BlogQueen Elizabeth II's LegacyA Royal Journey: Queen Elizabeth II and the World of Philately

A Royal Journey: Queen Elizabeth II and the World of Philately

A Royal Journey: Queen Elizabeth II and the World of Philately

Her Majesty's Philatelic Legacy: A Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

As we commemorate the 98th Birth Anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we embark on a journey to explore her profound impact on the world of philately. Join us as we delve into the fascinating realm of stamp collecting and pay homage to Queen Elizabeth II's enduring legacy.

A Reign of Grace and Dedication

Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952, following the passing of her father, King George VI. Her Majesty's reign has been characterised by grace, dedication, and a steadfast commitment to her role as Head of State. Throughout her tenure, she has remained a symbol of continuity and stability in an ever-changing world.

A Passion Ignited: The "Wildings" Definitive Issues

At the outset of her reign, Queen Elizabeth II oversaw the introduction of the first definitive stamp series bearing her likeness, known affectionately as the "Wildings." These iconic stamps, issued in 1952, featured a dignified portrait of the young Queen, captured in exquisite detail by renowned artist Dorothy Wilding.

The "Wildings" represented a departure from previous stamp designs, heralding a new era of modernity and sophistication in British philately. With the introduction of new security features such as the experimental and short-lived graphite lines, and the enduring phosphor coating, the "Wildings" not only showcased Her Majesty's portrait but also set new standards in stamp production.

The experimental Graphite Lines security feature, shown here on SG561.

The final hurrah of the experimental Graphite Lines, replaced by Phosphor Banding clearly visible on this example of SG609.

The Coronation Issue: A Historic Commemoration

In 1953, the world witnessed the issuance of the first commemorative stamp of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, celebrating her Coronation. This historic issue, released to coincide with the Queen's coronation ceremony, featured a magnificent portrayal of Her Majesty in regal attire, surrounded by symbols of monarchy and tradition.

The 1953 Coronation Commemorative Issue, SG532-535.

The 1953 Coronation issue captured the spirit of celebration and unity that swept across the Commonwealth nations during this momentous occasion. It served as a poignant tribute to Queen Elizabeth II's ascension to the throne and her unwavering commitment to her duties as Head of State.

Evolution of Stamp Designs: The Iconic Machin Series

In 1967, the world witnessed the introduction of the iconic Machin series, a revolutionary departure from traditional stamp design. Designed by sculptor Arnold Machin, these stamps featured a strikingly contemporary profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, capturing her timeless elegance and regal presence.

The first Machin stamp to be issued was the 4d Olive Brown on 5th June 1967. This colour was specifically requested by Her Majesty, as an homage to the Penny Black, the first issue of Queen Victoria almost 200 years earlier.


A 1967 4d Olive Brown alongside an 1880 Penny Black.

The Machin series revolutionised stamp production, introducing uniformity and efficiency to the design process while maintaining a sense of artistic integrity. The distinctive profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth II became an enduring symbol of British philately, gracing millions of stamps issued over the decades.

During the 1970s we saw further changes to definitive stamps, as the Machin designs oversaw further modernisation with modernisation and parcel post.

The first decimal large format Machin definitives, with higher parcel postage values - SG829-831b.

The X-Values series of definitives are the first small format decimal definitives.

In 2021 the Royal Mail updated the Machin Definitive format to include a new Barcode, with other security features being carried over from the U-Numbers. The new barcoded stamps are known as V-Numbers. The barcodes have been introduced to facilitate future innovations, such as tracking of letters and sharing personalised messages, which can be accessed by scanning the barcode with a smartphone app. Against a backdrop of declining postal volumes, Royal Mail hopes that adding digital features like these will encourage people to send more letters.

These stamps were largely issued in sheets and booklets of 4 or 8 pieces. Royal Mail issued the first Prestige Booklet containing a barcoded stamp in May 2022, with the release of DY43 Unsung Heroes - Women of WW2.

V4500, the first Barcoded Machin Head

We see the key security feature of U-Numbers continued in V-Numbers, with a security code and year code overprinted onto the stamp, the codes varying depending on which year and media the stamp was printed in (sheet, booklet, business sheet or prestige booklet).

The final stamps issued with the Machin Head design were printed in Prestige Booklets, with the last stamp appearing in DY47 Flying Scotsman, in March 2023.

V4720b (Top, 20p) and V4800a (Below, £2.00), the final 2 issues of the Machin Head design.

These final GB Stamps issued with the Machin Head design mark the end of an era, a momentous occasion in British postal history. The Machin design has been a constant presence in the lives of the British people, a symbol of the country's rich history and enduring traditions, and these final stamps will be a cornerstone in the album of any collector of GB definitives.

Commemorating Milestones: The Final Issues

In her later years, Queen Elizabeth II continued to be commemorated through special stamp issues, marking significant milestones in her reign. The last issue to feature the iconic Machin head of the Queen was the 2023 Flying Scotsman Centenary issue, a fitting tribute to her enduring legacy.

2023 Flying Scotsman Centenary, SG4783-4790, the final issue bearing the Machin head of Queen Elizabeth II.

Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee in 2022 was celebrated with great fanfare, and commemorative stamps were issued to mark this historic occasion. Following her passing, a Memoriam set was issued, honouring her life and reign with reverence and respect.

The 2022 Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee, SG4627-4634.

The 2022 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Memoriam, SG4739-4742.

A Legacy of Inspiration

As we honour Queen Elizabeth II's 98th Birth Anniversary, let us celebrate not only her remarkable life and reign but also her profound influence on the world of stamp collecting. Her Majesty's passion for philately has inspired countless individuals to explore the beauty and diversity of the stamp world, fostering a global community bound by a shared love for collecting.

Join us in paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II and her enduring legacy as a passionate philatelist. Together, let us continue to preserve and cherish the rich heritage encapsulated in the pages of our stamp albums.


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