England has the distinction of issuing the first pre-paid adhesive postage stamp, in May1, 1840, with the official circulation date beginning 173 years ago today, May 6. The “penny black” had a portrait of Queen Victoria. The black color of the stamp proved to be problematic because it was difficult to see the cancellation marks, so the next issued stamp was the Penny Red. At that time, the United Kingdom was the only country using this type of stamp, so there was no need for the country of origin to be printed.
Fast foward to the 20th century, with Hungary issuing the first official Christmas-themed stamp in 1943. The United States issued their first in 1962. Great Britain followed shortly thereafter with a children’s competition to design the stamps issued in 1966.
Annually, the British alternate between sacred and secular themes. This year will feature a sacred postage stamp, as last year’s was designed by the illustrator of The Gruffalo, Axel Scheffler. The United States Postal Service follows a similar pattern, alternating the Christmas themes. A list of the United States Christmas stamps is located here.
In 2010, the British stamps featured my favorites, Wallace and Gromit.
Look for the announcement in late summer for both the British and American Christmas stamps 2013. I’ve included a link to Beyond the Perf, which features the American 2013 stamps already authorized and link to the British issue stamps for this year. Coincidentally? Both countries feature fast cars!