Show’s stamp of approval as king’s collection goes on display

Sheffield is the stamp collecting capital of the country this weekend – with 2,000 enthusiasts descending on the city for one of the biggest shows of the year.

Ponds Forge is the venue for the two- day event usually held in London – and which has attracted not only collectors and dealers from all over the UK, but from countries like Germany and South Africa too.

It’s all a celebratory feather in the cap for the Sheffield Philatelic Society, founded in 1894 and one of the oldest around, which has just held its 2,000th meeting.

“There are some outstanding rarities on show here – including a good deal of material that is unique,” said Donald Radley, a member of the organising committee who’s been pursuing his hobby for more than 70 years.

It’s one thing, for example, to have on display a Penny Black – the world’s first stamp, issued in 1840. But it’s quite another to see the original drafts of the iconic design, including rejected versions, works in progress and stamps from the first plates ever printed.

This is material from the famous collection assembled by George V – impossible to value as it will never be put on sale.

The Queen has given her personal permission for items from the royal treasure trove to make the journey north from their usual home at St James’s Palace, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see them on show.

One of the visitors to the exhibition, which ends today, was John Susses from Pocklington near York, at 71 a collector for 55 years.

He said: “Stamp collectors do seem to be of a certain generation, but I think that has always been the case – it doesn’t mean it’s dying out.

“It’s a hobby a lot of people come to when they are in their 50s, I think it’s a nostalgic thing. And the hobby has also been given a boost by the increasing interest of people in their family backgrounds – stamps are a vital part of this country’s social history.”