Thursday 14 April 2016

The Queen likes her stamps - whatever anybody else thinks!

For the last 20 years or more people - including some collectors - have been suggesting that it is time for a new stamp design for our definitives.  The latest of these is Simon Heffer in The Telegraph of 2nd April, with the headline 

Off with her head!  It's time for new stamps

The write-up is quite good, explaining why they are 'Machins' (and what 'Wildings' are), but he wrongly suggests that all collectors think the design should remain.

Machin's designs are quite out of kilter with the present day and have, frankly, felt so for decades.... one wonders whether the admirers, concentrating as they do on the fine details of various printing processes, even stop to think of the aesthetic of the design.

He writes that he "put this question some years ago to an official of the Royal Mail who was, inevitably, dismissive of my criticism".   Heffer's long piece (which I can't find online) ends:
Doesn't she deserve something new, bright and beautiful to celebrate her 10th decade, on the stamps that bear her picture?

Well, he didn't ask the right people!  As readers of the philatelic press will know, Royal Mail have been saying for some years (even after the Tony Benn period had passed into history), that Her Majesty did not want change and was quite content with the design as it is.

And ultimately, as the Queen has the final say on whether any new stamp is issued, let alone something as fundamental as the definitive which is most often used on letters and in illustrating newspaper articles, that is that!

Thanks to JV for his help with this article.


  1. How can the Queen approve her 90th Birthday Miniature Sheet when Royal Mail are trying to keep it a secret? Oh! She's already seen it then why can't we?

  2. Machins are so boring. Surely someone could persuade the right officials to change it. Now that Herman van Rompey is our head of state, unless we vote for independence; surely she no longer has a veto. In the meantime we could have something more suitable: Britannia perhaps? The Machin portrait does not even resemble her; even the current one from the coins would be an improvement.

    1. It is not Herman van Rampuy - it is meanwhile Donald Tusk who is President of the European Council.

    2. Herman van Rompey head of state, Queen has no veto, so lets have Britannia. Where's the logic in that argument.

    3. Well, you've been put right on European politics, now let's think about stamps.

      If you are a stamp collector, maybe Machins are boring. If you are a philatelist, then consider that there have been over 260 different Machins since the security features started in 2009.

      The thing about collecting stamps is that everyone can collect what they want to how they want to. The point of the article was that one writer thought that The Queen 'deserved' a new look on the stamps, when she has made it quite clear that she doesn't want it.

      (What you or I want is irrelevant.)

  3. New can of worms - what's the difference between a stamp collector and a philatelist? Isn't a philatelist just a pretentious term for a stamp collector?

    1. I don't consider myself a philatelist, but as a stamp collector (hoarder) and stamp user. Not all stamps interest me. I might buy some stamps for my collection from a dealer, but most of the stamps I see are on snailmail (from Postcrossing or penfriends). I do like the definitive flower series from Germany. Even the clock/coffeepot/chair... from the US looks good. Stamps (and also Postcrossing) are a great way to discover the world - art, history, geography, people, science, Shakespeare....

  4. To answer White Knight's question -what's the difference between a stamp collector and a philatelist? I've copied this from a well known online dictionary/encyclopedia.

    Philately (/fɪˈlætəliː/ fi-LA-tə-lee) is the study of stamps and postal history and other related items. Philately involves more than just stamp collecting, which does not necessarily involve the study of stamps. It is possible to be a philatelist without owning any stamps.
    The word "philately" is the English version of the French word "philatélie", coined by Georges Herpin in 1864. Herpin stated that stamps had been collected and studied for the previous six or seven years and a better name was required for the new hobby than timbromanie, which was disliked. He took the Greek root word φιλ(ο)- phil(o)-, meaning "an attraction or affinity for something", and ἀτέλεια ateleia, meaning "exempt from duties and taxes" to form "philatelie". The introduction of postage stamps meant that the receipt of letters was now free of charge, whereas before stamps it was normal for postal charges to be paid by the recipient of a letter.

    The alternative terms "timbromania", "timbrophily" and "timbrology" gradually fell out of use as philately gained acceptance during the 1860s.


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