British Greetings Stamps with Assay Marks

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This article appears courtesy of Cees Janssen, a confessed Anglophile and one of the main contributors for PostBeeld’s Dutch-language “Postzegelblog”:

After the flood of stamp issues around the Millennium, I chose to limit myself to the stamps of Great Britain printed by Joh. Enschedé Stamps BV in Haarlem, The Netherlands – a small, thematically appealing series. And I was immediately surprised in 2001 with the issue of the greetings stamps.

On five stamps the design agency “Springpoint Limited” displayed words in the form of quality (assay) marks or markings that appear on silver objects. There are currently more than 12,000 different inspection marks worldwide. The example above shows some of them. The lion stands for the general hallmark for silver with a content of 925/1000. The lion’s head was used as a city hallmark for London and the letter indicates the year the hallmark was affixed. The letter n stands for the year 1928, the 14th letter of the alphabet. The particular lettering system on the above stamp began in 1916 with the letter A but the letter J was skipped as it was thought it might be mistaken for ‘I’.

The greetings stamps were printed in sheets of 20 with two different vignettes, the carrier pigeon and the inkpot with quill. Furthermore, there is a margin print with some explanation. The issue was part of the fixed annual stamps in the form of “Smilers”, as can be seen on the bottom right of the sheet.

On the first class stamp above letters from the word WELCOME are displayed in three of the hallmarks with the fourth containing an image of a castle gate. The castle gate design was chosen as an example of a possible invitation to visit a new house.

The stamp “First day of issue” Merry Hill Wolverhampton includes a carrier pigeon that also appears on the vignette of the corresponding stamp. But why Merry Hill was chosen as the name of the post office is not clear to me. There are also stamps with Childrey Wantage, Gretna Green, Welcombe Bideford in Devon, Lover Salisbury, Thankerton Biggar in Scotland and Greet Birmingham postmarks. The Lover stamp was obviously widely used to send Valentine cards.

Then the word “THANKS” in the form of three marks. Obviously useful to thank someone.

A letter A, a letter C and a little bear. Can this be taken as a notification regarding a birth. A, B, C (B for Beer)?

And on the Childrey, Wantage stamp it is immediately that the appearance of the stork indicates a birth. Childrey is a village with around 600 inhabitants located in the White Horse Valley in the county of Berkshire. But it no longer has a post office. The White Horse can be seen at Uffington Castle. The castle no longer exists but the visitors’car park still bears the name.

The horse was sculpted out of the chalk slope more than 3,000 years ago and is managed by the National Trust. The white recesses must be cleaned regularly and provided with new chunks of white chalk. There are more sites in England where such prehistoric white horses can be found.

CHEERS with a wine glass as an exclamation mark. An exclamation when raising the glass at a birthday or other happy event. Usually followed by “to your good health”.

On the stamp above the design agency depicted the word “Love” on two of the three hallmarks, the middle showing an arrow with a heart-shaped point and a heart below. The meaning is clear.

The inkpot and the quill are included as an image on the Royal Mail First Day Cover. The same as the vignette that comes with the Thanks and Cheers stamps.

Royal Mail used this image as the advertising poster for the stamps. The pink Valentine card envelope included on the poster comes complete with lipstick impressions and the letters S.W.A.L.K. (Sealed With A Loving Kiss). For the designs of the stamps, models were made by “Model Solutions”. The models were photographed by Julian Deghy. The stamps were printed by Joh. Enschedé Security Print in Haarlem and issued on February 6, 2001 just in time for Valentine’s Day.

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