History of Commemorative Stamps – By Mailcoms

What is a Commemorative Stamp?

History of Commemorative Stamps A commemorative stamp is a stamp that tends to be issued on a specific date to honor or commemorate a place, vent, person or object. The subject of the commemorative stamp is spelled out in print on the stamp. This makes them slightly different to other types of stamps such as a definitive stamp. Postal services globally usually release several commemorative stamps each year and they are usually sold for a limited time with limited quantities. The example to the right shows one Commemorative stamp of Alexander Graham Bell.

The History of Commemorative Stamps

From the first ever commemorative stamp to the future of commemorative stamp sets, view our brief history of commemorative stamps here.

  • 1st May 1840 – the first postage stamp was released in the UK called the Penny Black. This bared the head of Queen Victoria as part of the postal reforms.
  • 1892 – for the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World during 1942, this date marked the first “official” commemorative stamp. This first commemorative stamp was released by USA and called the Colombian Issue.
    • 23rd April 1924 – the first set of commemorative stamps in the UK was released on this date. Designed by Harold Nelson, this set commemorated the British Empire Exhibition by King George V.
    • 1929 – the final set during the 1920’s marked the 9th Postal Union Congress event. This event marked the approval of postage paid franking. This later led to the development of the Franking Machine.
    • 1948 London Olympics – one set of commemorative stamps during the 1940’s marked the first time the Olympics were held in the UK. Similarly, in 2012, another London Olympic set was released.
    • 1950’s – a decade of change– during this decade, commemorative stamp sets moved from focusing on the Royal family to other subjects including:
      • 1951 – Festival Of Britain
      • 1953 – Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
      • 1955 – Castles
      • 1957 – World Scout Jubilee Jamboree
      • 1957 – 46th Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference
      • 1957 – 6th British Empire & Commonwealth Games
  • 1960’s– during this decade their was a large amount of commemorative stamps released. They Included:
    • 1962 – National Productivity Year
    • 1963 – 9th International Lifeboat Conference
    • 1964 – Opening of Forth Road Bridge
    • 1965 – Celebration of Joseph Lister’s discovery of Antiseptic Surgery
    • 1966 – First Christmas Set
    • 1967 – British Paintings
    • 1967 – British Bridges
    • 1969 – Concorde’s first flight
  • 1970’s – an increase in sets were released during this decade. A total of 69 sets were released, 10 during Christmas.
  • 1980’s– many stamp sets of nature were released in this decade and this topped the chart instead of the Royal family or Christmas. They Included:
    • 1980 – Centenary of Wild Bird Protection Act
    • 1981 – Butterflies
    • 1983 – British River Fishes
    • 1985 – Insects
    • 1987 – Flower Photographs
    • 1989 – Centenary of Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • 1990’s – many animal commemorative stamp sets were released during this decade, mainly dedicated to Cats & Dogs.
  • 2000’s – the Millennium series, a set of stamps every month, was released in 1999. Popular Culture started to dominate the sets produced in the 2000’s, as commemorative stamps ranging from the 2002 World Cup, England’s success in the 2003 Rugby World Cup and a special Lords of the Rings Set in 2004.
  • The Future – the 2010’s continued with popular culture commemorative stamp sets. But what will happen to stamp sets now that Royal Mail are privatised? There is a chance for growth for commemorative stamp sets as shown in 2013 with the Dr Who sets. This clearly shows an opportunity to stretch this market to more than just stamp collectors, but fans of programmes. In the short term, a list of stamp sets have been announced for 2015.