The Pacific Ocean island Kingdom of Tonga, Polynesia, went into the history books as the first country to issue self-adhesive stamps in 1963. The series, circular in shape, was printed on embossed gilt-foiled paper and commemorated the 1962 first issue of gold coins by Polynesia.
Tonga continued to release self-adhesive stamps in many shapes and sizes, among them these earlier issues depicting hearts and bananas, as shown below.
But the stamps were manufactured by a British firm, Walsall Lithographic Co. Ltd., which in 1966 became Walsall Security Printers and now operates under the umbrella of ISP (International Security Printers). The company, situated in the heart of England, was appointed a supplier to the British Post Office (later Royal Mail) in 1987 and became ISP in 2004. ISP’s core business is in printing self-adhesive stamps, with more than 60 per cent of its production destined for export markets, including Europe and Japan. ISP, which printed the Royal Wedding stamps for Prince William and Kate Middleton, can trace its roots back to the Walsall Lithographic Company, founded in 1894 to print catalogues for harness and saddlers businesses.
Special gum layer
In 1964, a year after the Tonga self-adhesives, Sierra Leone followed suit, then Bhutan and Sharjah. By placing a special layer of gum on these stamps they could be stuck without wetting. This proved to be a great advantage in tropical climes where high humidity can spoil normally-gummed stamps. However, the production of adhesive paper at that time was still twice as expensive as stamps that you had to stick by wetting.
Dutch stamps are not exclusively printed in Holland. Some Dutch stamps are also printed by ISP. Below is an ISP-produced self-adhesive inauguration stamp of King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands.
In 1987 the company became a supplier to the British Post Office, later Royal Mail. Since 1998 PostNL (the Dutch postal organisation) has been printing products at Walsall Security Printers.
International Security Printers has produced postage stamps for 180 different countries and towards the end of last year moved to a bigger production plant near Wolverhampton. It has some of the most advanced printing presses in the world and continues to invest in new technologies to stay among the best printers in the world.