The Royal Philatelic Collection



2015-06-26 10:26:45

The Royal Philatelic Collection is a postage stamp collection owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Housed in St. James’s Palace, London, it is said to be the world's most comprehensive collection of postage stamps of Great Britain and the Commonwealth.



In 1856, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and his younger brother Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria's second son, were given panes of the soon to be issued Great Britain 6d stamps. After this, Alfred became a serious stamp collector and put together a small collection.

Alfred was later president of the Royal Philatelic Society London from 1890 until his death.

Before his death in 1900, Alfred sold his stamp collection to his elder brother, who later became King Edward VII who, in turn, gave it to his son, the future King George V, a noted stamp collector.

George V was one of the notable philatelists of his day. In 1893, as the Duke of York, he was elected honorary vice-president of what became the Royal Philatelic Society of London. On his marriage that year, fellow members of the society gave him an album of nearly 1,500 postage stamps as a wedding present.

He expanded the collection with a number of high-priced purchases of rare stamps and covers. His 1904 purchase of the 2d Mauritius “Post Office” Stamps for £1,450 set a new record for a single stamp.

A courtier asked the prince if he had seen "that some damned fool had paid as much as £1,400 for one stamp". "Yes," George replied. "I was that damned fool!"

George had the collection housed in 328 so-called "Red Albums", each of about 60 pages. Today those acquired by King George VI are in blue albums and boxes, and those by
Queen Elizabeth II are housed in green albums.

Not all stamps have yet been mounted. It is believed amongst philatelists that there is enough material to fill another 2,000 albums or boxes.

The collection was kept at Buckingham Palace until it was moved to St. James's Palace, also in London.

Items of the Royal Philatelic Collection have been regularly shown to the public by the Royal Philatelic Society London or are lent to international philatelic exhibitions.


The Kirkcudbright penny black first day cover, a first-day cover with ten penny blacks, mailed on 6 May 1840, the first day it was valid. Around 70 examples are known, but this is the only one with more than two stamps.

The valuable Post Office Mauritius 'Ball' cover from 1847.

Three of the twelve known examples of the Great Britain 1910 2d Tyrian Plum

Another rare item in the collection is a Cayman Islands stamp overprint - one of only four known examples.

The 1907 provisional with overprint is salmon pink and green, and displays the face of the then Monarch, Edward VII. It was originally printed as a 5 shilling piece, but then required a 1/2d surcharge.

The collection includes two 13p 'Sweet Briar' stamps with error. Issued for the Centenary of the Royal National Rose Society, millions of ‘Sweet Briar’ stamps were printed.

However, during printing repairs, the face value was temporarily covered with copper and was inadvertently left in place during printing, causing the 13p price to be omitted.

The error was discovered before issue and all copies of the stamp were supposedly destroyed; however three still exist with the value omitted, two of which are included in the collection. The third was sold by Stanley Gibbons Limited for £85,000.

Conservation and Research

The Royal Philatelic Collection is looked after by a team of experts at St. James's Palace in London.

Heading up the team is Michael Sefi, Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection since 2003. They are responsible for ensuring that the Collection remains in the best possible condition. It is held in high-security, carefully-regulated conditions in its albums and boxes, with unmounted material in chemical-free packets.

The team also assists visiting researchers, answers written queries, deals with additions to the Collection, and arranges loans to stamp exhibitions. Bona fide researchers are welcome within the limits of the team's resources, but the Royal Philatelic Collection is not on general public view.

Exhibitions and Loans

The Royal Philatelic Collection is not on general public display, since much of the Collection is fragile. However, examples are occasionally on public display by permission of The Queen.

Each season, the opening display at the Royal Philatelic Society London consists of material from the Collection. This custom was started shortly after the First World War by George V, but the meeting is only open to Fellows and Members of the Society.

Selections from the Collection are also displayed at other exhibitions in the United Kingdom and at major international stamp shows. Parts of the collection have recently been shown at the 2010 London Stamp Show.

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