World Stamps

Great Britain sends David Bowie first-day covers into space for contest

May 1, 2021, 12 PM
Royal Mail sent 52 David Bowie first-day covers into the stratosphere and conducted a contest to give away the FDCs. A replica of the stamp showing the Aladdin Sane album cover was attached to the outside of the balloon carrying the covers. The Davie Bowi

By Denise McCarty

Great Britain’s Royal Mail launched 52 first-day covers of the David Bowie stamps into space for a contest called “The Stamps That Fell to Earth.”

Bowie starred in the 1976 science-fiction film The Man Who Fell to Earth, and the number 52 represents the span of his professional recording years, according to Royal Mail.

The covers were canceled with a special red handstamp of the lightning bolt from the Aladdin Sane album cover, one of the albums pictured on Britain’s David Bowie stamps issued March 14.

To win one of the FDCs launched into space, residents of the United Kingdom (age 18 and older) had to correctly identify where they landed. Royal Mail provided clues to the landing site via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. 

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The web page dedicated to the contest, said: “With a sound, style and vision so ahead of his time, many thought David Bowie had tumbled to Earth from a distant planet.

“As a tribute, a cargo of special edition stamps have been blasted into space so they can fall to Earth too.

“Identify where they’ve landed and one of these historic sets could be yours.”

According to the contest rules, the winners were to be determined April 10.

All 52 covers were launched in a single, large, helium-filled balloon that included a black box with a tracking device and cameras to record the launch and the trip into the Earth’s atmosphere.

An arm attached to the outside of the balloon held an enlargement, measuring 4 inches by 4 inches, of the nondenominated Aladdin Sane stamp. The actual stamp measures 34 millimeters by 32mm.

The video on the aforementioned website focuses on this replica, and also tracks the progress of the balloon in terms of feet, miles per hour, miles, and the temperature in centigrade.

A warning before you watch the 20-minute video, though, it is not meant for those who suffer from motion sickness. A short behind-the-scenes video that is more viewer-friendly can be found right here.

The balloon reportedly reached a height of more than 111,800 feet, traveling at about 12 mph.

According to an article posted March 15 on the website of Marketing Communication News, the firm LIDA “partnered with Royal Mail to develop a competition delivered through social media to support the launch” of the David Bowie stamps.

The article quoted Tom Thomas, chief creative officer at LIDA: “Celebrating an artist as unique and creative as David Bowie required an equally unique and creative campaign. We are delighted to have partnered with Royal Mail to develop ‘The Stamps that Fell to Earth’ competition — a fitting tribute to a cultural icon.” 

Royal Mail's David Bowie set includes 10 stamps showing album covers, a souvenir sheet with four stamps featuring concert scenes, and a booklet of six stamps. The booklet contains the Aladdin Sane and Heroes stamps and four Queen Elizabeth II Machin definitives.

International Security Printers printed the stamps by gravure.