Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Penny Black Anniversary Shows Lack of Imagination ... or Money ... or Both

Have you ever looked at a painting or a sculpture in a museum and said to yourself, "I could do that."? Of course you have. I had the same thought when I saw the stamps that Royal Mail "designed" for the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black.

One is shown above, and Roy pictured them a few days ago.

Royal Mail simply reprinted the two original stamps and added the necessary elements for a modern postage stamp - the Queen's cameo and the service indictor - by slapping them in the upper right corner. The end result looks like, well, something I could have done.

I'm trying to decide how Royal Mail justified these stamps. My guess is they wanted to come as close as possible to allowing people to use the Penny Black and Tuppenny Blue. 

Personally, the stamps look to me like defaced versions of the originals. Plus, Royal Mail couldn't be bothered to use recess printing, not even for the souvenir sheets. The other postally valid commemorations - the Wilding castles, the Seahorses, etc. - were recess-printed, but the Penny Black didn't warrant such treatment, I guess.

Above I show the stamp-on-stamp designs used for the Philympia stamp show in 1970. These stamps weren't recess-printed, either, but at least the original stamps are shown without being disfigured. These stamps look like someone actually put some thought into the design.

For a much better and updated design, here's the recent Penny Black anniversary stamp from the Isle of Man. And yes, it is really selling for 1p.

I have really enjoyed Royal Mail's previous recreations. Other than the artificially high face value, there was nothing to complain about, and even that can be partially justified by the cost of recess printing. These Penny Black and Tuppenny Blue reprints are a real disappointment. 



Anonymous said...

I think you got this wrong, this is the anniversary of the penny black and a faithful replica is what is required not someones arty interpretation. As for the IOM 1p well they can do that as their loss in postal revenue is going to be minimal.

White Knight said...

I'm afraid I disagree with you too. I think that this apparently extremely simple approach to commemorating the Penny Black is actually immensely clever in its simplicity. The design immediately conveys what the stamp is all about. Clearly this is a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. It is a highly original and interesting issue because of its straightforwardness.

Anonymous said...

I'm with SM on this its awful. Royal Mail have missed yet another golden opportunity to produce an intaglio replication of the stamps. Along the lines of the seahorse sheet that was produced a while back. Not only that the image of the Black they have used is goddam ugly. They have the best resource at their disposal and appear to have snapped an image on some office boys mobile phone. "what does this look like?" "Yeah that will do" It really is bad. I have better images of the P.O. sheets than what they have used. It looks like it was scanned at 300dpi and the colour rendition is very poor. I also think the indicator and the Queen's profile should have at least matched the 'white paper' of the image in order to design itself better. So yet again an under-designed stamp from a business that has still not found its way out of the 90's

Unknown said...

Larry, Roy, great work interesting writing as always. I am trying to find material for the May issue of the IPDA newsletter. Please may I reproduce some of your Penny Black materials / writings

Many thanks..Michael Director and Newsletter Editor IPDA and of course cddstamps email me at of ok please.

Anonymous said...

Clearly this one is going to be both divisive and subjective but I disagree with the original post too. I think it's simple but effective and needs no more than has been done.

What I do have a major problem with is the souvenir pack with unique overprinted mini sheet that can only be picked up from the show and is already being sought by a certain major dealer with a buying price of £10, whilst they price it for sale on ebay for £100. It will be interesting to see how the price of this item goes, given that most dealers have not been able to obtain what they need to service demand from customers unable to buy their own at the show.

Royal Mail you should be ashamed of yourselves for creating this situation.

Additionally, I forsee the same postal acceptance problem as we have encountered with modern decimal Wildings - i.e. that staff do not recognise it as a valid stamp and surcharge mail bearing it. Especially as the legend "One Penny" is more visible than the service indicator.

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