Wednesday 19 October 2011

The Commonwealth's Greediest Stamp Producers 2010

Philatelists still continue to complain about excess issuing of new stamps in general and by some countries in particular. I present here a list of the worst examples of greedy, excessive stamp production by countries in The Commonwealth during 2010. There may be a little disagreement about when stamps are issued in a sheetlet, does that constitute a number of individual stamps or a single miniature sheet? The Gibbons Stamp Catalogue editor allocates only a single number to what may be an issue of several miniature sheets which gives a false impression of conservatism of new issue releases among some producers but at least it saves space in his book which already features many "stamps" which theoretically have postal validity but hardly get sold at all to mail senders in the countries whose names the stamps have inscribed upon them. The list includes stamps issued in ordinary sheets and miniature sheets and booklets (although some countries' booklets are not included such as the ludicrous number of prestige booklets released by Australia which, if they were included, would make the Australian total look even worse. New varieties e.g. change of perforation or type of paper, are included as new stamps and varieties of commemoratives e.g. gummed from ordinary sheets or self-adhesive from booklets etc. are included as different stamps.
      country            no. of stamps     no. of min. shts.     no. of booklets       total no. of items

 1. Mozambique            1136                   101                                                                1237
 2. The Gambia               216                     17                                                                  234
 3. Australia                    205                     14                     not included                      229
 4. St. Vincent                 166                       6                                                                  172
 5. Sierra Leone              150                     14                                                                  164
 6. Grenada                     145                      15                                                                  160
 7. G.B. Royal Mail        120                      13*                          15                                  148
 8. Dominica                   135                       9                                                                  144
 9. Antigua                       128                      9                                                                  137
 10. Nevis                         120                     15                                                                  135
 11. Malaysia                    110                       9                              2                                 121
 12. South Africa             116                       2                                                                  118
 13. St. Kitts                     109                      6                                                                  115
 14. New Zealand            100                     11                                                                  111
 15. Guyana                        91                      15                                                                 106
 16. India                            91                      12                                                                 103
 17. Tanzania**                 81                      14                                                                   95
 18. Grenada
          Grenadines             84                        8                                                                   92
 19. Papua New Guinea   61                       25                                                                   86
 20. Cook Islands             76                         4                                                                   80
 21. Jersey                         69                         9                              1                                   79
 22. Canada***                 57                        16                            ***                                 73
 23. Maldives                    64                         9                                                                   73
 24. Singapore                  60                         4                              4                                   68
 25. Isle Of Man***         60                          7                            ***                                 67

  *     G.B. Royal Mail: does not include "Smilers" and "commemorative" sheets.
  **   Tanzania: may increase in number as little information about the locally available  issues of  2010 for use on genuine local mail  is currently available.
  *** Booklets not included but individual stamps from the booklets are included in the first  column.

 In truth, these numbers hold little surprise, the list comprising principally of countries who have postally valid items produced with their name inscribed on them who have allowed a single philatelic agency in The United States to produce such items. Their status as true "postage stamps" i.e. freely available receipts for the pre-payment of postage in the particular countries whose name is printed on them, is questionable. Nor is the outrageous excessive issuing of stamps by Australia Post and Royal Mail anything new - it has been going on, but gradually getting worse, for years. Neither of those postal authorities find anything wrong with it and clearly collectors continue to buy such items as well Gibbons continuing to list them in their catalogue. Stamp new issues continue to be a license to print money. The offshore islands of Britain also continue to cynically overproduce new issues and Jersey and The Isle Of Man find themselves in the top 25 and Guernsey would as well if its stamps were combined with those produced with the inscription "Alderney" (total number of items: 86). But there are some rays of sunshine, the following are the top 10 of lowest numbers of new stamp issues in The Commonwealth during 2010:-

       country                no. of stamps            no. of miniature sheets               total

 1.= Nauru                           0                                        0                                         0
 1.= Rwanda                        0                                        0                                         0
 1.= Turks & Caicos           0                                        0                                          0
 4.   Samoa                          0                                        1                                           1
 5.   Anguilla                        3                                        0                                          3
 6.=Belize                            4                                        0                                          4
 6.=Cocos (Keeling)           4                                        0                                          4
 6.=Jamaica                         4                                        0                                          4
 6.=Penrhyn                        4                                        0                                          4
 6.=Tonga*                          4                                        0                                          4

       * Tonga produced locally surcharged stamps for use on local mail and not available through  philatelic channels.

Monday 3 October 2011

Commonwealth stamp news: Rwanda, South Sudan and elsewhere.

The most exciting piece of Commonwealth stamp news is that the latest member of the group of Commonwealth nations has issued its first new stamps since 2003 when 4 stamps were released on the subject of AIDS. Sometime during 2011, Rwanda has issued a set of 4 stamps on the subject of Rwandan culture and another 4 featuring gorillas which are the centre piece of tourism in the country. Many bogus stamps have been produced in the last few years on all sorts of bizarre subjects and I have recently found another website which mentions the issue of 6 stamps to commemorate the 5oth anniversary of the first manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin - these stamps look bogus to me as well. The two real stamp issues represent the first stamps issued by Rwanda since it joined The Commonwealth and so are of great interest.
  South Sudan gained its independence, after many years of struggle, in July 2011 and issued three stamps to commemorate this event on 18 July 2011. I have not yet seen these being offered either on the internet or by any dealer, but they are clearly of great interest and more so to general Commonwealth collectors since, one imagines, the new country will be admitted to membership of the organisation at the CHOGM, the meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government, which will be held in Perth, Australia in November 2011. Only three stamps have been produced so far, with designs featuring the former leader of the South Sudan liberation movement, the country's flag and its coat of arms.
  New Zealand Post, meanwhile, has started a new line of stamp issues - local stamps - which are produced in booklets; so far a 10 x 50c booklet and a 6 x $1.80 booklet have been produced for Kaikoura on the east coast of South Island and a 10 x 60c booklet depicting Te Papa. The booklets are very similar to those produced by Universal Post in New Zealand and Great Britain, which contain stamps which have international postal validity for use on postcards. The New Zealand Post stamps are produced with the tourist market in mind and do not seem to have received any mention in the philatelic press that I have seen here in England and so may be overlooked by many collectors. New Zealand Post insist on calling them "labels" rather than "stamps" even though they are produced to prepay postage which in my way of thinking fully qualifies them to be called "postage stamps", much more so than most of the rubbish produced by some philatelic agencies which produce sticky-backed bits of paper with certain countries' names printed on them but which are unlikely ever to see usage on mail sent in or from those countries. I strongly recommend obtaining these local issues produced by New Zealand Post as I suspect that they be the start of "The Next Big Thing".
  Malawi seems to have returned to making its stamps available to the philatelic public if only by selling them directly from the Philatelic Bureau in Malawi - I have not yet seen any of their most recent issues being offered for sale by international dealers. So, we have finally been able to obtain the 2007 and 2010 SAPOA miniature sheets as well all the values of the Protect Wildlife butterflies set. They also produced a set of 4 Christmas stamps last year and 2 stamps and a miniature sheet commemorating the country's links with The European Union. 
  The Cook Islands, whose issues were taken over by a new philatelic agency last year, have gone mad philatelically and by recommencing issues inscribed "Aitutaki" and "Penrhyn" as well as introducing issues inscribed "Rarotonga", managed to issue 174 stamps and 22 miniature sheets between 14 September 2010 and 25 July 2011. Not bad going! Particularly lavish were the celebrations of the Royal engagement and subsequent wedding which resulted in a total of 39 stamps and 16 miniature sheets. The set for the wedding itself which was simply inscribed "Cook Islands" was particularly odious featuring, as it did, some very unconvincing portraits of the royal couple. Let's say the portraits did not do them any favours. Equally obnoxious are the miniature sheets and sheetlets which have been released which feature peonies and are related to a Chinese stamp exhibition and which have very high face values. Let us hope that the new philatelic agency can curb its apparent greed now that it has had a year of money-making opportunities with The Cook Islands.
  On the subject of face values, Brunei has released a miniature sheet to commemorate the Sultan's 65th birthday with the eye-watering face value of ....$65. I guess you have to be The Sultan Of Brunei to be able to afford it.
  Champion over-issuer of The Commonwealth in the past two or three years is undoubtedly Mozambique whose post office allowed a total of 1,236 stamps and 107 miniature sheets to be produced in its name during 2010 alone. Gibbons have not updated their catalogue listing for the country since 2004 - I should think that the editor could consign 99% of what has been produced straight to the Appendix. In fact, if I was him, I'd review everything from 1998 onwards because he has given full catalogue status to a whole pile of rubbish produced between that year and 2004. Go on, be a man, be radical, be decisive, and withdraw any credibility that presence in the catalogue bestows on these items. You know it makes sense.