Tag Archives: stamp club

Stamps in Schools – a free BPMA sponsored outreach service

Hello, I’m Sally, the new Schools Learning Officer. It’s my job to develop our formal learning programme for students of all ages. I’m currently trialing workshops for Primary schools in London. You can find out more about our plans, including how to book a free workshop for your school on our website.

Another part of my job is to support the BPMA sponsored Stamps in Schools outreach service. This is co-ordinated by retired teacher Erene Grieve, and provides free sessions to primary and secondary schools throughout the UK.


A small selection of Erene’s stamp collection.

I recently accompanied Erene on her latest Stamps in Schools visit to Sherwood Primary school in Mitcham, Surrey. I thought I’d share some of the great photos from the afternoon, and tell you about what schools can expect from a session.

Erene began by telling a story about the sack of stamps she saw advertised in the newspaper and sent away for at the age of nine. The sack cost a few shillings and was full of hundreds of stamps. She showed the original sack, and explained this purchase sparked her lifelong interest in stamp collecting.


Erene sharing her passion for stamps.

Erene used a colourful display of real stamps and other materials from our collection in an interactive presentation about the history of the postage stamp. This included an opportunity to see a Penny Black, a quiz to identify old and new commemorative and definitive stamps from all over the world and a competition to guess the most valuable stamps.


Here’s me getting stuck into the stamp activities.

Students completed cross-curricular tasks on Stamp Activity cards that tested their new found stamp knowledge. Then, they were given their own small ‘sack’ of stamps from around the world and arranged them symmetrically on squared paper, just like a real stamp collector!


A neatly arranged page of stamps.

Finally, the students chose some commemorative and definitive stamps to keep and start their own stamp collection.

Sherwood Primary school is lucky enough to have a growing Stamp Club. This visit, enthusiastically described by one student as ‘the best afternoon ever’ has no doubt increased the number of budding collectors.


One of Sherwood Primary school’s stamp collectors.

More about Stamps in Schools

  • Each session lasts for about one hour, and can be delivered to a class, or as a school assembly.
  • It has cross-curricular links to a wide range of subjects including Literacy, Numeracy, Geography, Art and Design, or Citizenship.
  • Sessions can be tailored to link to class topics such as ‘The Victorians’ and ‘Communications’.
  • All materials such as stamps, postcards and activity sheets are provided free of charge.
  • Example activities include: writing postcard messages, calculating weights and postal charges, and designing a stamp.
  • Erene is happy to provide follow up support to help schools start their own Stamp Club.

We’re currently taking bookings for Stamps in Schools book via our website.

Midpex 09

by Jennifer Flippance, London 2010 Project Officer

Last Saturday I went to Midpex 09, a two-yearly stamp show, held just outside Coventry. Midpex is one of the largest UK stamp shows and attracts 600 visitors and 50 stamp dealers.

One of the things that makes Midpex different to many other shows is the large number of specialist societies represented (40 this year) for whom the show acts as a place to meet fellow enthusiasts, showcase their activities and recruit new members.

One of the Polar Explorers stamps from 1972, featuring Robert Falcon Scott.

One of the Polar Explorers stamps from 1972, featuring Robert Falcon Scott.

Whatever your collecting interest there will be a society where you can meet like minded people, share your interests and learn. Some of those present at Midpex included: the Aden and Somaliland Study Group; the Cinderella Stamp Club; the Forces Postal History Society; the Pacific Islands Study Circle; and the Polar Postal History Society of Great Britain.

As I waited for the shuttle bus to collect me from a rather rain-drenched Canley rail station, I took the opportunity to talk to some collectors about their involvement in philately and what brings them to Midpex.

Eric was stationed in Gibraltar with the RAF and this led to an interest in the stamps of the island later in life. He had collected as a child and then returned to philately about 30 years ago when he joined the Gibraltar Study Circle. He now has a very respectable collection of material from Gibraltar, is active in a number of societies and exhibits competitively at a national level. He will be entering one of the classes at the London 2010 International Stamp Exhibition.

Eric now sources most new acquisitions for his Gibraltar collection from specialist auctions so at Midpex he was on the look out for material for his secondary collecting interests of Madeira and the Ionian Islands. He attends about half a dozen stamp shows a year.

Similarly to Eric, David collects stamps from an area he has a strong connection to – the Isle of Man. He has been visiting since 1934. He has many friends there and his parents retired to, and were later buried, on the island.

Not so much a Snaefell cachet, more a stamp which may have been cancelled by one: John Nicholsons regional definitive for the Isle of Man, 1958.

Not so much a Snaefell cachet, more a stamp which may have been cancelled by one: John Nicholson's regional definitive for the Isle of Man, 1958.

David’s collecting passion is the Snaefell Summit cachets. Snaefell is the only mountain on the Isle of Man and has been a popular tourist destination since the mountain railway opened in 1895. Letters and souvenir postcards can be posted on the summit during the summer months. Since 1904, these have been marked by a special diamond-shaped hand-stamp. His ambition is to collect an example of every cachet issued and he is already a good way there. Considered to be one of the world’s two foremost experts on the cachets, David gives talks on the subject to societies. He visits each Midpex and always attends the London International Stamp Exhibitions that take place every ten years.

And in case you’re wondering why so many stamp shows end with ‘PEX’, it’s a shortening of ‘Philatelic EXhibition’.

Different uses of objects in the Wilkinson Collection

by Emma Harper, Cataloguer (Collections)

I mentioned in my last blog that a large number of objects in the Wilkinson Collection, whilst collected because they had a letter box on them, also had a particular use or function. It is this wide ranging group that I thought I would focus on in this blog.

Mickey Mouse money box

Mickey Mouse money box

The most common functional item that Ian Wilkinson collected is the money box in the shape and design of a letter box. These are as varied in their design as letter boxes themselves, and probably deserve an entire blog post. Some have characters such as Mickey Mouse on them, others are traditional reproductions. Most have a small plastic plug in the base to retrieve the money. However, some designers seemed to have forgotten this important item, resulting in a few of the money boxes having scratch marks around the apertures from attempts to rescue the money.

Sammy the Stamp Bug stamp wetter

Sammy the Stamp Bug stamp wetter

Some of the functions of the model letter boxes are postally relevant. For example, there are a couple of models that also act as letter racks as well as some letter openers with models of the Penfold letter box at the end of the handle. Perhaps the most postally relevant and unusual item is the model letter box that is a portable stamp wetter. This consists of a plastic container in the shape of a letter box in red and black. On one side is inscribed the instruction ‘Fill capsule with water and use to wet your stamps’. This ingenious device also features ‘Sammy the Stamp bug’ who was a promotional feature of the Royal Mail Stamp Bug Club, founded in 1980 to encourage young people to collect stamps. After the first six months the club already had 25,000 members; the cost of joining was just 50 pence.

Postman Pat pencil case

Postman Pat pencil case

Other model letter boxes have uses across many different areas. For example, in the kitchen you might find a letter box teapot, jug, or salt and pepper shakers. In the office you could keep your letters in a letter box letter rack and keep your papers tidy with a letter box paperweight. Brush your hair with a letter box comb; keep your place in your favourite book with a letter box bookmark. Kids can keep their pens and pencils in a letter box pencil case with Postman Pat on the front, and finally, when you leave the house, you can lock the door with your keys firmly attached to a letter box key ring!

All of these items and more can be found in the Wilkinson Collection. This not only shows the wide ranging influence of the letter box but also shows the many different directions that collecting can take you in. I’m sure Ian Wilkinson had little concept of the diverse range of objects that portrayed letter boxes when he started to collect them, yet the collection is all the more interesting for it.

A group of novelty items in the Wilkinson Collection

A group of novelty items in the Wilkinson Collection

The man who posted his dog and other reasons to visit a stamp show

by Jennifer Flippance, London 2010 Project Officer

Stamp shows are an important element of philately and stamp collecting, providing an opportunity for collectors to catch up with friends, purchase items, exchange material, attend society meetings and enter their collections in competition.

Visitors and traders at Westbex 2009

Visitors and traders at WestBex 2009

Last weekend, I took a trip out to the first show of the year to be held by one of the regional federations of the Association of British Philatelic Societies, the Thames Valley & District Philatelic Federation stamp show – Westbex 2009.  It was hosted by the Thatcham and District Philatelic Society, a popular stamp club of over 80 members who meet twice a month.  The show took up two halls in a local school, which were mainly filled with dealers, catering for a wide range of tastes and budgets.

In addition there were prize-winning displays from members.  Stamp collecting has an active competitive element.  Enthusiasts collect, write up and display a topic of their choosing and these displays can be entered into a variety of classes.  These range from the more formal classes like traditional philately and postal history, but also include thematic classes and open classes where a much wider range of material, beyond stamps, can be displayed.

The National Philatelic Society also held a meeting where members could present a small selection of their collection.  These covered a broad range of subjects, from Machin stamps to posted autographs, to the history of the Post Office Savings Bank.

Viewing the competition entries, WestBex 2009

I found one prize-winning exhibit particularly interesting.  Its subject was W. Reginald Bray (1879-1939), who experimented by sending items through the post that challenged the postal system, for example, by being unusual objects or through having challenging addresses.

Bray posted himself (he is actually believed to be the first ‘human letter’) and the family dog, along with less animated items such as a turnip, sheep’s skull and bowler hat.

Some of the fascinating items on display from this eccentric individual included postcards made from shirt cuffs and others addressed, ‘to a resident of…‘ followed by an image of the town cut from a picture postcard with no other clue as to where it might be.  Some letters had addresses written in verse or picture puzzles.  Many were returned, officially stamped (and you can imagine the rather vexed postal employee) ‘CONTRARY TO REGULATIONS’ or ‘INSUFFICIENTLY ADDRESSED’. 

Next year, ABPS regional shows like WestBex, will form part of the London 2010: Festival of Stamps, aiming to attract new members to this rewarding hobby.  The dates of 2010 shows are available at www.london2010.org.uk/exhibitions-and-events