The third UK stamps relating to Tolkien are not a Tolkien specific set, but a single stamp in the Magical Worlds set, produced by GB Royal Mail on 21st July in 1998. The Tolkien stamp celebrates the Hobbit and features an image of Bilbo and Smaug by artist Peter Malone,


Being a single stamp within a set makes the Tolkien related collectables around this quite complicated, as a lot of items relate to the other stamps in the set. Therefore this article focuses on the Hobbit stamp and is not a complete guide to the whole set. However, for reference, the full set consist of 4 other stamps, celebrating The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis (who of course does have a connection to Tolkien), The Phoenix and the Carpet by E Nesbit, The Borrowers by Mary Norton and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.


The stamps were produced in pages of each stamp individually, each page containing 100 stamps. I have never seen a full page of the Hobbit stamp, I have only seen much smaller smaller blocks.


When the stamps were released, a commemorative Presentation Pack was available. This contained a mint set of the stamps in a themed folder along with a fold out pamphlet which gave details about the 50 years of Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings, this was written by author Terry Pratchett.



On the day of issue, 21st July in 1998, First Day Covers were available. These are envelopes with the stamps on the front which have been officially cancelled by the Royal Mail with an official postmark for the issue date. Special postmarks must be oauthorised by the UK Royal Mail and consist of an image and a place of issue in the UK.

The Royal Mail had a commemorative postmark for the stamps, it featured an image of a book with fantasy shadows from Talents House Edinburgh (the address of the Royal Mails Philatelic Bureau).

The Royal Mails official cover features an image of an open book showing a Narnia image and Magical Worlds text.


As well as the official Royal Mail postmark, there were other authorised postmarks for the release. This is where it gets complicated. The first set of postmarks are the most interesting to us, these are the ones which are Tolkien specific. The second set of postmarks are of less interest, these are generic postmarks, they are not specific to Tolkien but are also not specific to any of the other stamps in the set. The third set of postmarks are specific to the other stamps so have very little interest to us, because of this I have not listed these, there are 16 of these however there are 3 of them which are slightly more interesting so I have included those.


It should be noted that there are other postmarks which can be on first day covers so long as they are for the release date, however I have not listed these as they are not very interesting to us, but I will mention them. There are long term commemorative postmarks. There are everyday postmark for the release date from any place within the UK is also a first day cover.

As well as the Postmark, the second aspect of a First Day Cover is the Cover, which is usually an Envelope, but as we will see later, can be other things.

In theory any item with the stamps and an official release date postmark is a First Day Cover, however organisations produce specific cover designs and these are what are collectable. The cover designs don’t have to be authorised so there is no official list of these and defining a complete list is quite hard.

Special Covers can be classified into those produced by a; Tolkien specific covers, b; non Tolkien specific covers with a Tolkien specific Postmark, c; non Tolkien specific covers with genetic Postmarks (these are not really of much interest to Tolkien collectors) and d; non Tolkien specific covers with other author Postmarks (these have no real interest to Tolkien collectors).

A lot of the time the covers relate to a specific postmark, with organisations producing specific covers for specific postmarks, however, in theory any cover could have been produced with any postmark giving potentially quite a lot of collectable items.

Let’s now look at some of the actual organisations which produced covers for this Lord of the Rings release. I will be showing images of the cover/postmark combinations I have identified to date, there may have been others produced, please let me know if you have or are aware of any others.

This official Royal Mail cover can be found all of the Tolkien related postmarks.


The official Royal Mail cover can also be found with just the single Hobbit stamp, I have seen this with various postmarks from all the categories.


The official Royal Mail cover can also be found with just a gutter pair of the stamps, a gutter pair are 2 stamps with a printing spacer between them. For the Hobbit stamp, I have only seen this with a few postmarks.


Now let’s look at the Tolkien specific covers.

The Benham stamp organisation has various Tolkien specific First Day Covers for the set.

First is the Hobbit Cover from their 5 Cover set. This features an image of Bilbo escaping the wargs with a Smaug Birmingham Postmark. The Covers and Postmarks in this set are all different and specific to each stamp, non of the other postmarks are Tolkien related. This cover set is limited edition of 5000.


Next is a Tolkien specific “Gold” Cover with a Birmingham “Smaug” Postmark. It is a 22ct gold framed image of Gollum. This is a Limited edition of 500.


Next is a Tolkien Hand painted cover with a Birmingham “Smaug” Postmark. Each cover is hand painted by Helen Easien Beeken, each cover is unique. This is a Limited edition of 200. There are other hand painted covers in the series, I believe 3 others, with each cover being limited to 50, I do not believe that the others are specifically Tolkien related, I have only seen one of these (shown).


The next Organisation is Sarehole Mill, who produced a Tolkien cover with a Sarehole Mill Postmark. I have seen this cover with the full set of stamps and also with the single Hobbit stamp. Limited edition of 125.


Next is by the Westminster Stamp Organisation, they produced a Tolkien cover in their Silks series. This cover has a classic image of Gandalf by Tolkien artist John Howe. It has a Warrington Books Postmark. Limited edition of 5000.


Next is a “Magical Worlds” cover, I am unsure who this is produced by. These have a Birmingham Gandalf Postmark. These come with or without a Magical Worlds £20 Phone Card.


We have so far looked at the main Tolkien covers for this stamp, now l will mention some non Tolkien covers with Tolkien Postmarks, which are very minor Tolkien collectables. Firstly there is a Stuart cover, which has an Alice in Wonderland image. I have seen this with Oxford, Birmingham and Sarehole Mill Tolkien Postmarks. Next is a Cotswold cover, which features a Jabberwocky image. I have only seen this with an Oxford Tolkien Postmark.


Finally, just for interest, there are some non Tolkien covers with Generic Postmarks which, apart from the Hobbit stamp itself, are not really Tolkien related at all. There is a Westminster Cover with a Warrington Autograph Postmark signed by Terry Pratchett (who wrote the descriptive details in the Presentation Pack above), a GBCovers Cover with a Child’s Way London Postmark, a Barleywink Cover with a Barleywink Upminster Postmark, a Dillons Bookstore Cover with a Dillons Newcastle Postmark, a Peter Payne Cover with a Paradise Place London Postmark and a Yellow Brick Road Cover with a Yellow Brick Road Newcastle Postmark.


Please note I am not showing any of the Covers or Postmarks which are specific to only one of the others stamps in the set.

Royal Mail also produced a set of Postcards for the set. The interesting thing about the Hobbit Postcard is that it was originally released with Tolkien spelt wrong as ‘Tolkein’, they had to issue a replacement.


The Postcards can also be First Day Covers, these are 3 examples of the Hobbit Postcard with Tolkien Postmarks, Sarehole Mill, Gandalf Birmingham and Smaug Birmingham. Please note that I have also seen the Hobbit Postcard with various other non Tolkien Postmarks (not shown).


The UK Royal Mail produces a magazine which details the stamps they are about to release. The Magical Worlds stamps were featured in the June 1998 issue (Volume 35 No 10). There was a wonderful Smaug image by Tolkien artist Alan Lee on the magazine cover and the stamps were featured in a 3.5 page article.


The Royal Mail also produced a Stamp Preview Brochure featuring the release, July 1998 issue 24. The brochure features technical details about the set and order details.


The Royal Mail also produced an A4 promotional posters to advertise the release.


There are a few more items from this set which are of interest.

First is a double gutter pair presentation pack of the Hobbit stamp, produced by the Royal Mail.


Next, there were some Aerogrammes produced for the set, there were 3 different versions of these but none of them were Tolkien specific, however I have seen one of these with a Tolkien Smaug Birmingham Postmark (sorry the the poor image).


Finally there was an A4 Black and White Press release for the set.


These are all the Tolkien collectable items I have identified for these stamps, if anybody knows of anything else then please let me know.