News and press releases

  • Royal Mail
    22 August 2017
    Royal Mail issues special stamps to celebrate iconic children's toys
  • The Classic Toys stamp issue celebrates some of the most iconic and much-loved British toys from the last 100 years
  • Classic toys that feature are: the Merrythought Bear; Sindy Doll; Spirograph; Stickle Bricks; W.Britan Toy Figures; Space Hopper; Fuzzy Felt; Meccano; Action Man and Hornby Dublo trains
  • The heyday of the British toy industry remains a magical era, one that shaped childhoods across the generations 
  • These toys remain hugely popular today, a testament to the innovation of the creators
  • The stamps will be on sale from 22 August at and from 7,000 Post Office branches across the UK

Royal Mail today revealed a new stamp issue featuring some of the most iconic and much-loved British toys from the last 100 years. 

Evoking feelings of nostalgia across generations, the toys featured are: the Merrythought Bear; Sindy Doll; Spirograph; Stickle Bricks; W.Britan Toy Figures; Space Hopper; Fuzzy Felt; Meccano; Action Man and Hornby Dublo trains.

In the 19th century, the growing middle class of the Victorian era was fuelling an expansion in toy-making and major names in British manufacturing started to appear and compete with foreign makers.

Previously a producer of mechanical toys, W. Britain pioneered the hollowcast method of figure-making: made using less molten metal, toy soldiers were both lighter and significantly cheaper to produce. 

British manufacturers grew in confidence as the 20th century progressed. Soft-toy companies, including Merrythought, which still produces luxury bears to this day, began to take on the might of European giants such as Germany’s Steiff.

In 1938 Frank Hornby launched the Hornby Dublo train set. The following years would see the arrival of some of the biggest names in the history of toys – Fuzzy-Felt (1950), Sindy (1963), Action Man (1966) and the Spacehopper (1969) all materialised in a wild two-decade span, as well as Spirograph (1965) and Stickle Bricks (1969), which were two exceptional and enduring innovations that helped inspire young minds and encourage creativity.

By the early 1960s, Britain was exporting more toys than all but three other countries, with annual sales totalling over £7 million.

The heyday of the British toy industry remains a magical era, one that shaped childhoods across the generations. And with many of the best-loved toys from the past still with us, or perhaps relaunched after temporary absences, the children of today can still have fun with some of the world’s most iconic toys.

Royal Mail spokesperson Philip Parker said: “British toy makers enjoyed a reputation for quality and innovation, and these nostalgic stamps celebrate ten wonderful toys that have endured through the decades.”

Feature Type/Detail
Number of stamps Ten
Value of Stamps 10 x 1st Class
Design Interabang
All photography by John Ross © Royal Mail Group Limited 2017: The Merrythought
Bear © Merrythought Ltd 2017; Sindy is the registered Trade Mark and Intellectual Property of Pedigree Dolls and Toys, used under licence by Royal Mail Group Limited; SPIROGRAPH © 2017 Hasbro. All rights reserved. Licensed by Hasbro; STICKLE BRICKS © 2017 Hasbro. All rights reserved. Licensed by Hasbro; W. Britain toy figures © The Good Soldier LLC/W. Britain 2017; fuzzy-felt® © Mandolyn Ltd 2017; MECCANO® & © 2017 MECCANO, used under licence. Ferris wheel model built by Ralph Laughton; ACTION MAN and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro and are used with permission © 2017 Hasbro. All rights reserved. Licensed by Hasbro; Hornby Dublo © & ™ Hornby Hobbies Limited.
Stamp Format Square
Stamp Size 35 (w) x 35 (h)
Number per sheet 25/50
Printer International Security Printers
Print Process Lithography
Perforations 14.5 x 14.5
Phosphor Bars as appropriate





The precise origins of the ever-popular Spacehopper are uncertain, but what is known is that in the 1960s Aquilino Cosani patented a ‘Pon-Pon’ exercise ball that had many of the Spacehopper’s features. Marketed over the years under names such as the ‘Hoppity Hop’, the traditional Spacehopper was first introduced to the UK in 1969 by toy makers Mettoy. Originally blue in colour, and produced in a range of sizes, this large rubber ball with ribbed handles is best known for its bright orange colour and kangaroo face. Production rocketed in the 1970s as more and more children took to leaping about on a Spacehopper. For almost 50 years it has brought fun and happiness to millions of children, and currently has the status of a 21st-century retro toy.


The idea for Frank Hornby’s unique construction system originated in 1898, when he was trying to source small parts for a model crane that he was making with his sons. He realised that it would be possible to make all sorts of models if children had immediate access to parts, such as metal strips and plates with holes in, which could be fitted together with nuts and bolts “in different positions and at different angles”. After the invention was patented in 1901, the first ‘Mechanics Made Easy’ sets were produced in 1902. Five years on, Hornby changed the product name to ‘Meccano’. Enquiring young minds worldwide were immediately inspired by Meccano and remain so to this day. 


Invented in the UK in 1969, Stickle Bricks offered an easy introduction to the world of construction toys. Designed to develop the imagination of young children, thanks to the appealing combination of chunky bricks in attractive bold colours, Stickle Bricks became a much-loved toy that encouraged children to stick, stack and build.

Thin plastic ‘fingers’ on the edges and sides of the bricks interlock easily and can also be pulled apart with little difficulty, allowing for exciting experimentation. Sets contain a mix of square, rectangular and triangular pieces, as well as heads, wheels and teddy-bear shapes, which can be joined together in many creative ways. The true charm of Stickle Bricks was neatly captured in an original promotional slogan: “An easy new way to build big toys!”


A drawing toy invented in the UK in the mid-1960s, Spirograph was originally developed as a drafting tool. As its design evolved, it soon became clear that Spirograph had even greater potential as a child’s toy. 

Its distinctive wheels and gears, which combine the principles of mathematics and art, have enabled children of all levels of artistic ability to create decorative, intricate patterns. Beautiful designs can result from using different combinations of small gears placed either inside or outside a larger gear, which are moved, one along the other, using pens of varying colours. Spirograph has been inspiring children across the world for the past 50 years and continues to do so to this day.


Merrythought’s quintessentially British teddy bears have been hand-crafted in Ironbridge, Shropshire since 1930. Founder of the company, Gordon Holmes, was the owner of a spinning mill in Yorkshire when he realised the possibilities of using mohair – the fleece of the Angora goat – in the production of soft toys. In 1931, the first catalogue revealed an eclectic range of 32 soft toys, including the original Merrythought teddy bear, whose patterns many of today’s designs are still based upon. The exceptional quality of Merrythought toys soon attracted high-end retailers such as Harrods. The company has continued to produce the finest soft toys in a variety of shapes and sizes for more than 85 years, appealing to children and adults of all ages.


For more than 65 years, Fuzzy-Felt has been encouraging the creativity of children three years old and upwards in the crafting of imaginative scenes using colourful pre-cut felt shapes that can stick on a flocked backing board. Perhaps less well known is the fact that the toy’s origins lie in the production of tanks during the Second World War. The tanks’ gaskets were made of felt and the manufacturing process created small offcuts which the factory workers’ children would play with. Lois Allan, whose outbuildings were used to make the gaskets during wartime, saw the potential for developing the idea, and launched the first Fuzzy-Felt set in 1950. The original felt pieces were plain silhouettes and later evolved into more detailed printed shapes on themes such as farm animals and dinosaurs.


Two years after the GI Joe toy arrived in the USA, in 1966 Palitoy introduced the youth of Britain to an exciting new toy called Action Man. This fully poseable action figure was originally produced in three different versions: Action Soldier, Action Sailor and Action Pilot. Each had painted hair (either black, brown, red or blond), a scarred face and came packaged with a basic uniform and dog tag.

Action Man’s design was regularly updated: 1970 saw the addition of flocked hair; in 1973 the figures were fitted with ‘gripping hands’; the introduction of ‘Eagle-Eyes’ in 1976 enabled children to move the eyes by operating a small lever at the back of his head. Depicted on the stamp is the Red Devil parachutist. 


In September 1963, Pedigree Toys Ltd launched Sindy, Britain’s new teenage fashion doll dressed in a range of outfits created by cutting-edge designers Foale and Tuffin. Sindy’s first collection included her iconic Weekender (in a red, white and blue matelot top with bell-bottom jeans), as modelled on the stamp, as well as Skating Girl and Pony Club. Later in the 1960s, Sindy was joined by her then boyfriend Paul, sister Patch and friends Vicki, Mitzi, Poppet and Betsy. Over time, Sindy’s look, fashion and style have gained her millions of fans across the world who regard themselves as true ‘Sindy Girls’.


It was in the late 19th century that W. Britain Limited (also known as Britains and William Britain) first enjoyed success in the business of making toy soldiers. From 1893, W. Britain began producing hollowcast figures. The company dominated the market with these products until the 1950s, when plastic figures made by firms such as Herald grew popular. 

W. Britain bought out Herald in 1959 and began a new phase manufacturing 1:32 scale figures in plastic. Sold individually or in packs, the brightly painted toys, including Trojan and Greek warriors, British infantry and Wild West cowboys, fired children’s imaginations and became playroom essentials.


Hornby’s first toy trains, powered by a high-quality clockwork motor and ‘O’ gauge in size, were introduced in 1920. Five years later, the first electric Hornby train was produced. In 1938, Hornby Dublo was launched. About half the size of the ‘O’ gauge sets, the new ‘double-O’ range fitted into modest British living rooms more easily. Appealing on many different levels, a set could capture the imagination of a child, as well as tempting an adult to create ever-more complex and intricate layouts. Hornby also realised that although the trains were at the heart of the Dublo world, it was the myriad accessories that really brought it to life. Realistic buildings, scenery and figures combined to create stunningly life-like layouts, which often had to be moved to a converted loft space or garden shed to really fulfil their potential.

The stamps and stamp products are available at and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 03457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB and 7,000 Post Offices across the UK.

ISSUED BY Royal Mail Press Office on 21 August 2017 

For more information please contact:

Natasha Ayivor
Royal Mail Press Office
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0HQ
Tel: 020 7449 8250
Mobile: 07436 280002

Notes to Editors

About Royal Mail Special Stamps 

For more than 50 years, Royal Mail’s Special Stamp programme has commemorated anniversaries and celebrated events relevant to UK heritage and life. Today, there are an estimated 2.5 million stamp collectors and gift givers in the UK and millions worldwide. Her Majesty The Queen approves all UK stamp designs before they are issued.

About Royal Mail plc

Royal Mail plc is the parent company of Royal Mail Group Limited, the leading provider of postal and delivery services in the UK and the UK’s designated universal postal service provider. UK Parcels, International and Letters (“UKPIL”) comprises the company’s UK and international parcels and letters delivery businesses operating under the “Royal Mail” and “Parcelforce Worldwide” brands. Through the Royal Mail Core Network, the company delivers a one-price-goes-anywhere service on a range of parcels and letters products. Royal Mail has the capability to deliver to more than 30 million addresses in the UK, six days a week (excluding UK public holidays). Parcelforce Worldwide operates a separate UK network which collects and delivers express parcels. Royal Mail also owns General Logistics Systems (GLS) which operates one of the largest ground-based, deferred parcel delivery networks in Europe.