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Great Britain 
Postal Orders

(Withdrawn from circulation, see bottom of page)

In 1985 Czeslaw Slania has engraved this beautiful portrait of the British Queen Elizabeth II (*1926), which was originally known as a so-called private label.  The portrait was originally drawn June 1982 by Rory Matthews of Great Britain.  The original Slania-label exists both perforated and imperforated in various colours.   The basis for the engraving was one of Lord Snowdon's photographs, which was then translated from recess to offset, and amended for the postal order and its redesign.  At the time of the engraving the Queen was 58 years old.  

In 1986 or 1987 the House of De La Rue & Company, Ltd., loaned the die for this engraving, as well as the dies for others of Slania's private works (portraits), with regard to testing a new printing machine.    

  • Postal Order of 50p, favour cancelled in Ruislip, Middlesex, on 27th September 2003. 

Click on the image for a larger view to open in a new window.

Mr. Gerry Fisk (Great Britain) has informed me that the portrait was used in case it was decided to show a somewhat older Queen on GB definitive stamps than that done by Arnold Machin.  In the end, it was decided not to change but instead to use the "new" portrait (by Slania) on Postal Orders.  

All postal orders have a watermark, showing a series of Sir Rowland Hill.  Their true size is 17.6* 8.7 cm.  

The postal orders exist in 13 different values, ranging from 50p to 20.  British postmasters are said to have wanted Royal Mail issue them with a different colour for each value, la stamps, but only three colours were actually used, shown in the colour chart below.  The exact (gradient) colours, much like British banknotes,  cannot be reproduced here, so the colour chart is only a rough "guide".   Further is shown the individual fee and the total cost for each postal order.

50p
1
 
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
15
20
fee
25p
fee
25p
fee
50p
fee 
50p
fee 
50p
fee 
80p
fee 
80p
fee
80p
fee
1
fee
1
fee
1
fee
1.10
fee 
1.20
total
75p
total
1.25
total
2.50
total
3.50
total
4.50
total
5.80
total
6.80
total
7.80
total
9.00
total
10.00
total
11.00
total
16.10
total
21.20

Judging from the above chart it is obvious that while the use of postal orders is very convenient for those who do not have a bank account, it is by no means a cheap option with charges ranging from 6% at the top to a whopping 50% at the bottom end.  Good business if one can get it :-)

Below is shown a sample of a 2 (beige-reddish) postal order, and a sample of a 10 (green-yellowish) postal order. Click on either image to see a larger version (will be opened in a new window).  

Although they look like they are covered in fancy engraved ruling-engine patterns, they are actually completely printed by lithography, including the portrait.  Comparing the portrait to the original intaglio print (above right), it can be seen that much detail is lost in the conversion.  

On the reverse side there are instructions for use of the Postal Order and areas for endorsement; on the left end is a one and 1 inch stub to be removed as a receipt for the purchaser.   
  • Reverse side of a 2 postal order.

Mr. Gerry Fisk (Great Britain) has informed me that apparently there have been variants of the current design, but as far as knowledge goes, the changes have only affected the reverse side.  During the period of "business developments" of the British Post Office over recent years there have been several name changes for the company.  The strap line on the reverse has changed to reflect this, and postal orders can thus be found with "The Post Office", "Consignia", or "Royal Mail Group plc" in the strap lines.  Currently -- i.e. 2003 -- they are only available with "Royal Mail Group Plc" in the strap line.  Maybe the fees collected for selling the postal orders help finance the name changes ... ;-)  

Postal Orders with the full face portrait of the Queen were launched on 1st June 1987.  They were issued as and when the stock of the previous type were exhausted. 

Sources:

Many thanks for further information provided by   

NOTE:  Postal orders of the above design (with the Slania-engraved portrait) are now withdrawn from circulation. New postal orders carrying a portrait of a more relaxed and smiling Queen, are now in circulation.  The British Post Office has stated that Slania has nothing to do with the current portrait.  So far the earliest known postal orders with the new non-Slania portrait are dated November 8, 2003.  

Source:  CSSG-quarterly "Close-Up" No. 1/2004.


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