“Enter the museum of miniature works of art – ADMISSION FREE”

The Stamp Man

The Stamp Man

2020-01-28 11:17:34

10 hand-picked miniature masterpieces to treasure

A stamp is much more than proof of payment for posting a letter…

Stamps are treasured keepsakes and, often, miniature works of art.

When I was about eight year’s old, my Dad gave me my first stamp album. He told me he had been given the album when he was a schoolboy in the 1950’s by his Great Uncle.

Back then, I called the 1950’s “the olden days”. I suppose today, the 1970’s are now the olden days! 

My Great Uncle was a stamp dealer in Edinburgh, Scotland. Little did I know I would follow in his footsteps.

Unfortunately, as the album came from a dealer, all the valuable stamps had already been taken out and sold.

But… never mind, money didn’t mean much to me at that age and it wasn’t the value which attracted me to the hobby. 

I was captivated by the different designs depicted on each stamp.

They opened a window to me providing a fascinating view of scenes from around the world, an imprint of different cultures and permanent markers of moments in history.

What I have always found fascinating is how stamps can articulate a country’s experience and culture as a miniature work of art.

I think what I love most about stamp collecting compared to other collecting options is how you can effectively build your own private collection of miniature works of art.

Creating exceptional stamp designs is not easy. The level of detail needs to be perfectly balanced to work on such a small scale.

Stamp design is an art form in its own right.

Today, I invite you into my museum of miniature works of art.

Here you will find 10 stamps for different reasons I consider worthy of the title of miniature work of art. 

Take your time to pause and appreciate the beauty in the exhibits.


1. The history, geography and culture of the British Colony of Aden

Aden King George VI 1951 (1 Oct) surcharges with new values in cents or shillings by Waterlow, 5ca on 1a to 10s on 10r sepia and violet set of 11, SG36/46. A stunning quality mint set with original gum.

Price: £75


This wonderful pictorial set epitomises everything I love about stamps.

The set was issued from Aden, which is now part of Yemen. They are the 1951 overprinted issue with shilling denominations as the British East African shilling replaced the Indian rupee as the legal currency of Aden at that time.

The set successfully captures the essence of Aden including its culture, history and geography. For example, the 20 cents stamp depicts the preparation of the British landing as painted by Captain Rundle showing the British capture of Aden in January 1839.

The stamps are listed in the SG catalogue at a price of £85, which sounds remarkably good value to me for such a fine set of stamps. You can purchase the set from us today for £75, a discount of 12%.

2. The story of an Island in pictures

Falkland Islands King George VI 1952 (2 Jan) Watermark Multiple Script CA, ½d to £1 black set of 14. A very fine quality lightly hinged mint set with fresh colours and gum, SG172/85.

Price: £150


The final definitive set of stamps issued by the Falkland Islands during the reign of King George VI is a classic. 

It was met with great acclaim when issued as a fine set of designs symbolising the culture, history, wildlife and scenery of these remote Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.

It was so popular, the designs continued to be used, but with Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait on her coronation and remained in issue until 1957.

The Falkland Islands is a favourite colony of the British Empire collector meaning it is an area which has always been well pursued by avid collectors.

My favourite in the set is the “Kelp Goose and Gander” 1s 3d stamp – what’s your favourite?

The SG catalogue lists the value of this classic pictorial set at a price of £180. You can purchase the set from us today for the price of £150, a discount of 17%.

3. Australia’s most famous landmark

Australia 1932 'Sydney Harbour Bridge' 5s, fine cancelled-to-order. Used. SG 143

Price: £200


The ‘Sydney Harbour Bridge’ stamp is considered one of Australia’s most popular stamp designs, and rightly so.

It was issued on 14 March 1932 commemorating the opening of the iconic landmark, the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The bridge took eight years to build using 53,000 tonnes of steel.

The design features the bridge from the South-East with a large liner, R.M.S Orford passing beneath to provide a perspective of size.

The opening of the bridge was a momentous occasion. It is estimated that up to 1 million people gathered around the harbour to witness the grand opening.

The task of designing the stamp to commemorate this epic moment in Australian history was given to the Note Printing Branch. The bridge was only partly constructed at the time and they were expected to come up with their design based on drawings of the proposed bridge.

The stamp designers became avidly interested in monitoring the bridge’s construction, ultimately enabling them to come up with a design capturing the spirit of the new bridge.

The accolade of the ultimate chosen design went to R.A. Harrison and the engraving by F.D. Manley.

It truly is a stunning stamp and a masterpiece with incredible complexity encompassed within the design held on a tiny piece of paper.

4. An English Rose

Great Britain Queen Victoria Surface Printed 1884 5s rose, SG180. Very fine unused original gum example lettered KH, well centred with a lovely fresh appearance. A stunning and very popular stamp.

Price: £1,100


The 1884 5 shilling rose is a Victorian classic and has always been a popular stamp amongst collectors.

I’ve always loved the design of this surface printed stamp, which I think symbolises the pride behind the golden era of the Victorian postal revolution.

However, it is not just the design but the lush rose colour which makes this stamp always stand out in a crowd.

This example is incredibly fresh and vibrant. It is difficult to comprehend that it has been around for the past 136 years.

Overall, this stamp possesses a rare mix of ingredients that create condition perfection: 

  • Well-centered
  • Original gum
  • Fresh colour

 5. Find the missing pearl

Leeward Islands 1938-51 £1 brown-purple and black/salmon, perforations 14, SG114ba. Lower left corner example (R5/1) showing variety "Missing pearl". Very fine quality unmounted with full original gum intact. Error occurs on 1944 printing only. Rare. 

Price: £1,700


The Leeward Islands in the West Indies derive their name from shipping times because of their location in the context of the direction of the trade winds.

They are the collective name for the colonies of Antigua, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis and the Virgin Islands. The separate colonies all issued their own stamps, although stamps inscribed “Leeward Islands” were also issued.

This high value stamp issued for King George VI reign is most appealing with very striking colour combination and an attractive ornate design.

The quality of this example is the finest you could possibly find in fresh mint condition with all of its original gum. It benefits further from being a lower left corner example.

Even more interesting is the fact the stamp includes an error, the “Missing pearl”, which occurred only on the 1944 printing and is very rare and difficult to find. 

The value of this major British Empire error has increased from £1,100 to £1,700 over the past decade (55%). I think it remains modestly priced because of its rarity.

Furthermore, the top-grade quality of this example demands a premium, which I have not reflected in our price.

6. The Daddy of them all

Great Britain 1877 Telegraph £5 Orange Plate 1, SGT18s. A very fine unused original gum example lettered BF, overprinted "SPECIMEN" type 9. Scarce. Provenance: Ex. Straus.

Price: £2,800


This is an opportunity to own a mint example of one of Great Britain’s most famous and adored Queen Victorian stamps, but at a much lower price. 

It is big, bold and brazen. Yet, it contains a certain indefinable elegance. It portrays the arrogance driving the continual expansion of the British Empire at the time. I love it.

 After the penny black, it is the second British stamp you just have to own.

This “Telegraphs” example is the original £5 Orange issued in 1877.

A £5 charge was a lot of money in 1877, worth almost £600 in today’s money terms.

It was, therefore, originally introduced as Telegraphs stamps to account for payment of bulk telegrams. Telegraphs were withdrawn in 1881 and the same plate design, replacing “TELEGRAPHS” with “POSTAGE”, was issued for postage in 1882.

It would cost you 5 times more to buy the £5 Orange postage stamp than it costs to purchase this earlier Telegraphs Specimen stamp. If you have always wanted a high quality example of this icon in your collection, this is your chance to get one at a much lower price point.

7. Enter the dragon

China 1878 1ca green, 3ca brown-red and 5ca orange, thin paper, 2½mm spacing, SG1/3.

A fine quality set of the first stamp issues of the Chinese Empire. The first two are unused without gum, the 5ca with part original gum. 

Price: £3,500


The Chinese Empire Large Dragon stamps are one of my favourite stamp issues of all time.

When you soak up the intricate detail of this piece of artwork created with precise accuracy on a minute piece of paper, you can’t help admire the skill involved.

The dragon is, of course, a great symbol of Chinese culture. It is considered a symbol of power, strength and good luck.

Finding fine quality mint examples of China’s first postage stamps is challenging. Few examples you will find are as fresh as these.

This set represents the first stamp issue of the Chinese Empire in 1878 and hold the same collecting importance in China as the penny black in Great Britain.

The stamps have benefited from the bull market for Chinese stamps the past decade. This set is up 250% in value compared to the value 10 years ago, thanks to the explosion of demand from new collectors entering the market during that time.

Despite recent high growth rates, these stamps are still fairly priced in comparison to the first stamps from other countries. To put into context, SG numbers 1,2 and 3 from Great Britain have a catalogue value of £46,500.

8. The Perfect Stamp

Great Britain King George V "Seahorses" 1915 10s Deep blue, SG411. A very fine well centred unused original gum example printed by De La Rue.

The most difficult of the shades to find of the famous Seahorse issues and one of the all-time classics of GB philately.

GB Specialised Catalogue Number: N70(2).

Price: £3,750


The “Seahorses” are considered one of the greatest stamps of all time. They tick all the boxes I look for – beauty, quality, history, complexity and desirability.

The stamp depicts Britannia being pulled through the waves by a powerful team of horses, accompanied by a striking portrait of King George V. 

First issued on the eve of World War I, the stamp was designed to send a bold message of defiance and portray Britain as all-powerful and in command of the seas.

The intricacy of the design is the credit of the renowned Australian sculptor, Bertram Mackennal. King George V personally approved the designs.

They are also beautifully engraved, being produced by the intaglio recess printing method. This meant they were of higher quality than most stamps before and after. You can really feel the engraved lines indented into the paper.

There were four different printers contracted during the period the stamp was in circulation from 1913 to 1939 - Waterlow & Layton, De La Rue, Bradbury Wilkinson and Waterlow & Son.

The stamp I have for you today is from perhaps the most respected printer for producing quality stamps, De La Rue.

It is also one of the most difficult printing shades to find. I particularly love the deep blue colour and don’t think our image above does justice to bring out the richness of the colour. You really need to see it first-hand. 

This example is beautifully fresh and well centred with original gum, making it a masterpiece of perfection.

As if all this wasn’t good enough, the “perfect stamp” is available to you today at a discount of 32% to the SG catalogue value of £5,500. I will be surprised if this isn’t sold quickly at our price of £3,750.

9. The King’s Island of Beauty

Ceylon 1921-32 Script watermark 100r grey-black, variety 'Break in lines below left scroll' (R4/9), SG359he.

Well-centred very fine example with lovely fresh colour and original gum. The odd shortish perforation mentioned for accuracy only as this is a particularly prominent example of this variety. 

Very rare. Accompanied by a Sismondo Certificate of Authenticity (2011) incorrectly describes the shade as 'brownish grey', but gives the correct SG number.

Price: £4,250


This beautiful stamp is from King George’s island of beauty ‘Ceylon’, modern-day Sri Lanka. It captures the essence of the “Emperor of India”.

Sometimes less is best. The simple black and light grey colours contrast really well proving very effective in creating a grand looking stamp.

I have a very rare stamp variety, which is quite subtle. 

The King George V issues from Ceylon are renowned for a good range of varieties and this is one of the rarest and the only example of this error I have ever seen.

The SG catalogue value for this rare variety has almost doubled in the past decade. Yet, at its current catalogue value of £5,500, it is not a big price ticket for such a rare stamp from a popular collecting area of the stamp market.

You can purchase this exceptional quality example from us today for £4,250, a discount of 23% from the SG catalogue value of £5,500.

10. When everything comes together to create perfection

Great Britain 1840 1d Mulready envelope (Stereo A154). A hand coloured example cancelled by two Maltese Crosses in Red and ‘IP Highgate’ in Black, used on May 18th 1840. A very early hand coloured Mulready. SGME2

Price: £5,500


My final exhibit is a thing of perfection. Such perfection requires many things to come together at the same time creating a very rare event.

The Mulready pre-paid postal stationery was issued on the same day as the penny black. It was in direct competition with the adhesive postage stamp on the introduction of a prepaid postal system. Prior to their introduction postage costs were paid by the recipient.

The design of the Mulready was a romantic conception of what the worldwide benefits of cheap postage would bring. Artistically, the design is undeniably genius, although questionable in terms of being practicable for its purpose.

The Mulreadys were widely scorned by the public on release and ridiculed for their elaborate design. It is likely their design was just too “radical” for the conservative Victorians at the time. Within two months, the decision was made to scrap the Mulready stationery leaving the way clear for the penny black to change the world.

The Mulready envelope I have is one for the real philatelic connoisseur. What makes it especially beautiful to me is… 

  1. Back in Victorian times, with no TV or iPads around, colouring these new envelopes became a bit of a pastime for a few people. I think this is a fine example of hand colouring and I have always thought they are really attractive 
  2. It is a very early date Mulready, sent in the first month of issue, making it much more desirable and valuable 
  3. It has two red Maltese Cross cancellations, which is very rare indeed 
  4. Even the handwriting of the address is beautiful. It is of some personal appeal to me as my middle name is “Montague”.

As I said, it is one of those rare times where complete philatelic perfection is achieved.

The Miniature Masterpiece Collection

A lot of people fail to appreciate the amount of work and complexity involved in getting a single stamp design through to the final production process.

Usually, several artists are commissioned to come up with their designs based on an agreed remit. Designs are then submitted to assessment panels, negotiated and numerous amends made before a stamp reaches production.

I have only displayed a small cross-section today of the amazing miniature masterpieces on stamps issued from around the world.

Some of these masterpieces display stunning use of colour to great effect, ingenuity, flair, fine detail and precision.

The whole collection of the museum of miniature works of art can be yours today for £23,025. That price represents discount of 12% to the SG listed catalogue value.

You can click on the links below each stamp featured to purchase directly from our website. 

Alternatively, you can simply reply to this blog to place your order. I will let you know as soon as possible whether you have been successful.

Or call us on +44(0)1534 639998.

Thank you for visiting and have a nice day. Be sure to come back now! 

Kind regards

Mike Hall

CEO Just Collecting

PS.  If you prefer coins to stamps, I would recommend the coin below we recently added to our website – very attractive, good history and top quality example…

Great Britain Crown George II (1727-1760)

Metal: Silver

Type: Milled - Old head, Roses

Mint Mark: 1743 Decimo Septimo

Obverse: Laureate, cuirassed, draped old bust left

Reverse: Cruciform crowned shields, roses in angles, legend - Hanoverian titlesSuperb condition piece - beautifully and evenly darkly tones with underlying lustre. Rare in this grade and difficult to better. The four roses in the angles between the shields on the reverse signify that the silver that this coin is made of, came from West Country mines. There are two different portraits used, the young head bust used from 1732 to 1741, followed by the oder bust (this coin) used from 1743 to 1751.

George was the last British Monarch born outside Great Britain and was born and brought up in Northern Germany. He was also the last British Monarch to lead an army in Battle - in 1743 at the battle of Dettingen. In 1745, supporters of the Catholic claimant to the British Throne, James Francis Edward Stuart ('The Old Pretender'), led by James’s son Charles Edward Stuart ('The Young Pretender' or 'Bonnie Prince Charlie') attempted and failed to depose George in the last of the Jacobite rebellions. His son Frederick died unexpectedly in 1751 leaving George's grandson to become George III.

Price: £4,575


Enjoyed this article? You may also like:

December 31, 2019: A happy new year 

December 30, 2019: The 10 weirdest auction lots of 2019 

December 27, 2019: Some like it hot, do you? 

Come and join us on JustCollecting – the community for collectors

Share on social media
Write a response...

The bookmarklet lets you save things you find to your collections.

Note: Make sure your bookmarks are visible.


Click and drag the Collect It button to your browser's Bookmark Bar.

collect it