Great Britain's Christmas Stamps, 1998
Great Britain started somewhat late when it came to issuing special stamps
for Christmas: Canada, issuing the first such stamp in 1898, predated its
"Mother Country" by 67 years. GB has, however, caught up rapidly when it comes
to attractive and imaginative designs and the Christmas stamps for 1998 are
beauties. They depict angels, complete with golden halos and brilliantly
coloured robes in the acting of praying (the 20 pence, 26 pence and 63 pence
values), and playing a pipe (30 pence value, and a lute (43 pence value).
As usual, like all the others, these British stamps carry no country name.
This was a privilege given to Britain by the Universal Postal Union in 1874 as
a mark of appreciation for producing the first prepaid adhesive postage stamps
in 1840. British stamps are nevertheless identifiable by the silhouette of
Queen Elizabeth II's head in the top right- or top left-hand corner.
Positioning this silhouette, even though it is pretty small, is something the
designers of British postage stamps have to take into account when planning
their layouts. It has to be clearly visible, but not get in the way of the
overall design. However, they've had over thirty years of practice in getting
it right, ever since the Queen's head - known as the Machin head after the
medallist, Arnold Machin, who created it - was first introduced in 1967. In
this 1998 Christmas set, the silhouette appears in gold, blending tastefully
with the overall shine of each stamp.
Five-stamp sets like these are issued only occasionally. by the Royal Mail.
The more usual number of stamps is four. However, for Christmas purposes, the
Royal Mail produces a first class (26p) and second class (20p) stamp, another
for postage to Europe (30p), one for the nearer long-haul distances, like the
USA (43p) and lastly for the really faraway locations - from Britain that is -
like Australia or New Zealand (63p).
This is, of course, the last GB issue for 1998. Next year, being pre-Millennium year, collectors of British stamps are in for a treat: a new issue
of stamps every month, building up into a collection which celebrates Britain
and the British, their history and their achievements so that no one can be in
any doubt where they've come from as they embark on the 21st century.