Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps Buying Guide

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Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps Buying Guide

Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in 1952, following the death of her father, George VI. She was crowned on 2 June 1953. During her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has travelled frequently both within the borders of the United Kingdom and internationally. During her reign, many changes have taken place in the world around the Queen, including the switch to a decimal currency system.

Pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps were issued from 1952 until 1970. These stamps use the old currency system of the United Kingdom. Pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps vary in their design. These stamps can be valued at a great sum, depending on their rarity. They can be found in a wide array of conditions. When purchasing pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps at retailers such as eBay, buyers should understand what the switch to decimalisation meant for the United Kingdom, consider the various types of pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps, and learn how to determine a stamp's value.

Decimalisation Explained

On 15 February 1971, the currency of the United Kingdom was decimalised, following many other countries. This process converted the pre-existing system of currency of pounds, shillings, and pence, to one based around the number ten. The new decimal currency system, was not favoured immediately. However, it soon gained widespread popularity as it made calculating prices easier.

Designs of Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps

There are various types of pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps. Each design was created in a particular year by a different artist.

Wildings Elizabeth II Stamps

The first definitive stamps issued during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II became known as "Wildings". These stamps depict the portrait of the Queen as designed by the artist Dorothy Wilding.

Machin Elizabeth II Stamps

The Machin stamps replaced the Wilding series on 5 June 1967. These stamps also feature the image of Queen Elizabeth II as designed by Arnold Machin. The image depicts a sculptured profile of the Queen as well as a denomination. Each denomination was produced in a easily distinguishable colour. These stamps incorporated the technical changes to stamp printing made in during this time period.

Commemorative Elizabeth II Stamps

Commemorative pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps are larger than definitive stamps. Commemorative stamps mark a particular event, a notable person, or an important subject. Unlike their definitive counterpart, commemorative stamps are only sold for a short period of time.

Value of Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps

When searching for pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps, buyers should bear in mind the value of the stamps. The value is based on several factors including their rarity, condition, and grade.

Rarity of Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps

The rarity of a pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamp is determined by the number stamps in circulation. Stamps that are difficult to find usually sell for a greater sum than those that are widely available for resale.

Condition of Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps

Buyers should consider the item's condition when searching for pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps. It is important to examine the stamp carefully for any holes, gum, creases, thinning, fading colours, stains, tears, or alterations. These faults that damage or alter the stamp's original appearance decrease its value.

Stamps can be in mint condition, mounted mint condition, or used. Mint condition stamps are in the same condition as when the stamp was issued. Others may be considered to be in mounted mint condition. These stamps have been fixed previously to a stamp album page using the stamp's gum hinge or adhesive backing. Used stamps are those that have a postmark on them.

Gummed Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps

When searching for pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps, buyers should take into account the condition of the stamp gum. The gum condition can vary. Original gummed stamps have their original adhesive from time of their production, while regummed stamps have had their adhesive reapplied, usually by a stamp dealer. Stamps may have no gum or other adhesive backing, either because they were produced that way intentionally or because the adhesive has been removed by soaking.

Thinned Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps

Thinned stamps are those which have had their gum removed. In the process, some of the paper was also lost, leaving the stamp thinner than it was originally.

Hinged Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps

Stamps may be unhinged or hinged. Unhinged stamps are those that have not been affixed to a hinge or a stamp mount. Hinged stamps are those where traces of the hinged mount remains. These stamps may be slightly or heavily hinged.

Perforated Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps

Buyers should take into account the stamp's perforations. Perforations are the teeth on the outer edge of the stamp. Imperforated stamps are those that have been produced intentionally without perforations and can only be separated with the use of scissors or cutters. Straight edged stamps are cut straight along all sides and do not have perforated teeth, while perforated stamps are those that have straight edges that have been perforated. Other stamps may be blunt, pulled, or blind perforated. Blunt perforated stamps have shorter than usual perforations, pulled perforated stamps have a section of the stamp design on its perforated teeth, and blind perforated stamps are those that have not been punched fully, leaving some paper where the perforated holes should be.

Grade of Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps

The term grade refers to the centring of the stamp design between the perforations and the degree of cancellation on used pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps. Stamp grades range from poor to superb as seen in the table below.

Stamp Grade


Poor (P)

Stamp design is not centred

Perforations are cut far into the design

Cancellations are thick and heavy

Stamp is smeared, blurred, and has creases, tears, or thinning

Average (A)

Stamp design may be slightly truncated by one or two sides

Outside margin may show on the perforated teeth

Has heavy cancellation marks

Does not have tears, creases, thinning, or faults

Fine (F)

Stamp's design barely misses its perforations

Perforations do not cut into the design

Margins are unbalanced

Fine to very fine (F-VF)

Stamp design is slightly off-centre, either horizontally or vertically

Design is clear from perforations

Very fine (VF)

Stamp design is close to perfectly centred

Three of the margins are balanced

Cancellations are light, neat, and clean

Perforations are intact and have no faults

Extremely fine (XF)

Stamp is close to perfect

Stamp design is well centred

Margins on all sides are even and wider than usual, and clear from perforations

Cancellations are light and neat

Mint stamps must have the original gum

Superb (S)

Stamp design is perfectly centred and perfect in all other respects

Usually scarce and highly valuable

The grade of the stamp helps buyers to determine the stamp's value. When searching for pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps, buyers should ask about the stamp's grade as those with poor grades should sell at a lower price. However, it is important to bear in mind that the rarity of the stamp can also affect its value when considered in conjunction with the stamp's grade.

How to Buy Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps on eBay

Buying pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps on eBay offers buyers a wide variety of choice in a price range to meet any specific budget. Buyers can search for pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps easily by typing in any related key terms into the search bar on the eBay home page, such as "mint pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps", and a wide selection of stamps available for sale is displayed.

Searching by Location

Depending on a buyer's budget, they may choose to limit their search to pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps being sold close to home. To find local sellers, buyers can filter the listing pages by item location. This allows buyers to limit the distance from a specific postcode. By using the "Sort" drop down feature, buyers can arrange listings by distance in order of the nearest location.

Buyers should always communicate clearly with sellers to see if they allow local collection. This information should be listed under the item description. While some sellers may not be comfortable with this type of transaction, others are willing to work with buyers to ensure a positive sale and to help to eliminate postage and packaging costs.


Stamp collecting is a widely enjoyed hobby. Pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps are highly sought after items: each stamp offers a little piece of history. When searching for pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps, buyers should consider the various types available. The Wilding and Machin series are considered definitive stamps and can be found in greater quantities than commemorative stamps that have been issued during the Queen's reign.

In addition, buyers should consider the stamp's value. The condition, rarity, and grade of the stamp can directly influence its price. Buyers should check stamps for tears and thinning: any damage to the stamp directly affects its grade. Buyers should also decide whether to collect stamps in mint or used condition. Mint stamps are often preferred for their like-new condition, while used stamps contain a postmark. Some people prefer to collect used stamps, as their postmark contains a valuable insight into the stamp's history, such as date. With the wide selection of pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps available on eBay, buyers have the pick of some of the most rare items.

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