Classic Children’s Books Featured on New Stamps from Royal Mail

Classic children’s books known as Ladybird Books are featured on a new set of stamps issued September 14 by Great Britain’s Royal Mail.

The publishing house traces its roots to 1867, but became a true brand in 1940 when Wills and Hepworth’s publication of what is considered its first title: Bunnikin’s Picnic Party: A Story in Verse for Children with Illustrations in Colour. The book featured stories in verse written by W. Perring, accompanied by full-color illustrations by A. J. (Angusine Jeanne) MacGregor.

With paper rationing in force at the start of World War II, the business designed a pocket-sized hardback of 56 pages that could be produced from a single sheet. The size was 7 inches by 4 5/8 inches and the classic format was born. The publisher found this was an economical way of producing books, enabling the books to be retailed at a low price which, for almost 30 years, remained at two shillings and sixpence.

Since then, the publisher has released more than 650 titles with its heyday of production in the 1960s and ’70s. Ladybird began publishing books in other formats in 1980. Most of the remaining titles in the classic format were withdrawn from print in 1999, when the factory in Loughborough which specialized in this format closed.

The eight stamps — two each of differing denominations — are printed as se-tenant pairs. Three books are shown on each stamp, 24 in all. Each stamp shows a different category of books: Achievements, Adventures from History, Early Tales and Rhymes, Hobbies and How it Works, Key Words Reading Scheme, Nature and Conservation, People at Work, and Well-loved Tales.

Each stamp measures 41 millimeters by 30 millimeters and are printed via lithography by International Security Printers. Royal Mail is selling the stamps via several products, including first-day covers, a souvenir sheet, and presentation pack.

More information is available at the Royal Mail website.



Royal Mail Unveils a New Set of Star Wars Stamps for New Movie

The Star Wars universe will expand with another film in December and Great Britain’s Royal Mail is celebrating with eight new special stamps based on the epic sci-fi movie series.

The Star Wars Droids and Aliens will mark the release of Star Wars: Episode VIII, The Last Jedi, which will hit U.S. theaters on December 15. The stamps will go on sale October 12.

This is Royal Mail’s second blockbuster issue for the Star Wars realm, whose first movie — Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope — was released in 1977. In 2015, Royal Mail issued 12 similarly designed stamps from the earlier six Star Wars movies, including Darth Vader, Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.

Like the futuristic space-age wizardry of the Star Wars films, the new stamps are meant to be fun and filled with some extra features.

The stamps are illustrated by British artist Malcolm Tween, who also designed the Star Wars set issued in 2015.

The stamps feature images of droids and aliens that have appeared in the iconic film series and feature a mix of new and classic characters: aliens Maz Kanata; Chewbacca; Supreme Leader Snoke; Porgs; and droids BB-8; R2-D2; C-3PO; and K-2SO.

The droid stamps include design features that become visible only under a UV light. The style of the “1st” value on each of the stamps replicates the iconic font used for the films.

Each stamp also features a scene created by Tween especially for the stamps that includes the hero character as well as an iconic spaceship or vehicle. The stamps celebrate the British expertise behind the Star Wars films as each episode was made with a large British cast and crew.

Aliens are non-human species who live alongside humans, speaking either human languages or languages of their own. Many aliens have distinctive anatomies, from the tall, hair-covered Wookiees, such as Chewbacca, to the diminutively shaped, short-sighted Maz Kanata.

Droids are everywhere in the galaxy. First developed in the distant past, they assist humans and aliens in every way, from flying spaceships and providing power to spreading war and terror. Most droids speak only in electronic sounds to other droids and have their memory wiped when passed to a new owner. However, some droids escape memory wipes and can appear to develop personalities of their own and even form bonds with their owners.

Star Wars creator George Lucas envisioned the movie series from the start follow space-dwelling characters, their ancestors and descendants in a series of three triologies.  The final film in the original set of trilogies, simply called Episode IX for now, is due to be released in 2019.

Ten Nostalgic Toys Featured on New Stamps from Royal Mail

Royal Mail on August 21 released a set of 10 stamps featuring some of the most iconic and much-loved British toys from the last 100 years.

Evoking feelings of nostalgia across generations, the toys featured are: the Merrythought Bear; Sindy Doll; Spirograph; Stickle Bricks; W. Britain Toy Figures; Space Hopper; Fuzzy Felt; Meccano; Action Man and Hornby Dublo trains.

Many of the toys shown are the same or similar to toys sold around the same time in the United States or elsewhere.

Some of the British toys depicted followed similar American versions. For example, the Sindy fashion doll released in 1963 has a famous American cousin named Barbie, who first appeared in 1959; and Action Man, released in 1966, is a close cousin to the Hasbro’s GI Joe of the U.S., issued just two years earlier.

British engineer Denys Fisher developed and released Spirograph in 1965, with Kenner obtaining the U.S. rights in 1966.

Meccano building toys were being sold at the start of the 20th century, about a dozen years before the U.S. counterpart, Erector Sets.

The British toy industry rose in the 19th century as along with the growing middle class of the Victorian era. Major names in British manufacturing started to appear and compete with foreign makers.

For example, previously a producer of mechanical toys, W. Britain pioneered the hollowcast method of figure-making: made using less molten metal, toy soldiers were both lighter and significantly cheaper to produce. British manufacturers grew in confidence as the 20th century progressed. Soft-toy companies, including Merrythought, which still produces luxury bears to this day, began to take on the might of European giants such as Germany’s Steiff.

In 1938 Frank Hornby launched the Hornby Dublo train set. The following years would see the arrival of some of the biggest names in the history of toys — Fuzzy-Felt (1950), Sindy (1963), Action Man (1966) and the Spacehopper (1969) all materialised in a wild two-decade span, as well as Spirograph (1965) and Stickle Bricks (1969), which were two exceptional and enduring innovations that helped inspire young minds and encourage creativity.

By the early 1960s, Britain was exporting more toys than all but three other countries, with annual sales totaling more than £7 million.

Here are a few details about the stamps and toys:

Spacehopper: The precise origins of the ever-popular Spacehopper are uncertain, but what is known is that in the 1960s Aquilino Cosani patented a Pon-Pon exercise ball that had many of the Spacehopper’s features. Marketed over the years under names such as the Hoppity Hop, the traditional Spacehopper, sold in blue, was first introduced to the UK in 1969 by toy makers Mettoy.

Meccano: The idea for Hornby’s unique construction system originated in 1898, when he was trying to source small parts for a model crane that he was making with his sons. He realized that it would be possible to make all sorts of models if children had immediate access to parts, such as metal strips and plates with holes in, which could be fitted together with nuts and bolts “in different positions and at different angles.” After the invention was patented in 1901, the first Mechanics Made Easy sets were produced in 1902.

Stickle Bricks: Invented in the UK in 1969, Stickle Bricks offered an easy introduction to the world of construction toys. Designed to develop the imagination of young children, thanks to the appealing combination of chunky bricks in attractive bold colors, Stickle Bricks became a much-loved toy that encouraged children to stick, stack, and build. Thin plastic ‘fingers’ on the edges and sides of the bricks interlock easily and can also be pulled apart with little difficulty.

Spirograph: A drawing toy invented in the UK in the mid-1960s, Spirograph was originally developed as a drafting tool. As its design evolved, it soon became clear that Spirograph had even greater potential as a child’s toy. Its distinctive wheels and gears, which combine the principles of mathematics and art, have enabled children of all levels of artistic ability to create decorative, intricate patterns.

The Merrythought Bear: Merrythought’s quintessentially British teddy bears have been hand-crafted in Ironbridge, Shropshire since 1930. The founder of the company, Gordon Holmes, was the owner of a spinning mill in Yorkshire when he realized the possibilities of using mohair – the fleece of the Angora goat – in the production of soft toys. In 1931, the first catalog revealed an eclectic range of 32 soft toys, including the original Merrythought teddy bear..

Fuzzy-Felt: For more than 65 years, Fuzzy-Felt has been encouraging the creativity of children 3 and older in the crafting of imaginative scenes using colorful pre-cut felt shapes that can stick on a flocked backing board. Perhaps less well known is the fact that the toy’s origins lie in the production of tanks during the WWII. The tanks’ gaskets were made of felt and the manufacturing process created small offcuts which the factory workers’ children would play with. Lois Allan, whose outbuildings were used to make the gaskets during wartime, saw the potential for developing the idea, and launched the first Fuzzy-Felt set in 1950. The original felt pieces were plain silhouettes and later evolved into more detailed printed shapes on themes such as farm animals and dinosaurs.

Action Man: Two years after the GI Joe toy arrived in the U.S., in 1966 Palitoy introduced the youth of Britain to an exciting new toy called Action Man. This fully poseable action figure was originally produced in three different versions: Action Soldier, Action Sailor, and Action Pilot. Each had painted hair (either black, brown, red or blond), a scarred face and came packaged with a basic uniform and dog tag.

Sindy: In September 1963, Pedigree Toys launched Sindy, Britain’s new teenage fashion doll dressed in a range of outfits created by cutting-edge designers Foale and Tuffin. Sindy’s first collection included her iconic Weekender (in a red, white and blue matelot top with bell-bottom jeans), as modeled on the stamp, as well as Skating Girl and Pony Club. Later in the 1960s, Sindy was joined by her then boyfriend Paul, sister Patch and friends Vicki, Mitzi, Poppet and Betsy.

Britain Toy Figures: It was in the late 19th century that W. Britain Limited (also known as Britains and William Britain) first enjoyed success in the business of making toy soldiers. From 1893, W. Britain began producing hollowcast figures. The company dominated the market with these products until the 1950s, when plastic figures made by firms such as Herald grew popular.

Hornby Dublo: Hornby’s first toy trains, powered by a high-quality clockwork motor and ‘O’ gauge in size, were introduced in 1920. Five years later, the first electric Hornby train was produced. In 1938, Hornby Dublo was launched. About half the size of the ‘O’ gauge sets, the new ‘double-O’ range fitted into modest British living rooms more easily. Appealing on many different levels, a set could capture the imagination of a child, as well as tempting an adult to create ever-more complex and intricate layouts.

Royal Mail Marks WWI Centenary Fourth Year With Six New Stamps

A shattered poppy, an exploded Bible, and a pair of life-saving nurses are among the images shown on six stamps issued Monday, July 31, by Royal Mail. The set is the fourth in Great Britain’s five-year commemorative series marking the centennial of events of World War I.

Across the series, the stamp images have provided a range of themes showing how artists, including writers and painters, interpreted the events; the role of non-combatants and civilians; the role of the armed services; the role of women; and the contribution of the Commonwealth.

The imagery on the stamps features historic memorials and artifacts that have become synonymous with the conflict, portraits of some of the participants, art showing some now famous and moving scenes, poems composed during the war and newly commissioned artworks of poppies — the symbol of Remembrance.

The 2017 stamps (shown below) feature:

Shattered Poppy, by photographer John Ross. Using a microscope in his work, Ross manages to reveal aspects of subjects not normally visible.

An extract from the poem, “Dead Man’s Dump,”by British poet Isaac Rosenberg. The poem graphically depicts the horrors of the war. Rosenberg himself died on April 1, 1918, during the German spring offensive.

Nurses Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, who travelled to Belgium to join a small ambulance corps where they worked transporting casualties to base hospital. They established a front-line first-aid post at Pervyse in Belgium, where they would eventually treat 23,000 casualties. In 1917 they were awarded the Military Medal.

Also featured is an image of a warship with its hull painted in a geometric, abstract style. The design was created by British painter Edward Wadsworth, who was engaged to create “dazzle camouflage” patterns for British ships, which were intended to confuse attacking German U-boats.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele, which commenced on July 31, 1917, a stamp features an image of the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, where fallen soldiers from the battle were buried. Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, a total of 11,961 Commonwealth servicemen from WWI are buried or commemorated there.

Private Lemuel Thomas Rees’ life-saving Bible was specially photographed for the stamp issue. During the Battle of Passchendaele, an exploding German shell landed close by, and although Rees was hit, he was saved by the small Bible that he kept in his breast pocket. Rees was conscripted into the 6th Battalion in 1917.

Here is Royal Mail’s Summary of the stamps:

POPPY: To create Shattered Poppy, photographer, John Ross, needed a supply of fresh poppies and so he set up a temporary studio in a barn next to a poppy field, where he froze freshly cut poppies using a vat of liquid nitrogen, before breaking the brittle petals with a metal rod. Backlit to maximise the flower’s color and fine structure, the resulting image suggests a sudden, devastating act of violence, an impression that is heightened by the poppy’s natural delicacy.

POEM: Isaac Rosenberg was a British painter and poet. The son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, but also maintained an interest in writing poetry. By the time of his arrival on the Western Front with the 11th Battalion in the summer of 1916, he had published three volumes of poetry. In “Dead Man’s Dump,”Rosenberg depicts a shocking scene as mule-drawn wagons laden with coils of barbed wire pass by the dying and crush the bodies of dead men lying in their path.

NURSES: Shortly after the outbreak of war, friends Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm traveled to Belgium, joining a small ambulance corps where they worked transporting casualties to base hospitals. Realizing that many men were dying from untreated wounds, they established a front-line first-aid post at Pervyse in Belgium where they would eventually treat 23,000 casualties. In 1917 they were awarded the Military Medal. The stamp image shows the “Madonnas of Pervyse” wearing the Order of Leopold II, a Belgian decoration that they received in 1915. In 1918 both nurses were affected by a gas attack. Chisholm recovered sufficiently to return to the front.

DRY DOCK: Working in a geometric, abstract style British painter Edward Wadsworth was interested in technology and the new perspectives it might offer. After being invalided out of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1917, he was engaged to design “dazzle camouflage” patterns for British ships, which were intended to confuse attacking German U-boats (submarines).

CEMETERY: Tyne Cot Cemetery in Flanders, Belgium, was designed by Sir Herbert Baker. A total of 11,961 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War are buried or commemorated there. Of the burials, 8,373 are unidentified. Visiting the cemetery in 1922, King George V remarked: “I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon Earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”

LIFE-SAVING BIBLE: In 1917, Lemuel Thomas Rees was conscripted into the 6th Battalion, South Wales Borderers. During the Battle of Passchendaele, an exploding German shell landed close by, and although Rees was hit, he was saved by a small Bible that he kept in his breast pocket. After spending four months in a field hospital, he was sent home on leave where he suffered terrible nightmares, reliving the horrors of trench warfare. Following his return to the Western Front, Rees was wounded in a gas attack. He died from bronchial pneumonia and the effects of gas on November 13, 1918, only two days after the Armistice was signed.

The stamps and stamp products are available at:

United Nations Issue Could Create Wordiest Stamps Ever

A planned United Nations souvenir sheet designed to honor a world record might set a world record of its own, thanks to microprinting and a lot of words.

The United Nations Postal Administration will formally issue this souvenir sheet October 27 at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The UNPA will have a sales booth at the two-day show. (Publicity image courtesy of UNPA.)

The three-stamp souvenir sheet pays tribute to the Translation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Passing the 500 Mark. (The declaration was drafted on December 10, 1948 and has been translated into 503 languages at last count. Guinness World Records recognizes it as the world’s most translated document.)

The sheet will be formally issued in October 27 on the first day of the two-day United Nations Stamp and Postal History Show, UNExpo 17, at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

The sheet has one stamp each denominated in U.S., Swiss, and Austrian currency. Those countries are home to the U.N.’s three main headquarters. Each stamp has a title in different languages, but includes the entire text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its preamble in English. (Here’s where another world record may be set!)

Malli Hui, of the U.N. Postal Administration, noted that the document, unofficially, has 1,778 words! Those words are spread across 60 lines of microprinting on each stamp. Blow it up big enough and the words are legible. The stamp will likely be eligible for world-record status once it is formally issued. (Side note: the German and English titles at the top are both five words, the French title is six.)

The current record for words on a stamp is 606 for a 2014 International Women’s Day stamp from Belgium in 2014, according to the Guinness World Records website.

A first-day ceremony will be part of the show that will bring together U.N. philatelists from all over. The show will feature exhibits, seminars, presentations, meetings, and dealers.

The souvenir sheet, which has not been produced, will be printed in offset with microprinting and silver foil, Hui said.

At the left is an image of Eleanor Roosevelt holding up the original document featuring the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A swirling grid pattern and bleeding muted hues from yellow to blue tie the historic photo to the stamps, giving it a modern feel. The words “United Nations Expo 2017 Pennsylvania, USA” are at the bottom left.

The photo shown was taken November 1, 1949 during Roosevelt’s visit to the U.N. headquarters, which at the time was in the former Sperry Gyroscope factory in Lake Success (Long Island), New York. Roosevelt served as the first chair of the U.N.’s Commission on Human Rights and helped draft the declaration, which was proclaimed on December 10, 1948, by the United Nations General Assembly meeting in Paris.

For more information about the show, visit For more information about current U.N. stamps, visit