Britain’s Royal Mail issued its 2018 Christmas stamps earlier this month with a six-piece set celebrating one of the best-loved holiday traditions.
Available in first class, second class, large letter and overseas values, the stamps—illustrated by Gloucestershire-based artist Andrew Davidson—highlight the festive greetings mailed among family and friends around the world.
“Knowing my illustrations on the 2018 Christmas stamps will be winging their way around the world delivering Season’s Greetings to friends and family gives me a real sense of festive joy,” said Davidson, who has worked on about a dozen stamp issues for Royal Mail.
In more than 100 years, there have been six monarchs; as such, the postboxes on each of the six stamps feature a monarch’s cypher. The postboxes vary in design, from the early hexagonal “Penfold” design of the 19th century to contemporary postboxes and “lamp” boxes (those affixed to posts), all still in use today.
As is usual, religious Christmas stamps of the Madonna and Child in first- and second-class rates will also be available from U.K. post offices.
CHRISTMAS CARD HISTORY
The tradition of sending Christmas cards was established in 1843 with the introduction of the world’s first commercially produced Christmas cards.
The first cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole, who just three years earlier had played a key role in helping to introduce Royal Mail’s penny post service. Only 1,000 of these cards were printed and sold for a shilling each. This meant that they were a luxury item and were not affordable for most people.
One of the original 1,000 cards sent is also the most valuable in the world, according to the Guinness World Records. The card, which was originally sent by Cole to his grandmother in 1843, was sold at an auction in Devizes, Wiltshire, for £20,000 in 2001.
Christmas cards remain popular today. In 2005, for example, Royal Mail delivered a staggering 744 million Christmas cards.