Sunday 30 December 2012

Doctor Who stamps will be Royal Mail's blockbuster issue in 2013 - start saving now!

As was forecast long ago, Royal Mail will mark 50th years of the BBC Doctor Who series with a blockbuster issue of stamps and booklets.  Originally reported to be issued in 8 January (a report repeated in error by at least one daily newspaper last week) the stamp issue will be on 26th March 2013.

Royal Mail chose 26th December to publish the press release for this issue, to get maximum coverage in the British media.  With the government and politics in general very quiet over Christmas the coverage achieved was predictably wide so you probably already know about the basics.  Now, we bring you the bigger picture.

The first Doctor Who episode was broadcast on 23 November 1963 at 5.15pm, but Royal Mail and the BBC are wisely marking the 50th anniversary throughout 2013.

Dr Who Stamps
Each of the 11 Doctors is featured on a 1st class stamp. The first two, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton are in monochrome, while the remaining 9 are in full colour.

From the top: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith.  (Current face value £6.60)
The stamps are printed in three sheets, 11-9, 8-5, 4-1, by Cartor Security Printing in litho.

Dr Who Miniature Sheet
The miniature sheet shows the TARDIS and four of the Doctor's enemies.  The sheet is self-adhesive and the publicity pictures suggest that the four 2nd class stamps have designs extending beyond the perforations, and these may be 'free-form' die-cut as was used with the Charles Darwin stamps.  We've modified the image to show what we think individual stamps might look like.  This has not been confirmed by Royal Mail.

1st class TARDIS; 2nd class Dalek, The Ood, Weeping Angel, Cyberman.  Current Face value £2.60)

Dr Who retail booklet
A retail booklet of 6 x 1st class stamps will also be issued.  This will contain the 1st class Matt Smith and William Hartnell stamps (ie the original and latest Doctors), with the 4 definitive-sized stamps showing the Tardis, rather than being Machin definitives. (Current face value £3.60  - probably printed in gravure by Walsall Security Printers.)

Dr Who Prestige Stamp Book
The prestige stamp book contains 5 panes of stamps.  The 11 Doctors are split over 3 panes, but these images have narratives unrelated to the Doctors on the pages.  These are publicity pictures which are subject to change; the images are low resolution.  The announced price of the PSB is £13.77 (as usual, almost £1 over the £12.82 face value of the stamps).

Cover and Definitive pane: 4 x 1st class Tardis, 1 each 5p, 10p, 20p, 87p Machin and Tardis label
Five panes:
Definitive, miniature sheet, Doctors 11-9, 8-5, and 4-1.
PSB Technical Details added 26.2.13:

All panes are gummed except for the mini-sheet pane, which is self-adhesive.
MS pane is printed by Enschede Cartor in litho (corrected 27.2.13)
Doctor panes are by Cartor in litho
Machin/Tardis pane is by Walsall in Gravure, with iridescent security layer on the Machins but not the Tardis stamps.

PSB Format:
Maintaining the distinction between the (8) Old Doctors and the (3) New Doctors the Prestige stamp book has two covers, and two ends.

The order of the pages is:
1.  Coloured cover
2.  Miniature sheet stamp pane
3. (11th Doctor info page/ Tardis info page)
4. (10th / 9th Doctor info pages)
5.  stamp pane - Doctors 11, 10, 9
6.  (The Time Lord Returns / monsters from the modern day info pages).

Then inverted
7.  (Creatures from the Classic Era / 8th Doctor)
8.  Stamp pane (gummed side up) - Doctors 5-8, narrative 'The 7th Doctor'
9.  Stamp pane (gummed side up) - Doctors 1-4, narrative 'The 6th Doctor'
10. (5th / 4th Doctor info page)
11. Machin stamp pane (gummed side up), narrative 'The 3rd Doctor'
12. (2nd/1st Doctor info page)
13. Monochrome cover, with FSC logo and bar-code.

We now have the Miniature Sheet pane from the PSBs.  Although there may be some technical details (above) still to be verified by Royal Mail we can confirm that the stamps in the PSB are not the same as those on the MS.

The phosphor bands on the 'enemies' stamps are fractionally wider on the MS than on the PSB pane.  The gap between the bands is 11mm on the MS and about 7mm on the PSB pane.
The paper surface is different, which means the bands appear sold on the PSB but not on the MS.

We're now just waiting for the Generic Sheet to confirm that that the Tardis stamp in that will also be different.

The Tardis stamp in the retail booklet has phosphor bands almost exactly the same size as those on the MS, but the stamp image size is different!  On the MS & PSB the image size is 17 x 21 mm.  In the retail booklet it is 17.5 x 21.25mm.

There are 4 Official Royal Mail first day covers, using the postmarks shown below. The miniature sheet, and the definitive (half-)pane from the PSB are on two.  The 11 Doctors are split between the 8 Classic and 3 Modern Doctors.  The publicity pictures show the Classic stamps on a cover with a different design.  However, only one blank FDC has been listed for us to order, so either the image or the order form is in error.

Update 25.2.13:
There are two FDE’s. 
Royal Mail will use the multicoloured one for the three recent Doctors, Mini Sheet and PSB (Machin) Pane.  
The more monochrome cover will be used for the eight earlier Doctors.  (The retail book stamps are not supplied on FDE by Royal Mail.)

Dr Who Smilers Sheets
The Tardis stamp is being made available in Royal Mail's Smilers (c) service, and so a generic sheet will also be issued.  The generic sheet will comprise of 20 1st Class TARDIS definitives accompanied by labels featuring four different incarnations of Cybermen, Daleks, Silurians, Sontarans and the Master.  Cost from Royal Mail £12.50.

The TARDIS stamp will be in the consumer Smilers service and the Business Customised Service. Smilers are available at and also through the iPhone App.  Smilers will be available in sheets of 10 and 20 stamps (sheets of 20 perforated down the centre).  Personalised Smilers are £9.99 for 10, £18.25 for 20.

Other Dr Who Products
Royal Mail will issue 17 stamp cards - one for each stamp and one for the miniature sheet - which can only be obtained in sets price £7.65.
The presentation pack containing all 11 stamps and the miniature sheet is £9.70 (50p over face value).

How to get the stamps and other products.
Royal Mail have made it easy to buy these, on a new webpage.

We will not be stocking these products:
a. Doctors set
b. miniature sheet
c. presentation pack
d. Smilers Generic sheet
e. prestige stamp book
f. set of stamp cards
g. first day covers of a, b, d or serviced stamp cards.

We will stock:
h. Machin Definitives from Prestige Stamp Book
i. mini-sheet stamps from PSB
j. retail stamp booklet
k. single stamps from Generic Smilers sheet.
l. First Day Covers of
- Machin stamps from PSB (with and without the Tardis stamp)
- single stamps from retail stamp book as these are self-adhesive Doctors
- single stamps & labels from Smilers sheet as these are a different printing

Details and prices will appear on our website.

The Post Office (rather than Royal Mail) have a blogpost which includes a Dr Who Timeline.  In theory it should be there forever, but I can't vouch for that.

Acknowledgements and Copyright
Stamp (etc) images Copyright Royal Mail 2013. BBC, DOCTOR WHO (word marks, logos and devices), TARDIS, DALEKS, CYBERMAN and K-9 (word marks and devices) are trade marks of the British Broadcasting Corporation and are used under licence. BBC logo © BBC 1996. Doctor Who logo © BBC 2012. Dalek image © BBC/Terry Nation 1963. Cyberman image © BBC/Kit Pedler/Gerry Davis 1966. K-9 image © BBC/Bob Baker/Dave Martin 1977.

Two of the actors who played Doctors have previously appeared on British stamps - can you remember which stamps?


  1. So much for Royal Mail listening to complaints about too many stamps being issued!

    1. Even the Prestige book is one of the dearest ever issued.

  2. I don't know about the Doctors, but the Daleks did appear in the Millennium issue.

  3. How about

    William Hartnell (1st Class - Carry on Sergeant), Classic Carry On and Hammer Films - 10 June 2008
    David Tennant (1st class – Hamlet), 50th Anniversary of the Royal Shakespeare Company - 12 April 2011

  4. David Tennant (Hamlet) and William Hartnell (Carry On Sergeant)

  5. If ever I needed confirmation that giving-up the collecting of modern British stamp issues was the correct decision back in 2000, then this set is it.

    If there is any saving grace it is that they are all first or second class values, but the delaying of the issue date may just imply that they are to be released after the next postal rate increase.

    This is blatant commercialism, probably brought about by the bosses insisting on even more profit from stamps than the cash cow that was the Olympics/Paralympics.

    I expect stamp issues such as this to come from the likes of Grenada or St Vincent, not from the UK.

  6. @spacesurfer - quite right, the Dalek appeared back in 2000

    @jeff and @anonymous correctly identified the previous two incarnations of Doctor-actors on GB stamps.

    @Brian Morris - the PSB is highly priced but still only about £1 over face. And the stamps on the MS pane will be catalogued separately as they are gummed. We need more info about the Machins as well: the 87p (if gummed) will be new.

    This will be an enormous seller for Royal Mail and the BBC.

    @Anonymous - it was planned long before the Gold Medal success. RM always plan to have one issue a year which will be a major seller - Beatles, Album Covers, James Bond.

  7. With the diminishing use of postal services by both industry and the general public the RM cannot justify such a prolific issue. This issue is based solely on the world wide popularity of Doctor Who and therefore will sell well so RM pat your self on the back for a piece of first class exploitation. Oh! I expect a lot of flak on this one.

  8. Shame they couldn't have made it a 12 Doctor set by including Peter Cushing from the Dr Who movies as they are 'based on the BBC Dr Who TV Series'(Peter Cushing's name incidentally appears twice in the Carry On/Hammer stamp set)

  9. I noticed a comment above 'the Gold Medal success' and wonder in the stamp world how success is measured. It must be amount of stamps sold thereby revenue for RM and stamp dealers as success can never be measured by actual stamp usage. I just wonder what % of stamps produced are actually used as postage (disregarding the first day covers). I get a fair amount of mail, but never received a 'post and go' not one and only ever get commemorative
    issues on mail from dealers.

  10. You can only write and comment as you see, but take a look at the blog post immediately after this one -

    I don't get enough social mail - most of mine is from customers, many of whom use 1st/2nd Machins much as I would prefer to get different new stamps. But the ones shown on the other thread are absolutely genuine non-philatelic usage.

  11. I collect Machins only, but I'm also a Doctor Who fan and I'm all for this issue. They will be the only UK commemoratives I'll have bought. Mind you, I'll draw the line at the Smiler sheets! Anyway, the time has long gone when the RM worried about philatelists in planning new commemorative issues. Some commemoratives are targeted at people who may buy only the one issue. In this regard I suspect I'm pretty much representative of the intended target audience.

  12. It will be interesting to see if they apply a security overprint to the Tardis stamp.

  13. Note that Royal Mail have announced another round of rate changes in early March so the prices shown here will probably all change.

  14. I always thought you had to be deceased to appear on a british stamp Royal family excluded, this obviously is not the case with the Dr Who stamps ,could you enlighten me please Regards Howard

    1. The portraits on the Doctor Who stamps represent the fictional figure(s); some of the actors who portrayed the Doctor are dead, some are not. David Tennant and other actorsalso appeared on the Royal Shakespeare company issue in 2011, and other recognisable actors in the Magical Worlds set that preceded it.

      The Olympic/Paralympic gold medal stamps were on obvious exception to the old rule. And previous issues, such as the Ashes Cricket and Rugby World Cup miniature sheets were other examples.

      The rule now, apart from the Gold Medal stamps, is that the depiction is representative, or showing a scene. Thus in the Britain Alone set, the Evacuees and some of the soldiers were still alive, in the World Cup stamp in the Windsors miniature sheet some team members are still alive, the Girl Guides etc on the 2010 miniature sheet, the firefighters in 2009, etc.

      The old rule has been slowly eroded, and the current rule seems to be that (apart, again, from the Gold Medals) that stamps do not honour living people but they can be used for depiction of events or situations.

  15. Ian

    You refered to there being 2 FDC but only 1 for you to order. When I ordered there offered me a choicew of 2. However when I asked what the difference was they didn't know. Eventually after consulting Royal mail web site and your website they decided one was bluer than the other but they didn't know why

    John Embrey

    1. I've now had clarification on the FDCs from Tallents House, and have added it to the main blogpost.

      Thanks John

  16. i went to the roaly mail web site and wasn't able to order these stamp anyone tell me where i can get them

    1. This page on Royal Mail's website is still open - (It's the same one mentioned up there ^^^^^ in our original blogpost :)


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