Added : July 31, 2012

Last Updated: July 31, 2012

5473     1     0 comments

TOPIC / Graphic Design

stamp designs for 1948 Olympics

stamp designs for 1948 Olympics

The city of London reached a milestone with the 2012 Summer Olympics (Games of the XXX Olympiad). In the modern era, excluding Athens, London is the first city to host the international sporting event three times. London welcomed the Olympics in 1908 and again in 1948 before hosting for a third time in 2012. Over the past several decades, a plethora of commemorative stamps were made to honor Olympic sports, athletes and the respective host cities from around the world.

In 1908, the British Post Office did not issue any commemorative postage stamps for the IV Olympiad. This was due to The Post Office’s stance of avoiding pictorial, commemorative stamps. It wasn’t until the 1920s that Great Britain began to cautiously break away from their classical, aesthetic roots. Gradually, artists and designers were given a little more creative freedom within the shape of a rectangular or square postage stamp. 

When London was given the honor to host the Olympics again in 1948, Games of the XIV Olympiad, Great Britain took on the challenge to design symbolic stamps to mark the occasion.

“The Post Office could hardly refuse to issue stamps for the 1948 Olympic Games, as the precedent had been established by host nations in previous years. At first, just two stamps were envisaged, 2½d and 3d, later extended to include the 6d and 1/-. An air letter using the design of the 6d stamp was also planned.
Consulting with the Council of Industrial Design, several artists, and the four main stamp printers, were approached. From the designs submitted the Council chose work by G. Knipe of Harrison & Sons, S. D. Scott of Waterlows, Edmund Dulac, Percy Metcalfe and Abram Games. Before these were shown to the King, the Postmaster General felt another option should be offered, and recommended a design by John Armstrong...”
The British Postal Museum & Archive

Numerous artists submitted designs for consideration. Only four designs were granted final approval. The Olympic Games stamp set (including four denominations) was issued on July 29th, 1948. All four designs include the profile and crown of King George VI and slight variations on the Olympic rings.

The blue stamp above (2½d), representing the “Globe and Laurel Wreath,” was designed by sculptor Percy Metcalfe. This stamp, first in the set, had the largest circulation size.
1948 London Olympic Games postage stamp, violet color, represents speed
postage stamp (3d) symbolizing “Speed,” designed by Abram Games
purple 6d 1948 postage stamp with Olympic Symbol
postage stamp (6d) featuring “Olympic Symbol,” designed by Stanley D. Scott

1948 Olympic Games stamp design with Winged Victory
postage stamp (1/-) with “Winged Victory” designed by Edmund Dulac

On July 30th, 1948, The Manchester Guardian shared thoughts on the Olympic Games postage stamps and the artists behind the designs. (view text larger via Guardian UK)
The Olympic Stamps, article about the chosen designs, originally published in the Manchester Guardian on July 30th, 1948

Below are the top contenders amongst submitted designs that almost made the cut, but were never released as official postage stamps. 
submitted Olympic Games stamp designs by George Bellow and John Farleigh
one of the favorites of Postmaster General, submitted Olympic stamp design by John Armstrong
rejected: London Olympic Games stamp design by G. Knipe
“Copyright doubts were expressed over Knipe’s design, as it showed two athletes taken from a photograph: it was therefore withdrawn.” —The British Postal Museum & Archive

In a “perfect recollection,” more than 60 years later, some of the unofficial designs ended up in print as part of a new souvenir pack including a “nonpostally valid facsimile sheet of four 1948 Olympic Games Stamps.”

The lengthy history involving the design of vintage British stamps is complex. Often dictated by strict rules, requiring thorough review by committee and Royal approval, the process of designing and selecting official postage stamps is handled with pride and careful consideration.

To coincide with the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the I.O.C. and the British Library opened the exhibition “Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games” on July 25th, 2012. The “visually striking exhibition telling the fascinating story of the past and present of the Olympic Games through the medium of postage stamps and related memorabilia” will be on view through September 9th, 2012.

(scans of commemorative postage stamps for the Olympic Games 1948 from my personal collection)


add an inspiration


member comments

Please log in to add a comment