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Design Classics: Classic Album Covers - 7 January 2010

After the success of 2009’s British Design Classics, 2010 opens with a look at the classic art of the album cover. For decades the album sleeve has been the canvas for some of the most
imaginative graphic artists in the world. This stamp issue salutes this unique art form and celebrates some of the greatest examples, used by UK artists.

This band of designers and photographers have not only reflected the visual styles of many musical cultures, but have also defined and created them, too.   The stamp issue explores some of the most potent graphic images of modern times, many of which have provided a visual soundtrack to people’s lives.

Many of the most significant graphic designers of the last 40 years are represented by this selection of ten iconic album covers.

Set of 10 Royal Mail stamps showing classic album covers.

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Set of 10  self-adhesive stamps:

Sheet 1 - strip of 5
a. The Division Bell – Pink Floyd 1994; 
b. A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay 2002;
c. Parklife – Blur 1994;
d. Power Corruption and Lies – New Order 1983;
e. Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones 1969

Sheet 2 - strip of 5
a. London Calling – The Clash 1979;
b. Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield 1973;
c. IV – Led Zeppelin 1971;
d. Screamadelica – Primal Scream 1991;
e.The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie 1972

Royal Mail Souvenir sheet of 10x1st class stamps showing album covers.

Souvenir Sheet

In the form of a 'Best of...' album cover this sheet contains the same 10 stamps, the same size, conventionally gummed and perforated.  This picture is from Royal Mail publicity - the actual sheet has a disc at the right, similar to the stamps.  Click on this image for a larger image of the actual sheet.

This sheet is 223mm x 188mm (8.8 x 7.4 inches) and there will be a special first day cover to accommodate it.  The FDC is c4 size (324 x 227mm) - click here to see a photograph, it is too big to scan, but will look good framed! (We now have no stock of these sheets or covers.)

This picture shows the corners of the sheet - rounded and creased - but the creases are printed!!
corners of the souvenir sheet.

Prestige stamp book pane 1 featuring Classic British Album Covers. Prestige stamp book pane 2 featuring Classic British Album Covers.
Classic British Album Covers Prestige stamp book pane 3 containing Machin definitives. Classic Album Covers Prestige stamp book pane 4 containing Machin Definitives.
Classic Album Covers Prestige Stamp Book

As usual there are four stamp panes, but with some unusual features.  There are two Machin Definitive panes - which are conventionally gummed.
There are also two Classic Album Covers panes, which will be bound dacing each other and, we believe, self-adhesive.

Pane 3 shows Dusty Springfield on the set of Ready Steady Go! which ran from 1963.

Pane 4 shows Blur's Think Tank album cover designed by Banksy.  The original artwork sold for £62,400.

Note, the Machin panes now show scans of actual stamps which are quite different to the previously issued (sheet) stamps.   See our blog for details and enlarged images.
Classic Album Covers set on first day cover. Classic Albums PSB pane on fdc.   Left:
Set on first day cover, as laid out by Royal Mail.

Prestige stamp book pane on first day cover.  
(Royal Mail's first day covers are designed for the sets, not for the PSB panes.  Almost without fail, PSB panes must conceal part of the cover design.)

This issue celebrates the work of the album sleeve designer, not the music. Royal Mail began with very extensive research of existing lists and polls of ‘Greatest Album Covers’ in books, music press and the web. This trawl of literally thousands of albums uncovered many that were common to most lists.

The editors of three of the UK’s most influential music publications together with a number of graphic designers and design writers were asked to independently list the most significant album sleeve artwork used on records by British artists. 

Royal Mail reviewed all the research to assemble a shortlist of albums that spanned the decades from the 1960s. Some albums could not be included for operational reasons (for instance, designs that were too dark), after final deliberation the ten albums were arrived at.

Technical details:

The stamps and souvenir sheet were designed by Studio Dempsey using photography by Andy Seymour.  The sheet stamps are printed by De La Rue Security Print in gravure. 
The self-adhesive stamps are printed in two separate sheets of 25, enabling customers to buy vertical strips of 5 of the same design, with all-over phosphor.  The size is 34mm x 32mm including the disc.  
The souvenir sheet (223 x 188 mm) with water-activated gum is printed by lithography by Cartor Security Printing. Souvenir FDC is 324 x 227mm. The stamp size is 34mm x 32mm including the disc.

All images of stamps and postmarks Copyright Royal Mail Ltd 2009 and used with permission.

Copyright and credit details for album covers etc:  The Division Bell by Pink Floyd – design by Storm Thorgerson, licensed courtesy of Pink Floyd (1987) Ltd; A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay – design by Sølve Sundsbø; Parklife by Blur – design by Chris Thomson/Stylorouge, photography by Bob Thomas; Power, Corruption and Lies by New Order – Factory 1983, design by Peter Saville, A Basket of Roses by Henri Fantin-Latour, 1890; Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones – courtesy of ABKCO Records, original cover and liner design by Robert Brownjohn, photo by Don McAllester, cake by Delia Smith; London Calling by The Clash – photograph © Pennie Smith; Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield – licensed courtesy of Mercury Records Limited; Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin © Superhype Tapes Ltd. Reproduced by permission of Led Zeppelin; Screamadelica by Primal Scream – Artist: Paul Cannell, Courtesy Primal Scream/Sony Music Entertainment UK Ltd; The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie – courtesy of Risky Folio Inc. on behalf of David Bowie.  

Sample Postcards
London Calling The Clash stamp card. Rolling Stones Let it Bleed stamp card.

Special Postmarks
Postmarks available for the day of issue are shown below - these may not be to scale. Note the Souvenir Cover FDC was only available with N11586

Classic Album Covers stamps philatelic bureau first day postmark showing headphones. Classic Album Covers stamps Oldfield first day postmark showing record on player. Classic Album Covers stamps non-pictorial first day postmark. Isle of Wight Postmark showing headphones and heart. PArk Lane London Postmark showing musician.
Ref FD1001
Philatelic Bureau Official Postmark
Ref FD1002
Oldfield, Keighley, Official Postmark
Ref FD1002NP
Oldfield, Keighley, Official non-pictorial Postmark
Ref L11572
Isle of Wight*
Ref L11573
Park Lane, London W1
Reading postmark illustrated with guitar and notes. Wembley postmark illustrated with record. Postmark illustrated with guitar. London Postmark illustrated with a guitar. postmark showing the O2 Arena, previously the Milennium Dome, Greenwich.
Ref L11574
Reading, Berkshire*
Ref L11575
Engineers Way, Wembley
Ref L11576
Classic Album Art, London
Ref L11577
Regal Way, Harrow
Ref L11578
Britain's Interactive Museum of Popular Music, The O2 arena, Greenwich SE10
postmark illustrated with pirate radio ship flyig jolly roger flag. postmark illustrated with vintage record player. Plant Street Postmark illustrated with guitarist. Postmark showing 'stamp' on disc. postmark illustrated with a disc on a turntable.
Ref L11579
Wonderful Pirate Radio, Frinton-on-Sea
Ref L11580
Ref M11584
Plant Street, Cradley Heath
Ref N11585
Sound, Nantwich
Ref N11586 Oldfield, Keighley
(As FD1002 but does not include 'First Day of Issue')
Leatherhead postmark with Music for All logo. postmark illustrated with a bell. Glastonbury Postmark illustrated with musical stave. Postmark showing band members of Pink Floyd. Postmark showing a star.
Ref N11587 - Music Industries Association, Music for All, Gt Bookham, Leatherhead Ref N11588 GBFDC Assoc. Bells Lane, Liverpool Ref W11591
Glastonbury, Somerset*
Ref L11594 Pink Floyd
The Division Bell, Ely, Cambridge
Ref L11595
Brixton, SW2

L11572, L11574 & W11591 - Music Festivals at the Isle of Wight, Reading, and Glastonbury.
Postmark showing Rolling Stones 'tongue' logo. <<<<<
Ref L11625
The Rolling Stones, Olympic Studios, London SW13

If you have any questions not answered on this page, or the order form, please email us - and don't forget to tell us which country you are in.

This page updated 4 April 2011 - copyright Norvic Philatelics 2009/10

2010 stamp issues
Visit our online shop!
7 Classic Album Covers
7 Olympic Games retail book 1
26 Business & Customised Smilers MS
2 Girl Guide Centenary
25 350th ann of the Royal Society
25 Olympic Games retail book 2
1 Castles of Wales
11 Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
23 House of Stewart
30 Machin & Country Definitives
30 Festival of Stamps retail advertising book
13 Endangered Mammals
6 Accession of George V*
8 The King's Stamps* &
London 2010 Souvenirs *
Britain Alone (1940)*
* London 2010 Festival of Stamps issues
18 Halley's Comet Commemorative Sheet
15 House of Stuart
15 Endangered Mammals Retail Booklet
8 British Grand Prix Commemorative Sheet
Olympics & Paralympics II
& Olympic Games retail book 3

10 London Eye Commemorative Sheet
19 Great British Railways I
19 Retail booklets: 12x2nd, 6x1st
15 Battle of Britain - Spitfire Generic Sheet & Retail booklet
16 Medical Breakthroughs
17 Faststamps: Bird pictorials
12 Children's Books
12 Olympic Games retail book 4
26 Special Delivery Machins
28 Remembrance: the National Arboretum
2 Christmas - Wallace & Gromit

2009 programme


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Norvic Philatelics, PO Box 119, Dereham, NR20 3YN, GB. -- UK Phone: 08450 090939 -- Skype:ian.billings-norvic