PHQ card

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First PHQ card issued in 1975 featuring W.G. Grace

PHQ cards are postcards issued by the British Post Office depicting the designs of their commemorative stamps. They are generally available to buy in main post offices about two weeks prior to the release of each new set of stamps.


The 'PHQ' stands for Postal Headquarters. All items published by the Post Office are given a number which is prefixed by letters. The first card issued, on 16 May 1973, was numbered PHQ1, and the numbering sequence has continued to the present day.

There are however two gaps in the sequence, and two duplications. The number PHQ24 was originally set aside for the 9p Silver Jubilee card (issued after the rest of the set), but when it was issued the card was numbered PHQ22E. The next set (Wildlife cards, issued 5 October 1977) had already been allocated the number PHQ25, and so the number PHQ24 was never used.

The London 1980 Exhibition card, issued 9 April 1980 to commemorate the 1980 International Stamp Exhibition, and the set of five cards for London Landmarks, issued 7 May 1980, both had the reference number PHQ43.

The set of five cards for Gallantry, issued 11 September 1990, and the set of four cards for Astronomy, issued 16 October 1990, both had the reference number PHQ129. Consequently, the number PHQ130 was unused.


The first card issued was the 3p W.G. Grace stamp from the set of stamps commemorating County Cricket, issued on 16 May 1973, but not released until mid-July. Subsequent cards have been issued about two weeks prior to the release of the stamps. This enables collectors to obtain the cards before the issue of the stamps so that they can attach the relevant stamp and obtain First Day of Issue postmarks.

When they were first issued, the PHQ cards were intended to be just an occasional picture postcard for sale to the public at Post Offices and Philatelic Counters. However, right from the first card issued, some enterprising Stamp Dealers realised that there was a potential new Stamp collecting area, and stamps were fixed either to the face of the card, or the back, and postmarks for various cricket matches played between July and September 1973 were obtained.[citation needed]

In August 1973 a second card was issued for one of the stamps in the set to mark the 400th anniversary of the birth of Inigo Jones, architect and designer. Over the next three years several more single cards, and a few sets were issued, from July 1976 onwards there has been a set of cards issued for every new set of commemorative stamps that has been issued.

The first two cards issued, 1973 Cricket and 1973 Inigo Jones, are larger than the current cards, measuring 120 mm x 172 mm in size, while all cards issued from PHQ3 onward are 104 mm x 148 mm in size. This can be confusing for new collectors coming across the first two issues for the first time, if they are not aware of the size difference, they tend to think they are worthless copies.

Collecting PHQ cards[edit]

There are three main areas of collecting interest. Many collectors like to collect only the unused cards, but some like to obtain them with first day of issue postmarks. Others like to obtain them with special handstamps that have some connection to the stamp subject matter. Also, stamp collectors will usually put the stamp on the back of the card, but a very popular variation is for the stamp to be applied to the face of the card, so that the postcard picture, stamp and postmark are all visible on the same face.

Postmarks and handstamps[edit]

The first card was not put on sale until two months after the issue date of the stamps, so would not have been eligible for a First day of issue postmark. However the card is known to exist with 16 May 1973, Birmingham FDI cancellation (back-dated by favour), but it is much more collectable with the July and September pictorial cricket postmarks. The cricket postmarks to look out for are 21 July, Benson & Hedges, and 1 September Gillette Cup.

The early issues[edit]

Below are the issue dates of all the early cards, issued up until July 1976. Since this date a full set of cards has been issued for every commemorative set, and for some of the definitive issues.

Stamp issue date Stamp set #cards Card set ref Qty. Issued
16 May 1973 County Cricket, 1873–1973 one PHQ 1 20,000
15 August 1973 400th Anniversary, birth of Inigo Jones one PHQ 2 20,000
12 September 1973 19th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference one PHQ 3 15,200
14 November 1973 Royal Wedding (The Princess Anne) one PHQ 4 290,000
27 February 1974 British Trees one PHQ 5 16,750
24 April 1974 Fire Service Anniversary one PHQ 6 30,000
10 July 1974 Medieval Warriors four PHQ 7 31,750
9 October 1974 Winston Churchill Centenary one PHQ 8 114,430
19 February 1975 Bicentenary, birth J. M. W. Turner one PHQ 9 46,250
23 April 1975 European Architectural Year three PHQ 10 51,000
11 June 1975 Sailing one PHQ 11 41,350
13 August 1975 150th Anniversary of Public Railways four PHQ 12 47,500
22 October 1975 Jane Austen Bicentenary four PHQ 13 27,330
28 April 1976 Social Reformers one PHQ 14 38,350
2 June 1976 American Bicentenary one PHQ 15 60,950
30 June 1976 Roses four PHQ 16 34,250

All subsequent issues of British Commemorative Stamps had a set of PHQ Cards issued.

Differences and errors[edit]

Like the stamps they depict, because of the printing processes involved, errors and differences will occur in the printings. Some of the notable differences and errors are listed here.

Card set ref. Issue date Stamp set Details
PHQ 7 10 July 1974 Medieval Warriors 10p card known to exist with missing red.
PHQ 8 9 October 1974 Winston Churchill 5½p card known to exist with missing gold.
PHQ 9 19 February 1975 Turner Bicentenary 5½p card known to exist with missing black
PHQ 11 11 June 1975 Sailing 8p card known to exist with missing red.
PHQ 13 22 October 1975 Jane Austen bicentenary 10p card gold head & border, upward shift of 5 mm
13p card, black and yellow shifted upwards.
PHQ 16 30 June 1976 Rose Society Centenary 8½p upward shift of yellow by 2 mm
PHQ 18 29 September 1976 500th anniversary of British Printing 10p card upwards shift of olive & dark green by 5 mm
PHQ 21 2 March 1977 Centenary, Royal Institute of Chemistry 8½p card with picture printed on matt {reverse} side
8½p card with upward shift of yellow & blue by 1 mm
10p card, missing red & black
PHQ 22 11 May 1977 Silver Jubilee 8½p card with missing pale blue
8½p card with pale blue shift to right by 2 mm
8½p card with grey shifted to left
PHQ 25 5 October 1977 British Wildlife Badger card missing brown value and description
Hare card missing brown value and description
Otter card with bistre frame shifted upwards
PHQ 29 31 May 1978 Anniversary of Coronation 13p card with doubling of gold & purple
PHQ 30 5 July 1978 Shire Horses 13p card with missing brown
PHQ 33 7 February 1979 British Dogs 10½p card printed on matt {reverse} side
10½p card, blue & yellow shifted 12 mm to right
13p card printed on matt {reverse} side
PHQ 37 11 July 1979 International Year of the Child 9p card with downward shift of yellow,
blue, silver & bistre by 6 mm
PHQ 39 26 September 1979 150th Anniversary of
Metropolitan Police
10p card with red & black shifted
down and to left by 1 mm
PHQ 42 12 March 1980 150th Anniversary of the
Liverpool and Manchester Railway
Goods Train & Mail Coach card missing bistre border
PHQ 43 7 May 1980 London Landmarks 13½p card printed on the matt (reverse) side
13½p card with black print missing from reverse
PHQ 47 10 October 1980 Sports Centenaries 12p card with missing magenta, black, bistre & gold
17½p card printed on matt (reverse) side

Other notable differences[edit]

Card set ref Issue Date Stamp issue Details
PHQ 18 29 September 1976 British Printing The caption on 8½p card incorrectly states the woodcut is of the Knight,
when in fact it is a woodcut of the Squire.
PHQ 24 N/A NOT ISSUED See explanation in "Description" section, above.
PHQ 25 5 October 1977 British Wildlife there were two printings of this issue, with slight colour variations
PHQ 31 2 August 1978 Cycling Centenaries The 11p card also exists with a completely different
back about the Cycling Proficiency Test.
PHQ 38 22 August 1979 Rowland Hill Centenary The 10p card also exists with a completely different reverse, which states
"With the Compliments of the British Post Office", in both English & French.
This card was produced for the 1979 UPU Conference in Brazil.
PHQ 47 10 October 1980 Sports Centenaries The Post Office's National Postal Museum overprinted a small number of the
12p card for their Exhibition of Elizabethan Sports Stamps, and sold these
cards with the 12p Sports stamp affixed to the reverse.
PHQ 50 1981 Disabled Card (a) had card (d) description printed upside down as well as regular (a) description

Other postcard issues[edit]

Occasionally the post office issues Stamp Cards of stamps that are not listed as PHQ. This also includes copies of Definitive Issues.

Issue No. Issue Date Issue Title
PSM01 1999-Jun Royal Wedding
PSM02 1999-Dec Millennium Timekeeper
PSM02 2000-May Her Majesty's Stamps
PSM04 2000-Aug Queen Mothers Birthday
PSM05 2001-Feb Occasions
PSM06 2001-May British Double Deckers (also No. PHQ231)
PSM07 2001-Oct Royal Navy Flags
PSM08 2002-Mar Occasions
PSM09 2003-Feb Occasions
PSM10 2004-Feb Occasions
Celebrating Great Britain
CGB01 2006-Nov Celebrating Scotland
CGB02 2007-Apr Celebrating England
CGB03 2008-Mar Celebrating Northern Ireland
CGB04 2009-Feb Celebrating Wales
GS1 1993-Feb Gift Giving
GS2 1994-Feb Messages
GS3 1995-Mar Art
GS4 1996-Feb Cartoons
GS5 1997-Jan Flowers
PHQHP 2007-Jul Harry Potter
PHQOGH 2008-Aug Olympic Games
D1 1993-Mar Britannia
D2 1993-Mar £1 Carrickfergus Castle
D3 1993-Mar £1.50 Caernarfon Castle
D4 1992-Mar £2 Edinburgh Castle
D5 1992-Mar £5 Windsor Castle
D6 1993-Oct Machin 1st
D7 1995-Aug £1 Machin
D8 1995-Aug £3 Carrickfergus Castle
D9 1994-Jul Bank of England
D10 1995-May Mitchell
D11 1996-Apr Queens 70th
D12 1999-Jun Scotland
D13 1999-Jun Wales
D14 1999-May Airlift
D15 1999-Oct Rugby
D16 2000-Mar Millenium
D17 2000-Mar Postman Pat
D18 2000-Apr Botanic
D19 2001-Mar Northern Ireland
D20 2001-Apr English Definitives
D21 2002-Dec Wildings
D22 2003-Mar Machin Gold 1st
D23 2003-Mar Universal European
D24 2003-Oct England
D25 2003-Oct Scotland
D26 2003-Oct Wales
D27 2003-Oct Northern Ireland
D28 2005-Mar Castles
D29 2006-Oct Smilers
D29 2008-Sept Country Definitives
D30 2008-Sep Machin definitives
D31 Smilers
Prepaid Postcards 2007-Jul Scouts (postal stationery)
Postcard and Stamp Set 2008-Jun Films-Off The Wall (brick wall background)
Special Edition Cards 2009-Jan British design Classics (flag background)