bath In Bloom/ Britain’s Top Floral City’. To the attention-grabbing slogan of ‘Recycle Yourself Be A Kidney Donor’ to the more familiar everyday brands such as ‘Quality Street/ Magic Moments’ and ‘W H Smith 200 Years’. The various slogans also consist of names that have not always stood the test of time (anyone remember ‘Leave Him To Heaven/ New Rock Musical…’?) to names that are now recognised as classics ‘A Steven Spielberg Film/ E.T.The Extra-Terrestrial is coming home on video on Oct 28th’. These are just a taster of the some 2000 varieties of slogan dies I have catalogued so far.