World Stamps

New British stamps honor sitcom’s anniversary

Mar 25, 2021, 12 PM

By Denise McCarty

New stamps from Great Britain’s Royal Mail celebrate the 40th anniversary of the British sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

The 12 stamps were issued Feb. 16: eight in four se-tenant (side-by-side) pairs and four in a souvenir sheet. Royal Mail, in partnership with BBC Studios, revealed the stamp images Feb. 2.

The series debuted Sept. 8, 1981, on BBC. More than 60 episodes later, it ended in December 2003. However, like many TV shows, it lives on in reruns, including on the British pay-television channel Gold.

Gold’s website describes Only Fools and Horses as a classic comedy that follows “the misadventures of two lovable rogue traders, Del Boy and Rodney Trotter. The brothers scrape their living by selling dodgy goods in the belief that one day they will be millionaires, sharing their council flat in the early years with Grandad and later on with Uncle Albert, a WWII veteran with a naval anecdote for any occasion. With iconic performances from David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst, John Sullivan’s comedy is a strong contender for the title of Britain’s most-loved sitcom.”

According to Royal Mail, 24.3 million people watched the series at its peak and it was so popular that the show’s writer and creator, John Sullivan, “even received letters from pub landlords telling him their pubs were deserted on Sunday evenings because so many people were at home watching the show.”

Royal Mail also said, “The impact of Only Fools and Horses on the life of the nation is demonstrated by many of the show’s catchphrases and words having entered common usage — in 2003 ‘lovely jubbly’ was listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.”

According to a collaboration between Dictionary.com and Oxford University Press, the phrase is “used to express delight or approval.”

The souvenir sheet introduces the show’s four main characters and their catchphrases, and the stamps in se-tenant pairs show scenes from the series along with captioned one-liners.

Starting in the upper left of the souvenir sheet, the nondenominated first-class stamp shows Derek “Del Boy” Trotter (portrayed by David Jason). His younger brother Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst) is pictured on the other first-class stamp in the sheet.

Uncle Albert (Buster Merryfield, 1920-99) is shown on the first of the two £1.70 stamps in the sheet, and Grandad (Lennard Pearce, 1915-84) on the other.

The selvage depicts Del Boy and Rodney with their Trotters Independent Trading Co. yellow three-wheeled van.

The episodes “A Losing Streak” (Nov. 4, 1982) and “Sleeping Dogs Lie” (March 21, 1985) are represented on one of the two pairs of nondenominated first-class stamps. The latter stamp also shows the character Marlene (Sue Holderness) and her dog Duke.

Shown on the other first-class pair are scenes from “Yuppy Love” (Jan. 8, 1989) and “A Touch of Glass” (Dec. 2, 1982).

The stamps in the other two pairs are denominated £1.70. One pair depicts scenes from “The Jolly Boys’ Outing” (Dec. 25, 1989), including the character Denzil Tulser (Paul Barber); and “The Unlucky Winner Is…” (Jan. 28, 1989) with Cassandra (Gwyneth Strong), who would marry Rodney two episodes later.

Featured on the other pair are scenes of “Three Men, a Woman and a Baby” (Feb. 3, 1991) in which Del’s partner Raquel (Tessa Peake-Jones) gives birth, and “Time on Our Hands” (Dec. 29, 1996).

The current first-class rate is 85 pence. The £1.70 stamps meet the rates for all international mail weighing up to 20 grams and for mail to European countries weighing up to 100 grams.

Interabang designed the stamps and souvenir sheet. International Security Printers printed them by lithography.

The stamps in se-tenant pairs were produced in sheets of 60 (sold in panes of 30 at most postal outlets). These stamps measure 50 millimeters by 30mm each and are perforated gauge 14 by 14.

The souvenir sheet is 192mm by 74mm. The stamps in it are 41mm by 30mm and perforated gauge 14.5 by 14.

Royal Mail also issued two booklets for the 40th anniversary of Only Fools and Horses.

The 24-page prestige stamp booklet includes four panes of stamps and images and background information about the sitcom.

The 12 stamps in the issue are presented in three of the panes (the four first-class stamps from the se-tenant pairs, the four £1.70 stamps from the pairs, and the four stamps from the souvenir sheet).

The other pane includes a block of eight Queen Elizabeth Machin definitive stamps (three first-class, two second-class and three 20p) with the Trotters Independent Trading Co. logo shown in a label in the center.

The other booklet contains the Del Boy and Rodney first-class stamps from the souvenir sheet and four first-class Queen Elizabeth II definitives.

In conjunction with the Only Fools and Horses issue, Royal Mail also is offering postmarks, first-day covers, presentation packs, and 13 postcards reproducing the designs of the include stamps and the souvenir sheet.

To order the stamps and related products, visit the Royal Mail website.

Ordering information also is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland. Royal Mail’s agency in the United States is Interpost, Box 400, Hewlett, NY 11557.

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