What Are Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps?

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What Are Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps?

Stamp collecting is a respected and venerable hobby, one that collectors around the world participate in enthusiastically. Since rare and exotic stamps can command high prices, it is important for stamp collectors, or philatelists, to understand exactly where and when a certain stamp was produced. For this reason, there are many categories that stamps are divided into, even within one nation. In the case of stamps made within Great Britain, there are many different categories, mostly determined by the monarch in power, as to when the stamp was made.

Current stamps, for example, fall within the category of Elizabeth II stamps. Within the category of Elizabeth II stamps, there is a subcategory known as pre-decimal stamps. This term refers to stamps made before a specific era in the British monetary system. These stamps are available from collectors in various shops, as well as online at eBay. When buying such stamps, it is important to know what kind of pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps are available, as well as what sets them apart from other stamps. Armed with such knowledge, philatelists, both serious and amateur collectors can find exactly what they are looking for.

Decimalisation Day

The term pre-decimal refers to stamps or coins that were made or minted in Great Britain before February 15th, 1971. Prior to that day, the British currency system made use of an ancient system that divided the pound into 20 shillings, and a shilling into 12 pence. Decimalisation Day created a new system that simply divided the pound into 100 pence, eliminating the shilling entirely.

Effect on Stamps

While the effects of Decimalisation Day were more pronounced on coinage and currency, stamps were also affected as the prices of stamps changed drastically under the new guidelines. It is important to note that while any stamps printed post decimalisation day can still be used, any pre-decimal stamps cannot be used due to the differences in currency values.

Types of Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps

Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1952. Since that time, she has become one of the longest reigning monarchs, not just in British history, but in world history. Any stamp issued by the postal system of the United Kingdom during her reign is known as an Elizabeth II stamp. The pre-decimal era of Elizabeth II's reign therefore lasted from June 2, 1952 to February 15th, 1971. During this period, there have been many unique types of stamps issued.

Stamps Issued Between 1952 and 1964

During this period, there were various regional stamps made for each of the countries that make up Great Britain. These regional stamps are also known as country definitives and were issued in 1958. The countries that received these country definities was: Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man. For the most part, these regional stamps were similar, and featured the same portrait of the new Queen in profile. The only real differences are in the size of the portrait and in the positioning of emblems representing each area. As for the portrait itself, it was painted by an artist named Dorothy Wilding. For this reason, the stamps that feature this portrait are known as 'Wildings'. Wilding stamps were in use for 15 years, a relatively long period.

Commemorative Stamps

From 1952-1959, there were only four commemorative stamps issued in Great Britain. These stamps were designed to commemorate several important events and organisations. There were many more stamps issued from 1959-1970.

Year

Stamp Subject

1953

Elizabeth II's coronation

1957

World Scouts Jubilee Jamboree

1957

46th Annual Inter-Parliamentary Conference

1958

Commonwealth Games

1960

General Letter Office

1960

EUROPA

1961

Post Office Savings Bank

1961

EUROPA SEPT Conference

1961

Parliamentary Conference

1962

National Productivity Year

1963

Freedom From Hunger

1963

Paris Postal Conference

1963

National Nature Week

1963

Edinburgh Lifeboat Conference

1963

Red Cross Centenary

1963

COMPAC Telephone Conference

1964

Shakespeare Festival

1964

Geographical Conference

1964

Botanical Conference

1964

Forth Road Bridge

1965

Churchill Commemoration

1965

700th Anniversary of Parliament

1965

Salvation Army Centenary

1965

Joseph Lister

1965

Commonwealth Arts Festival

1965

Battle of Britain 25th Anniversary

1965

Opening of Post Office Tower

1965

20th Anniversary of United Nations

1965

I.T.U. Centenary

1966

Robert Burns Commemoration

1966

Westminster Abbey

1966

World Cup Football

1966

British Birds

1966

British Technology

1966

900th Anniversary of the Battle of Hastings

1966

Christmas

1967

European Free Trade Association

1967

British Wild Flowers

1967

British Paintings

1967

Chichester's Round the World Voyage

1967

British Discoveries

1967

Christmas

1968

British Bridges

1968

British Anniversaries

1968

British Paintings

1968

Christmas

1969

British Ships

1969

First Flight of the Concorde

1969

Anniversaries

1969

British Architecture

1969

Investiture of Prince Charles

1969

Gandhi Centenary Year

1969

Post Office Technology

1969

Christmas

1970

British Rural Architecture

1970

Anniversaries

1970

Literary Anniversaries

1970

Commonwealth Games

1970

Philympia 70

1970

Christmas

Some of these commemorative stamps are made with some variations, mainly in terms of their use of phosphor tracking technology.

Castles

One variation on the Wilding stamp is known as a Castle, mainly because it features a painting of a castle along with the Wilding portrait of the Queen. The Castle stamps were issued between 1955 and 1967.

Shakespeare

One notable stamp that was made during this period is a stamp featuring the likeness of the most renowned playwright in the world, William Shakespeare. The issuing of the William Shakespeare stamp in 1964 is important historically because it marks the first moment in which a 'commoner', or person not born of the British nobility, was featured on a stamp. These stamps are considered to be fairly valuable, and are the highlight of many stamp collections. Even rarer are proofs made featuring proposed designs for the stamp that were not mass produced.

Stamps Issued Between 1965 and Decimalisation Day

The reign of Queen Elizabeth II continued with new trends and developments in the stamps of Great Britain. This era saw the end of the Wildings, as they were slowly phased out. Instead of immediately replacing the portrait of the Queen's bust with a new one by a different artist, there were many attempts to stop using the Queen's head entirely.

Machins

A replacement for the Wildings was eventually found in the work of Arnold Machin, who actually sculpted a plaster bust of the Queen that served as a design for the stamp. Unlike the Wilding that featured the Queen at an angle, the Machin stamps featured a simple profile of the Queen looking older and more regal than she had when the Wilding stamp was first commissioned.

Advancements in Stamp Technology

During the period between the Coronation of Elizabeth II and Decimalisation Day, postal technology had changed quite a bit. Due to the need to better track postage, various attempts were made to print lines into stamps that could then be tracked by machines. The first attempts to create this scanning process were to simply place some thin graphite lines on the back of each stamp. Later attempts included transparent phosphor lines that could still be scanned by machines, yet would not interfere with stamp design or function.

Buying Pre-Decimal Elizabeth II Stamps on eBay

Many stamp collectors, both serious and amateur, are discovering that eBay is a venue where collectors and vendors from around the world list stamps for sale. There are a number of pre-decimal stamps from the reign of Elizabeth II that are available, many of which at very competitive prices. The best way to find a certain stamp is to enter a search term into the search bar on the eBay home page. Of course, even a simple search term like 'pre-decimal stamp' can be modified in order to include details about specific kinds of stamps or years.

Examining Product Descriptions

Each item listed for sale on eBay should contain a product description. This description may, in many cases, include important information about a stamp's history, and whether or not it is in mint condition or was used for sending an item through the mail. It is also important to read any and all seller feedback in order to learn more about a stamp's origins.

Conclusion

Many people, including stamp collectors, may be confused when hearing the term, pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps. This is especially difficult for those both outside Britain, or those who were born after Decimalisation Day, that day upon which British currency values were standardised into a decimal system. Decimalisation Day was on February 15, 1971, which means that any pre-decimal Elizabeth II stamps were made in the roughly 20 year period between Elizabeth's coronation in 1952 and Decimalisation Day. As is befitting the early years of a monarch, many of these stamps feature a portrait of the Queen herself.

The first stamps to feature the Queen's portrait were designed by an artist named Dorothy Wilding, which is why these stamps have come to be known as 'Wildings'. These stamps were in use for a 15 year period, when they were eventually replaced by a new design created by Arnold Machin, another artist. This period also featured many commemorative stamps that were designed to celebrate either certain events, organisations, or ideas.

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