World Stamps

Britain’s Royal Mail celebrates 65 years of Paddington with Sept. 5 issue

Aug 24, 2023, 11 AM
A Sept. 5 set of six stamps from Great Britain’s Royal Mail commemorates Paddington, who first appeared 65 years ago in the 1958 book A Bear Called Paddington, written by Michael Bond.

By David Hartwig

Paddington, Peru’s most famous talking bear, celebrates his 65th birthday in 2023, and Great Britain’s Royal Mail commemorates the occasion with 10 stamps in a Sept. 5 issue.

Paddington first appeared in the 1958 book A Bear Called Paddington, written by Michael Bond. The dozens of Paddington books that followed have been translated into more than 40 languages, with over 35 million copies sold worldwide. Additionally, the friendly bear has starred in various television series and feature films.

A set of six stamps, presented in three horizontal se-tenant (side-by-side) pairs, feature illustrations from Ivor Wood’s four-frame strip cartoons of Paddington originally published in the late 1970s in the London newspaper Evening News.

The stamps in one pair are valued at the first-class rate (currently £1.10), one pair is denominated £2 (the international economy rate for letters up to 100 grams), and the stamps in another pair are denominated £2.20 (the standard international rate for letters up to 100 grams).

The images show Paddington engaged in various activities, including sawing wood, grocery shopping, holding an ice cream cone and sitting with a jar of his beloved marmalade.

In addition to the comic strip, Wood designed and directed the original Paddington television series for the BBC, which first aired Jan. 5, 1976. Four stamps in the souvenir sheet included with the issue capture moments from the series.

Two of the stamps on the souvenir sheet are valued at the first-class rate and two are denominated £2. All four stamps feature Paddington associated with food, and three of the stamps portray the bear with his favorite snack of marmalade sandwiches.

The selvage of the souvenir sheet shows Paddington with a suitcase and a note around his neck saying to please look after this bear. In the beginning of Paddington’s story, the Brown family finds the bear with this note at the Paddington railway station in London.

The presentation pack for the Paddington explains that Paddington creator Bond lived near Paddington Station when he discovered the toy bear that inspired the first story, and that Bond, who was working as a cameraman for BBC at the time, had always thought Paddington would be a good name for a character.

The presentation pack, which includes the set of six stamps and the souvenir sheet, tracks Paddington’s legacy as one of Britain’s most beloved fictional characters through the history of the bear’s books, shows and movies.

Paddington has a history on stamps as well, appearing on several previous Royal Mail issues, with the first being a Feb. 1, 1994, stamp (Scott 1547) showing the bear sitting on a suitcase with the same note around his neck as seen in the selvage of the new souvenir sheet.

A stamp (Scott 2337) issued Jan. 10, 2006, as part of an Animals from Children’s Books set shows an image of Paddington with a jar of marmalade. A Jan. 17, 2014, stamp (3255) from a Children’s Television Characters set portrays Paddington as he appeared in the television series depicted on the souvenir sheet in the new issue.

Paddington remains current in British culture, shown by his recent association with Queen Elizabeth II after a computer-generated version of the bear appeared in a recorded sketch with the queen during the celebration of her platinum jubilee (70-year reign) in 2022.

Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, the Paddington video would be ...

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