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GB Stamps guide: Conference of European Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) stamps 1961


The Conference of European Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) was established on 26 June 1959, although the United Kingdom did not become a member until the following year. For 1960 the then nineteen participating countries were each asked to issue stamps to mark the first anniversary.

All were requested to submit an idea for a motif that could be used on an annual ‘Europa’ stamp issue.

While the British Post Office was happy to mark the first anniversary, it did not feel it could participate in an annual release, so declined the invitation to consider the motif. 

The chosen design came from Pantti Rahikainen of Finland, comprising the word EUROPA, of which the ‘O’ was the wheel of a mail coach with ninteen spokes. This was adapted by Reynolds Stone for the two British stamps, 6d and 1s 6d, issued on 19 September 1960. This was the first British special issue printed in two colours; essays of both values were produced with phosphor bands, but the stamps were not released as such.

At the conference held in Paris in 1960 the hope was re-iterated that every member country would issue a set of stamps each year for CEPT using a common design selected annually. In addition, the requirement was felt to have a logo for CEPT itself.

UK the host
The United Kingdom was to host the conference in 1961, in Torquay, so could not avoid issuing stamps that year.

It also fell upon the British Post Office to organise a competition among the member nations to find both a common design for the year and a CEPT logo.

However, as the British Post Office needed some leeway when it came to a common design (one consideration being the inclusion of the Queen’s portrait), it set the parameters fairly loose, effectively allowing countries to be as flexible as possible. One stipulation was that countries should issue the stamps on 18 September, the first day of the conference.

This requirement in itself proved a challenge for the Post Office.

It had been decided that there would be three special issues in 1961:

  • Post Office Savings Bank Centenary
  • CEPT
  • Seventh Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference

These all fell within a month. However, the issued sets do not include the same denomination, so at no time was a particular value available in more than one ‘special’ design.

The submitted designs from all countries were required by 28 February 1961. It was not until 13 February that the British Post Office sent out invitations for designs for both competitions. These were sent to Faith Jaques, Michael Goaman and Reynolds Stone, plus British stamp printers Harrison and Sons who chose Michael Farrar-Bell and Philip Thompson. Faith Jaques declined, feeling that two weeks was too little time to create designs.

The four artists who competed submitted in total five designs for the CEPT logo and seven for the 1961 common stamp design. Of these twelve designs, four were selected to go forward to the main competition. For the CEPT logo, the two chosen were from Michael Goaman comprising the letters CEPT within four post horns, and from Michael Farrar-Bell of an interlocking symbol of unity incorporating the ‘E’ of EUROPA and CEPT.

The two choices for the stamp design were from the same two designers (Michael Goaman: a loom on which EUROPA and CEPT combine to weave a cloth representing the nineteen member nations in squares; Michael Farrar-Bell: a horizontal design featuring his interlocking symbol of unity). 

Not all the members countries submitted ideas: there were 23 designs for the logo submitted from eleven countries, and a further 23 designs for the common design which came from twelve countries (in both cases including the ideas from Great Britain).    

Choices made
The Postal Committee of CEPT met in March 1961 and chose Michael Goaman’s design for the logo, and for the common design an idea submitted by The Netherlands from Theo Kurpershoek featuring nineteen doves flying in formation to form a single dove, together with EUROPA and CEPT.

Work could now start on designing the British stamps. Just one artist was approached, Michael Goaman, who was advised the issue would comprise three stamps, in either horizontal or vertical format, each stamp to be printed in three colours. The main colour in each case was to be close to that of the corresponding definitive: 2d light brown; 4d light blue; 10d azure blue. The designs could feature either Goaman’s CEPT logo, Kurpershoek’s doves, or a combination of the two. As with the 1960 stamps, the designs could feature the word ‘EUROPA’, to which the Foreign Office had no objection.

Goaman’s submission was close to that chosen for the issued stamps, with all three designs including the word ‘EUROPA’. Some concern was felt within the Post Office that the colours of the 4d and 10d were too similar. However, this does not seem to have been pursued. Some colour variations were included on the essays: on the 2d the value and frame around the Queen’s head was essayed in either pink or white; on the 4d the Queen’s head was essayed in green, tan or blue.

Essays were shown to the Queen who expressed concern at the inclusion of ‘EUROPA’. At the time there was public discussion about the Common Market, and the Queen thought that the word on the stamps might be misunderstood by people. She therefore asked to see further essays without ‘EUROPA’. Michael Goaman worked with the printers, Harrison and Sons, to amend the designs, which were given Royal approval on 19 July.

With such a tight schedule for printing the stamps, with the requirement for three special issues in close succession, and now printing in two or three colours, wastage was high (in the case of the 4d value, just over 50% of the required number of stamps were delivered by the printers, and little better of the other two values, with no time to make up the shortfall).

Problems with perforating meant that many of the top halves of sheets of the 4d and 10d were damaged, so many post offices were only supplied with bottom halves of sheets.

Missing colours affected both the 2d (orange or pink) and 10d (pale green or turquoise) values.

Naturally many collectors wanted first day covers posted at Torquay, which put a strain on the staff there. Bearing in mind the high wastage levels, sales of the issue amounted to over 90 percent of the stamps supplied (in the case of the 4d value, it was 99 percent). The 4d and 10d were withdrawn from general sale on 5 and 27 October respectively; the 2d was not generally available after May 1962.

However, all three values remained on sale from the London Chief Office for a year. 

Information for this article has been taken from the stamp histories available from The Postal Museum. Images courtesy of The Postal Museum, copyright Royal Mail.


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