Royal Mail’s 2015 Christmas stamps, issued on November 3, feature paintings which tell the traditional biblical story in an impressionistic style, from the Annunciation through to the Nativity and the journey of the Magi.

The 50th set of Christmas stamps (with one having been issued every year since 1966), they follow the recent policy of alternating between secular with religious designs.

As usual, the issue comprises self-adhesive counter sheet and booklet stamps, and the same designs in a gummed miniature sheet. However, this year there are eight values, rather than the seven of recent years.

The colourful paintings were commissioned from David Holmes, with art direction and stamp design by Studio David Hillman. Counter sheets and miniature sheets were printed in gravure by De La Rue, and booklets in gravure by International Security Printers.

2nd class THE JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM

Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, with the pregnant Mary riding on a donkey.

2nd Large THE JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM

Expanded version of the 2nd class design.

1st class THE NATIVITY

With no room available at the inn, Mary gives birth to Jesus under makeshift shelter and places him in a manger.

1st Large THE NATIVITY

Expanded version of the 1st class design.

£1.00 THE ANIMALS OF THE NATIVITY

Animals are not mentioned in biblical accounts, but a camel and sheep allude to the Magi and the shepherds who came to pay homage to Jesus

£1.33 THE SHEPHERDS

The first announcement of the birth is made to shepherds tending their flocks, by an angel who appeared to them during the night

£1.52 THE THREE WISE MEN

Three learned men (Magi) from the east see a new star in the sky, the Star of Bethlehem, and follow it to the scene of the birth

£2.25 THE ANNUNCIATION

Back at the beginning of the story, the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will be the mother of the son of God

OTHER PRODUCTS

The miniature sheet contains one of each stamp in gummed form, in se-tenant strips of two and six, with a border illustrating the Star of Bethlehem over the town.

The presentation pack includes seasonal meditations written by Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury who is now Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Stamp cards and first day covers are available as usual, as well as the new products which Royal Mail calls ‘stamp souvenirs’, which are non-personalised first day covers available for 90 days after the issue date.

As usual with a Christmas issue, the 1st class and 2nd class stamps are available in booklets of 12.

 

PRICES

Set of 8 stamps          £8.96

Miniature sheet          £8.96

Presentation pack      £9.50

Stamp cards      £4.05

First day cover (stamps)     £11.23

First day cover (mini sheet)        £11.23

Retail stamp book (12 x 1st)      £7.56

Retail stamp book (12 x 2nd)    £6.48

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   4/5

Even in an increasingly secular society, the Christmas issue is a well established part of the furniture

QUALITY OF DESIGN   4/5

The paintings are an attractive combination of soft focus and vibrant colour

WOW FACTOR   3/5

This is always the most likely special issue to be seen on everyone’s mail