“Wilding” Definitives – Great Britain 1952

Part of the Iconic Stamp series. Click here to see the full list of Iconic Stamps.

The “Wildings” were a series of definitive postage stamps most notable for the superb Dorothy Wilding portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from which they get their name, and were in use from 1952 through to 1968.

The series was produced during a time of great philatelic innovation and postal mechanisation. They were the first stamps produced with graphite lines on the reverse and the first stamps produced with invisible bands of phosphorescent ink on the face. The purpose of which was to facilitate automatic letter sorting by machine. Taken for granted today but probably the greatest innovation since the invention of the postage stamp itself.

At the outset, 75 designs were considered for a portrait frame of which only five were selected. Symbolic flowers were portrayed, replicating a definitive stamp design of King George VI’s reign. Wilding’s photo shows Queen Elizabeth wearing the same State Diadem made for King George IV and worn by Queen Elizabeth’s great grandmother, Queen Victoria, on the Penny Black.

It was suggested that the Wildings series be replaced as the Wilding portrait was too large for commemorative stamps and that the requirement to have Her Majesty’s portrait always facing into the design imposed a significant restriction on the artist. This transitioned the design into a ‘back to basics’ approach – similar to the very first Penny Black stamp.

Iconic stamps

Did you know

  • During the fifteen-year life of the Wildings, the ½d – 1/6d values were printed on three different watermarked papers: Tudor Crown, St Edward’s Crown, and Multiple Crowns.
  • In 1955 four large format high values designed by Lynton Lamb were introduced and showed the Wilding head alongside a castle. The four values depicted Carrickfergus Castle (2/6d), Caernarfon Castle (5s.), Edinburgh Castle (10s.), and Windsor Castle (£1).
  • Both the low and high values were overprinted for use in North Africa (Morocco Agencies, Tangier) and the Middle East (Bahrain, Kuwait, Muscat, Qatar).
  • Trials to determine the most efficient method of applying phosphor to stamps in connection with automatic letter sorting were carried out at the Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill. These trials gave rise to some of the rarest stamps of Great Britain.

What our customers say...

“One of the ‘Wilding’ High Value castles stamps (1955) because (a) it shows our current monarch and (b) the landmarks are iconic and represent the United Kingdom.”
– Stuart Roberts

“The red 2½d stamp issued in December 1952 which I believe (with green 1½d) is the first issue with Queen Elizabeth II portrait.
Now the Queen is the longest serving monarch it is an equivalent in history to the Penny Black.”
– Derek Welch

“In my opinion the most stylish and typically British stamps are the castle series from 1955-58.”
– Michael Bay

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Wildings Definitives
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