Royal Philatelic Collection

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The catalogue of the collection, published 1952, here shown in the de-luxe leather bound edition out of the slip-case.

The Royal Philatelic Collection is the postage stamp collection of the British Royal Family. It is the most comprehensive collection of items related to the philately of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, with many unique pieces.

Early history[edit]

Some members of the royal family are known to have been collecting stamps by 1864, just under twenty-five years after their introduction in 1840. The first serious collector in the family was Prince Alfred, who sold his collection to his older brother Edward VII, who in turn gave it to his son, later George V.

George V[edit]

The 1850 British Guiana 2c pink cottonreel stamps on cover, formerly in the Luard collection, now in the Royal Philatelic Collection.[1]

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 Mauritius two pence blue 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!"[2]

George V had the collection housed in 328 so-called "Red Albums", each of about 60 pages. Later additions included a set of "Blue Albums" for the reign of George VI and "Green Albums" for those of Elizabeth II.

Management of the collection[edit]

The collection was kept at Buckingham Palace until it was moved to St. James's Palace, also in London.[3] In 1952, a catalogue of the collection was published, prepared by Sir John Wilson, and edited by Clarence Winchester. It was available in a de-luxe leather-bound edition or a regular cloth-bound edition.

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

Keepers and curators[edit]

Since the 1890s, successive monarchs have employed curators to assist with the management of the collection.

John Tilleard was the first person to manage the collection from the 1890s until his death in 1913, with the title of "Philatelist to the King". Tilleard was followed by Edward Denny Bacon who became "curator" of the collection from 1913 to 1938, when he died just prior to retirement. He started to organize the collection in a comprehensive manner. Bacon was succeeded by John Wilson, then president of Royal Philatelic Society London, with the title of "keeper" and served until 1969. He introduced the coloured albums to keep intact the work of Bacon. He prepared the first loans for exhibitions after World War II.

The last three keepers of the Royal Philatelic Collection have been John Marriott (1969–1995), Charles Wyndham Goodwyn (1995–2002),[4] and Michael Sefi since 1 January 2003.[4][5] By 2012, six men had taken on this responsibility.[6]


  1. ^ Courtney, Nicholas. (2004) The Queen's Stamps: The Authorised History of the Royal Philatelic Collection. London: Methuen. pp. 233-234. ISBN 978-0-413-77228-2
  2. ^ Douglas Muir (6 May 2010). Royal Mail Book of Stamps. Royal Mail Group plc (prestige postage stamp booklet).
  3. ^ Rosenblum, Larry (January 2005). "In the Spotlight". The Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2 June 2012. Retrieved 19 August 2007. Interview of Michael Sefi, Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection.
  4. ^ a b Biography The National Postal Museum, retrieved 17 August 2007.
  5. ^ News release about Sefi's nomination and the state of the royal collection, Stamp Magazine, January 2003, retrieved 17 August 2007.
  6. ^ Michael Sefi, Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection, gives Maynard Sundman Lecture at the National Postal Museum. 2004. Retrieved 2 June 2012. Archived here.

Further reading[edit]

  • Wilson, John (1952). The Royal Philatelic Collection. Dropmore Press. The book is an history of the collection and the catalogue of the "Red Albums", with colour reproduction of some items.

External links[edit]