Wednesday 5 August 2020

New Great Britain stamps: Sherlock - 18 August 2020

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stamp issued in 2009
Royal Mail's third 'entertainment' issue this year will be issued on 18 August, and celebrates the modern television drama serials Sherlock.  The issue includes a set of six stamps, a miniature sheet, presentation pack, retail booklet and collectors sheet as well as framed products.

Their 'Reason and Inspiration' (or Justification):

Perhaps the most well-known fictional detective of all, Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887 and continued in novels and many short stories until 1927. Screen adaptations occurred almost as soon as movies were invented. In total there have been over 25,000 stage adaptations, films, television productions and publications featuring the detective and the Guinness World Records lists him as the most portrayed literary human character in film and television history.

On the 10th anniversary of the popular BBC TV series ‘Sherlock’ we celebrate both the unique heritage and contemporary adaptations of this most famous of the “consulting detectives”.

In this modernised version of the Conan Doyle characters, using his detective plots, Sherlock Holmes lives in early 21st century London but maintains various elements of the original stories such Dr Watson (who now writes a blog rather than a diary) the Baker Street address and Holmes' adversary Moriarty, whilst still working for private clients as well as Scotland Yard, the London Metropolitan Police service.

Set of Stamps.
As with some previous issues, these have hidden messages revealed by Ultra Violet light.  These occupy more of the stamp than previous issues making them more difficult to photograph.
Set of six stamps issued 18 August 2020 depicting scenes from the TV series Sherlock, picture provided by Royal Mail.
Royal Mail publicity picture showing printing in fluorescent ink

1st class - The Reichenbach Fall depicting Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) - fluorescent ink reads GET SHERLOCK in graffiti style; A Study in Pink depicting Doctor John Watson (Martin Freeman) - fluorescent ink shows one of Holmes' text messages.  (Baker Street come at once if convenient SH.  If not convenient come anyway SH. Could be dangerous SH.)


£1.42 The Great Game depicting James Moriarty (Andrew Scott), with fluorescent ink also revealing a text message: Found. The Bruce-Partington plans.  Please collect.  The Pool. Midnight; The Empty Hearse depicting Mary Morston who later married John Watson (Amanda Abbington). Fluorescent ink repeats the words Cat Lover, Clever, Liar, Disillusioned.

(This image is made from two photos)
£1.68 A Scandal in Belgravia depicting Lara Pulver (Irene Adler) Molly Hooper (Louise Brearly).
(my error) with fluorescent ink reading I AM SHER LOCKED; The Final Problem depicting Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss)  with fluorescent ink reading Seek my room.

Technical Details:
Designed by So Design Consultants the stamps are printed in litho by International Security Printers/ The 60 x 30 mm stamps are in se-tenant pairs. The size of the sheet is not specified but as it is possible to buy individual stamps in multiples of six, it is probably 6 x 6. (Until we hear otherwise!)

‘Sherlock’ television series © Hartswood Films Limited. All rights reserved.
With thanks to the family of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and The Conan Doyle Estate Limited.
The characters and names created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other associated materials are used under licence.
With thanks to Arthur Conan Doyle Characters Limited.

Miniature Sheet
The “Mysteries of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle Minisheet” features four of the author’s favourite mysteries in a style reminiscent of the inter-war years.

Sherlock Holmes miniature sheet - picture supplied by Royal Mail.

1st class - The Adventure of the Speckled Band
1st class - The Red-Hand League (from RM publicity)
                      I'm told that the stamp caption is correct: The Red-Headed League
£1.68 - The Adventure of the Second Stain
£1.68 - The Adventure of the Dancing Men
There is no fluorescent printing on these stamps.

Technical Details
The sheet was designed by NB Studio using illustrations by Lithuanian Karolis Strautniekas.  The 115 x 89 mm sheet containing 27 x 37 mm stamps was printed in litho by International Security Printers.

With thanks to the family of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Conan Doyle Estate Limited and Arthur Conan Doyle Characters Limited.
The characters and names created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other associated materials are used under licence.

Collector Sheet
The problem with having six stamp sets is trying to fit them into a 10-stamp sheet.  Royal Mail have solved this by having one of each of the higher value stamps, 2 x 1st class Dr Watson, and 4 x 1st class Sherlock.

As these are printed on self-adhesive paper they are collectably different.  With a selling price of £11.95 against the face value of £10.76 it is likely that the sheet - but not the individual stamps - will be listed in the Stanley Gibbons GB Concise Catalogue. In other catalogues, however,  the self-adhesive stamps are likely to be individually listed and there may be space in preprinted albums.

Royal Mail have not said whether these also have the fluorescent printing, but it seems likely.  UPDATE: MC has advised that Royal Mail's 'First' leaflet confirms 'each stamp reveals hidden secrets when placed under UV light'.   The ten labels "feature shots from the series".

Picture provided by Royal Mail
Retail booklet
The Sherlock retail booklet contains the two 1st class stamps from the miniature sheet together with 4 x 1st class Machin definitives coded MCIL M20L.  The W1 cylinder numbers are cyan, magenta, yellow, black, (definitive) red, irridescent and phosphor.

The booklet includes ‘The Red-Headed League’ and ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band', two
stories that Conan Doyle said were his favourites when asked by The Strand Magazine in 1927. 
As with all Retail Books it is printed in gravure and the stamps are self-adhesive unlike the
individual stamps from the set. The printer is International Security Printers.
Sherlock retail booklet showing cylinder numbers (Norvic picture)

Other products
Presentation Pack, two first day covers, set of 11 stamp cards.
Framed sets (or mounted only if you don't like the black frames)
Coin covers for both the set and the miniature sheet.  Although these are produced by the Royal Mint and are described as coins they do not have the royal head on. I'm seeking clarification on this, just for the record.

As I am only now able to write about these due to other distractions, I can report that there has been a positive reaction in the press and on social media, though how many of those vowing that they 'must have them' will actually use any on letters remains to be seen.  I suspect very few.

And the airmail postage rates will rise on 1 September, so the £1.42 and £1.68 stamps will have to be supplemented by make-up values after that.


  1. I was wondering why it appeared that the BBC had created Sherlock Holmes! Thank you for the detailed write up.

  2. Not a criticism Ian but it is The Red Headed League, not The Red-Hand league sorry to be pedantic. But I am glad that RM have chosen some usually ignored stories, having read them these are some of the best.

    1. Damned if I copy & paste, damned if I don't. The error was in our info from Royal Mail; I should have read the caption on the stamps. Thanks Peter.

  3. As for the collector sheet, it will not fit my Windsor pages being A4, just a tad too big, I should have measured twice before I ordered, oh well some nice stamps for postage or to frame

    1. Royal Mail's Smilers Album is good for all A4 sheets; there may be others.

    2. That's a thought, thank you Ian

  4. If you mount your stamps using Royal Mail's Annual Continuation pages, there's more than enough room to house Collector Sheets, Fan Sheets & Composite Sheets.

  5. Ian that copy/paste has let you down again sorry, but it is the fault of RM, on the miniature sheet details RM have stated one of the stamps as The Adventure of the Dancing Man when in fact it is The Adventure of the Dancing Men, as it is printed on the stamp!

  6. I saw a post on social media drawing attention to an error in design on the £1.68 stamp showing the violins - the bow held by Sherlock's sister Eurus appears to be "double ended". In the screenshot from the TV series that the designer used, the top end of the bow is not visible, so the designer seems to have used their imagination and made both ends look the same!


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