Senior Archivist Gavin explores Freddie Mercury's childhood passion - stamp collecting.

On 9 July Royal Mail will be putting on sale a collection of 13 stamps featuring the rock band Queen to mark the 50th anniversary of their founding. One of the lesser known facts about Queen’s iconic lead singer Freddie Mercury is that he was a childhood stamp collector, and that his stamp album is part of The Postal Museum’s collection.

Queen Stamp Set © Royal Mail

Born Farrokh Bulsara, into a Zoroastrian family in Zanzibar, ‘Freddie’ acquired his nickname in childhood. In line with his family’s religious beliefs all of his belongings were burnt upon his death in 1991, although his father Bomi decided to keep Freddie’s childhood stamp album, making it one of only a few of his personal items that still exist in the public domain.

Freddie Mercury’s Stamp Album © The Postal Museum

Bomi (who worked in the British colonial office in Zanzibar as an official) was also interested in stamps and likely originally inspired Freddie’s stamp collecting. It is thought Freddie built up his collection between the ages of nine and twelve. The collection includes stamps from a wide range of countries across the world, many from the former British Empire. Those of particular philatelic interest are from Zanzibar. The album also incorporates a wide selection of stamps from Eastern Europe.

Freddie Mercury’s Stamp Album © The Postal Museum

One of the most interesting aspects of the collection is the manner in which the stamps are arranged. On some of the album pages the stamps are ordered by colour, size or type. On other pages, balanced patterns are created, or letters from the alphabet formed. Freddie preferred black pages as he clearly liked the look of the stamps over black. He would also leave blank spaces if he didn’t have the right shape or colour stamp. Perhaps for the future Freddie Mercury the appeal of stamps was as much about their designs and the ways in which they could be displayed as the stamps themselves?

Freddie Mercury’s Stamp Album © The Postal Museum

Freddie’s family moved to Feltham, Middlesex in 1963 and in 1966 he joined Ealing College of Art to study graphic illustration. His artistic and creative interest in stamp collecting clearly shows the direction he was heading in.

Bomi Bulsara eventually decided to auction his and Freddie Mercury’s stamp collections and The Postal Museum’s predecessor purchased the album on 17 December 1993. The amount paid was donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, an AIDS charity set up to remember Freddie.

Since then Freddie’s album has been on tour to places including Prague (twice), Australia and the Dominion theatre (home to the musical We Will Rock You). The real value of this collection is not in the stamps themselves, but in its rich historical value and connection to one of the world’s greatest ever entertainers. As pop memorabilia and for cultural reference, Freddie Mercury’s collection is priceless.

Freddie Mercury’s Stamp Album © The Postal Museum

Fittingly, Mercury was posthumously remembered on one of a series of stamps produced to mark the millennium. Several other rock bands and stars have been the subjects of stamp issues in recent years including the Beatles, David Bowie and Elton John as well as a 2010 Classic Album Covers issue featuring records by the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Clash and Blur among others.

– Gavin McGuffie, Senior Archivist


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