Rupert the Bear’s special 100th birthday

Rupert the Bear’s special 100th birthday

Hard to believe but much-loved Rupert the Bear is now 100. First appearing Nov 20 1920, Rupert has entertained young and old alike over the decades. I remember mom scouring bookstores looking for Rupert for me when I was younger. They were extremely hard to find in small town Ontario back in the 60s, but she managed to find a few that were treasured and read until they fell apart.

Isle of Man’s Rupert the Bear tribute

The Isle of Man stamps are usually attractive offerings, and their Rupert compendium is no different. Check out them out at the Isle of Man’s Post Office ( store and splurge on a set for a bear loving soul in your life.  It’s a bit pricey at £65, but you get a lot in return, including a copy of the Rupert Annual. Might be a little too late to order for Christmas, but you could put it away for a special day. Face it, no one is too old for Rupert.

Photo of Isle of Man's Rupert the Bear's 100th birthday package

A book, stamps & some coins to celebrate Rupert’s birthday

I tried to find just the sheet of stamps for sale at the online store, but it doesn’t look like they are sold separately, just as part of this pack. Either that, or they simply sold out.

Rupert the Bear Postal Cancel

Isle of Man's Stamp sheet

Rupert the Bear Stamp sheet

The special hand cancel is good fun on the covers and is almost as fun as the upcoming Japanese Moomins.  Almost.

However, if you are a Rupert aficionado, track down Royal Mail’s wonderful Sept releases – Rupert the Bear’s 100th birthday stamps. Royal Mail outdid themselves with this set. But, then again, the subject makes an easy study.

Rupert the Bear on Royal Mail stamps

Rupert the Bear stamp

Then with a terrifying roar / The water bursts through the door.

Rupert the Bear

The bath is rocked from side to side / And Pompey quite enjoys the ride.

Rupert the Bear

Then Algy looks a trifle glum / “I’m going home,” he tells his chum.

Rupert the Bear

The large bird says “Our king will know; climb on my back and off we’ll go”

Rupert the Bear

“There’s something puzzling all of you,” / Says Rupert. “So please tell me too.”

Rupert the Bear

“My cuckoo is back again – hooray! / He didn’t really go away.”

Rupert the Bear

Though Rupert searches all around, / There’s not one spruce tree to be found.

Rupert the Bear

The tree is such a lovely sight, / Then Rupert’s chums gaze in delight.

The 8 stamps are taken from 4 adventures – Rupert’s Rainy Adventure (1944), Rupert and the Mare’s Nest (1952), Rupert and the Lost Cuckoo (1963), and Rupert’s Christmas Tree (1947). I vividly remember when I received the Lost Cuckoo adventure. I read it until the cover fell off.  Oh, the memories. Click on each stamp to see a large version. The details harken back to the classic advertising stamp designs of the early 1900s. Crisp colours, amusing, and full of whimsy. I think of the two sets, the Royal Mail’s is superior.

Each of the stories, displayed in this set, was written, and illustrated by Alfred Bestall, who penned over 200 of the best Rupert adventures.

Photo of Alfred Bestall, writer & illustrator

Alfred Bestall  14 December 1892
 to  15 January 1986 (aged 93)

It was Bestall who dressed Rupert in his iconic red sweater and yellow checked pants, after assuming the mantel of official illustrator. If you’re interested in reading more on him, check out Comicopedia’s entry Alfred Bestall – Lambiek Comiclopedia.

Rupert the Bear in a presentation pack, FDC, sheets & framed.

Rupert the Bear Presentation pack stamps

Rupert the Bear Presentation package

Royal Mail’s presentation packs are eye catching. I don’t tend to collect them, but this is one I’d like to get my hands on. These colourful brochures tend to be chocked full of interesting details about the subject and design. I looked through the online store and didn’t any info on the stamp designer. A shame really. They should be commended for this excellent collection.

As usual, full sheets of 60 stamps and half sheets of 30 are available through the online shop. My favourite is the framed stamps.

Framed set of Rupert the bear stamps

This is an excellent set of Rupert the Bear memorabilia to have. If you collect comics, bears or Rupert, this is a must have set.  If you enjoy stamps like the Rupert set, don’t forget to check out the Moomins from Japan.

Calling all Moomins! 2021 will be a great Moomin New Year

Scotland’s Experimental Postage Packet

Scotland’s Experimental Postage Packet

I’ve been sorting through random boxes, clearing stuff I’ve been hanging onto for no particular reason. You know the boxes, they go from move to move, apartment to apartment because you can’t bring yourself to make a decision. Nested deep in one of the boxes was a little tin of UK stamps.  Not a clue why they were shoved into a junk box, but I’m glad I found them.  I vaguely remember getting them in an auction lot over 10 years ago.  I guess because I don’t collect modern UK stamps, I shoved them away thinking I’ll check them later.

What’s in the Tin Box?

Small tin of UK QEII stamps - Scotland Experimental Post Production

What’s in the tin?

Inside, I found this:

What's in the tin? UK stamps - Scotland Experimental Post Production

Lots of loose stamps, packs and little white boxes


Royal Mail presentation packs, loose stamps, including quite a few Machins

Something odd popped out of the box and intrigued me.

2 ½ x 3 ¼ size cartons. Sealed with either a red or blue label - Scotland Experimental Post Production

2 ½ x 3 ¼ size cartons. Sealed with either a red or blue label

One pack was open, so I took a closer look at it and found more Machins.

Opened Royal Mail carton showing 4 Machins - Scotland Experimental Post Production

Opened Royal Mail carton showing 4 little Machins

That’s a lot of packaging for 4 tiny stamps. In the dim recesses of my brain, I remember looking for info when they first landed in my lap and tossed them back into the tin after coming up empty. Ten + years on, I decided to give it another kick.

The big problem was pretty basic – I wasn’t sure what I was looking at.  I wasn’t even sure the Machin stamps belonged in the boxes or if they had been randomly thrown in.  The boxes weren’t listed in any catalogue I searched. I didn’t want to open the other boxes and assumed they were Machins as well, so I rolled through the Machin listings in various catalogues and came up empty.

It took a lot of detective work to find anything. How do you search for this? Small condom sized boxes of Machin stamps? Or small boxes of UK stamps? Those produced frustrating results, so I went to eBay and scrolled through pages and pages and pages of UK stamps, hoping to spot one. Bingo! One popped up.  I had a name to work with – Scotland’s Experimental Vending Machine Post.

There really isn’t a lot out, even with a working title. I found a couple of sites that talked about them, but nothing substantial was offered up about the who, what and when. I trolled through the UK archives, checked the usual postal sites and information is sparse. Finally, I found a gold mine of information, courtesy one Glen H. Morgan and the Stamp Printer’s website. []   And it’s a quirky little story.

Scotland Experimental Postage Packet 1977-1978 Production

Between 1977 and 1978, 6 cartons were designed, holding between 4 to 8 stamps per pack. They were manually filled and put together by a local post office authority.  This was an unsanctioned act by the Edinburgh depot, leaving the postal authorities a little unimpressed with the initial experiment

‘I am concerned (as I know that you are) that we did not know that this work [making-up the cartons] was being undertaken by your depot in Edinburgh. I would be grateful if you could make it clear to the officer in charge that P&SD should deal with postal regions through PHQ on all matters of policy and not take instructions directly.’ Mr. Hutton, the Manager of the Supplies Depot at Hemel Hempstead

The first vending machines went into business March 7, 1977, in Dundee, Scotland. Followed by Aberdeen and Paisley on Mar 9, Kilmarnock the next day and Edinburgh a month later, on April 15.  Initially 2 books were put together and sold via vending machines. The first two used the Scottish Regional stamps. When rates changed, 4 more books were created, using regular Machins.


First issue:

30p – Red Print – 2 x 6 ½ p and 2 x 8 ½ p Scottish Regional stamps

60p – Blue Print – 4 x 6 ½ p and 4 x 8 ½ p Scottish Regional stamps

Second issue when price increases took place in June 1977:

30p – Red Print – 3 x 7p (with 2 phosphor bands) and 1 x 9p Machin stamps

30p – Red Print – 3 x 7p (1 phosphor band) and 1 x 9p Machin stamps

60p – Blue Print – 6 x 7p (with 2 phosphor bands) and 2 x 9p Machin stamps

60p – Blue Print – 6 x 7p (1 phosphor band) and 2 x 9p

The project was shelved in 1978. Costs coupled with a pragmatic look at the bulkiness of the little cartons doomed them:

‘A variable denomination machine which sold counter-sized books containing stamps made from sheet cylinders would be the ideal from our (PMK3) point of view. I am sure the public would also prefer it as books go into wallets and handbags more easily than boxes, and also take-up more room in vending machines and so reduce the capacity and increase the empty time.’ 

Over production of existing stitched booklets and comparative high costs for the little cartons kill off the idea. UK post printed 70 million stitched booklets yearly but sold only 46 million, leaving a substantial surplus of stamps. Creating a more expensive type of book/package would not help the oversupply situation.

“The cost of cartons versus the cost of stamp booklets was revealed in a letter from Mr. Hutton to Mr. Burn. Counter books of ten stamps apparently cost around £7.93 per thousand booklets, while the smaller SVM booklets of six stamps came in at around £8.67 per thousand. The proposed Scottish cartons would be £140 per thousand due to the making-up by hand and, although this would reduce if packed by machine, the capital costs of the new equipment to undertake this task would be considerable. Mr Hutton further wrote: ‘It seems crystal clear, therefore, that, having already acquired the Libra machines, there is no case financially for the introduction of the proposed vending machines on a large scale”  Glen H. Morgan

When the trial completed, the remaining cartons were bundled into lots and sold off. In a couple of searches online, I found individual cartons sold for anywhere from $5 (Cdn) to $12 (Cdn), depending on the seller. I’m not sure how many cartons still exist but they seem to be a bit rare. It might be that most people gave up looking for info on them, like I did initially, and tossed them into a bin of unwanted stamps.

A few websites I found thought the vending machines were old re-purposed condom machines. Although not true, it’s not a hard stretch to see the rational, when you look at the size and shape of the boxes. I thought the same when I first looked at them. I also thought it was a collector’s method of storing Machins. According to Glen H Morgan ( this is an apocryphal twist on the story. As fun as the idea is, the machines were Vendador cigarette machines, which were already setup to accept 50p and 10p coins.

I’m resisting the urge to open the packs to see if one of them has the rare questionnaire that was slipped inside some. Not all had them and, quite frankly, my curiosity is killing me. But, I’ll be a good collector and leave them unopened.

Read more here on Scotland Experimental Post 1977-1978 Production:

Stamp Printers has a top-notch article on their site that dives deep into the experiment.  Scottish Experimental Cartons, by Glen H. Morgan Cross Post Magazine, Autumn 2009

I relied heavily on the article for details about the Scottish Experiment. Mr Morgan’s article has a lot more information if you are interested in finer details about the experiment and the discussions behind the scene regarding it.