Tag Archives: stamp collection

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.

Making our stamp collection more accessible

We care for a unique and precious collection of stamps and philatelic material which includes registration sheets, essays (trial stamps) and proofs of all stages of British stamp production from 1840 to the present day, and all artwork, adopted and unadopted, for all issued and some un-issued British stamps from 1924. Material is constantly added to the collections as we receive around 500 pieces of stamp artwork from Royal Mail every year.

A lot of this material has already been available online, through our website, online catalogue and the project to digitise the R M Phillips Collection, but we are always looking for new ways to make our collections accessible.

Would you like our stamps on your mobile device? Fill in the survey and give us your views.

Would you like our stamps on your mobile device? Fill in the survey and give us your views.

Recently a group of students from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts have been working with us on a research project to look at new ways to make our philatelic collections more accessible. The students have put together a short online survey to determine interest among stamp enthusiasts in a mobile or tablet app displaying our collection. If you have any interest in stamps, either as a collector, a philatelist, or a postal or design enthusiast, then we would like to hear your views on this project. Click here to complete the survey.

A Cup of Tea and its Consequences

Chris West explains how he came to write the book First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps.

Chris West

Chris West

Like many of us who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, I had a stamp collection. A rather mediocre one… But one Sunday, I went to tea with my great uncle.

I happened to mention that I collected stamps, and Uncle Frank said he’d done that too. He disappeared and came back with a dark blue ‘Lincoln’ album. Inside was a treasurehouse of stamps featuring Edward VII and Queen Victoria – including a Penny Black (it had a corner missing, but still…) Frank then said that he didn’t really bother with them any longer – did I want them? The album became my pride and joy. I even took it to school to show everybody. Sadly, one viewer was so impressed that he stole half the stamps. The collection never felt the same afterwards, and vanished into an attic. Forty years later, I was cleaning out the attic when I came across the album. For a moment an old fury came back, but then I decided that a much healthier reaction was to reassemble the collection.

The 'Seahorse' stamp.

The ‘Seahorse’ stamp.

British Empire Exhibition 1924 stamp, 1d value.

British Empire Exhibition 1924 stamp, 1d value.

As I did this, I found myself ever more intrigued with the stamps, as items of beauty but also as tiny pieces of history. Who stuck this Penny Black on an envelope, and what was in the letter? More generally, what was Britain like at the time? I found envelopes that had been sent in Ireland around the time of the appalling famine, a Seahorse sent just before World War One, a stamp celebrating the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 (an event I had never heard of, but which was as big as the Olympics in its day), an envelope that had enclosed a censored letter from World War Two, the classic 4d stamp celebrating the 1966 World Cup win… Stamps, I realised, tell stories.

Finally, I assembled these stories into a book, that would tell the nation’s tale through its stamps – or 36 of them, anyway. It’s been a joy to research and write. And all thanks to my great uncle and a cup of tea one Sunday afternoon.

First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps by Chris West (cover)

First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps is available from the BPMA online shop.

Chris West will give a talk based on First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps at the BPMA on Thursday 21 February 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.

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.

KentPex 2010

There have been many special stamp shows held throughout the country this year, making London 2010: Festival of Stamps a truly national event. KentPex 2010, another of these special shows, will take place tomorrow, in Tonbridge, Kent.

Postman at Tonbridge Castle, 1935

Postman at Tonbridge Castle, 1935

Presented by the Kent Federation of Philatelic Societies and the Royal Tunbridge Wells Philatelic Society, KentPex 2010 will feature dealers, competitions, displays, advice and valuations, and much more.

The organisers hope to “increase the awareness of the general public to the joys and benefits of collecting stamps” as well as “show by the study of the postal history within Kent, and in other areas of GB, and indeed the world, how the world’s communications have developed over the centuries before arriving at the current age of immediate communication by e-mail and the web”.

We wish them the best of luck with that and hope those who attend enjoy the day.

Visit the London 2010: Festival of Stamps website to find out about stamp shows in your area.

Morten Collection Object of the Month: May 2010 – Stamps from Weimar Germany

Each month, for ten months, we’ll be presenting an object from the Morten Collection on this blog. The Morten Collection is a nationally important postal history collection currently held at Bruce Castle, Tottenham.

As part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project, Pistols, Packets and Postmen, the BPMA, Bruce Castle Museum and the Communication Workers Union (the owner of the Collection) are working together to widen access to and develop educational resources for the Morten Collection.

If you have any comments on the objects or the Collection we’d be grateful to hear them. At the end of the ten months we hope we’ll have given you an overview of the Collection, highlighting individual items but also emphasising the diverse nature of the material. For further information on the Morten Collection, please see our blog of 16th December 2009.

by Bettina Trabant, Postal Heritage Officer, Bruce Castle Museum

The Weimar Republic is the period in German history between the end of WWI and the coming to power of Hitler in 1933. Weimar society was characterised by great political instability, violence and strikes. There were eight elections in its short 15 year life span, and over 16 different political parties, including five different liberal parties, standing for parliament.

Inflation was extremely high due to an increase in money since the start of WWI and reparation payments agreed with the Allies (as part of the Treaty of Versailles) after the war ended. By 1923 the German Mark was practically worthless due to new credits that were taken out in order to continue making reparations payments and to provide social security benefits for striking workers. Compounding the problem was that due to the strike Germany had no goods to trade with.

In 1922, 1000 Marks was the highest bank note, but by 1923 the highest bank note was One Billion Marks. People would be paid daily and go shopping daily as money became worthless the next day. The crisis ended in November 1923 when Germany underwent currency reform and introduced the Rentenmark.

In our collection at Bruce Castle we have an example of how the German Post Office dealt with the inflation crisis. A window printed envelope from the Portugisisches Handeskontor in Hamburg from 1923 contains five 400 Mark stamps on the front, overprinted to valued them at 800,000 Marks, and twenty 100 Mark stamps on the reverse, overprinted to value them at 100,000 Marks.

Envelope from Weimar Germany with five 400 Mark stamps on the front overprinted to valued them at 800,000 Marks

Envelope from Weimar Germany with five 400 Mark stamps on the front overprinted to valued them at 800,000 Marks

Envelope from Weimar Germany with twenty 100 Mark stamps on the reverse, overprinted to value them at 100,000 Marks

Envelope from Weimar Germany with twenty 100 Mark stamps on the reverse, overprinted to value them at 100,000 Marks

Overprinting to change the value of stamps is not unique to Weimar Germany, it has happened in many other parts of the world, including some British colonies.