Christmas is coming! Assistant Curator Georgina shares her favourite festive stamp artworks.

I’ve taken over the Discovery Room display case to show some of our amazing Christmas stamp artwork, here’s a chance to see the work if you can’t drop in.

First Christmas Stamp

A children’s drawing competition produced the first ever Christmas stamps. Open to children aged 15 and under, around 5,000 designs were submitted. Acclaimed stamp designers judged the work and the winning images, ‘King of the Orient’ by Tasveer Shemza and ‘Snowman’ by James Berry were sent to HM The Queen for approval.

Two stamps depicting Christmas drawings by children.

3d. King of the Orient & 1/6 Snowman, Christmas 1966

This is not the only time children have been asked to create Christmas stamps. The competition was repeated in 1981 and again last year in 2017. Since the first Christmas stamps, the theme has alternated each year between religious and secular subjects.

Black and white photographs of the children who designed the Christmas 1966 stamps.

Tasveer Shemza and James Berry in the Christmas 1966 Presentation Pack information.

Secular:

Axel Scheffler, 2012

Axel Scheffler, internationally acclaimed for illustrating iconic children’s books, including The Gruffalo and Stick Man, was asked to produce 2012’s Christmas stamps. He looked at quintessential Christmas characters such as; Father Christmas, Reindeer and Snowmen. You can see how the characters are grouped together on the First Day Cover insert. It accompanied dialogue between the characters as they discuss decorating a Christmas tree.

Painting of Father Christmas, a snowman, a penguin and a reindeer stood by a tree.

Adopted artwork for the First Day Cover insert by Axel Scheffler

Insert from the First Day Cover that features the adopted artwork and a narrated conservation between characters.

Christmas 2012 First Day Cover Insert.

Robins, 1995

Robins are a regular feature on Christmas stamps and featured in their own dedicated issue in 1995. Ken Lilly was the artist chosen to produce the issued designs. The below image depicts a robin on a fence against holly and ivy, the robin’s red breast really stands out in this sea of green.

A painting of a robin sat on a fence against a bush of ivy.

Adopted artwork of a Robin in ivy by Ken Lilly.

19p, Christmas 1995
25p, Christmas 1995
30p, Christmas 1995
41p, Christmas 1995
60p, Christmas 1995

Religious:

Angels, 1975

Many people enjoy religious stamps at Christmas as they celebrate the birth of Christ. Angels, like robins, have featured on many Christmas stamps but I especially like the way Richard Downer uses line drawings of the angels and typography in the image. This style was rejected and a more solid coloured image was used on the issued stamp as you can see on the First Day Cover.

Image of two flying angels and the word 'Noel' in gold and purple.

Unadopted artwork of two angels by Richard Downer.

Image of a First Day Cover from 1975 featuring all issued stamps and two Bethlehem postmarks.

Christmas 1975 First Day Cover

Nativity, 2011

The story of the Nativity works well across a set of stamps as each can take a section of the story. The artwork below is Peter Malone’s depiction of the three wise men following a star. The star in the image has such luminosity and as you can see the image was accepted and featured on the £1.65 stamp.

Artwork featuring three men pointing to a star.

Adopted artwork of the Three Wise Men by Peter Malone for Christmas 2011

Image of the Christmas 2011 miniature featuring all the issued stamp a an extract from Luke 2:10.

Christmas 2011 Miniature Sheet

Christmas 2018 is a secular year and we are looking at post boxes. Each monarchs post box features in a wintry scene. But what would you like to see on Christmas stamps…maybe more reindeer, modern toys or a big Christmas turkey, maybe one year it’ll appear.

A miniature sheet featuring all the issued Christmas stamps from 2018 in a wintry landscape setting.

Christmas 2018 Miniature Sheet

– Georgina Tomlinson, Assistant Curator (Philately)