Seasonally-themed stamps are stamps depicting images either from any of the four seasons, or from annual celebrations with a strong seasonal component. By far the most popular theme is the depiction of Christmas, with many countries issuing special Christmas stamps each year. The first British Post Office Christmas stamp issue was in 1966. Since then, these Christmas stamps have been issued annually.
When considering buying seasonally-themed British stamps, it is important to first learn a little about the market, and to learn how to recognise which stamps are likely to maintain or increase their value. Understanding the market ensures the collector avoids any expensive mistakes.
An important component of this process involves knowing where to look, in order to find a good choice of seasonally-themed stamps at sensible prices. Although seasonally-themed British stamps are widely available, a significant amount of time can be wasted travelling around viewing what is on offer. Therefore, many collectors have found that the most efficient way to search for stamps is to do so online, where Internet markets such as eBayooften have a good selection of seasonally-themed British stamps among their extensive listings.
The Background to Seasonally-Themed British Stamps
In Great Britain, when the seasons are commemorated on stamp issues, they have historically been marked by the religious festivals associated with those seasons. Therefore, winter is marked by Christmas-themed stamps, and spring occasionally is marked by Easter themes. Although, there have been many nature-themed stamps issued over the years, these have tended to be collected by another category of collector, and therefore such stamps are not grouped under the category of 'seasonal'. Therefore, when speaking of 'seasonal' stamps, in reality it mostly equates to festivals such as Christmas.
Popular Themes for Seasonal British Stamps
It is worth noting, however, that one of the most popular and enduring seasonally-themed issues at Christmas is a red robin, often matched with snow or ice. Other birds or animals are also sometimes included in these issues.
Other popular themes include nativity-related images such as the Three Wise Men, stars, religious images of Jesus Christ, as well as cultural icons such as holly and mistletoe, and, of course, Christmas trees. Given the seasonal theme, it is not surprising that snow is a perennial feature in these designs, too.
The History of Seasonally-Themed British Stamps
The first seasonally-themed issue of British stamps was the Christmas issue of 1966. Traditionally, stamps had always carried the reigning monarch's head as the main image, but this rule was changed in 1966 to allow stamps depicting children's drawings of a snowman and of Father Christmas. The images had been selected from a competition. To maintain a link with tradition, these stamps also included a very small version of the profile of Queen Elizabeth II. Since 1966, Christmas issues from the Post Office have only increased in their popularity, resulting in a new Christmas issue printed annually. Over the decades, these seasonally-themed issues have spanned a range of modern and traditional art, but have nearly always reflected traditional Christmas themes.
Types of Seasonally-Themed British Stamps
When the first seasonally-themed stamps were issued in Britain, it was probably not appreciated at the time how popular they would become. Now, however, the Post Office is aware of their popularity, and prepares various sets especially designed for stamp collectors. Therefore, as well as buying seasonally- themed stamps to pay for postage, it is common now for stamp enthusiasts and serious collectors to buy stamps in well-presented packages for the purposes of collection only.
First Day Covers
Those stamp issues, which are always expected to be particularly popular, are sold at the beginning of their run as First Day Covers.. These are artistically presented in groups of themed stamps mounted on special envelopes, and postmarked with the date of when the stamp was issued onto the market. A First Day Cover can increase the uniqueness, appeal, and therefore long term value of the stamps it contains. First Day Covers always prove popular as collector's items, and also as gifts. Part of the popularity of these covers is that they look very attractive. Therefore, keeping them in mint condition is helpful. That said, First Day Covers are issued in fairly large numbers, so they are not likely in the near future to attain the sort of rarity which can make a stamp truly valuable.
Another popular way of buying seasonally-themed issues is as whole blocks,, or even whole sheets of the same stamp. Whole blocks or sheets of stamps can often appreciate in value. And so are often many times the face value of the stamps they contain.
However, as with the First Day Covers, sheets of recently issued stamps would probably represent a very long term investment rather than a short term one. This is because it takes many years for the sorts of numbers of stamps produced in recent decades, to dwindle to the point where they are considered rare.
A very attractive variation on the theme of whole sheets of stamps, are the specially-designed commemorative sheets, of either a particular stamp repeated many times over, or of all the stamps in a particular themed issue. These sheets can be collector's items too, and as they are often limited editions, each of which is numbered, they can prove to be quite valuable.
Buying Considerations for Seasonally-Themed British Stamps
When buying seasonally-themed stamps, it is important at the outset to decide whether the purchase is going to be for aesthetic or for financial purposes. If they are intended as a way of making money, then a great deal of research needs to be carried out in order to identify those stamps which are likely to increase in value.
This should involve becoming familiar with the range of seasonally-themed stamps, as well as learning as much as possible about the standard considerations which apply to buying stamps. To achieve this familiarity, time should be spent looking at as many different seasonally-themed stamps as possible. It would probably also be wise to buy or otherwise gain access to a relevant stamp catalogue. The catalogue should feature details related to watermarks, distinguishing colours or other features, as well as other useful information to be used to check the authenticity of the stamp the collector wishes to buy.
The best and easiest way to achieve this familiarity is undoubtedly to make use of the available online resources, such as eBay. eBay ooften carries a good selection of seasonally-themed British stamps.
How to Find Seasonally-Themed British Stamps on eBay
It is very easy to find seasonally-themed British stamps on eBay. You start by simply typing a search phrase such as 'seasonally-themed British stamps&' into the search bar on the eBay home page. This query brings up results pages containing current listings for British stamps with a seasonal theme. One option is simply to browse through these listings. Another option, if you know exactly what you want, is to narrow the listings down by specifying characteristics of the stamp you are looking for.
For example, if you know that you want a stamp that is in mint condition, then specify the stamp's condition on the results page. If you are looking for an older stamp, from before the introduction of decimal currency, you can specify that too. Once you have a dozen or so listings you are happy with, read the descriptions carefully and look at the photos of the stamps.
If you see a stamp that you are interested in, you can contact the seller to ask for more information. This can be done easily via the contact link on the seller's profile page. When buying stamps of any substantial value, it is often a good idea to ask about a watermark, and then to check this or other information against the specifications listed in a stamp catalogue. You may also want to see scans of both sides of the stamp to check the condition of any hinge, or whether the stamp still has gum on the back.
Seasonally-themed British stamps began with the issue of Christmas-themed stamps in 1966. These broke with convention in that they used drawings made by children depicting Christmas-related themes, rather than a full-sized image of the monarch's head in profile.
These Christmas-themed stamps proved so popular that they were soon a permanent feature of the annual calendar. The images used varied from year to year, but popular recurring themes included robin redbreasts, mistletoe, and holly, Christmas trees, and other related images such as Father Christmas and snow. Other, overtly religious images were also featured.
The popularity of seasonally-themed stamps ensured that they are often included in special issues such as First Day Covers or commemorative sheets. Although some early seasonally-themed issues can be considered fairly sought-after, the number of specimens are generally fairly large. For this reason, it may take time before they attain any degree of rarity, and therefore become truly valuable.
When buying seasonally-themed issues, it makes sense to view as wide a range as possible. This is best achieved online, where Internet markets such as eBay often have a good choice available. The breadth of choice, ease of searching, and competitive pricing, make eBay a good place to buy a seasonally-themed British stamp.