Collecting 'Cinderella stamps': Terry Pratchett and the Discworld stamps


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17 April 2015
imports_CCGB_stampinspiredbyterryp_09502.jpg Stamp inspired by Terry Pratchett's Discworld books
Stamp collectors joined book-lovers recently to pay tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett who died at the age of 66 last month. Pratchett's Discworld books inspired a multitude of Cinderella stamps as our interview with collector Steve Tandy reveals… ...
Stamp collectors joined book-lovers recently to pay tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett who sadly died at the age of 66. Famous for writing many hugely popular fantasy books, such as the lengthy Discworld series, Terry Pratchett also had strong links with philately. Pratchett's Discworld books  inspired a multitude of Cinderella stamps as our interview with collector Steve Tandy reveals…

How did you become interested in Discworld stamps?
I had collected stamps from childhood and in the 70s my interests had spread to Cinderellas; chiefly GB island posts. But with a new family something had to go and so stamps were laid aside. I started reading and enjoying the Discworld novels around 2000, working slowly through them.

Then came that pivotal book, Going Postal.

Apart from being a top rate story, and very Discworldy, there were pictures of the stamps mentioned in the story just as described! What was more you could purchase them, and more! I was hooked on stamps again.

These were stamps out of the ordinary. They evoked the real stamps of classic eras. I would admire the old turn-of-the-20th-century stamps much more than the modern ones. But this designing was deliberately so. Terry had actually specified to Colin Edwards and Alan Batley (designer and artist for the original stamps and many more of the early years) to make them so they would not look out of place in a Victorian or Edwardian collection.

Terry Pratchett Discworld stampTerry gave Colin his copy of Unissued stamps of King George VI by David Horry, which inspired some of the humour of the stamp design and paved the way for DW stamps to echo stamps familiar to us.

Terry personally approved the designs, ensuring they were within the Discworld canon, and making suggestions for the final designs; (at least in the early days with his involvement lessening for obvious reasons).

Terry also delivered a name for each year of the stamps, starting with the Year of the Prawn. 2015 is the Year of the Spinning Mouse.

What’s the appeal of collecting these ‘Cinderella’ stamps?
There are a number of factors that make these stamps appealing, but they all come together under an umbrella with ‘FUN’ printed across it.

You could have copies of stamps actually mentioned in the books, and not just Going Postal.

They often retain the essential Discworld humour. From where else could you have a set of stamps made by ‘educated rats’ with rat-nibbled perforations? Those and all the other Discworld stamps are part of the collection in the British Library.

The stamps very often reflect passages or incidents in the stories, or are issued by ‘Forn Parts’ own postal authorities in the style of those places in the books. There are stamps from far-flung Discworld countries such as Djelibeybi and Nothingfjord. The Guilds of Ankh-Morpork are not forgotten either. There are stamps sponsored by the Guilds of Thieves, Assassins and cryptically named Seamstresses.

The Little Brown Envelopes or LBEs contain a mix of current stamps and are a fun way of collecting new issues, the sports, and looking for errors and variations.

The very first definitives were sent out with three different perforations.

Special limited edition LBEs can sell out in minutes, as there is a chance of one of the ten $5 triangle sports, and usually prize tickets for some special sheet or item unattainable elsewhere.

There is an active an enthusiastic collector base, keen to share their knowledge, and with friendly rivalry for the more elusive items. The collectors have even created their own term for Discworld stamp collecting - Flately. Often it seems that the collectors are more knowledgeable than the Emporium!

(As another aside the Discworld stamps have inspired a range of other fantasy stamps - Colin Edwards’ Laernu, Hilary Daniels’ Isle of Pharos and my own Postal Oddities of Wales)

Who creates the stamps?
Most of the stamp design from the first four years was credited to Bernard Pearson (of the Discworld Emporium) together with Colin and Alan mentioned earlier.

Much of the more recent output has been Bernard and Ian Mitchell, also of the Emporium. However all along there have been guest designers.

The latest stamp features the work of Bill Sanderson, a Victoria & Albert Museum Illustration Award Winner and illustrator for the Royal Mail. Professional designers and illustrators have been involved along the way, from the very start; Individual stamps have a development process that probably compares with some real stamps  (and I have test and trial sheets to prove it).

The very first stamps were perforated on the machine in the Bath Postal Museum. Some sheets were perforated at a press day to promote Going Postal, but the results were very rough.

How do they reflect Terry Pratchett’s books?
As previous stated the stamps, to a large part, retain the Discworld humour and often refer directly to incidents and passages in the books. There are few stamps that do not evoke a memory of one of the stories or more. I am currently considering a website which lists the books with each illustrated by the appropriate stamps. Some books will have more stamps associated with them, but all will have accompanying stamps. It will take me a while.

Will the stamps continue to be produced following Sir Terry’s passing?
Since the tenth anniversary of the stamps in July 2014 there have been a significant number of new collectors, and while stamp production is heavy on the resources of time and people it must account for a significant proportion of the Discworld Emporium’s income or would not have lasted this long.

In January this year the Emporium bought a large quantity of stamp paper. It was not measured in reams but in tons!

The Emporium’s Facebook page recently featured a stamp stating it was the first of a series - clearly some intention there to keep the stamps going.

To nick from the Ankh-Morpork Post Office’s own motto, 'neither rain nor sleet nor gloom of night will stop these stamps'.

      Read more about 'Cinderella' stamps in every issue of Stamp & Coin Mart magazine. Order the print edition right here, or download the issue using the links below…


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