Bowing to nationalist and regional sentiment, the General Post Office introduced an extraordinary feature in British stamp issues in 1958 - the regional stamps which were and are sold only in post offices in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Monmouthshire, the Isle of Man, the bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, and the London Philatelic Center. Though only sold in post offices within the respective 'regions' the stamps are valid for postage in any part of the United Kingdom (as well as, of course, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man).
The initial release of regional stamps was made on 18th August 1958, when six different 3d stamps were released in Guernsey , Jersey, the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) (including Monmouthshire). The stamps were photogravure-printed by Harrison and Sons in varying shades of lilac or violet and featured the Dorothy Wilding portrait of the Queen with various emblems or symbols characteristic of the respective regions. They also introduced the Multiple Crowns watermark which did not make an appearance on the unified series till the following October. (Figure 1)
The Irish 3d depicted the emblem of Ulster, a crowned six-pointed star with a red hand superimposed. A flax plant also adorned the stamp, symbolizing the important linen industry of Northern Ireland. (Figure 2) This stamp was designed by Des. Hollywood. The 6d and 1s 3d stamps for Northern Ireland followed on 29th September 1958, prepaying the foreign letter and basic airmail rates. L. Pilton designed the Irish 6d, which epitomized the linen industry. (Figure 3). The background to the Queen's portrait represented a piece of linen cloth, while flax plants flank the portrait. The 1s 3d, designed by T. Collins, featured a flax plant and the Red Hand of Ulster in the upper corners while a five-barred gate, a very common sight in the farming countryside, appeared beneath the royal portrait. (Figure 4).
The letter rate was increased to 4d and the 4d blue stamp, (Figure 5) in the same design as the 3d, was released on 7th February 1966. It reissued in sepia on 9 April 1968, (Figure 6) and then again in red on 26 February 1969. (Figure 7). On 1st March 1967, 9d (Figure 8) and 1s 6d (Figure 9) regionals for Ireland were released following the increase in the foreign letter rate in October 1966. A 5d stamp (Figure 10) was issued on 9 April 1968 with the same design as the 3d stamp.
Phosphor bands for automated sorting equipment are found on the 1968 and later issues, and two types of gum are known. These stamps were eventually replaced by the regional Machins in 1971 due to the change in money from shillings and pennys to decimal pence..
Stanley Gibbons British Commonwealth Catalogue, Dtanley Gibbons, Ltd, 1998, Great Britain regional section.