World Stamps

Souvenir label for 50th anniversary of reign of King Carl XVI Gustaf

Nov 3, 2023, 8 AM
This engraved label, which resembles a souvenir sheet, was produced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. The portrait of the king on the label was engraved by Martin Mörck.

By Christer Brunström

In 2023, Sweden celebrated two important anniversaries: the 500th anniversary of the crowning of Gustav Eriksson Vasa as king of Sweden and the 50th anniversary of the reign of King Carl XVI Gustaf.

For obvious reasons, most of the attention has been focused on the present king because he has been traveling throughout Sweden, visiting all the provinces accompanied by Queen Silvia.

On Sept. 16, 1973, King Gustav VI Adolf, the present king’s grandfather, passed away at a hospital in Helsingborg, Sweden, surrounded by Crown Prince Carl Gustaf and other members of the royal family.

At the precise moment the king died, the 27-year-old crown prince became the new king of Sweden.

When Carl Gustaf left the hospital, he was greeted by the press, and it was obvious that this was an awkward situation. The late monarch had been extremely popular, and it certainly was no easy task for a rather inexperienced young man to assume all his new duties and responsibilities.

The last 50 years have had their ups and downs, but Gustaf’s marriage to Silvia and the birth of their three children have kept the royal family in the limelight.

A royal system is basically undemocratic, but constitutional changes have reduced the monarch’s role. The king serves as Sweden’s head of state. He is the symbol of the country and a strong uniting force in an ever-changing world. In a way, he is a link to the past, and he represents Sweden in other parts of the world.

Since 1885, all Swedish kings have been depicted on the country’s definitive stamps, and King Carl XVI Gustaf is no exception. He is not known for any particularly strong interest in philately, but he has served as patron for a number of international stamp exhibitions.

The king was the patron of the Stockholmia 2019 exhibition, and he opened the show in Stockholm on May 29, 2019. He even spent an hour visiting the show, chatting to both exhibitors and dealers.

When the royal party arrived at the booth of Post Sweden, a rather curious conversation took place concerning the move away from engraved postage stamps.

When asked why this change occurred, the post office officials stated that this was to modernize Swedish stamps and that the royal court had approved the change. It was at this point that the king bluntly said that this certainly couldn’t have been his court.

Thus, it has been assumed that the king prefers recess-printed stamps. Earlier this year, PostNord issued a single stamp and a souvenir sheet marking the king’s golden jubilee, and they were not recess printed.

To remedy this, the publisher of Nordisk Filateli, a major Nordic stamp magazine, and stamp designer and engraver Martin Mörck joined forces to produce a nonpostal commemorative souvenir label.

Mörck is probably one of the world’s leading artists and engravers when it comes to designing postage-size portraits of notable persons.

Using pen and ink, he prepared a remarkable portrait of the king based on a photograph of the king with a number of friends on a rainy day.

Mörck always starts with the chin and then moves up toward the nose. Once those parts of the portrait are finished, he adds all the other parts. It certainly is a remarkable portrait of the king, but unfortunately it will never make it to a real postage stamp.

However, the portrait was used to produce the souvenir label honoring the 50th anniversary of the king’s reign. The label, in souvenir sheet form, was printed by Joh. Enschede in the Netherlands. Only 500 numbered sheets were printed, and all were personally signed by Mörck.

What happened to the original drawing? It was framed and presented to the king as a thank-you for his contribution to the Stockholmia 2019 exhibition.

Examples of the souvenir label are available from the publisher of Nordisk Filateli. For more information, email

It has been announced that the profits from the sale of the souvenir sheet will go to a worthwhile cause to be determined at a later date.

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