The Decimal Castle High Values of Great Britain 1988-1999


At the beginning of 1988 the definitive range was based on the Machin head of the Queen printed by photogravure.

Following the issue of stamps for his wedding the Duke of York was invited to design stamps based on the castles used for the first high value definitives of the Queen's reign. They were Carrickfergus Castle in Northern Ireland, Caernarfon Castle in Wales, Edinburgh Castle in Scotland and Windsor Castle in England. The Duke of York visited each castle to take photographs on which the designs were based.

The stamps were first printed in 1988 by Harrison and Sons. The De La Rue Giori presses were used to recess print the stamps. These presses were normally used in printing banknotes and it was the first time they were used to print stamps. There were four machines, two which printed with four plates and two which printed with two. Christopher Matthews, a former employee of Bradbury Wilkinson, engraved the Queen's portrait and the original dies of each value for the Harrison printing.

Royal Mail was concerned at the ease of forgery due to modern copier technology. In 1992 a more secure version was issued which included the Queen's head printed in an optically variable ink and elongated perforations along the vertical edges.

Enhanced re-etched stamps were introduced in 1994 due to a change in the preparation of the master plates. In 1997 the contract to print the stamps was transferred to Enschede. New dies were engraved by Inge Madle.

The Castle issue was replaced by stamps featuring the Machin portrait of the Queen in 1999. Royal Mail stated the reason for the change was to have a consistent image across the stamps on permanent sale.

Unlike the photogravure high value stamps which had values relating to specific postal rates, the values of the Castle stamps were fixed, irrespective of the changes in rates. The exception was when the £3 stamp replaced the £1 stamp in 1995 when the registration rate was £3. The £3 stamp had the same design as the £1 stamp but was issued in different colour.

The exhibit is divided into four sections:

Section One – the initial issue from 1988 to 1992
Section Two – the 1992 replacement of the 1988 issue which introduced additional security features
Section Three – the change in plate preparation which was gradually introduced in 1994
Section Four – the change in 1997 in printers to Enschede until 1999 when the issue was replaced

In each section the problems in printing and errors arising are included.

The exhibitor has studied the issue from commencement and has corresponded extensively with the printers to resolve queries on printing methods and obtain explanations of errors arising. The results have been published in Gibbons Stamp Monthly, Stamp Magazine and Variety Club News published by B Alan Ltd. The research has been incorporated into Stanley Gibbons Specialised Catalogue of Great Britain Volume 4 and other specialised catalogues.


Personal correspondence with Harrisons and Royal Mail by the exhibitor
Connoisseur Catalogue of Machin Stamps and Decimal Definitives
Variety Club News
published~ by B Alan Ltd
Gibbons Specialised Volume 4
Pierron's Online Catalogue
British Philatelic Bulletin
Gibbons Stamp Monthly
Stamp Magazine


Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Preparation: Prince Andrew Taking a Photograph
  3. Preparation: Copies of Original Photographs
  4. Preparation: Copies of Original Photographs
Harrison Printing 1988-1992
  1. Harrison Printing 1988-1992
  2. Poster (English)
  3. Poster (Welsh)
  4. Comparisons in the Queen's Portraits
  5. Publicity Pack
  6. Sheet Layout
  7. First Issued Printings
  8. First Issued Printings
  9. Covers
  10. See sheet 13
  11. Usage
  12. Usage

Frame 2

Harrison Printing 1988-1992 (cont)
  1. Design Shifts
  2. Design Shifts
  3. Dry Prints
  4. See sheet 19
  5. Thicker Glazed Paper
  6. Thicker Glazed Paper
  7. Offsets
  8. See sheet 23
  9. Offsets
  10. See sheet 25
  11. Missing Ink
  12. See sheet 27
  13. Misperforations
  14. See sheet 29
  15. Unprinted Due to Paper Fold
Harrison Printing 1992-1994: Optically Variable Ink
  1. News Release

Frame 3

Harrison Printing 1992-1994: Optically Variable Ink (cont)
  1. Optically Variable Ink
  2. Poster (English)
  3. Sheet Layout
  4. New Master Dies
  5. Comparisons of £2 and £5 Stamps
  6. First Issued Plate Blocks
  7. First Day Cover
  8. Use on International Mail
  9. Design Shifts
  10. See sheet 41
  11. Misperforation and Dry Prints
  12. Missing Ink
  13. Perforation Error
  14. See sheet 45
  15. Printing Misalignment
  16. Misperforations

Frame 4

Harrison Printing 1992-1994: Optically Variable Ink (cont)
  1. Insufficient Optically Variable Ink
  2. Insufficient Optically Variable Ink
  3. Optically Variable Ink Omitted
  4. Shade Matching Problems
  5. New Creamier Paper
  6. Scarce Plate Numbers
  7. Upside Down Perforation
  8. See sheet 55
  9. Design Shifts
  10. See sheet 57
  11. Design Shifts
  12. See sheet 59
  13. Offsets
Harrison Printing 1994-1997: Re-Etched Format
  1. Re-Etched Format
  2. Scarce Plate Numbers
  3. New Plates

Frame 5

Harrison Printing 1994-1997: Re-Etched Format (cont)
  1. Copper Plates
  2. See sheet 65
  3. Release of Stamps
  4. Plate Numbers
  5. Earliest Known Uses
  6. Replacement of £1 Stamp with £3 Stamp
  7. £3 Stamp Poster (Welsh)
  8. £3 Stamp Paper Types
  9. £3 Stamp Printing Problems
  10. See sheet 73
  11. Creamy Translucent Paper
  12. White Translucent Paper
  13. Offsets
  14. See sheet 77
  15. PVA Gum
  16. PVA Gum

Frame 6

Harrison Printing 1994-1997: Re-Etched Format (cont)
  1. Design Shifts
  2. Late Paper and Gum Varieties
  3. Late Paper and Gum Varieties
Enschede Printing 1997-1999
  1. Enschede Printing 1997-1999
  2. New Master Die
  3. Design Differences
  4. Plate Numbers and Queen's Head
  5. Plate Layout
  6. Marginal Inscriptions
  7. Marginal Inscriptions
  8. Pre-Release Cover
  9. Optically Variable Ink Problems
  10. £1.50 Stamp Missing Heads
  11. £2 Stamp Missing Heads
  12. £3 Stamp Missing Heads
  13. £5 Stamp Missing Heads