Philatelic TV props in Feb. 7 Bonhams auction

Feb 5, 2024, 11 AM
A Feb. 7 sale by the London auction firm Bonhams includes digital prints of stamp essay props featured in The Crown, a historical drama television series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

By David Hartwig

A Feb. 7 sale by the London auction firm Bonhams features philatelic-related items that appeared in the television show The Crown, a historical drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

Two lots in Bonhams’ auction of costumes and props from The Crown are framed digital prints of stamp essays featured in the show. Another lot includes the clay sculptor’s model and plaster relief used for the portrait on one of the essays.

The six seasons of The Crown span six decades in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, from the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten in 1947 to the 2005 wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. The series premiered on Netflix in November 2016, and the streaming platform released the last episodes in the sixth and final season in December 2023.

Due to the length of time covered in the series, the principal cast of The Crown changed every two seasons. Queen Elizabeth II was played by Claire Foy in seasons one and two, Olivia Colman in three and four, and Imelda Staunton in five and six.

The first episode in season three, set in 1964, marks the transition from Foy to Colman in the lead role by opening with the queen reviewing new stamps featuring her profile. The new 6-penny stamp is compared to a 3d stamp with Foy’s profile.

The portrait on each stamp appears to be similar to the bas-relief portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin that Great Britain’s Royal Mail used on definitive stamps starting in 1967.

While The Crown scene utilizes the different portraits on the stamps for dramatic effect, the portrait on the real-world Machin definitive stamps remained the same until the final Machins were issued in 2022.

Bonhams offers the proof prop showing Foy’s profile in a box frame and custom case together with four additional digital prints in different colors (blue, red, brown and green) and denominations (1d, 2d, 3d and ½d) in a case without a frame.

The offering for the proof prop showing Colman’s profile is the same except for denominations: 5d, 2d, 4d and 6d.

Each of these two lots has an estimate of $1,900 to $2,500.

The lot with the clay sculptor’s model and plaster relief also includes photographs of Colman in profile. The plaster relief comes with a beech frame, stand and case with brass carrying handles. Bonhams estimates this lot at $510 to $760.

Bonhams’ auction follows exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Paris and London that showcased sets, costumes and props from the television series.

The Crown Auction is open for bidding online ahead of the auction beginning Feb. 7 at 7:00 a.m. EST at Bonhams, New Bond Street, London. Registration information is available on Bonham’s website.

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