Great Britain’s new Christmas stamps feature artwork by American illustrator Andrew Bannecker.
Royal Mail will issue the seven stamps Nov. 4 in various formats, including as self-adhesives in sheets of 50 and with moisture-activated gum in souvenir sheets. Booklets and panes that can be personalized also will be issued.
On his website, Bannecker describes his artwork as “slightly nostalgic and ever fresh.”
His illustrations for the stamps show outdoor activities associated with a traditional British family Christmas.
The two first-class stamps, one for standard-size mail and one for large mail, show children mailing letters in a snow-covered red public mailbox, called a pillar box, with a robin sitting on the top.
The stamp for standard-size mail measures 24 millimeters by 28mm, while the stamp for large mail is 34mm by 28mm.
Also, the design is expanded on the stamp for large mail, showing three children and the entire mailbox. The smaller stamp shows only two children and part of the mailbox.
Bringing home a Christmas tree is illustrated on the two second-class stamps. The stamp for large mail depicts a father and two children carrying the tree as the snow falls around them. On the stamp for standard-size mail, one child and the top of the tree are omitted.
The three denominated stamps in this Christmas issue are the same size as the nondenominated stamps for standard-size mail.
On the illustration for the £1.28 stamp, a boy is putting the finishing touches on a snowman. Caroling is featured on the £1.47 stamp, and a mother and daughter ice skating is shown on the £2.15 high value.
The £1.28 and £2.15 stamps pay international airmail rates for letters weighing up to 20 grams and 60 grams, respectively. The £1.47 stamp pays the airmail rate to Europe for letters up to 60 grams.
The current second- and first-class rates are 53 pence for standard-size second-class mail, 62p for standard-size first-class mail, 73p for large second-class mail and 93p for large first-class mail.
The souvenir sheet includes all seven stamps. The selvage illustration by Bannecker shows two robins and a “Christmas 2014” sign on a lamp post.
The souvenir sheet bears a bar code on the left side. However, this bar code is not included on souvenir sheets that Royal Mail uses for first-day covers and in the presentation packs.
A press release from Royal Mail explains: “Royal Mail now receives a stock of miniature sheets from its secure printers bearing a tear-off barcode strip at the side for staff at post offices to scan to make the transaction easier and quicker. These will be supplied to our customers who can then choose whether or not to remove the strip.
“Royal Mail will continue to receive a supply of miniature sheets without the barcode strip for assembling the first day covers and for inclusion in the presentation packs and annual products only.”
The sheet measures 156mm by 74mm with the bar code, and 146mm by 74mm without.
De La Rue Security Print printed the stamps in sheets of 50 and the souvenir sheets by gravure. The self-adhesive stamps are perforated gauge 14.5 by 15, and the moisture-activated stamps in the souvenir sheet are perforated gauge 15 by 14.5.
The design firm True North designed the stamps and souvenir sheet.
International Security Print printed the nondenominated first- and second-class stamps for standard-size mail in booklets of 12.
These two stamps also will be available in panes with labels that can be personalized. The first-class stamp will be offered in panes of 10 stamps and 10 labels, and the second-class stamp in panes of 20 stamps and 20 labels.
In addition, the £1.28 and £1.47 stamps will be available in panes of 10 with 10 labels that can be personalized.
Royal Mail calls such sheets of stamps Smilers.
A generic Smilers sheet will include 20 stamps (eight each of the first-class and second-class and two each of the £1.28 and £1.47 stamps) and preprinted labels with illustrations and facts about Christmas traditions.
Other products to be offered in conjunction with the Christmas stamps include first-day covers, a set of eight postcards reproducing the designs of the seven stamps and the souvenir sheet, and a presentation pack with the seven stamps and an illustration by Bannecker of a festive British village scene, complete with a Ferris wheel and Santa Claus.
Royal Mail rotates the basic theme of its Christmas stamps, releasing nonsecular or religious stamps in odd years, and secular stamps in even years.
However, it also makes Madonna and Child nonsecular stamps available each year, and the first- and second-class stamps for standard-size mail issued in 2013 (Scott 3239-3230) will be redistributed to post offices this year.
Royal Mail’s shop on the Internet is located at http://shop.royalmail.com. Ordering information also is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland.
Royal Mail’s two agencies in the United States are Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557; and the British Stamp Service in North America, 1 Unicover Center, Cheyenne, WY 82008.