Wednesday 29 January 2020

London 2020 stamp issues - in more detail

As I mentioned previously, the US weekly stamp magazine, Linn's Stamp News, has published details about the London 2020 stamp issues which were taken from a Royal Mail press release.  The problem with a large organisation such as Royal Mail is that sometimes such a release takes by surprise the very people who are most affected.

No, I don't mean dealers and collectors, but some parts of Royal Mail.  Consequently the information now provided to dealers is still incomplete, but at least there is more of it, and it is out of embargo.

Update: Show now in February 2022
Update 20 March - see

London2020 International Stamp Exhibition 

Major international shows have taken place in London for seventy years and attract visitors from all over the world. Britain holds a particular appeal for stamp collectors outside the UK because it has the oldest postal service and was the first country to introduce an adhesive postage stamp – the Penny Black. A key theme of the London 2020 show will be the 180th anniversary of the Penny Black which Royal Mail will marking with a number of special products. An additional theme of the exhibition will be the 150th anniversary of the British postcard which will be commemorated by Royal Mail with a show exclusive stamp sheet.

"Please note that issue dates are yet to be finalised. The original plan was for some of the issue dates
to be staggered across the show, however, this would mean day one visitors, who have paid for entry
to the show, would not be able to purchase some of the London2020 commemorative products. Full
details including postmarks will be published in due course."

10 March 2020 - Retail Stamp Booklet
This Retail Stamp Book of six First Class stamps includes two Penny Black, two Twopenny Blue and two Penny Red stamps first issued in 2015 and 2016. It also bears the London 2020 show logo as well as details of the venue and dates on which the exhibition takes place.

London2020 Souvenir Sheet

A sheet of 8 x First Class stamps featuring the show logo and comprising two Penny Blacks, 3 x Twopenny Blues and 3 x Penny Reds. In the centre of the stamp pane is a label featuring the old original die of Queen Victoria’s image. The sheet carries no new stamps so will not be issued to Regular Order customers automatically and as such has an individually numbered limited edition of 15,000.

The size of the sheet is 162mm x 96mm (landscape) and the stamps are gummed.

London2020 Show Exclusive Souvenir Sheet

The show exclusive version of the souvenir sheet is an individually numbered limited edition of just 7,500 and is available to purchase at the show only. To mark the 150th anniversary of the British postcard the label in the centre of the stamp pane comprises a reproduction of the Half Penny stamp design that appeared on the first postcard produced in the UK. 

The size of the sheet is 162mm x 96mm (landscape) and the stamps are gummed.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, this is the same format, the same size, and the same background as the 2016 prestige stamp book pane (see below).  One might have expected the Exhibition Exclusive miniature sheet, marking as it does the 150th Anniversary of the British postcard, to have more imposing caption, and maybe a different background.  Maybe the stamps could have been moved to the left, and the top right could have included the original stamp in it's original place?  It wouldn't have needed much effort to do the perforating the other way round - they've done it before by accident!

As the editor of the Modern British Philatelic Circle's Bookmark journal has written:

For a once-in-a-decade prestigious philatelic event, Royal Mail could have pulled something a little more imaginative out of the bag, as they did in 2010 with superb intaglio Seahorse engravings. The 2020 servings smack unfortunately of last year’s leftovers reheated in the microwave to cut the costs (and effort) of designing something really worthwhile. Instead we get cheap litho reprints of stamps issued to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black and its siblings in 2015 and 2016. Don’t we deserve better?

Here's one they produced earlier:

180th Anniversary of The Penny Black Stamp Sheet

Sheet of 25 x First Class Penny Black stamps marking the 180th anniversary of the first adhesive postage stamp.  Printed along the top are the actual dates of the anniversary and the instructions that appeared on the original Penny Black sheets is paraphrased on the left margin of the sheet. The size of the sheet is 121mm x 140mm (portrait) and the stamps are gummed and will be printed in litho.  So although this is in a similar form as ordinary counter sheet, the stamps are gummed, rather than self-adhesive.  

The 1d black marginal inscriptions are interesting as much for their impact on normal printing marks.  The cylinder numbers and FSC logo are now on the right hand side instead of the left, along with the barcode, date and short name.  The grid layout - now in the lower margin - is interesting because it shows these stamps were printed in FOUR grid positions, out of 8.  So what else was printed on the same master plate?


UPDATE 8 February 2021.  Forgive my laxity in this (I can only plead that this was the most uninteresting and unnecessary issue), but the answer to the question about grid-boxes is that the actual stamps were printed in all 8 positions, as shown in this scan of the real sheet, printed on 25/02/20:

Scan of actual Penny Black anniversary sheet.

The reason I mention the printing date (nobody believed the 00/12/08 anyway) was that I have now been sent a photo of some sheets purchased last December which show a second printing date of 24/06/20.  I don't recall this being mentioned before, and it is worth noting all the more so because I would have expected the initial print run to have been more than necessary, especially given the cancellation of the London 2020 exhibition at which more would have been sold.  Note that, despite new plates being used, the numbers remain the same.

Second (?) printing of Penny Black sheet on 24/06/20.

London2020 Exhibition Sheet

For London2020 Royal Mail is issuing its last Exhibition Sheet in the Smilers format first established produced for the Pacific Explorer Exhibition in Sydney in 2005*. The sheet contains the show logo and 20 x First Class ‘Hello’ stamps with adjoining labels featuring images of Mail Rail, the Post Office Underground Railway and set against a background of the same. The sheet is A4 size

* I don't know why Royal Mail don't count the 2004 Hong Kong Stamp Expo sheet as the first - I certainly did, and produced a good first day cover!

There's no point in quoting prices for these, because apart from the retail booklet (£4.20) the other products are all subject to the tariff change at the end of March.


  1. I remember that the Isle of Man produced a Penny Black sheet in 1990, but they took the trouble to alter the corner letters, and the stamps were only 1p each!

  2. Ref the Penny Black sheet. Would it be too much to hope that the other four grid positions might be for 2nd class 2d blues(or 1st, 1d Reds?

  3. I am wondering if SG will list the mini sheet in the concise?

  4. As the 2d blue was not listed individually in 2015 by SG I am wondering if the one in the booklet will be? As the concise only lists the Self adhesive 1d black & 1d red.

    1. Take a look at SG 3807-9, ex PSB.

    2. The 2d blue should have a unique SG listing as it has only appeared gummed before.

  5. Thnx Ian, but those are gummed? The booklet ones should be self adhesive, so I assume a different stamp?

  6. That Penny Black sheet looks appealing at £19 for 25. Almost worth framing.

  7. London 2020 latest update re coronavirus