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Royal Mail has been creating its annual Christmas Special Stamps collection for 50 years this month, with the first stamps issued as the result of a children’s art competition. In this time 229 different designs have been created and over 17 billion printed!

The collection alternates each year between religious and secular images but a Madonna and Child option is still available on the secular years. You will probably not be surprised to hear that angels, churches, birds and festive foliage are amongst the most popular of recurring themes.

We’ve had a look through the collections and selected the most memorable from over the decades.

2010s

This year’s stamps celebrate popular festive traditions in the UK and were created using paper cut-outs, crafted by Manchester-based illustrator, Helen Musselwhite. The images include a decorated Christmas tree, a snowman, stocking full of presents, a pudding, robin and a Christmas lantern.

Royal Mail undated handout photo of the six 2016 Christmas Special stamps which were crafted by Manchester based artist, Helen Musselwhite, using paper cut-outs which were then photographed. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday November 8, 2016. The stamps are on sale from Tuesday. See PA story CONSUMER Stamps. Photo credit should read: Royal Mail/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

2000s

2004 saw cartoonist Raymond Briggs bring his Father Christmas to life again 30 years after the publication of the original picture book. The collection shows Santa and his reindeer battling the elements on his epic annual delivery round.

2004-stamps

1990s

1993 saw the 150th anniversary of A Christmas Carol and the illustrator Quentin Blake – he of Roald Dahl children’s book fame – was commissioned to design a collection of stamps in celebration of the tale. Scrooge of course features!

1993-xmas-stamps

1980s

The 1987 set was designed by illustrator and author Michael Foreman, depicting five different scenarios of a child in the run up to Christmas - from decorating the Christmas to tree to looking out the window to try and spot Santa.

1987-xmas-stamps

1970s

1975 was a year of musical angels with four angels playing various festive instruments. It was designed by the renowned UK artist Richard Downer (who was a student at Leeds College of Art from 1949 to 1953!).

1975-xmas-stamps

1960s

Back to where it all began, the first ever set of Christmas stamps (in 1966) was designed as a result of a Blue Peter competition which received more than 5,000 entries. Tasveer Shemza with Good King Wenceslas and James Berry with the Snowman both won the top spot.

1966-xmas-stamps

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