This year sees the London Festival of Stamps, a once in a decade celebration of rare stamps and other philatelic rarities. To celebrate this, the British Library is putting on a very special show, running from February to December.
Their overall collection is exceptional by any standards, including the Tapling collection, the famous collection of stamps assembled by early philatelist Thomas Tapling. It was the first of 50 important collections to be absorbed into the museum.
Many of the items in the collection are to be found nowhere else in the world, and the library will be changing over its permanent 1,000 frame 'Philatelic Exhibition' to display rarities which have not seen the light of day in recent times.
The British Library's collection includes pieces such as a cover with a Mauritius 'Post Office' Orange.
These stamps were the equivalent of Britain's Penny Black stamps, but produced in a far smaller numbers for the tiny island near Madagascar. The text 'Post Office' was quickly replaced with 'Post Paid' on them as well, which made the original examples great rarities.
This was provided by Tapling, as was a French inversion error on an 1853-61 1 franc carmine pair, showing an upright head on one side and the inversion on its neighbour, in a kind of yin and yang effect.
However there are various pieces which long post-date Tapling, such as the Jamaica: 1956-58 £1 chocolate and violet which was never issued. In fact the library has rarities from all times and countries, and intends to present as wide a spectrum of them as possible this year.
Meanwhile, a classic British rarity, a Tyrian Plum, is currently available.