Shropshire Star

Historic King Charles stamps being printed at specialist firm next to M54

Historic stamps depicting King Charles are being printed by a specialist firm that is based here in the West Midlands.

One of the first sheets of the 1st class definitive stamp featuring King Charles III goes on display at the Postal Museum in central London, before they enter circulation later this year

The new stamps are being created by Cartor Security Printers at its plant, which sits close to JLR alongside the M54.

The business, originally International Security Printers, moved from Walsall to the i54 business park in Valiant Way, north of Wolverhampton, in 2014. It became Cartor in 2021 and has long been a producer of stamps.

Its specialist printing press, which empoys 70 produces broad sheets of stamps that are then distributed to shops and post offices across the UK. The stamps are designed so they are difficult to forge and now have a bar code on to aid the Royal Mail.

Chairman Ian Brigham said: “All of us at Cartor are immensely proud to be able to print the new King Charles stamps, particularly as the postage stamp was a British invention and today is still of interest to philatelists around the world.”

All King Charles stamps will be produced at the Wolverhampton plant. The Cartor Group, which includes its European site in France, produces stamps for 180 postal administrations around the world, which annually amounts to three billionn stamps a year.

The i54 site where the factory is based was appropriately opened by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

While the factory has been busy producing the stamps, they are currently being stored up before being distributed.

The new stamps with the image of the King will not be a common sight on our letters for a time to come. The Royal Mail has such a huge stock of stamps with Queen Elizabeth’s image on that it is holding back the mass distribution of the new design.

Retailers have been told they will not be given the new stamp to sell until the existing Queen design has run out.

They officially go on sale on April 4, but may not become widespread until the early summer.

The image of the King which will feature on first and second class stamps was revealed this week, with a Royal Mail executive describing it as a “defining part” of his reign.

For the first time Charles’ portrait will appear on stamps in his role as monarch, and the simple, uncluttered design draws inspiration from stamps that featured the late Queen.

David Gold of the Royal Mail said they received guidance from the King to maintain “continuity” and Charles did not want existing stamp stocks showing the Queen pulped, but used up over time. The new stamp design features Charles’ head and neck and the King is shown facing left as all monarchs have done since the Penny Black, the world’s first postage stamp, was issued in 1840 with Queen Victoria’s image.

Mr Gold said: “The guidance we got from His Majesty was more about continuity and not doing anything too different to what had gone before. Personally, I think what marks this stamp out is that there is no embellishment at all, no crown, just simply the face of the human being, on the plain background, almost saying, ‘this is me and I’m at your service’, which I think in this modern age is actually rather humbling.”

The King’s image is used on definitive stamps, sometimes referred to as “every day” stamps, that have just the monarch’s head and value of the stamp on a plain coloured background with a barcode alongside.

British artist Martin Jennings made a profile sculpture of Charles for the Royal Mint who were creating UK coins and a team for the Royal Mail adapted an image of the artwork, adjusting and relighting the picture for use on the new stamps.

Commenting on the efforts of the Royal Mail team who began working on the project following the Queen’s death in September, Mr Gold added: “I don’t underestimate how challenging it was for them.

“But also I know that I can say on their behalf how privileged they felt to be able to work on this project... it will forever be a part of history. It’s a clear, defining part of the reign of King Charles.”

The stamps go on sale from April 4 but collectors and the general public can now register their interest on Royal Mail’s website.

Post offices and other retailers will not start selling the new stamps until their stocks featuring the late Queen are sold.

Mr Gold said: “The King gave very clear directions he didn’t want anything to be pulped, he didn’t want things being shredded, he didn’t want stock being thrown away.

“He was very clear, however long it takes you to clear the stock there’s no rush, and that’s entirely in line with his well stated principles on waste and environmentalism.”

The new first class stamp will form part of an exhibition at London’s Postal Museum about the nation’s definitive stamps called The King’s Stamp, which runs until September 23.

The display will celebrate the newest stamp design with a unique chance to see a sheet of King Charles III first class stamps before they are in public circulation.