Pin Points - Royal Mail Stamps London 2012 Olympics

(ATR) London Pins expert Paul McGill writes about the Royal Mail’s four-year stamp program. The Royal Mail has issued 30 commemorative stamps and converted them into pin badges to celebrate the London 2012 Games.

(ATR) This month we take a look at the special stamps issued in the UK to commemorate the Olympics and the translation of those stamps into pin badges.

Four-Year Stamp Program

When London won the contest to stage the 2012 Olympic Games, the Royal Mail decided to embark on a four-year program of commemorative stamps to celebrate both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Over the course of 2009 to 2011, they issued 30 stamps to recognize the range of different sporting disciplines that would be on show at London 2012. Where sports such as tennis are played in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, or sports such as cycling are contested in various forms, such as track or BMX, there was one stamp issued for each overall sport, rather than multiple stamps to represent the variety of disciplines. Athletics was, however, represented by two stamps, one for track and one for field.

The image shows a complete sheet of all 30 stamps, and this was issued when the series was completed in 2011. This sheet has proved popular with collectors as it is the first time that the Royal Mail have issued a complete set of stamps printed in one commemorative sheet.

The 30 stamps were issued in three sets of 10 stamps; each stamp is valid for domestic first class postage.

Unique Designs

Different artists rather than one person designed each stamp. Some of the artists are well known, others less so, but the fact that each has been created by a different person means that there are variety of styles and approaches to representing the various sports.

Some of the stamps focus on the athletes, such as those foraquatics or taekwondo. Others highlight the equipment used, such as the table tennis or archery stamps. The styles of images range from the monochrome elegance of the equestrian stamp through to the vibrant action of the wheelchair rugby or canoeing stamps.

More To Come

Those are the stamps that have been issued so far in the first three years of the full program. Now that we are in 2012, the Royal Mail have more special issues planned – one for the opening of the Olympic Games on July 27 and another for the opening of the Paralympics on Aug. 29.

Finally, they will issue a "Memories" collection on Sept. 27. The style and numbers of stamps in each issue are yet to be revealed.

In addition to these three planned issues, there will be a stamp issued each time Team GB wins a gold medal. This is the third time a host nation has taken this decision following Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.

For collectors who may be interested, the stamps issued so far are available in many formats such as mint stamps, sheets and in retail booklets. Those of you from outside the UK who are coming to London for the Games may want to pick up some of these commemorative stamps from post offices.

Stamps Become Pins

The 30 sporting stamps are also available as pin badges. These pins were released in stages, but all 30 have now been issued. Each pin is a direct replica of the associated stamp. They even have rippled edges to simulate the perforations of the stamp. The pins are 29mm square and therefore slightly smaller than the stamps they represent. The pins are printed and resin coated rather than soft enamel. This is to allow the fine detailof the stamps to be reproduced on the pin, something that would not be possible with enamel production.

Each pin is issued in a collector’s pack that features the stamp and corresponding pin displayed on a London 2012 branded card with a description of the sport printed on the reverse of the card.

The packs are available directly from the Royal Mail and from selected 2012 retailers, but they are not available from all of the usual London 2012 pin retailers.

Each pin is limited to 20,000 pieces and the 30 pins form part of the 2,012 designs being issued for London 2012. If you would like to find out more about the Royal Mail stamps, take a look at the London Pins website.

These pins are popular companions to the pictogram pins and sports mascot pins for those collectors who follow a sport rather than trying to collect complete sets of pins. Combining pins to recognize a particular sport is a style of thematic collecting often seen in philatelic circles but which is popular too with pin collectors.

I have recently been in contact with a European collector who is interested to find all the cycling pins issued for London 2012. That includes pictograms and mascots as well as these stamp pins. However, it also goes on to include the hard-to-find internal pins such as the Velodrome pins issued to the construction teams building the venue. He has already identified more than 40 cycling themed pins from London 2012 to add to his collection of more than 8,000 pins.

Olympic Memorabilia Auction Set

Sporting Memorys Worldwide Auctions Ltd. Auction No. 13 is set for Feb. 15 in North Warwickshire, northeast of London. A wide range of Olympic memorabilia will be up for grabs. London 1948 items include collections of tickets as well as participation medals and programs. More information about the auction can be found here.

Paul McGill runs the collectors’ website This non-commercial website aims to be the definitive source for London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic pin information. The site contains a comprehensive catalogue of all the London Olympic pins as well as news articles and background on pins and pin collecting.

Visit the ATR Pin Points - London Collectibles webpage, dedicated to London 2012 pins.

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