It started – as all ‘great’ ideas do – down the pub.
There I was, sipping on my *ahem* first pint of amber nectar, when an interesting point came up. A good friend of mine, Billy, is turning 70 this year, and I was asked by my mates what I planned to get him.
It didn’t take me long. By the second round I was in top form, and a great idea came to me.
And yet to their minds, my gift seemed beyond generous. And I’m not sure any of them believed me. But why?
Well that’s because it’s a genuine Penny Black – the crown jewel in the nation’s greatest hobby.
“A genuine one?” was the doubting reply. Which is something I’ve heard a lot over the years.
It’s a perfectly valid response. Especially when you consider the most famous example sold for just under £350,000!
You see, the Penny Black is the world’s FIRST postage stamp. And better yet – from a collector’s point of view – they were only issued for 9 months (1840-41), and are so highly revered in philatelist circles that no collection is complete without it. The very first. A pillar of the Victorian Age.
But here’s the rub. 68 million Penny Blacks were printed in its 9 months of production.
And so for stamp collectors, condition is everything. In fact Stanley Gibbons, the authority on stamps, have a series of terms to help clarify what the condition of a stamp is worth. Every year they assign values to every British stamp ever issued. The values of the most desirable versions are called the ‘fine [used or unused] catalogue price(s)’.
And while there are indeed many more factors that affect the overall value of a Penny Black (plate number, cancellation and corner letters), the gold-standard is the ‘4-Margin’ – a stamp with four clear white margins around the stamp. And despite what you might think, it is a real rarity.
You see it was this version, the most desirable of the Penny Blacks, which I was giving to Billy. Perhaps you can now appreciate my friends’ disbelief.
But there’s something else. Something even more remarkable…
Over recent years the global market for stamp collecting has grown at a rapid rate. One of the major factors for this is because old, historic stamps are rare, difficult to source and limited in supply.
This overall rise in values is perhaps best illustrated by the Stanley Gibbons 250 Index, which has seen a 288% rise in the last ten years alone. Tracking the price of 250 key investment stamps, the index rise reflects the constant demand for the very best stamp issues. And significantly, this growth has been in stark contrast to other comparable markets over the same time.
As a result of this continued demand, the last two decades alone has seen the official Stanley Gibbons catalogue value for a fine used example of the Penny Black rise by 150% – out-performing many other comparable commodities.
And so came my idea. To give my good friend Billy a meaningful gift for a milestone birthday. A gift that’s not only dear to my heart, but something with genuine historical significance, fantastic desirability, and as a bonus, a clear track record of increasing value.
So there you have it, a great idea for a great friend – thank-you Fosters.
If you’re interested…
You can own your own 4-Margin Penny Black, like Billy. Click here for details >>>
Royal Mail have revealed 10 new David Bowie stamps, which will mark a tribute to one of the most influential music and cultural figures of all time.
The stamps are Royal Mail’s second dedicated music artist stamp issue, following on from the popular Pink Floyd release in the summer of last year.
Scheduled for release on 14th March 2017, the stamps will feature iconic album covers and live performances from 1971 right up to his final studio album Blackstar.
Here’s your first look at the new stamps alongside a bit of info about each one…
1st Class – Hunky Dory:
His fourth album and released in December 1971. Time magazine chose it as part of their “100 best albums of all time” list in January 2010.
1st Class – Aladdin Sane:
His sixth album and released in April 1973. The album was among six Bowie entries in Rolling Stone magazine’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
1st Class – “Heroes”:
His twelfth studio album and released in October 1977. This was the second instalment of his “Berlin Trilogy” recorded with Brian Eno and Tony Visconti. The title track remains one of Bowie’s best known and acclaimed songs.
£1.52 – Let’s Dance:
His fifteenth studio album and released in April 1983. Co-produced by Nile Rodgers, and featured three of the most successful singles “Let’s Dance”, “Modern Love” and “China Girl”. Let’s Dance is Bowie’s bestselling album.
£1.52 – Earthling:
His twentieth studio album and released in February 1997, this was the first album Bowie had self-produced since Diamond Dogs.
£1.52 – Blackstar:
Bowie’s final studio album, released on 8th January 2016 to coincide with his 69th birthday. Bowie died two days after its release.
The Miniature Sheet
1st Class – The Ziggy Stardust Tour, 1972: The tour promoted The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars studio album and took in the UK, North America, and Japan.
1st Class – The Serious Moonlight Tour, 1983: The tour was designed to support the Let’s Dance album and was Bowie’s longest, largest and most successful concert tour.
£1.52 – The Stage Tour, 1978: Also known as Isolar II – The 1978 World Tour and The Low/Heroes World Tour because it was staged to promote the Low and Heroes albums.
£1.52 – A Reality Tour, 2004: Staged to promote the Reality album this tour was to be Bowie’s last tour.
Background Image – The Glass Spider Tour, 1987: launched to promote the album Never Let Me Down.
A First Class Tribute to a Music Legend
These stamps are sure to be sought after by anyone looking for a really collectable piece of Bowie memorabilia. And there are even due to be limited edition ‘fan sheets’ issued for the those who want to keep something truly special.
I wasn’t sure Royal Mail could top last year’s Pink Floyd issue, but these stamps are so well executed and poignant in my opinion they will go down as some of the most important musical stamps ever to grace our postage.
You can reserve all of the new David Bowie stamps right now on a limited edition Collector Card – professionally framed and ready to hang. Click here for details.
A nation woke on Friday 14 March to hear the sad news that Tony Benn had passed away. Whether we believed in his politics or not, for many of us Tony Benn was the last of an era – a national politician of true conviction.
But for philatelists he was something else. Tony Benn was both the father of the modern commemorative stamp and the man who nearly saw the Queen’s head removed from our stamps.
Tony Benn entered Parliament in 1950 before being forced to resign his seat after inheriting his father’s peerage in 1960. He went on to successfully force a change in the law that allowed him to revoke his peerage and return the House in a 1963 by-election.
Stamps to reflect “Britain’s unique contribution”
The following year’s General Election saw Harold Wilson’s Labour Government scrape to power and with it the appointment of Tony Benn to position of Postmaster General.
One of his very first actions was to widen the scope for commemorative stamps “to celebrate events of national importance, to commemorate appropriate anniversaries and occasions, [and] to reflect Britain’s unique contribution to the arts and world affairs”.
Keen to develop his ideas for a more democratic stamp programme, Benn solicited views from the general public. One contribution came from David Gentleman an already well-established stamp designer. He suggested that the Queen’s portrait should be removed from pictorial stamps to give more space and freedom for the designers.
Off with her head
Benn, of course, was a keen republican and he jumped on the idea as a non-politicised way to achieve his goal of removing the Queen’s head from stamps.
Indeed the Robert Burns stamps (ultimately issued in 1966 with a full portrait of the Queen) were originally commissioned allowing “non-traditional” designs – the result was that 21 of the 40 submissions carried the legend “UK Postage”, a crown or a royal cypher in place of Her Majesty.
Throughout 1965 arguments raged between Benn and Gentleman on one side and the Stamp Advisory Committee, Palace and post office officials on the other. Finally, the Queen made her views clear: her head should remain on British stamps. Benn was not impressed, stating:
“If the Queen can reject the advice of a minister on a little thing like a postage stamp,
what would happen if she rejected the advice of the Prime Minister on a major matter?”
Ironically, it was David Gentleman who was responsible for the final Queen’s head that still features on our commemorative stamps today, creating the silhouette design from Mary Gillick’s original coin design.
The Westminster Collection was privileged to have Tony Benn sign a limited number of Sub-Post Offices First Day Covers in 1997.
A limited number of covers are still in our archive stock and are available at the original issue price of £19.99 (+p&p).
NOW SOLD OUT.