Friday 30 March 2012

Barbados' Diamond Jubilee Stamps

The diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II has been philatelically commemorated by the Barbados Post Office with an excellent set of four stamps and one miniature sheet which are much more successful than the stamps issued by some other Commonwealth countries since two or three of them depict scenes of the Queen in her realm of Barbados including visits to the Barbadian parliament in Bridgetown although perhaps one of the designs might have depicted her meeting the ordinary Barbadian people rather than politicians and members of the armed forces.
The remaining value not depicted here has a face value of $1.40 and depicts a photograph of the young Queen Elizabeth seated inside a carriage. This is an excellent issue with designs that link the Queen with the country that is issuing the stamps. If only more Commonwealth territories could come up with something as nicely designed and produced as this set as well being of such a reasonable face value so that the set is a true tribute to the Queen rather than a rip off of stamp collectors.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Tonga Commemorates The Diamond Jubilee.

On 6 March 2012 Tonga released one stamp and one miniature sheet to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The stamp is a $3.40c value and the miniature sheet has a face value of $6.00. The stamps feature a very dignified portrait of The Queen and pay a very pleasing tribute to the monarch.
The lower margin of the miniature sheet draws attention to The Most Illustrious Order Of Queen Salote Tupou III who attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. Those who witnessed the coronation on the first ever television broadcast of a British coronation fell in love with the Queen of Tonga as she insisted on travelling to the abbey in an open carriage with the roof pushed back despite the falling rain, so that people could see her. Traveling in the same carriage with her, and also enduring the rain, was one of the Malayan rulers, The Sultan of Perak, I think. Famously, Noel Coward was watching the coronation with a companion who asked him who was the rather diminuitive man who was sitting in the open carriage beside Queen Salote and he responded irreverently that the little man was "her lunch, dear, her lunch".
In 1977 Tonga commemorated Queen Elizabeth's silver jubilee with a set of 13 free-form self-adhesive stamps in three different designs produced by Walsall Security Printers. The five postage values depicted Queen Salote as she looked when she attended the coronation in 1953 and in the background is a picture of her in the open carriage. The five airmail values depicted a photograph of Queen Elizabeth with King Tafa'ahau Tupou IV, son and successor of Queen Salote, which was taken when Queen Elizabeth paid a state visit to Tonga. The same tremendously relaxed photograph was also used on a stamp issued on 22 May 1986 which commemorated Queen Elizabeth's sixtieth birthday along with two other values which featured King Tafa'Ahau and Queen Elizabeth in a se-tenant pair.
Tonga also commemorated the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 2002 with a miniature sheet of five stamps which was part of The CASCO omnibus series for the event.
Finally, we may also note that Tonga issued a miniature sheet on 29 May 1998 to commemorate Diana, Princess Of Wales which consisted of 4 values each depicting a different portrait of the Princess and also, on 22 May 2000 another miniature sheet was issued to commemorate the 100th birthday of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and this included two stamps, one featuring The Queen Mother and the other a portrait of Queen Salote. The issue coincided with the opening day of the "Stamp Show London 2000", the last great philatelic exhibition to have been held in Britain (I do not include the damp squib that was held in 2010).

Monday 26 March 2012

Wikipedia Claims Chinese Error Resulted In South Sudan Stamp Not Being Issued.

In an article added to Wikipedia on 23 March 2012 which is titled "Postage stamps and postal history of South Sudan" a contributor, Leo Van Der Velden, an ex-patriate Dutchman who records that he has lived in Sudan and South Sudan intermittently from 1986 and most recently from 2009 to 2011, has written that the 2.5 SSP value of the first stamp issue which had been produced in China and donated to the government of South Sudan as a gift from The People's Republic, was not actually issued in South Sudan because the stamp featured the coat of arms of (north) Sudan rather than those of the new republic. This would certainly explain why no-one has been able to obtain the three values of the announced set although the other two values featuring the new national flag and the former leader, John Garang, seem to be freely available now on the internet although prices are terribly high at about £20 - £25 for the pair. I have seen only two complete sets for sale on E Bay, and the latter was being sold from China itself and, as previously reported made over £200 in the auction; the buyer seems to have acquired an unissued stamp for that high price and that may be quite reasonable for someone interested in obtaining what is clearly a rare item even if it was never sold at a South Sudanese post office. However I do not think that the Wikipedia explanation for the non-release of the stamp is quite correct since the design does not depict the emblem of (north) Sudan. The illustration below depicts the design of the stamp as prepared in China and it features an African fish eagle looking to its left placed behind an African shield and spears.
As can be seen this is very similar to the arms of South Sudan (depicted below) except that the true arms show the eagle looking to its right.
By contrast the emblem of Sudan is nothing at all like that featured on the unissued stamp, featuring as it does, a secretary bird bearing a shield typical of the period in the nineteenth century when the whole of Sudan was ruled by the Mahdi. The emblem of Sudan was adopted as long ago as 1970.
Therefore, I suspect that the truth is not that the stamp was rejected because it showed the emblem of the north, rather it was because the position of the eagle on the arms, in particular the direction in which its head is turned, was incorrect though why that should be is a mystery. Perhaps it is the case that there was a last minute change to the arms themselves and that when the stamp was designed the position of the eagle's head was correct at the time. In all events, it now looks as though collectors do not need to chase after the third value unless they wish to include a rare unissued stamp in their collection.

Prehistoric Britain.

In recent years the two postal services which actually issue stamps in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Universal Mail United Kingdom and Royal Mail, have issued a number of interesting stamps which depict features of Britain's earliest history, or, pre-history. A species of man is thought to have been present in Britain as long ago as 800,000 BC as judged by the discovery of bones and flint tools in Norfolk and Suffolk. At that time Britain was linked by land to continental Europe with The English Channel existing only as a large river flowing westwards and fed by tributaries which were to later become the rivers Thames and Seine. Remains of Homo Heidelbergensis have been found at Boxgrove in Sussex and using hand axes these people hunted elephants, rhinoceroses and hippopotami, herding them over cliffs and into bogs to more easily trap them. The onset of the Ice Age rendered Britain uninhabitable but humans reappeared in Britain during a warmer phase from about 300,000 to 200,000 years ago. The earliest remains of neanderthal man in Britain date from around 230,000 BC but subsequently sea levels rose and separated Britain from Europe and human activity in Britain gradually diminished and there is no evidence for any human activity in the islands during the period from 180,000 to 60,000BC. Subsequently, from 60,000 to 40,000 BC Britain was grassland populated by mammoths, giant deer and horses, rhinoceroses and wolves, bears and cats such as the sabre-toothed tiger. On 21 March 2006 Royal Mail issued a set of 5 stamps depicting prehistoric mammals from that period and as well as the stamps illustrated below the designs depicted a rhinoceros and a cave bear.
Subsequently humans reappeared in Britain but there was another severe ice age with much of Britain covered in ice and again mostly uninhabitable which was at its most severe from 22,000 to 13,000 BC. After the disappearance of the ice for the last time, with Britain once more attached to the continent, men returned in increasing numbers, first as hunters and then, from around 4000 BC, as farmers. It is from this later neolithic period that the designs for the rest of the stamps issued by the postal services are taken. Universal Mail produced a booklet of 5 stamps in July 2011 for sale by Historic Scotland which, as well as featuring the Scottish flag on each stamp, also depicted aspects of the neolithic settlement in Orkney. From 3300 BC the inhabitants of the islands constructed remarkable buildings even taking the form of whole villages, such as Skara Brae.
The village consists of eight houses all linked by a stone-lined passage. The houses even include stone furniture such as a "dresser" on which the residents would have shown off their prize possessions. Other sites in neolithic Orkney depicted on the Universal Mail stamps are the enormous monument of the Ring of Brodgar which now consists of 22 raised stones. This monument was also depicted on a stamp issued by Royal Mail as part of a set of eight which was a joint issue with Australia and released on 21 April 2005.
Close to Skara Brae, at Maes Howe, is a large passage grave:-
There are a number of other astonishing constuctions from that period on Orkney but the Universal Mail stamps also illustrate other aspects of prehistoric life in Britain and one of the designs depicts the "Orkney Venus" which dates from about 5,000 years ago. It is a small figure, 41mm tall, and it is the earliest known example of the carving of a human face to have been made on a figure in The United Kingdom. It is thought to have been made by shaping a sea pebble. Experts are not yet sure if it was carved as a sacred object, a simple figurine or even a toy.
On the mainland in England, the greatest stone age monument to be built was, of course, Stonehenge in Wiltshire, which was built in phases starting about 5,000 years ago first as a circular ditch with a bank heaped up around the outer edge and with two entrance gaps and a circle of 56 wooden posts. Later the timber was replaced by enormous stones, the bluestones, weighing one and half tons each, and brought from southern Wales. Later these stones were moved to make way for the sarsen uprights, as much as 40 tons each in weight, and then in the final phase the bluestones were returned as a circle within that of the new stones. This entire construction was a remarkable feat and is justifiably depicted on two stamps:-
The Royal Mail stamp is part of the above mentioned joint issue with Australia and that by Universal Mail was issued in September 2009 in booklet no. UK0011 (dated 05/09) which contained five different stamps depicting scenes of south west England. The final stamp of the Universal Mail "Orkneys" booklet depicts the Broch of Gurness. Brochs are massive, hollow-walled stone towers and date from 600 BC onwards. Their role is not known. That at Gurness is 12 feet tall although it is thought to have been 3 times taller when it was first built. Items found inside the tower give evidence that the local inhabitants were trading with the Romans and, by then, having passed through the Bronze Age, and being firmly in the Iron Age, the British Isles were indeed of interest to the Roman Empire. Many useful commodities were to be found in the islands.
In 55 and 54BC, the Roman General, Julius Caesar landed in Britain and attempted unsuccessfully to commence an invasion of the islands. It was not until AD43 that the Romans successfully established themselves in Britain and began their conquest of a large part of the islands. The Emperor responsible for this was Claudius and he was depicted on one value of a set of 4 stamps issued by Royal Mail on 15 June 1993 to commemorate the 1950th anniversary of the beginning of the Roman occupation which would last for 350 years.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Will These Be The Rarest Diamond Jubilee Stamps?

Further countries have announced that they are releasing stamps to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II including three more of her "realms" - Antigua and Barbuda (4 stamps and a miniature sheet), Barbados (an excellent set of 4 stamps and one miniature sheet) and New Zealand which has not yet given the details of its issue but has published pictures which will be used in the designs of 2 of its stamps. Royal Mail also released a surprise issue (illustrated above) in the form of six "post and go" machine-printed stamps which were only available to those people who attended the Spring Stampex 2012 philatelic exhibition held at the Business Design Centre in Islington in London from 23rd to the 25th February. The stamps were printed by a Hytech machine. As these stamps were not available from any other source they must surely be the rarest of the stamps which have been, or will be, issued this year to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee and therefore are highly collectable for anyone forming a collection of issues which celebrate this historic occasion. Of course, with only 600 being produced, you might think of the Jersey real diamond miniature sheet as being another potential rarity but not surprisingly that item does not even get a mention in the catalogue listing which has been published in the latest (April) edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly - the sheet is as relevant to postage stamps collecting as a celebratory mug would be (and some might say that mugs have bought them). Still, everyone is entitled to spend their money on whatever they want but I do hope that post offices around The Commonwealth will use the Diamond Jubilee as an occasion to honour Queen Elizabeth rather than as an opportunity to exploit stamps collectors.

Friday 23 March 2012

Time Travel: Guyana To Commemorate The 75th Anniversary Of The Succession Of King Edward XIII - Yes Really!

There's usually something interesting to see on the monthly list of new issues produced by a New York based philatelic agency which among its outpourings of stamps issues there is usually some poorly researched design or item of such ridiculous irrelevance to the country whose name is placed on the stamps - for instance - a hot Caribbean island depicting Antarctic wildlife or an Indian Ocean coral island which barely rises above sea water issuing stamps to commemorate the Year Of Mountains (both of these have happened). Sometimes the design errors are funny but this month's is hilarious. The agency website is currently advertising a sheetlet of 3 stamps and 1 miniature sheet to be issued by Guyana which commemorate the 75th anniversary of the succession to the British throne of King Edward XIII - that's right, King Edward the Thirteenth (!). Presumably then this is either a set which is to be issued hundreds of years in the future and has travelled through time to be with us today or the designer can not tell the difference between the Roman numerals for five and ten. I suspect the latter since the picture of the monarch on the stamps looks remarkably like King Edward VIII, uncle of the present queen, who reigned for less than twelve months before abdicating to marry his mistress, the divorced Mrs. Simpson, who could never have been accepted as Queen of The United Kingdom. I wonder if these stamps will actually be issued with the current design error. I do hope so since it is a perfect illustration of how much cynicism is involved in the production of modern stamp issues so that those who do bring them to the market can not even be bothered to correctly incorporate something as basic as the correct Roman numerals on a stamp. As long as collectors are paying good money, why bother to give them a quality product? Actually, I might even be tempted to buy these items myself since they must represent one of the worst design errors in the history of philately. Sadly, they do not do much for the national reputation of Guyana which will forever be be known as the country that can't tell the difference between the numbers 8 and 13.
In response to the previous blog, a question was asked as to whether other stamps which incorporated holograms have been issued in the past. The answer is yes, and quite a lot. One such stamp that comes to mind is the 65p value of the set issued by the British post office on 2 October 2001 which commemorated the centenary of the Noble Prizes. The particular value was dedicated to the prize for physics and the hologram shows what I think must be an atom with electrons orbiting (if that's the right word) a nucleus. The hologram reproduces quite well on the scan included below.
This was one of the British post office's sillier sets since it set out to use a different printing method for each of the six values and we ended up with among other things a stamp, which if you rubbed it, gave off the smell of menthol (the prize for medicine (!) - how tentative is that connection?) and another stamp, the European rate value, "E", which was almost entirely white apart from a smear of green, and ostensibly depicted a dove (representing the peace prize) carrying an olive twig in its beak, the design being produced by embossing which really failed to make the design at all clear or understandable.
Sometimes you just wonder if there is anyone sane who is involved in modern stamp production. Maybe you can ask the same question about those who collect them!

Saturday 17 March 2012

The United States Invades Canada

Britain stood alone against a monstrous tyrant who had brought the whole of Europe under his power. Tens of thousands had died as a result of the dictator's ruthless efforts to control the continent. His forces were engaged in a bloody invasion of Russia. The United States stood aside in a neutral stance. It could not be long before Britain itself would fall under the power of the dictator. What year am I writing about? 1940 - when Britain stood alone against the monstrous Hitler and the Nazis? Well no, actually. 1812. When Napoleon had crushed Europe and only Great Britain stood against him and his forces of oppression, Bonaparte was marching on Moscow and the Americans were neutral and trying to continue trade with the French regime although the Royal Navy was blockading the French. The world was at a turning point and the Americans decided to fight Great Britain to resist the trade restrictions as well as seeing an opportunity to annex Canada and deal with the Native Americans whom the British were supporting in the face of American expansion into their territory. Thus began The War Of 1812 (which actually lasted until 1815). The Canadian Post Office has announced that it will issue a series of stamps to commemorate the events of the war which saw the British and the Canadians repel the Americans' attempts to invade and take over Canada. The successful outcome of the war gave Empire-oriented Canadians confidence and this led to a new sense of Canadian nationalism and this is the reason that the Canadian Post Office is making such a big philatelic occasion of the war. The first stamps in the series, a se-tenant pair, will be issued on 15 June 2012 and will depict one of the leading British commanders, Major General Isaac Brock, a Guernsey man (this will be a joint issue between Canada and Guernsey) and War Chief Tecumseh, a Shawnee, who had led an Ohio-Nations confederation which was trying to stop the Americans encroaching on First Nations lands. The American president, Madison, complained to the US Congress on 1 June 1812 about a list of grievances against Great Britain, including trade restrictions, and the Congress agreed to a declaration of war which Madison signed into law on 18 June 1812. This was the first, but not the last, time that The United States declared war on another country. On 12 July 1812 General William Hull led American troops in an invasion of Canada and occupied the town of Sandwich (now Windsor, Ontario). However, by August the force had retreated to Detroit and was captured by a force led by Brock and Tecumseh. The Americans lost control of Detroit and most of Michigan as a result. Several months later, the Americans launched a second invasion, this time on the Niagara Peninsula but were again defeated at the Battle of Queenston Heights but unfortunately General Brock was killed there. We will continue this account of the war in future blogs as the Canadian stamp programme progresses.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

The Diamond Jubilee

In a big year for stamps being issued by the countries of The Commonwealth, what with the Olympic Games, the Charles Dickens bicentenary and, in my opinion a rather strange event to commemorate - the centenary of the sinking of The Titanic - by far the most important commemorative issue by many of the territories will be the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II who has the title of Head Of The Commonwealth. She succeeded to the thrones of The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon and all their dependent territories on 6 February 1952 and her coronation was held on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey. She was born on 21 April 1926 and her succession at the age of 25 followed the death of her father, George VI, who had had an operation for lung cancer in September 1951. At the time of the king's death she was famously in Timbertops Hotel in Kenya as part of a Commonwealth tour which she was carrying out with Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh, her husband whom she had married on 20 November 1947. At present Elizabeth II is Queen of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts Nevis, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, The Solomon Islands and Tuvalu as well as the dependent territories of these states including The Falkland Islands, South Georgia and The South Sandwich Islands, The British Antarctic Territory, Gibraltar, St. Helena with Ascension Island and Tristan Da Cunha, The British Indian Ocean Territory, Bermuda, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Montserrat, The Pitcairn Islands, The Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, as well as the crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and The Isle Of Man. We may expect stamp issues from all of these territories to appear over the coming months although the recently elected prime minister of Jamaica has said that she wishes to turn the country into a republic and the Turks and Caicos islands have not issued any stamps for several years (surely this is too important an event for them to miss). We have already seen stamp issues from Royal Mail, Canada, Belize*, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Bermuda*, the Cook Islands*, The British Indian Ocean Territory*, St. Helena*, Gibraltar*, Saint Lucia*, The Isle Of Man*, Ascension*, Tristan Da Cunha*, Jersey and Guernsey. All the issues marked with * are part of a huge omnibus set designed by CASCO but not restricted only to those countries which it normally serves. Each country taking part in the omnibus is issuing 6 diamond-shaped stamps and 2 miniature sheets. Guernsey has issued 6 stamps and a miniature sheet, St. Vincent has released a surprisingly tasteful sheetlet of 3 stamps and 1 miniature sheet and Jersey has, exploitatively, produced 2 x £2 stamps in sheetlets of four with the same stamps produced as a miniature sheet as well as the same miniature sheet notoriously being issued with a tiny diamond stuck on it and sold for £125 plus VAT to British customers (face value £4!).
The Guernsey issue is of particular interest since one of the values depicts the Queen with the American President, Obama, no doubt to make this issue particularly of interest in The United States in the hope of boosting sales there. I think this must be the first case of an island of the British Isles featuring a living foreign head of state on one of its postage stamps (in fact I don't think that a dead former head of state of a foreign country has ever been depicted before). It is true that Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II have featured on miniature sheets from The Isle Of Man but always on valueless labels or borders, never on the stamps themselves. Queen Elizabeth's reign has already broken many records. Now that she has completed sixty years on the throne, she has become the second longest reigning English and British monarch (King George III had achieved 59 years 3 months and 5 days on the throne) but still has a little way to go to surpass Queen Victoria who reigned for 63 years 7 months and 3 days. Queen Elizabeth has already beaten Queen Victoria as the oldest reigning monarch - she will be 86 in April while Victoria only lived to the age of 81 years, 7 months and 29 days. Having also celebrated her diamond wedding anniversary as long ago as 2007, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have also achieved the longest ever royal marriage, their nearest rivals being King George III and Queen Charlotte who were married for 57 years 2 months and 10 days, King George surviving his wife for another fourteen and a half months after her death.
The Diamond Jubilee therefore should give us some quite memorable issues from the countries of which Elizabeth II is the queen and no doubt we will be able to add to them with stamps issued by other Commonwealth countries which honour the queen for her devoted service to The Commonwealth. The stamps really do commemorate a historic event and apart from the ridiculously exploitative items which may appear, and have already done so, are very collectable.

Monday 5 March 2012

Holograms On New Nigerian Stamps & £261 Paid For South Sudan Set.

In 2010 Nigeria issued nine stamps, including redrawn definitive values, with small holograms applied to them, presumably as security devices. I am not aware of any publicity put out by The Nigerian Post Office regarding this issue nor have I seen any dealers yet offering them for sale. The addition of a hologram is rather surprising since it would seem to be quite a sophisticated device to be included on Nigerian stamps as their appearance is usually rather primitive in nature and the printing by Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Limited who have printed most Nigerian stamps since 1968, often results in a poor quality finished product. Most of the nine stamps bear the inscription "2000 YEARS OF NIGERIAN (some say "NIG") ART". The nine values are:- N20, N30, 4xN50, N90, N100 and N120. The holograms appear to be in two formats - either round or rectangular. It is perhaps not too surprising that these stamps have not come on to the market yet since it often takes many months for new Nigerian issues to be available to dealers - I have not yet seen a stamp dealer's advertisement offering the 2009 "road safety" single stamp issue for sale. I have no doubt that these stamps will come along eventually and those who wish to buy them need only to be patient.
Meanwhile, on the subject of patience, only the second complete set of three of the first issue of stamps by South Sudan to be offered on E Bay was sold today and someone was so desperate to get them that they paid an astonishing US$415.10 (£267) to buy them. We must remember that 100,000 of each value of this set was printed and therefore there must surely be enough of the stamps around to meet everyone's collecting needs. However I do note that quite a number of the stamps have now been put up for sale on the internet and usually the offer is just for two of the values (the flag and president stamps). For some reason most sellers can not get hold of the coat of arms stamp to include it in the sale. It may be that that particular value has been set aside by the South Sudan Post Office for use on ordinary mail and in consequence not been put forward for philatelic sale. It is also worth noting that the seller of the second complete set sold on E Bay was based in China where the stamps were printed and there may be an availability there as a result. I still suspect that complete sets of these stamps will eventually come on to the market at reasonable prices. It's all a matter of being patient.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Are Tonga's Philatelic Floodgates About To Open?

I was very pleased to discover that Tonga was about to start issuing stamps again after a break of several years (see blog of 3 February 2012) but I am now less happy to discover that the firm which has masterminded this relaunch is Philatelic Incorporated which has produced huge numbers of stamps for The Cook Islands and its subsidiary philatelic entities (Aitutaki, Penrhyn and, now, Rarotonga) over the last couple of years. Not only have a large number been issued but many of them have had very high face values. The latest exploits by this agency on behalf of The Cook Islands postal service include the issuing of 8 stamps and 2 miniature sheets to commemorate the 22nd World Scout Jamboree in ..... Sweden (so not very close to The Cook Islands then) and this has presented the opportunity to use up old unsold stock by overprinting a set of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet issued a couple of years ago in two versions - a gold overprint and a silver overprint (why?). The total face value of that little lot was $20 and all produced at minimal cost by Philatelic Incorporated. Then in January, 2 stamps were issued in sheetlets of four (in that form enticing collectors to buy 2 sets instead of one) by The Cook Islands to commemorate the beatification of Pope John Paul II (a generous tribute since only 16.8% of the country's population is Catholic or perhaps it's just that papal issues are usually big sellers). Oh, and by the way, stamps of a similar nature were also issued for Penrhyn and Aitutaki making 6 different stamps in all or you could buy 12 if you bought the sheetlets. Remarkable restraint was shown by them not issuing a set for Rarotonga, or maybe that is to follow. The stamps show portraits of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and appear to be by the stamp artist Derek Miller whose portraits of the popes are much better than the ones he produced last year of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to commemorate their wedding.
Gold & silver overprints on the same stamp.
So, does the same stamp issuing fate await Tonga and will the new issue floodgates open up from the country? Signs are not good. The agency took over in November 2011 and seemed to think that an emergency Christmas issue was necessary with two stamps being produced for Tonga and two more for Niuafo'ou although they were not issued until 24 December which was not very practical for the Tongan public to be able to use them on their Christmas mail. In January the agency rushed out a new definitive set for Tonga depicting native birds, 12 stamps in all with values up to $10 although if previous form with The Cook Islands is anything to go by, much higher face values will follow and the whole lot will be overprinted, perhaps in gold and silver(!), for use on official mail, which means for use on mail from the Tonga Philatelic Bureau. Niuafo'ou, meanwhile, has had 6 stamps and 2 miniature sheets produced for it which depict whales. All the designs are simple photographs manipulated with a computer to add the country name and value so we can be sure that not a lot of money was spent at the design stage. It is interesting to note that although the agency now represents the post offices of two countries it is now producing stamps for six philatelic entities. Let us hope they do not take over the issues of Tuvalu or else we may find stamps being issued for all their individual islands as notoriously happened in the 1980's. I am now giving up collecting the new issues of Cook Islands and its appendices unless the issue is strictly directly relevant to the territory and I hope that I do not feel the same about the issues of Tonga in the next few months. Time will tell.
The new definitive set was not only issued in ordinary sheets but also as a miniature sheet, as illustrated above, so collectors are faced with a double-sized bill with this issue as happened with The Cook Islands and its associated entities. Is this really the way to go about things in these times of financial difficulty?

More New Zealand Personalised Stamps.

Apart from the Vietnam-related stamp mentioned in the previous blog a wide range of subjects make up the 2010 and 2011 "personalised" stamps collections from New Zealand. No explanation of the designs is supplied by New Zealand Post and, as previously mentioned, the collections are made up of sheetlets of gummed or self-adhesive stamps as well as two or three booklets of self-adhesive stamps. The 2010 collection comprises 2 self-adhesive sheetlets, each of 20 different stamps, one sheetlet of 20 gummed stamps and a se-tenant pair of two additional self-adhesive stamps. Additionally there are 2 booklets; one commemorates the 170th anniversary of the New Zealand Customs Service (10 stamps - 9 different designs) and the other celebrates Te Papa Museum in Wellington (10 self-adhesive stamps, 2 each of 5 different designs). The latter booklet is still on sale in the museum gift shop as I witnessed myself on a visit there a week ago. All the stamps of the 2010 collection are either 50c or 60c values. The 2011 collection comprises one sheetlet of 20 self-adhesive stamps and a partial sheet of 21 gummed stamps (4 rows of 5 stamps and one additional attached stamp. Additionally there are 2 self-adhesive booklets; one commemorates the 75th anniversary of Mercy Hospital in Dunedin (2 each of 5 different designs) and the other commemorates The Heart Foundation (10 stamps, 5 of 2 different values). All the stamps of the 2011 collection are 60c values. Presumably if you make the values up to the correct amount, these stamps are usable on international mail and by making them all available this way New Zealand Post has made these stamps fully eligible for full catalogue status and highly collectable. Interesting.
The Mercy Hospital booklet.
The Heart Foundation booklet and stamps.
A charming portrait of an unknown elderly couple, perhaps they were celebrating their golden or diamond wedding anniversary.
The Customs Service booklet and two of the stamps.
The 2011 self-adhesive sheetlet of 20 stamps.

Friday 2 March 2012

New Zealand Honours The Vietcong But Do They Know It?

The New Zealand Post Office has recently put on sale collections of the personalised stamps which were produced in 2010 and 2011 and presented them as large blocks of setenant designs, some self-adhesive and some gummed and one or two designs in booklets. All very confusing and making available to the general public designs which were previously personal to the individuals who had paid to have these stamps produced using their private pictures and illustrations. However, the stamps are of great interest to philatelists and questionably should be included in catalogues since the stamps have now become "freely available to the general public". However the New Zealand Post Office may have bitten off more than it can chew since one of the designs (illustrated above) appears to honour the Viet Cong against whom New Zealand fought a war from June 1964 to December 1972. It appears to me that the little old man on the design is actually Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the North Vietnamese, who brought an ignominious defeat on the Americans along with their allies which included the New Zealanders. Does New Zealand Post really think this is a suitable subject for stamps now put on sale to the public? Is this stamp an example of reconciliation? I suspect not. I think that this may be an embarrassment to New Zealand Post Office. I recommend buying these personalised stamps for their sheer interest value especially the Viet Cong design. I wonder if they will leave the design on sale when they realise that someone has pulled a fast one in getting them to produce the stamp. I will illustrate some of the less controversial designs in my next blog.