Our top ten stamps

We have been collecting stamps since our school days. Just for a bit of fun and to justify the 'philately' subheading to the blog, I thought it might be a laugh to select our top ten favourite stamps taken from our own collections…

Our main interest is GB although we do collect other countries, but not in any real depth. Our final list of top ten stamps include five stamps from other nations, interestingly after we picked our selection we realised all the stamps, with one possible exception, are definitives. On reflection this is not surprising as we concentrate our collecting on genuinely used examples wherever possible. That said, there are times when the odd mint set is too desirable to miss, as you will see.

Attempting to select only ten examples, from what must be many thousands of accumulated stamps, was much harder than we expected. Our selection has been made purely on aesthetic grounds with no consideration given to value. No particular preference of one stamp over the other is implied by the order they are presented, as naming a single all time favourite would be impossible. Tastes change over time and I strongly suspect if you were to ask us to compile a new list, in a few moths time, it may well take on a totally different look.

The stamps


Line engraved stamps have a special place in our collection. The never-ending study of these issues consumes a good deal of our time. It would be very tempting, at this point, to select a nice four-margin Penny Black cancelled with a smart Maltese cross but instead I have decided to include a Red Penny (as they were called at the time) printed from plate No. 93. The classic design of these stamps, along with its black and blue acquaintances, has stood the test of time. What makes this one special to me is its plate position the corner letters are ‘R’ & ‘L’ – my initials.

The stamps of KGV provide plenty of interest for the specialist collector. Shades, watermark and perforation variants abound. The two values of the Downy heads issues have plenty of varieties alone. Here we have chosen the later 10d Mackennal. Its striking colour holds up even today, almost a hundred years after it was printed, presenting itself as a suitable ambassador for this fascinating period in the history of GB definitives. Discussing and deciding upon shade variations is always a good primer for a heated debate in our house and I suspect we are not unique especially when the subject of debate is hue.

Moving away from the GB collection for the next one. This stamp is from one of Sue’s favourite Italian issues, the Italian provincial occupations set of 1950. The stamp we have chosen to select is the 25 l. orange brown stamp, from of a "Girl packing oranges" Any of the other values of this set would qualify as they all show various provincial occupations. The interesting choice of subject for the 1 l. is a bit puzzling as It depicts a motor mechanic. One can only assume that if you lived in Italy post war that you took your car to the countryside to be serviced. Either that or there were no cars in the towns! All the other subjects illustrated are what you would expect to find in provincial Italy such as “Gathering olives” and “Ox cart” etc. 

Every now and then a set of stamps is issued that catches our eye and that temptation to buy something from outside the confines of our core collection takes over. This was the case when, on the 24th April 1987, South Georgia and Sandwich Islands issued its own set of definitives following its independence from the Falkland Islands. These stamps are produced in the UK and form part of the islands income.  This is an extremely attractive issue depicting birds of the region we just had to have a set and do our bit to add to the islands economy! The stamp shown below is the 7p value featuring a South Georgia Pipit.

Back to the GB now and the first of the Machin High Values was issued 21 months after the original Machin low values. Recess printed by Bradbury Wilkinson these large format Machins proffered a simplicity and clarity that was a perfect balance between traditional production and the modern clean lines typical of the style of the day. I have always liked this set and it still looks as good today as it did then. To showcase the issue here is a nicely centred, mint 5/- example.

Here is our odd-one-out, the only stamp in our selection that is a commemorative. The 150th anniversary of the penny black, back in 1990 - Was it really that long ago? These stamps incorporate the Arnold Machin head of Queen Elizabeth II, used for the regular issue definitives, with Henry Corbould’s drawing of QV set behind to represent the time span. This really illustrates how 150 years of design changes have proved that simplicity is the key to longevity when it comes to stamp design. Here is a nice bright 37p mint stamp to represent the issue.

This has been one of my favourite stamps ever since I discovered philately as a schoolboy. It is also the reason I spent a good deal of my younger life believing that Koalas were green! It is of course the 4d stamp from the 1937-49 Australian definitives. This set of stamps in isolation would make in interesting study with lots of variations of perforation and watermark to investigate.

We could not put a list of favoured stamps together without including a Sea Horse. Finding nicely centred, lightly used copies with reasonable perforations is hard work. The first one I managed to obtain as a schoolboy was so heavily obliterated that I had to tell my friends what it was! This is the best copy of SG 400 that I have been able to afford so far.

To round up our selection, here are a couple of stamps from our 'other' collections. First, one from Sue's French stockbook. I have always liked the stamps issued by all the Antarctic Territories (interesting and by coincidence this is the second stamp in our list coming from that area of the globe).  The stamp shown is a 50c, Rock Hopper Penguins from the French Southern & Antarctic Territories and issued the year I was born. 

Finally to complete our selection of our favourite stamps we have chosen a giraffe from a set of similar stamps issued by Nyassa in 1901. These were the first stamps to be issued depicting these wonderful animals. Thematic collections can be as diverse or as specialised as you wish. Collecting animals is a vast area of interest. Specialising in one species really cuts down the number of options and makes the good basis of a micro-collection, but that is another subject…



  1. Hi Ralph,

    Very interesting Site, I to am a Stamp Collector and whould appreciate if you could let me know how you take the photos of stamps and the equipment you use.


    1. Hi Mike, good to hear from you!

      Thank you for your kind words. Individual stamps are not photographed but scanned on a black background. We use an Epson Perfection V750 Pro scanner and Photoshop to enhance the black background. We hardly ever process the appearance of the stamp itself, unless it is to remove dust captured during the scanning process. Large images are uploaded (Click on the stamp to see the larger image)and Blogger will then scale them automatically offering a choice of four 'standard' sizes.

      We do photograph stamps, on rare occasions, if we are trying to show some kind of reflective detail such as phosphor bands or the iridescent security overprints of the modern GB Machins etc. as scanning will not show these details.

      Kind Regards,