Wednesday 23 June 2010

Tuvalu 2005 miniature sheets

Another very satisfying outcome for me of my recent visit to the Stafford stamp fair was stumbling upon a dealer by chance whom I discovered to be selling two miniature sheets from Tuvalu which I have been looking for to add to my collection for several years.  I was not aware of these two items which were originally released in 2005 until they first appeared in the catalogue column of Gibbons Stamp Monthly during the course of 2007. Until my visit to Stafford I had never seen the sheets offered for sale by any dealer nor had I noticed them for sale on E Bay. I had presumed that I would never find them and did not even leave a space in my collection for them. They are not any of the run of the mill, locally irrelevant issues being produced in Tuvalu's name by the New York philatelic agency but one is part of an infrequent series of issues which I suppose must be produced by the government of Taiwan to emphasise its diplomatic links with Tuvalu and the other could be a locally produced overprint on a previously issued miniature sheet. 
 The Taiwan related issue was released on 5 May 2005 and commemorated the state visit of President Chen Shui-bian to Tuvalu and was in a similar format to a sheet issued the previous year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Taiwan-Tuvalu diplomatic relations. The second sheet I had been hunting down was released on 10 July 2005 to commemorate the centenary of Motofua Secondary School and consisted of overprints and $2.50 surcharges on the two stamps contained in a miniature sheet which was originally issued on 8 May 2002 and which had commemorated the attendance by two Tuvaluan children at the United Nations Children's Forum in New York. A locally pertinent issue had been made on 9 March 2001 which marked the first anniversary of the death of 18 girls in a fire tragedy in a dormitory of Motofua Secondary School and this must have been a terribly traumatic event for the people of such a small nation as Tuvalu. Given the recent nature of the tragedy it is not surprising that the little nation wished to philatelically commemorate a more joyous event for the school - its centenary.
 The Taiwan related issues are interesting in themselves. Such items can be found from a number of small Commonwealth territories where either The People's Republic Of China or Taiwan have managed to gain influence with the governments of the small and/or impoverished states and the various stamp issues represent a sort of philatelic diplomatic war between the two rival Chinese states. From time to time the Japanese also manage to get some of these countries to issue stamps to show how the territories have been aided by them but all this fades into insignificance when you think about the United States' philatelic neo-imperialism represented by the huge outpouring of issues by a New York agency with the names of 20 or so Commonwealth states inscribed on them, which are mostly dedicated to depicting contemporary United States culture and aspects of American history which clearly have no relevance to the country whose name appears on the "stamps". Tuvalu is, alas, one of the victims of this latter category of philatelic imperialism but if such issues are treated with the contempt they deserve, then an interesting little collection of new issues can be made that still represent this tiny little island nation in The Pacific Ocean. 
 Another Taiwan related issue has appeared recently - on 19 September 2009, another miniature in the usual format was released to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Taiwan- Tuvalu diplomatic relations. I illustrate this item and the two 2005 issues above.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Problematical new issues 3: Malawi SAPOA & Rotary

I visited the Stafford Stamp Show on 19 June 2010. Unfortunately I found it a most inconvenient and expensive venue to visit given that the exhibition was several miles from Stafford in the countryside and for anyone traveling there by public transport a costly taxi ride was necessary since buses appeared to pass there only every two hours from Stafford Railway Station. However, when I arrived there I found a pleasantly laid out collection of dealers stalls and very few customers so that I generally had the dealers to myself and they had time to chat and help me look for the items I was hoping to buy. I visited Nigel Haworth's stall and with his usual unrivalled offering of Commonwealth stamps and new issues I began to feel that my visit to Stafford was proving to be more useful than I had feared it would be. We chatted about the latest South African Post Office Administrations (SAPOA) joint issue which this time comes from nine of the member states (South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi) and which of the issues he so far had in stock (Namibia and Botswana which I had already obtained on my visit to Stamp World 2010 in May) and he reminded me that Malawi has not yet released its previous SAPOA issue, the wild animals set of 2007. This set had long been puzzling me. An illustration of the miniature sheet has been depicted on a birds on stamps website for a long time but I have never seen the item offered by any dealer so I was not sure if it had actually been issued or whether it was so scarce that no one had been able to obtain it to put on sale. It appears that the former is the case; Nigel suggested that the South African printers had not released the set to the Malawi Post Office because of the latter's inability to pay for it. For the present at least I have scrubbed it from my "to get" list of stamps. The illustration of this miniature sheet is illustrated in this blog.
 Another mysterious issue from Malawi is the Rotary miniature sheet released on 25 July 2005. Stanley Gibbons and other catalogues only list the four stamps as being produced in miniature sheet form but purchases of Malawi kiloware I have made in the last few months confirm that each value was also available for use from ordinary sheets of stamps. I have found all four values printed in much lighter shades than those in the miniature sheet and I have seen at least two of the values in se-tenant pairs (clearly not originating from the miniature sheet). All four values of the sheet stamps are illustrated here as well as the miniature sheet for comparison. Again I have not seen any dealer offering the individual stamps for sale in mint or used condition.
 New headaches from Malawi are looming. The SAPOA World Cup set may pose a problem in availability or possibly not since a publicity item from ZimPost announced that all the participating nations had put up 50000 euros to pay for the issue so one supposes that Malawi must have paid its share up front and will therefore have received its supply of its own stamps. Perhaps this will open the way for the 2007 issue to become available to them as well. Additionally a new set of butterfly definitives has been issued in new values and all with "Protect Nature" inscribed on them. I have only seen them offered for sale once so far and that was on E Bay with ludicrously high prices being bid for them. I suspect they will become available from a proper dealer in the foreseeable future at sensible new issue prices. I hope so!

Thursday 17 June 2010

Problematical New Issues 2: Cameroun

After writing the previous blog I was surprised to come across the announcement by CamPost of another issue. If I had been more thoughtful I would have realised that such an issue was likely to be released about now, marking as it does the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of Cameroun and the fiftieth anniversary of the state's reunification with the British Cameroons. This second issue whose date of release is not entirely certain but may be also 10 May 2010 comprises 5 values: a 125F depicting the national flag, a 200f depicting the 50th anniversary logo. a 250F value depicting the national coat of arms, a 550F depicting a portrait of President Biya in black and white and 1000F with the same presidential portrait but in colour. The illustrations show the five values of this set and top and bottom are depicted the stamps which commemorate the "Africa 21" Conference previously reported.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Problematical new issues 1

Two territories which always pose problems whenever they issue new stamps are Cameroun and Mozambique. Cameroun has recently announced one of its very infrequent and usually almost unobtainable new issues which was planned to have been released on 10 May 2010 and which celebrated The Africa Conference, "Africa 21", which was being held in the capital city of Yaounde. The issue comprised of two stamps, values FCFA 125 and FCFA 250, and are said to depict the conference logo, the lower value in black and white and the higher in colour. As Cameroun's football team is also appearing in the World Cup competition in South Africa (but not getting off to a good start after a 1-0 defeat in their first game against Japan), given a number of previous issues have been released to commemorate previous World Cup participation by the Cameroun team, we might also expect to find the Post Office, CamPost, issuing a further set to mark this latest World Cup involvement of the country. No doubt it will be even more difficult to track down and be much sought after by football philatelists and most likely will turn up after some months at the very least, if not years, on E Bay fetching well over $100 for a set and the same again for any associated miniature sheet. We will see.
  Meanwhile, Mozambique has announced its most recent new issue - a set of 3 stamps released on 14 April 2010, all in the same stylised design, marking the 30th anniversary of LAM - the Linhas Aerias de Mocambique - the national airline. Mozambique new issues are usually difficult to track down but are mostly not in the same league of difficulty as those of Cameroun and I often find I can obtain them from the New York dealers, Herricks, a few weeks after the date of issue. In these new issues I do not include the long thematic sets which the Mozambique Post Office officially acknowledges as "issued abroad" which is a bizarre concept that implies that they are not produced for use on mail within Mozambique but as collectibles with postal validity which, no doubt, if you troubled yourself to take to Mozambique with you, you could actually post a letter with one affixed and it would be carried through the mail. Such a series was "The History of Transport", said to have been issued on 30 September 2009, and consisting of an expensive 162 stamps and 27 miniature sheets. I long ago decided that such items would not receive a place in my Commonwealth collection. But a collection of the new issues actually produced for use on real mail in the country makes a fascinating collection and adds a note of exoticism with their inscriptions being entirely in Portuguese rather than English as well as their primitive production and naive designs. Sometimes the most interesting stamps are the ones you have to work hardest to obtain.