the postage stamps of Herm in the Channel Islands


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The Life Story of a Stamp by Dr Bob Forrester - Part 1

This article covers the whole life of a stamp, from its creation to its various uses. It was written by Dr Bob Forrester shortly before he died in January 2009.

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Life Story of a stamp Part 1      Life Story of a Stamp Part 2      Life Story of a stamp Part 3    

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The creation and production of any stamp is a complicated and lengthy business.  To collectors it is also a fascinating process and in this article the various stages are illustrated with reference to a variety of Herm's local stamps.

All issues begin as someone's brainchild and the first idea must relate to the nature of the theme.  In 1958 artist Rigby Graham was asked to design a series of definitives.  Figures 1 and 2 show a list of his initial thoughts for subjects and a rough sketch of the island prison, suitably framed by simulated perforations. 

Figure 1.  Rigby Graham’s initial thoughts for the 1958 definitives

Figure 2.  Rigby Graham’s rejected design for a stamp

In the event none of these ideas were used for the stamps, issued the following year, as the theme eventually chosen was the journey of the mailboat Arrowhead from Herm to St Peter Port. 

This brings us to the next stages of designing, research and the acquisition of reference material.  Figures 3 and 4 show photographs taken whilst the artist was following the Arrowhead at sea in order to make sketches and, as rough conditions thwarted this attempt, a photograph of the boat which was later supplied so that he could reproduce its design accurately in the relevant stamp design. 

Figure 3.  Photograph of the 'Arrowhead' at sea

Figure 4.  Photograph of the 'Arrowhead' entering Herm Harbour

Sometimes the transition from reference material to finished product involves less work as in the 7p value of Guernsey 's 1976 Views issue which was taken from a Herm postcard (Figure 5).














Figure 5. 7p value of Guernsey ’s 1976 Views, taken from a Herm postcard

However good the research, designs do not come easily artists developing their ideas through a range of preparatory drawings.  Figure 6 shows international stamp designer Michael Goaman's developing illustrations for one of his 1962 Europa designs.











Figure 6.  Michael Goaman’s illustrations for one of his 1962 Europa designs, and the 8 doubles stamp

Even at a late stage in the designing process the artist may have to return to the drawing board because of the late discovery of errors (as in Figure 7 which shows Victor Whiteley's misspelling of 'grateful'), modifications in design (as in Figure 8 which shows a lengthening of the panorama to better fit the proportions of the issued stamp), changes of value (Figure 9: no 6d stamp was issued) or 'gaffes' (Figure 10 which shows the omission of the title 'HRH' on the 1960 Royal Wedding issue).

Figure 7.  Victor Whiteley’s misspelling of ‘grateful’







Figure 8 Panorama lengthened to fit proportions of issued stamp

Figure 9. A 6d stamp that was not issued; and a 1d stamp that was


Figure 10.  Omission of the title ‘H.R.H.’

                                                                                                                             Continue to Part 2

Illustrations from the collections of Dr Bob Forrester and David Ackroyd

Scanning and editing by Peter Hewitt


Life Story of a stamp Part 1      Life Story of a Stamp Part 2      Life Story of a stamp Part 3    

Download Word File                                                                      Download complete PDF file

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