Thursday 22 October 2020

Boldly going beyond the pale: Star Trek, 13 November 2020

Once upon a time the General Post Office and then Royal Mail tried very hard not to have any stamp issues after the Christmas stamps, reasoning that they would be busy enough with mails and other stamp orders without adding to the workload, especially for a subject with wide popularity.

No more it seems, because on 13 November they will issue another bumper bundle of products inspired by the world of popular entertainment, this time for TV and film series, Star Trek

Text below from Royal Mail is in blue.  It seems part of the justification is that so many of the principal actors are British.

Reason and inspiration
2020 coincides with the debut of the latest series of Star Trek – airing on TV in January. The long awaited, brand-new instalment is based around Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart), formerly the Captain of the Next Generation series.

Star Trek is the TV/film/licensing franchise based on the long-running space opera. It has so far produced more than 700 TV episodes across seven distinct series and 13 movies as well as books, comics and games (including among the earliest computer games). Screened globally, it has been a cult phenomenon for decades and the idea of the programmes and catch phrases are in common use. It is one of the highest grossing media franchises of all time. Its generally optimistic view of the future (a united Federation of planets that peacefully explores the universe) marked it out from other sci-fi series and movies.

The new series airs in January, so 2020 does NOT coincide with this but issuing the stamps in November allows many to be bought and given as Christmas presents.

Of major interest to readers of this blog will be the Machin definitive stamps included in the Prestige Stamp Book, so I am illustrating them first.

The pane consists of 3 each 2nd class and 50p stamps, and a pair of 2p stamps, which produces two sets and some useful left-overs.

Star Trek prestige stamp book definitive pane (Pane 4)

I'm not sure we've had 2p & 50p stamps in such close proximity before, and the first thing I noticed was how similar they are.

The 2p is pretty much the same as previously 

2p MPIL from Visions of the Universe, James Bond and Star Trek.

but the 50p is a greener shade of grey than previously, to my eyes.

50p MPIL from End of World War II and Star Trek

The biggest difference, however, comes with the 2nd class blue.  It does look like an ordinary 2nd class blue in the pane picture, but when we place it alongside its predecessors, the difference in intensity of the colour is marked.

2nd class MPIL from James Bond and Star Trek 

The current counter sheet stamps are approximately the same colour as the James Bond stamp above, but comparing the latest (Star Trek) stamp to the original 2009 De La Rue counter sheet stamp, we can see how the blue has been watered down over ten years.

2nd class compared with counter sheets 2009-20 (Star Trek in the centre)


The 2p and 2nd class stamps will have new mentions in Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise catalogue because they are the first to be issued with a M20L year code.  It would not surprise me if, even if it is actually the same colour (ie ink-mix) the 2nd class had a new sub-number as a shade difference.  The 50p may be too close to warrant a sub-number, and is not 'new' as the World War II stamp is also coded M20L.

More details about the PSB and panes can be found below the miniature sheet and retail book paragraphs below. 


12 stamps depicting the captain from each of the 6 principle TV series plus additional crew members. Each of the stamps in the set of 12 are all illustrated by talented (23-year-old) artist, Freya Betts, the portraits feature the iconic characters alongside reflective details in the background of their respective shows. 

Star Trek set of 12 stamps on First Day Cover (click to enlarge)

Top Row Captains
1st Class - Captain James T Kirk Played by William Shatner in The Original Series
1st Class - Captain Jean-Luc Picard Played by British actor Patrick Stewart in The Next Generation
1st Class - Captain Benjamin Sisko Played by Avery Brooks in Deep Space Nine)
1st Class - Captain Kathryn Janeway Played by Kate Mulgrew in Voyager
1st Class - Captain Jonathan Archer Played by Scott Bakula in Enterprise
1st Class - Captain Gabriel Lorca Played by British actor Jason Isaacs in Discovery

Bottom Row Crew
1st Class – Spock Played by Leonard Nimoy in The Original Series
1st Class - Deanna Troi Played by British actress Marina Siritis in The Next Generation
1st Class - Julian Bashir Played by British actor Alexander Siddig in Deep Space Nine
1st Class - Malcolm Reed Played by British actor Dominic Keating in Enterprise
1st Class - Michael Burnham Played by Sonequa Martin-Greene in Discovery
1st Class - Ash Tyler/Voq Played by British actor Shazad Latif in Discovery

Minisheet Details
Star Trek at the Movies – 6 stamps make up the special miniature sheet featuring characters, all played by British actors, from across the Star Trek Movies franchise. Note: These stamps are photographs and are not illustrations by Freya Betts.

Star Trek miniature sheet (shown without barcode)

1st Class - Montgomery Scott (Scotty) played by British actor Simon Pegg in the new Movie Series
1st Class - Praetor Shinzon played by British actor Tom Hardy in Next Gen Movie: Nemesis
1st Class - Tolian Soran played by British actor Malcolm McDowell in Original Movie Series: ‘Generations’
1st Class - Klingon Chancellor Gorkon Valorum played by British actor David Warner in Original Movie Series
1st Class - Carol Marcus played by British actress Alice Eve in the new Movie Series
1st Class - Krall played by British actor Idris Elba in the new Movie Series

Technical details

The 35mm square sheet stamps were printed by ISP/Cartor in lithography with ordinary gum in two sheets of 60 each in two panes of 6 x 5.  No perforation gauge is given.   The stamps were designed by Interabang.   A Press Sheet features 24 miniature sheets (3 columns x 8 rows) in a limited edition of 500.

The 146 x 74mm miniature sheet is printed by ISP/Cartor in litho and (contrary to information provided by Royal Mail) is self-adhesive.  The Montgomery Scott and Shinzon stamps are 60 x 21mm (perf 14.5) and the remainder are 27 x 37mm (perf 14).

TM & © 2020 CBS Studios Inc. © 2020 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved. Tom Hardy in Star Trek Nemesis photo  © AF Archive/Alamy Stock Photo. Alice Eve as Dr Carol Marcus in Star Trek Into Darkness photo © CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images. Stamp designs © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2020, All rights reserved.

Retail Stamp Book - Captains
The retail stamp book includes four first class definitive stamps as well as two special stamps featuring Captain Kirk and Captain Picard.   As with all retail stamp books it is printed in gravure by ISP Walsall and the stamps are self-adhesive unlike the individual stamps from the sheet.  The Machin 1st class definitives are coded MCIL M20L.

Star Trek Self-Adhesive Retail Booklet.

Prestige Stamp Book
The 24-page booklet starts in 1966, with an introduction on Star Trek’s legendary creator, Gene Roddenberry and his vision. The narrative then transports us through the decades, exploring how Roddenberry’s groundbreaking and original ideas led to the ever-popular franchise that we know today. We travel through the Star Trek timeline, with images from key episodes and brief synopses on every Star Trek TV series and movie, including the latest 2020 show, Picard.

Also included in the booklet are all 12 Star Trek stamps, plus the Star Trek Movies miniature sheet, along with a definitive pane of stamps (illustrated at the top of this blog), unique to this issue.

Star Wars prestige stamp book front cover and panes 1-3

Other products

First Day Covers (2), Presentation Pack, stamp cards.

Collectors Sheet of 10 (same vertical A4 format as for Star Wars but containing three each of Kirk & Picard and one each of the remaining captains) each stamp having a film/tv still alongside showing the character.  Self-adhesive - so there will be space in some pre-printed albums.

Limited Edition PSB with silver-foil front cover, limited to 1966 copies.  The stamps are the same as in the regular PSB.

Original Series and Movies Medal Covers in various grades of metal.  Limited edition 10,000 of each design, and only 1,000 of the Silver Proof version in each design.

Various Framed products and other souvenirs aimed at fans.

UPDATE 9 November

Because of new lockdown restrictions in various parts of the UK Special Handstamp Centre deadlines have once again been extended indefinitely.  This applied to Christmas, Star Wars and probably early 2021 issues.  (At the time of writing some RM standing order customers are still waiting for their Christmas stamps to be delivered a week after issue.)



  1. The debate on this one will run and run... not only on the dubious justification and timing and expense but the Trekkers/Trekkies will be arguing over the selection of characters! Why no Voyager crew member? (Presumably because there wasn't a British actor in a significant role).

    More embarrassing is the fact that the character on the minisheet played by David Warner is Chancellor Gorkon. Supreme Chancellor Valorum is a Star Wars character! (played by Terence Stamp).

    Major research failure on multiple counts...

    1. Fortunately the error is not on the stamp but in the information provided to dealers - I really don;t have time to fact-check everything that Royal Mail includes in its publicity material - check tomorrow's press to find out if they correct it.

    2. You shouldn't have to check Ian... RM should be taking more care with the publicity material. I'm sure it's not the first time you've quoted and corrected.

  2. A nice set of stamps but they will attract controversy, my only gripe is the format of the sheet stamps, being printed in rows of 6 will make it technically aesthetically hard to display in many albums, especially if, like me , collectors use the Hawid mounts, the longest strip available is 210mm the exact length of the strip of 6 so no chance of a neat black edge at each end, obviously no philatelists at RM. Thnx Ian rant over. :-)

    1. 300mm-long strips of mounts are available from Sutton Stamps for members of the Machin Collectors Club (see

  3. Nice set of stamps, the most anticipated stamp set I've been after for this year, as I'm a trekkie myself.

    As for the second stamp for Voyager, only Kate Mulgrew agreed to appear on a stamp, that's what I read between the lines, its something to do with copyright and all the legal stuff, blah, blah, blah, shame I really wanted Robert Picardo as the hologram Dr.

    1. True Star Trek fans NEVER refer to themselves as Trekkies, always Trekkers!

  4. P.S. 2020 does coincide with 100 years of Gene Roddenberry, creator of the series.

  5. To petemk
    Use those from the (admittedly expensive!) PSB - you'll then have two conveniently-sized blocks of 6 (3 x 2) to fit Hawid mounts easily ...

    1. To Richard thank you I did not think of that.

  6. Short-termism seems to be the order of the day at Royal Mail - issues like this seem likely to drive away (potential) future income, with erstwhile philatelic completists abandoning (or significantly scaling back) their hobby, for the sake of a few Sci-Fi fans' one-time-only purchases.

    I had intended to see out the year, with the Star Trek issue drawing a line under my collection.... but, having now seen the dearth of ambition in the unapologetically exploitative issue (of philatelists and Trekkers alike), I'll settle for the Christmas issue to bring the curtain down.

  7. Barry, I too am pondering on throwing in the philatelic towel now that the big 6 5 has struck......or do I plod onward until my 4 month old grandson is old enough.........beleive it or not he won his first swimming race with the young lad down the road today, even if Mummy did have to drive a round trip of 22 Scottish miles to provide the opportunity....

  8. I do quite like the look of these stamps. I will buy at least a few stamps and miniature sheet (although should I order online, or grab what the post office has?) for use on outgoing mail.

    Live long and prosper!

  9. As usual i will get the booklet and prestige but that's about it.

  10. Let us look on the bright side shall we? Until a few years ago commemorative stamps came out seldom and were usually about tedious royal events or arcane military anniversaries. Now we have some every month to choose from. You still have Machins if you want them, but the extra stamps that are sold to people who are Trekkers, Gricers, Twitchers, Sherlock fans &c can be æsthetically pleasing in their own right. The extra money thus spent on stamps helps to pay for all the philatelic services so why complain? In Iceland they have recently given the idea of commemorative stamps up. You do not have to have ugly stamps in your collection: it is a hobby; something to be done for pleasure. The number of stamps sold is dwindling anyway and Prince Charles will be the last monarch depicted on them probably so in future years modern stamps are likely to give more pleasure from their rarity and be more valuable. So let us all enjoy our hobby while it lasts. Philately will get you anywhere.

  11. As usual a thorough and reasoned overview Ian.

    Regards Peter

  12. Good evening Ian

    Do RM specify the colour on issue, say for the 50p grey green above?

    Regards Peter

    1. No Peter they just list the values and the make-up. The assumption is that the stamps are supposed to be the same colour as usual, although there will be shades. Only once was there a real error, due to miscommunication between Royal Mail and he printer, and that was the 81p in 2015.

  13. During the late 1990s when nearly all Special Stamp issues were of four or five stamps Royal Mail apologised for there being SIX values in the Endangered Species set but said it was because it was an important one.
    Just over two decades later 2020 has seen fourteen issues averaging 10½ stamps and with only one, “Brilliant Bugs”, of just six stamps. The eighteen stamps here would have been about a years’ worth soon after decimisation and six months’ worth in the mid-1980s.
    The print run of Special Stamps must have dropped considerably over the past thirty years, partly from there being fewer collectors now and partly from very very few Special Stamps, other than the Christmas issue, being postally used.


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