World Stamps

News report about state gifts to the Royal Philatelic Collection

Apr 26, 2023, 10 AM
King George VI received a state gift while visiting Canada in 1939. An example of the 1929 50¢ Schooner Bluenose stamp (Scott 158), valued in the Scott catalog at $225 in unused condition, would have likely been included as part of that gift.

Philatelic Foreword by Jay Bigalke

In mid-April, the news outlet The Guardian in Great Britain published an interesting article on the Royal Philatelic Collection.

The article, “Revealed: official gifts to royal family contained in £100m ‘private’ stamp collection” by investigative journalist Henry Dyer, can be found online.

The article looks in detail at the private stamp collection that has been passed down for a couple of generations of the British royal family. It also takes a look at some gifts that were provided over the years and questions ownership of some of these items.

According to the article, the private acquisitions raise further questions about whether the royal family is abiding by the letter or spirit of guidelines that prohibit official gifts from being treated as private property.

For my editorial, though, I am focusing on two of the items mentioned: “a mint collection of historical Canadian stamps and a rare set of stamps from Laos” that were given as state gifts, according to the article. The Canadian stamps were a gift in the 1930s, and the Laotian stamps in the 2010s.

I contacted Dyer, who was gracious enough to provide additional insight after I asked some questions about the value of the gifts, especially the low value of the one from Laos.

“The point you make on the precise value of the Laos stamps is a fair one,” Dyer told Linn’s in an email. “I expect their face value is not hugely high, but the significance of the gift and its origins from the Laos government to the Queen, received by a UK civil servant on her behalf, raise the official nature of it and thus questions on its incorporation into the RPC [Royal Philatelic Collection}.”

According to the sources he provided, the Laotian gift was a framed pane of the 2016 commemorative stamp for the 26th anniversary of the Laotian International Women’s Group (Scott 1917) with a souvenir sheet. The stamp has a Scott catalog value of $6 for an unused single; there is dash for the souvenir sheet indicating the value is hard to determine.

The Canadian gift was made during the 1939 royal tour of Canada by King George VI. In an article in The Times of June 1, 1939, it was described as “an album containing a complete collection of every stamp issued by the Dominion post office since the Confederation in 1868, more than 300 different specimens, all in mint, or ‘post office’ state.”

The value of that gift was certainly more significant than the one from Laos.

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