Stamp Products Explained
Collect, or not to collect? Here's all you wanted to know about stamp products, explained by our Assistant Curator Georgina.
Here at The Postal Museum I deal with all new stamps produced by Royal Mail. We collect a copy of every stamp along with some of the products they produce. I thought I could explain some of the terms and introduce you to what you could collect.
As a visual aid, I’ve chosen the stamp issue Star Wars, which has appeared twice, once in 2015 and again in 2017. Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, I hope you enjoy the stamps.
Sheets of Stamps
The first printed sheet of each stamp is retained as the registration copy. They are then signed and dated on the back for verification. We have pretty much every registration sheet ever produced in our collection allowing you to document the history of stamps and their printing processes.
Cylinder sheets denote the cylinder on which the stamps were produced. You’ll notice that I’ve circled the cylinder numbers here. Star Wars is a modern stamp and is produced on the four colour printing process. Before there could be more colours depending on what was needed to produce the image.
Stock Sheets of Stamps
We receive stock sheets of each stamp which we are able to scan and use for museum purposes (i.e. in my blogs). Stamps come in numerous shapes and I’ve included a few below. In 2014 children’s TV characters weren’t confined to the borders of the stamp and broke free like Bagpuss here. You’ll also see the hanging monkey from 2016 which was intended to hook over your envelope.
First Day Cover
First Day Covers are produced on the first day of issue and consist of an envelope and the issued stamps, cancelled. Now Royal Mail produces decorated covers that refer to the issue but you can still produce a first day cover with a blank envelope. We collect the two handstamps produced by Royal Mail for the first day of issue, these consists of one from Tallents House, Edinburgh and one from an area that relates to the issue, here Elstree. The handstamp must cancel all the stamps and is strategically placed between the 12 stamps.
Presentation Packs contain the issued stamps along with, if produced, a miniature sheet. When the pack is opened it contains more information on the issue. For the Great Fire of London issue of 2016, for example, an entire graphic novel was produced to explain the events.
Miniature sheets are beautifully small and include stamps that are not possible to purchase singularly over the counter at your local post office. They consist of usually around 4 stamps and are related to the issue but are slightly different in their own right. Here we look at the ships involved in intergalactic battles.
Coin Covers are similar to First Day Covers but they include a metal coin or medal. Royal Mail works with the Royal Mint to produce these pieces. Medals were made for Star Wars but for older issues such as Beatrix Potter legal tender coins were produced instead.
Stamp books are what most people purchase in the Post Office to send their birthday cards. In a commemorative issue the book consists of definitives, stamps with the monarchs head, and commemorative stamps.
These sheets are pretty similar in so much as they consist of stamps and labels. A Commemorative Sheet tends to come out for an anniversary and will be the only product issued, whereas a Generic Sheet is part of the commemorative issue. The image below depicts the issued character stamps along with stills from the film.
These are postcards that depict the issued stamp. They are purchased as a set and include all issued stamps along with any miniature sheet issued.
Prestige Stamp Book
This is the product that comes with the most information on the issue. The book is filled with facts about the characters, how it was filmed and behind the scenes info. The book consists of all the issued stamps along with some definitives and perhaps country stamps too.
This is just some of what we collect here at The Postal Museum and can be purchased from the Royal Mail and Post Office website. So why not next time you’re sending a birthday card ask for the commemorative stamps and see what you find.
-Georgina Tomlinson, Assistant Curator (Philately)