Published on November 29th, 2018 | by Sam Rose
A History of Christmas Stamp Designs
This year will mark 52 years of the Royal Mail’s annual Christmas Stamp Designs. Take a look at the exciting history behind some of these designs in our newest article on Post Office Shop Blog!
For 52 years, the Royal Mail have been delighting philatelists and the public with several creative and mesmerizing Christmas stamp designs. Throughout this time, we’ve seen the likes of religious and secular images featuring churches and angels all the way to designs that celebrate the more modern Christmas occasion. Take a look at our infographic below which features a selection of Christmas stamp designs throughout the decades and read on to find out more about a few of their origins!
Christmas Stamp Designs Through the Decades
The 1960’s was the thrilling start to many innovative and creative stamp designs that would come in later decades. For the first ever Christmas stamp design, the children’s TV show Blue Peter held a competition in 1966 which invited its younger viewers to help create the first ever Christmas stamp. They would receive 5,000 entries which were put into a judging process by a panel of eight expert stamp designers. At the conclusion of the competition, the show went on to announce Tasveer Shemza and James Berry (both aged 6) as the winners, with their bright and colourful designs adorning Christmas post all the way through to the next year.
Later in this decade, the Royal Mail enlisted the artistic talents of Fritz Wegner, a visiting lecturer at Central St. Martin’s, in order to design their Christmas stamp designs released in 1969. Known for including rich details and artistic flair into his illustrations, the designs contained swirls and imaginative colour patterns and were based on the traditional Nativity story.
Continuing with a secular theme, the Christmas stamp designs issued throughout the 1970’s period were visually impressive in their own right. At the start of this decade, the Royal Mail issued the release of Christmas stamp designs that again featured key story points within the Nativity. In order to make the new designs look unique, freelance artist Sally Stiff drew a diversive range of alternating patterns to make up the backdrops. Then, at the centre of each stamp, were intricate drawings of figures from the Nativity story, including Shepherds and the Apparition of the Angel, Mary, Joseph and Christ in the Manger and The Wise Men bearing gifts.
Towards the end of the 70’s, artist Faith Jaques took a different approach to the Christmas stamp designs which were to be issued in 1978. Breaking away from the Nativity, Jaques drew up a series of designs depicting Christmas celebrations in the 18th century. Common traditions at the time such as Carols around the Christmas Tree and Carol Singers performing in the streets are regular themes in the issue, with a different coloured glow effect finishing off each image strikingly.
For the first Christmas stamp issue of the 80’s decade in 1980, traditional symbols and objects that epitomize the Christmas season became the focal point. Designed by Jeffrey Matthews and printed using a photogravure process, the stamps are very striking with their line art style. Within the issue are seasonal symbols such as the Christmas Tree, festive Candles and a Wreath of Holly, setting it apart from previous issues where historic and traditional figures from the Bible were at the centre point of Christmas stamp designs.
In a magical twist, the Christmas stamp issue arranged for the year of 1987 were designs that truly capture the wonder and amazement of the festive season through the eyes of a child. Created by Michael Foreman, each illustration covered stages of the Christmas countdown, with activities such as Decorating the Christmas Tree and Waiting for Father Christmas providing a heartwarming interpretation of what it means to be a child throughout the Christmas season. Noticeable outlines in each of the images truly bring the cartoon akin styled drawings to life.
The start of the 90’s saw a Christmas stamp issue with a bit of a difference, as famous author Susan Hill produced five stamp designs featuring family activities often done as part of Christmas festivities. Whilst her ghost novel, ‘The Woman in Black’ achieved great acclaim leading to adaptations for both film and stage, Hill’s designs reflect a much more joyful time. Her illustrations feature families taking part in Carol Singing, fetching the Christmas Tree and even Ice Skating in the snowy conditions.
Themed around the iconic Christmas Angel, the Christmas stamp designs for the year of 1998 were produced by Irene von Treskow and printed by De La Rue. Harkening back to the more traditional illustrations in previous decades, these designs drew attention to a pivotal figure of the Nativity, the Christmas Angel. Treskow’s illustrations are comparable to those that often feature on stained glass windows within churches due to their colour palette and overall style.
Paying special tribute to what many consider to be Britain’s national bird, 2001’s Christmas stamp release features the Robin and are a creation by Arthur Robins. Interestingly, the Robin bird and postal workers have more in common than you may first think. It’s widely the belief that the name of ‘Robin’ was often applied to very early Victorian postmen who coincidentally, wore red coats and at Christmas, would deliver Robin cards by the sackful. Their gentle nature is displayed in each illustration, which resemble a comic book style of art.
Flashing all the way forwards to 2018 is a Christmas stamps issue from artist Andrew Davidson. The Christmas 2018 Special Stamps feature a Gouache illustration technique, which brings each Christmas stamp design to life with a palate of vivid colours. The star of each design is the iconic red postbox, which features amongst wintry scenes of everyday life, both in the countryside and within modern towns. Each design also includes a different style of postbox, such as the Pillar box, mounted postboxes and the more modern Royal postbox design.