Monday 28 November 2011

Royal Mail 2013 new issue programme leaked.

It appears that the new issue programme of Royal Mail, the British Post Office, may have ben leaked several months before it was due to be outlined on 1st April 2012. The programme appears to have a heavy emphasis on 3 themes for the year - links with Europe, music and the 50th anniversary of Dr. Who - the longest running science fiction television programme made by the BBC and popular with children and adults alike. Initial details of the planned new issues throughout the year suggest that there will be an unprecedented 27 issues as well as 6 prestige booklets, commemorative sheets, "smilers" sheets, counter booklets, a separate programme of "Post & Go" and "Horizon" labels as well as a new series of postage due labels and temporary "Dr. Who" definitives. Other themes included in the programme are said to be British nature to commemorate the 50th anniversary of National Nature Week (see illustration), "Favourite Celebrities" in line with the new policy of featuring living individuals, "British ballroom dancing" to celebrate another television programme, "Strictly Come Dancing", Scottish universities to commemorate the 600th anniversary of St. Andrew's University, links with the countries of the Balkan area, marking the centenary of the signing of the Treaty Of London which ended the First Balkan War in 1913, British breeds of sheep which commemorates the 240th anniversary of the first release of sheep in New Zealand and, as well as the links with Europe series, probably to counterbalance the political implications of such a series, there will be an American anniversaries set which will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy and the 500th anniversary of the settlement of Florida, "where so many British families pass their vacations in the summer". Another set of note will be "The Honourable Gentleman" set which will feature notable parliamentarians including recent prime ministers such as Tony Blair and John Major and this coincides with the 410th birth anniversary of Sir Harbottle Grimstone who was member of parliament for Colchester and speaker of The House Of Commons after the English Civil War in the Convention Parliament of 1660 ( see illustration). All the details are clearly not available in this apparent leak of information but I summarise what we appear to know so far:-

3 January 2013 "Dr. Who Year" 11 stamps, each featuring a different Doctor with a 12th depicting The Tardis (Dr. Who's time machine). There will also be a miniature sheet produced in the same way as the "Thunderbirds" sheet of 2011 giving a 3D effect of The Tardis and 3 monsters - a Dalek (as featured on the 1999 Millenium stamp - see illustration), a Cyberman and an Ice Warrior. There will also be a 4 pane "Prestige Booklet" which will include 1 pane of the new temporary "Dr Who" definitives (details not yet available) and a "smilers" sheet depicting various villains and monsters which have appeared in the programme.
3 January 2013 "Dr. Who Year" 4 "Temporary" definitives.
10 January 2013 "Links With Europe" - European music composers' anniversaries - including 1000th anniversary of the birth of Hermann of Reichenau, birth bicentenary of Giuseppe Verdi, birth bicentenary of Richard Wagner, 150th birth anniversary of Mieczyslaw Soltys, birth bicentenary of Stephen Istvan Heller and 150th birth anniversary of Ernesto Nazareth (12 stamps in total).
17 January 2013 Scottish Universities - 6 stamps & 2 miniature sheets & 1 prestige booklet.
24 January 2013 "Smilers" sheet featuring British coastal scenery.
7 February 2013 "Dr. Who Year" 2 sheets each of 16 stamps depicting the Doctor's companions.
28 February 2013 "The Honourable Gentleman" 6 stamps depicting former speakers of The House Of Commons and a miniature sheet of 4 stamps depicting and honouring recent prime ministers. An accompanying "Smilers"sheet depicts notable parliamentarians of the 20th century.
14 March 2013 "Links With Europe" European capitals - a sheet of 30 stamps depicting views of the the capitals of the member states of The European Union. This issue is the 2013 contribution to the Europa theme stamps.
21 March 2013 British Music - Birth centenary of Benjamin Britten & 450th birth anniversary of Giles Farnaby (10 stamps and 1 prestige booklet and 1 "Smilers" sheet).
28 March 2013 British breeds of sheep - 10 stamps.
4 April 2013 Favourite British Celebrities of 2012 (4 different strips of 5 se-tenant stamps, each featuring a different celebrity).
8 April 2013 Favourite celebrities & music - AC/DC 40th anniversary World Tour 6 stamps and a souvenir sheet.
11 April 2013 Children's Favourites, "Dr. Who Year" - "Behind The Sofa" moments (most frightening moments in the Dr. Who television programme) 10 stamps.
18 April 2013 "Dr. Who Year" - 3 Business sheets illustrating scenes from the television programme.
18 April 2013 "Remembering the London Olympics" 1 Business sheet recalling further memorable moments from the 2012 Olympic games.
25 April 2013 "Man's Best Friend" 20 stamps featuring the 20 most popular breeds of dog in Britain. A prestige booklet accompanies the issue.
25 April 2013 Postage Due labels - 22 values ranging from 1p to £25.
29 April 2013 Royal Children - 10 stamps featuring the younger members of the Royal Family.
29 April 2013 Classic Locomotives - 1 miniature sheet of 4 stamps in the continuing series.
10 May 2013 "Australia 2013" International Philatelic Exhibition, Melbourne - 2 "Smilers" sheets.
15 May 2013 50th anniversary of National Nature Week - 25 stamps depicting the rarest birds, mammals and wild flowers of The United Kingdom.
21 May 2013 "Links with Europe" - The Balkans, Centenary of The Treaty Of London (10 stamps & 1 miniature sheet which depicts a map of the Balkan area.
18 June 2013 "Links with Europe" The Nobel Peace Prize - European winners commemorating the centenary of the award of the prize to the Belgian, Henri Lafontaine (6 stamps).
2 July 2013 50th anniversary of National Nature Week (II) - a further 25 stamps depicting the rarest amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects of The United Kingdom.
16 July 2013 50th anniversary of the return home of the inhabitants of Tristan Da Cunha following the volcano which forced them to evacuate the island (5 stamps and 1 miniature sheet).
16 July 2013 British Islands - 1 "Smilers" sheet depicting British islands around the world including Tristan da Cunha.
13 August 2013. British medicine - advances in medicine discovered in The United Kingdom (6 stamps & 1 miniature sheet).
8 September 2013. "Links with Europe" - "Great art of European Galleries" 20 stamps and 1 "Smilers" sheet.
22 September 2013 "Links With Europe" - "Great art of European Galleries (II)" a further 20 stamps and 1 more "Smilers" sheet.
6 November 2013 "Ties to The United States" - US anniversaries including the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President JF Kennedy - 6 stamps, 1 miniature sheet and 1 prestige booklet.
20 November 2013 "Dr. Who Year" - 50th anniversary of Dr. Who. (20 stamps, 1 miniature sheet, 1 prestige booklet, 1 "Smilers" sheet and 1 set of "Post & Go" labels.
24 November 2013 Christmas - scenes from "Dr. Who" Christmas specials (7 stamps, 2 counter booklets, 1 miniature sheet and 2 "Smilers" sheets.
27 November 2013 "Strictly Come Dancing" - British ballroom dancing (12 stamps, 1 miniature sheet, 1 "Smilers" sheet).

The Post & Go and Horizon label programme do not feature on the above list. All I can say is, if this "leak" is correct, I shall need to take out a mortgage to buy this enthusiastic outpouring.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Jersey: The Deluge Continues in 2012.

Having achieved 21st place in the 2010 list of the number of stamps issued by Commonwealth territories and in 2011 having released a remarkable 17 sets of stamps (78 stamps, 7 miniature sheets and a £14.22p "prestige booklet"), Jersey has now proudly announced that 2012 will see the island (population 91,533) issue a total of 14 sets of stamps with at least 7 miniature sheets and an inevitable prestige booklet. Issues include 2 sets to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, one being a very sombre miniature sheet containing 2 x £2 stamps, one featuring a photograph of the Queen and the other her father, King George VI, and issued on 6 February, the actual anniversary date of the king's death and the queen's succession. As well as the £4 miniature sheet, stamp collectors will also have the opportunity to part with a further £8 as the stamps will also be sold in sheetlets of four (two of each design). Ching! - the joyous sound of cash registers. Not satisfied with two royal issues, Jersey will also provide us with 4 stamps commemorating the 30th birthday of The Duke Of Cambridge and "depicting Prince William and other key members of the Royal Family", presumably if you are not depicted on this set of stamps, then you are not a "key member" of the family so there will probably be a few princes, princesses, dukes and duchesses around who will be miffed to find that they are not considered "key". Oh, the difficulties of devising a stamp new issue policy.

Jersey says it will also issue stamps on the subject of Europa (Visit Jersey), aviation (again), the sinking of The Titanic (what that has to do with the island of Jersey remains to be seen), birdlife (again), trees (again), "Jersey Moments" (your guess is as good as mine), butterflies (again), Jambo The Gorilla, coastal towers (again), "the 100th birthday of Charles Dickens" ( I think they mean 200th anniversary but after all, why be accurate as long as you can make lots of money from the stamps?) and "frosts and nature" mmm, thrilling. The one good thing that can be said about Jersey stamps is that, unlike The Isle Of Man, many of Jersey's stamps at least depict original art by artists who specialise in the subjects that they depict and do not mostly show photographs which have been vaguely altered on a computer to fit in a little bit of text. But we must ask ourselves, when will it all end? When will the golden goose drop dead at the feet of these greedy postal administrations and agencies? Meanwhile, the deluge of stamp issues from Jersey continues for another year.

Thursday 24 November 2011

More Chinese Stamp Productions For Africa:- Cameroun

The governments of The Chinese People's Republic have always recognised the role of postage stamps in presentation of the image of the state and in publicising its friendly links with other countries. In recent years many countries have had stamps donated to them by the Chinese which have often marked anniversaries of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the state in question and, as recorded in a recent blog, the new country of South Sudan was presented by China with a set of three stamps which fulfilled the role of being South Sudan's first stamps; the stamps were produced in China in quantities of 100,000. Other Chinese adventures in producing stamps for a wide range of territories, including many Commonwealth members, occured when the 2008 Olympic Games were held in Beijing and, more recently, a number of sheetlets depicting peonies to coincide with an international stamp exhibition held in China. Some improbable territories were involved in the peony "omnibus" including The Isle Of Man Post Office although perhaps its participation is not so surprising given its woeful record of excessive stamp issues in the past few years - worthy (or, perhaps, unworthy) of mention is the dire set of stamps, just issued, which is linked to an inconsequential BBC television programme about motor cars which is presented by three immature middle aged men who often express boorish opinions and seem to be remarkably unworthy of commemoration by anything as prestigious as a postage stamp. What anyone in 100 years will make of The "Top Gear Challenge" stamps is anyone's guess, that's assuming that anyone will even know what a postage stamp was - it's unlikely that postage stamps will be in use then, I guess.

China's latest production for a foreign country is a set of 4 stamps and two miniature sheets produced for Campost, the post office of The Republic Of Cameroun/Cameroon, and commemorating the 40th anniversary of Sino-Camerounian co-operation. My correspondent tells me that the stamps should have been released in Cameroun on the actual anniversary of the contact between the two countries, 26 March 2011, but were delayed because of problems related to presenting the issue to the Camerounian president, Paul Biya, and eventually they were issued on 14 September 2011. They certainly look as though they were produced at The Beijing Printing House, having the typical perforation of perf. 12. I think that the Chinese are to be commended for understanding the useful role in international relations that postage stamps should still play and their productions are much more interesting than the rubbish that many Western countries produce for small territories who can not produce their own stamps. What possible relevance is Marilyn Monroe or The Three Stooges to a small West African republic? Yet these Western philatelic agencies continue to churn out the rubbish to make any profit they can out of the international reputations of these small states. At least the Chinese seem to be showing some respect for the territories they prepare stamps for and in doing so manage to boost the reputation and popularity of stamp collecting. Perhaps Royal Mail should consider emulating these partnership issues with other territories along the lines of the Chinese but I suppose they would not since the people who run the Royal mail stamp issuing policy seem only to be interested in immediate and short term financial profit and I guess that there is very little of that to be had in following the Chinese lead.

Monday 21 November 2011

Ghana's Rarest Recent Stamp? A Postcard From South Sudan.

Of the recent Ghana definitives, the value that has proved most difficult to obtain is the C500 value featuring the seashell, Typanotomus Fuscatus, which the Stanley Gibbons West Africa catalogue dates to July 2003. Up until a fortnight ago I had never seen this stamp being offered for sale and it remained a glaring blank spot in my collection. Interestingly, the now retired and much missed Commonwealth stamp new issue dealers, M & N Haworth, who were second to none in obtaining obscure new issues from around The Commonwealth, were never able to obtain this particular stamp to put on sale and, despite frequent searching, I had never seen it for sale on E Bay or Delcampe. And then, whilst examining the photograph of some kiloware being offered for sale by auction on E Bay, I noticed this insignificant-looking, little stamp among the items included in a particular lot and, fortunately, for a very modest sum, was able to secure the lot and at long last that nasty blank spot in my collection has been filled by what I believe to be the rarest of recent Ghanaian stamps (at least until the recent production of various surcharged stamps, a number of which will probably be very difficult to obtain). Astonishingly, a few days after I had made my successful bid, I found another kiloware packet for sale which also included this particular stamp, from a completely different seller in a different country but up to now these are the only 2 specimens of this particular stamp which I have ever seen for sale (and both of them in a used condition). Incidentally, the current Gibbons Commonwealth West Africa Catalogue, 2009 edition, prices the used stamp at a mere 20p and a mint example at 50p, all I can say is, try getting hold of a copy.
  Meanwhile, I have also been delighted to add a postcard to my collection which was sent from the new country of South Sudan to Egypt which bears a pair of the 3.5 SSp value of the first stamp issue which depicts the leader of the independence struggle, John Garang. The stamps are cancelled by a circular date stamp from Juba, the capital, on 5 September 2011 - about 6 weeks after the stamps were issued - and there is an Egyptian cancellation applied to the card which is dated 11 October 2011; apparently the item took a month to arrive at its destinatio which suggests that the South Sudan postal service may not yet be in its optimal working state.

 I find it an exciting item to add to my 1897 to 1955 collection of Sudan stamps which contains some of the most interesting designs ever issued in The British Empire including the very exotic and romantic-looking Camel postman design which first appeared in 1898 and the spectacularly beautiful General Gordon 50th death anniversary set of 1935.

Monday 14 November 2011

First available South Sudan set sells for $231

The first complete set of South Sudan stamps to be auctioned on E Bay was sold yesterday for an astonishing $231 (£145.45p). The first set of three stamps was prepared and donated to the new country, whose application to join The Commonwealth is currently under consideration, by the government of The People's Republic of China and, as mentioned in a previous blog, consisted of three stamps issued in the country's new currency, the South Sudan pound. The values are 1ssp, 2.5ssp and 3.5ssp and respectively feature the new national flag, the national coat of arms and an image of the president. They were probably issued on the 18 July 2011 when the new currency became available. In all, the Chinese authorities donated 100,000 copies of each value for use in South Sudan. I have not yet seen any professional dealer offering these stamps but one can not help but imagine, given the number of stamps issued, that they will eventually come on to the market to fill the requirements of collectors in sufficient numbers to ensure that they are sold at sensible new issue prices. The person who paid $231 may feel that their impatience to possess these stamps has resulted in them spending at least $200 more than they need have done.
 The fact that South Sudan will probably be admitted to membership of The Commonwealth in the next couple of years makes this first issue very interesting to Commonwealth stamps collectors since even though they were issued before membership began, it would be wholly impractical for a catalogue publisher - that is - Stanley Gibbons, to omit them from the Commonwealth catalogue and start at a later issue since that would leave this first issue, and any more that come along in the next couple of years, floating around in a catalogue limbo. Thus collectors would be wise to buy a set of these stamps when they become available at sensible prices (not £145 however).
  The international recognition of South Sudan contrasts sharply with the international community's reluctance to recognise Somaliland which at least had the status of being a separate independent state (albeit for 4 days) in 1960 before it joined the former Italian Somaliland as part of The Somali Republic. Somaliland remains the one de facto independent country in the world to have not operated a postal service since it reasserted its independence in the 1990's and therefore not to have issued any postage stamps although, as described in a previous blog, a large number of bogus stamps have been released with the country's name on them. Perhaps the Chinese could prepare a stamp issue for Somaliland and help them to establish a postal service. That would be interesting.