Experts give thumbs-up to Queen’s rare stamps collection

By Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent

The Queen joked it was lucky rare stamps from her collection were “genuine” after they were assessed by some of the country’s leading philatelists.

During a visit to the Royal Philatelic Society to open its new building in the City of London, the Queen was shown the stamps sent for authentication.

Chris Harman, chairman of the society’s experts committee, talked the monarch through the process of identifying the stamps and said later the head of state had quipped: “Lucky they were genuine.”

He said the stamps were two valuable items that featured printing mistakes. The first was a Western Australian inverted swan four pence, from 1854. One of these last sold at auction for around £250,000.

The Queen during a visit to the new headquarters of the Royal Philatelic Society (Tolga Akmen/PA)

The other stamp was an Inverted Head Four Annas of India, also dating from 1854, which has been sold in the past for as much as £100,000.

Mr Harman added, laughing: “If we hadn’t thought they were genuine we wouldn’t have asked to authenticate them.”

The Queen appeared relaxed and at ease during the visit which follows the devastating fallout experienced by her son the Duke of York after his BBC Newsnight interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Andrew has withdrawn from public duties after he was widely criticised for failing to show remorse for his friendship and little empathy with Epstein’s victims.

In 1906, King Edward VII granted the society permission to use the prefix royal in its title and his son the Duke of York, later George V, served as its president and later patron.

The Queen’s grandfather George V was a renowned stamp collector who had an extensive number of stamps and was said to be very knowledgeable about the subject.

Mr Harman said: “The king had a great eye and built up the foundation of what is the Royal Philatelic Collection, which has great breadth and depth to it.”

The Queen signs the visitors’ book (Tolga Akmen/PA)

The Queen, who is patron of the Royal Philatelic Society which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, was shown correspondence between her grandfather and leading figures from the society.

When she first arrived, the head of state was introduced to senior members of the organisation as a large group of supporters watched, and she made them laugh when she said: “You’re all terribly silent. I hope you’re enjoying this new space?”

During her tour of the new premises, near the Bank of England, the Queen met young stamp collectors, philatelists from overseas and was shown a collection of stamps spanning five monarchs from Queen Victoria to herself.

The Queen was shown the famous Penny Black stamp – the first postage stamp – and others that commemorated the head of state’s coronation in 1953.

The Queen is shown stamps of previous British monarchs (Tolga Akmen/PA)

Alan Huggins, the society’s curator, talked her through the display and said: “The Queen commented about her grandfather, saying ‘he was a great collector’.”

“And she recognised the coronation stamps. When I said, ‘These are your coronation stamps’ she said, ‘Yes, I remember’.”

Richard Stock, the society’s president, said: “This is a momentous day for us, because she’s been patron since she ascended the throne and has continued royal patronage which has been in place since 1906.”

Before leaving, the Queen unveiled a plaque to mark her visit.