Queen Elizabeth II has been the monarch of Great Britain for over sixty years. Longevity does run in her family, but she is in her early 90s, and at a certain point she will either abdicate in favor of her son (or grandson) or simply pass on. Her reign has been a long and eventful one, especially for philately. When the Princess became Queen in 1953, the British Empire was just breaking up, and the Commonwealth was just being formed. The stamp issues of the colonies had previously been coordinated, designed, and often printed by the the Crown Agents and their successors. Most British Commonwealth stamps, no matter what country they were issued from, had similar designs and feel—the key plates of so many of the Colonies are the same stamp with just the country name changed.
 
In the 1950s, no one knew what was to become of British collecting after the independence of the colonies. In the press of the time, the speculation was that collecting of this area was doomed to fall away—that without cohesive and organized new issues that linked the independent countries as it had linked the dependent colonies, enthusiasm for British Empire stamps would dim. Eventually, the conventional wisdom of the time stated, the larger and more populous Colonies would have their following, but the smaller entities would fade away. The situation worked out much differently than it was supposed. British collecting has now broken down into three main types. First, there are country collectors—philatelists who try to get all the stamps of say Great Britain or Cape of Good Hope (or some specialized fraction of those countries). Next in significance are the collectors who try to collect all of the British area but only up to independence (which in most cases corresponds with the beginning of Elizabeth's reign). Some of these collectors try to limit their collections by area, such as British Africa, but most attempt the entire British area. This is a tough effort, but some of the finest collections that you see are lifetime collections of the British area. These earlier issues from the smaller colonies take not only money, but time and considerable effort to obtain.
 
The third main area that British Commonwealth collecting has broken into is the collecting of the issues since 1953—called in philately QEII. QEII collecting has declined in popularity in recent years as the number of new issues from former British colonies has numbered in the tens of thousands, and few collectors could even keep up with current issues, not to mention going back and collecting earlier stamps. Here is a good bet: When Queen Elizabeth leaves the throne, there will be a renewal of interest in the early QEII issues, and, with closure as to the number of stamps needed, collectors will look more seriously at the British Commonwealth stamps issued during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II as a serious specialty. Demand for the earlier sets should increase. Prices will rise. Buy now.