Licking postage stamps (UK)

Why is the gum on the back of postage stamps different depending on their cost? I work as a receptionist and therefore have to lick a variety of stamps every day and I have noticed that the 68p ones in particular have a much nicer flavour to the others. Surely it is easier to use the same gum for all of them, or are the different flavours some way of distinguishing between the different stamps if, say you were partially sighted???

I thought we’d completely moved over the the self adhesive ones now?!

I order stamps from Royal Mail direct and they come in sheets of 100 generally. The only stamps that are self-adhesive from these are 1st and 2nd class.


Could it possibly be a different adhesive? Working on the basis that the larger the stamp value, the more important or larger the package and therefore the more you want to make sure it has the correct postage on it?

There have indeed been different types of gum used on British stamps. See

However, as far as I can tell, all current British definitives (the standard “Queen’s head” type) use PVA gum excpet for the self-adhesive ones. See for a listing. That includes the latest 68p stamp.

However the first site I linked to mentions a particular type of PVA called “Lay-flat”, which might taste subtly different. I haven’t been able to find out which issues this is used for.

Another factor is that various stamps have been printed by different printers, which might use slightly different blends of gum. However, all the current stamps in sheet format that I checked seem to be printed by the same firm, De La Rue.

Have a look at the site and check the printers and gum details for two stamps that taste different, and see what you find!

Thanks for the link, but it provides no answer to the difference in flavour. For example, I know for a fact that a 42p or a 20p stamp tastes different to a 68p stamp but apparently they are all made by the same company and all use PVA as the adhesive.

Looks like I will be writing a VERY IMPORTANT letter!

Maybe you have synaesthesia and you’re tasting the colours of the stamps, maaan :wink:

Why not just order yourself one of these and stop worrying about it?