Tuesday 31 July 2012

India, Sri Lanka & Canada At The Olympic Games.

Some of the major Commonwealth countries have released their stamps to commemorate the London Olympic Games. India issued a set of 4 se-tenant stamps and a miniature sheet on 25 July 2012 which depict some of the sports which are featured less commonly on Olympic Games stamps:- volleyball, rowing, windsurfing and badminton.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka's set of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet was issued on 23 July 2012 and each stamp shows a sport alongside a depiction of Big Ben with a picture of Tower Bridge in the margin of the miniature sheet.

Canada issued a single self-adhesive stamp which depicted rowing presented in a booklet of 10 and issued on 27 June 2012.

Two days later the Canadian Post office issued 8 self-adhesive stamps and a gummed miniature sheet which combined all 8 stamps to commemorate the centenary of the Grey Cup. The Grey Cup is the championship game of the Canadian Football League and the trophy awarded at the game was commissioned by the 4th Earl Grey, the then Governor General. The trophy was first won by The University of Toronto Varsity Blues and the defending champions are the BC Lions who won the trophy for the 6th time in 2011. Their logo is depicted on the first stamp of the sheetlet.                           

Monday 30 July 2012

Australia First Off The Blocks With Gold Medallist Stamp.

While Royal Mail has so far been frustrated in its hopes of cashing in financially from the success of British athletes at the London Olympic Games simply because no member of Team GB has yet won a gold medal, the cash tills have started ringing for Australia Post as they have been able to issue their first gold medallist stamp after 4 Australian women won gold medals for the 4 x 100 metres freestyle swimming relay on Saturday 28 July. The stamp was printed in sheetlets of 10 and only made available in that form (a cost of $6.00 rather than 60c!). The sheets were issued on Sunday 29 July and feature the four members of the relay team - Alicia Coutts, Cate Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger - and the stamps are in the same format as the gold medal winner stamps which were issued during the Sydney and Beijing Olympic Games. In the philatelic gold medal table that's Australia $6, Great Britain £0. Perhaps today (Monday) will provide Royal Mail with its first opportunity to start to milk the stamp collector cash-cow or will it again be a case of Australia getting the cream?
Australia's second stamp issue for the London Olympics, 3 gummed stamps from ordinary sheets and a booklet of 5 x $1.60 self-adhesive stamps, was issued on 17 July 2012 and is illustrated above. They were designed by Johnathan Chang and printed in lithography by McKellar Renown.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Isle Of Man's Olympic Philatelic Hubris.

After the brilliance of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, British hopes of early medal glory were dashed when Mark Cavendish of The Isle Of Man failed to win a medal in the cycling road race. In fact Britain ended the first day without a single medal. Philatelists benefitted because it meant that a whole day went by without them having to buy a "Gold Medal" winners miniature sheet (£3.60p saved) and interestingly it meant that the 500+ post offices throughout the country that had been designated for sale of these miniature sheets did not have to open on the first Sunday of the Games in order to sell the items. The Isle Of Man Post Office, always keen to find ways of milking money from stamp collectors, perhaps rather prematurely had issued 7 stamps and a gigantic sheetlet on 19 June 2012 to commemorate Cavendish. He has achieved a great deal in competitive cycling and doubtless deserved the honour but the timing of the issue was unfortunate given his failure just 6 weeks later to win a medal at the Olympic Games. A case of philatelic hubris, I think, leading to inevitable failure.

The Isle Of Man Post Office has a track record in commemorating living individuals to make money from contemporary events - the most obvious case is that of the set of 6 stamps and a miniature sheet which were issued on 15 January 2009 which noted the Formula 1 motor racing victories of Lewis Hamilton who has no connection with the island apart from the fact that he moved to Switzerland from Britain, partly to avoid paying British taxes and The Isle Of Man likewise provides a haven for those who do not wish to pay their fair share of taxes. Anyway, it was not long after the issue of these stamps that Hamilton was disqualified from the Australian Grand Prix in 2009 having given "misleading evidence" about his actions during the race at a post-race stewards's hearing. It raised the question of the wisdom of issuing stamps which commemorate living persons who may in the future behave in a shameful way, as in Hamilton's case, or may not be as successful as they are expected to be, as in Cavendish's case. 

Royal Mail issued a miniature sheet on the day of the Opening Ceremony of the Games, 27 July. It is an excellent item, cleverly combining 4 different sports with iconic views of London. 

I was fortunate enough to be one of the spectators at the Opening Ceremony and found it to be a fantastic and highly memorable evening. I loved the opening segments which saw England's "green and pleasant land" transformed by the industrial revolution into a near-nightmare scene of factory chimneys belching smoke and "dark, satanic mills" as the people left the gentle countryside to make their fortune in the burgeoning cities such as Birmingham and Manchester where the country's wealth was generated which brought us to the modern Britain. It was a wonderful overview of Britain's social history of the past 300 years.

From "Green and pleasant land" to "Satanic mills"

The two stamps depicted above beautifully echo the theme of the Opening Ceremony and are both from the 1999 Millenium set (one of 4 stamps issued on 7 September 1999 entitled the "Farmer's Tale" and one issued on 12 January 1999 entitled "The Inventor's Tale"). Stamps can never fully invoke the real drama of the Opening Ceremony, their small size can hardly give the impression of the size of the stadium, the sheer spectacle, the noise - I found the moment when hundreds of drummers appeared banging and shouting to introduce the Industrial Revolution to be astonishing and thrilling, the heat from the huge fires as the foundries "forged" the 5 Olympic rings so spectacularly and of course the wonderful moments of comedy when Mr. Bean did his best to ruin the performance of the theme from "Chariots Of Fire" and, most memorable of all, the appearance of Queen Elizabeth herself in a scene with James Bond.
The Queen meets James Bond.
Royal Mail will issue a miniature sheet after the Games to commemorate the most notable memories from the Games. I can not imagine how they will decide what to include in the set since the Opening Ceremony alone had enough great memories for a dozen miniature sheets.

A further 12 issues have been produced with the name of The Solomon Islands printed on the stamps and miniature sheets and these include a sheetlet of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet and an item which combines the sheetlet and miniature sheet which commemorates "London 2012" and depicting strange portrayals of various sports. The implication of these items is that they commemorate the London Olympic Games but they avoid including the words "Olympic Games" or any relevant logos in their designs so that they escape the need to pay any fees for the use of such design features.

The other sets produced with the above "issue" are "owls":-

reef fish, orchids, maritime history, the Guadalcanal campaign of World War II, dolphins, reptiles and amphibians of The Solomon Islands, dinosaurs, butterflies of The Solomon Islands, birds of The Solomon Islands and "Royal Charity". All sets are constituted of a sheetlet of 4 stamps, a miniature sheet and a sheetlet which combines both of the former (like the London 2012 issue) and are said to have been issued on 5 June 2012 although whether that means that they were issued at post offices in The Solomon Islands themselves remains unknown.

Thursday 26 July 2012

The Liberation Of Libya. Edward XIII Stamps Issued.

Libya was divided into Italian Cyrenaica and Italian Tripolitania in 1927. In 1934, the Italian colonial government established the colony of Libya from the 3 elements of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan and resistance to the Italians was led by Idris al-Mahdi as-Senussi, the Emir of Cyrenaica up to World War II. By 1943, the Allies had occupied Libya and Great Britain administered Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and France administered Fezzan. The British used stamps in both Cyrenaica and Tripolitania from 1943 which were contemporary British definitives overprinted "M.E.F." (Middle East Forces). After the end of World War II, the British Military Administration introduced contemporary British definitives overprinted "B.M.A. TRIPOLITANIA" and surcharged in a currency - the Military Administration lira - which was abbreviated to "M.A.L.".  Thirteen values were produced in the format as shown below:-

When a civilian administration was established, the format of the overprint was altered to "B.A. TRIPOLITANIA". The 13 values of the set were issued on 6 February 1950 and 8 further stamps were issued on 3 May 1951with the overprint to the stamps which were then in new colours.

The MEF overprints were used in Cyrenaica until 16 January 1950 when a set of 13 stamps was issued which featured a "mounted warrior", as Gibbons Stamp catalogue puts it. The issued coincided with the recognition by the British government of Idris al-Mardi as-Senussi as Emir of Cyrenaica. The stamps were printed in intaglio by Waterlow and were in the currency of the Egyptian pound.

On 24 December 1951, Idris became the monarch of The United Kingdom of Libya as King Idris I and ruled the country until he was deposed in a military coup led by Muammar Gaddafi who then became ruler and changed the country's name to the "Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahariya in 1977.

King Idris I
Gaddafi became a monstrous tyrant but it was not until 17 February 2011 that a full-scale revolt against his dictatorship began. The opposition National Transitional Council was established on 27 February 2011 and over the space of the following months, the rebel forces gradually took over more and more of the country, aided most importantly by the British and French who enforced a no-fly zone over Libya which largely prevented Gaddafi's aircraft from attacking the rebel forces. By 22 August 2011, opposition forces had entered Tripoli, the capital,  and Gaddafi himself was captured and killed in his home town of Sirte on 20 October 2011. The "liberation" of Libya was celebrated on 23 October 2011 and the 5 stamps which are depicted at the head of this piece were issued. The designs show a map of Libya coloured as the re-adopted national flag, which originally had been flown during the reign of King Idris but which was eventually replaced by an all green flag by Gaddafi on 3 March 1977 when the Jamahariya was established. I have added these stamps to my collection as they reflect a highly important event in world history and make an interesting footnote to my collection of stamps of the British occupation of former Italian colonies in north Africa as well as recalling the continuing links between Britain and Libya as reflected in the British aid to the anti-Gaddafi forces.
Muammar al_Gaddafi
Changing the subject entirely, I have obtained from an ordinary new issue dealer, the sheetlet and miniature sheet produced for Guyana which claims to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the succession of King Edward XIII. This terrible and embarrassing design error was corrected to "Edward VIII" on the website of the New York-based philatelic agency which produces these stamps but clearly they must have distributed some of these monstrous errors to dealers. This terrible design error is an embarrassment to the Guyana Post Office which allows this agency to produce stamps with its country's proud name printed on them but given the constant flood of items produced by the agency, it is not surprising that such such fundamental errors of design occur without any one noticing or bothering to correct them. After all, there is still a profit to made no matter how poor the quality of the product produced.

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Tuesday 24 July 2012

China Produces More New South Sudan Stamps; Guyana, Bangladesh And Mozambique New Issues.

Two new South Sudan stamps are on offer from a Chinese seller on E Bay which are, once more, clearly produced in The People's Republic Of China, as were the two stamps produced for South Sudan last year. Perhaps these two are another gift from the Chinese government to South Sudan as last year's stamps were, perhaps compensating for the fact that a third value could not be issued because the designer had wrongly depicted the South Sudan coat of arms on the stamp.

The 3.5SSP value depicts the first and current president of South Sudan, Salve Kiir Mayardit, wearing the cowboy hat in which he is usually seen in public. President Kiir was born on 13 September 1951 and was the head of the SPLA, the military wing of the SPLM, which fought the Second Sudanese Civil War against the government of Khartoum. When the leader of the SPLM, John Garang (featured on one of the stamps of 2011), was killed in a helicopter crash on 30 July 2005, Kiir succeeded him as President of Southern Sudan and First Vice President of Sudan. When South Sudan became fully independent on 9 July 2011, President Kiir became the first head of state of the new country. 

The 1SSP value depicts the flags of The People's Republic Of China and South Sudan flying beside each other and cleverly emphasises the links between the 2 countries which lie behind the production of these stamps. With 12 hours to go the pair of stamps have reached a bid of about $62. It is interesting that, like the first set, these stamps are most easily obtainable from China but at a price. I expect that they will become more easily obtainable and hopefully at a lower price over the next few weeks so I would not rush to bid on these early specimens that come on the market. Currently, someone is making a fortune on them. Meanwhile, China has also produced a miniature sheet for Guyana to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the 2 countries. These are available at normal new issue prices through regular dealers.

Bangladesh released a number of items on 14 June 2012 to commemorate the "Indonesia 2012 World Stamp Championship and Exhibition". There is a miniature sheet of 4 stamps which depicts birds of Bangladesh,

a miniature sheet of 2 stamps which depict two endangered species of animals of Bangladesh,

6 interestingly octagonal-shaped stamps in another miniature sheet which illustrates local birds' nests,

and a sheetlet of 12 stamps (4 sets of 4 different designs) which depict local butterflies:-

In my opinion Bangladesh new issues have generally been excellent in recent years and always worth adding to one's collection unlike those of Mozambique for which the Stamperija agency of Lithuania has added another 10 sets in sheetlet format with 10 accompanying miniature sheets, said to have been issued on 28 February 2012. Again, none of the stamps features a subject which has any relevance to Mozambique:- 70th birthday of Paul McCartney, British musician; 600th birth anniversary of Joan of Arc; 285th birth anniversary of Sir Isaac Newton, English scientist; 80th birth anniversary of Francois Truffaut, French film director; 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in The United States; 210th birth anniversary of Alexandre Dumas, French writer; 60th anniversary if the "disappearance" of Marilyn Monroe, US actress; 90th birth anniversary of Judy Garland, US actress; 35th death anniversary of Elvis Presley, US musical performer and 160th birth anniversary of Antoni Gaudi, Spanish architect. Needless to say, all the designs are as gaudy and lurid as we have come to expect from these producers of "stamps". Flag Counter

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Dominica AIDS Stamp and Tanzania Issues Made Clear.

Following on from the previous blog, I illustrate another stamp issued in 2011 to note the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS and HIV. This excellent stamp from Dominica which features two of the rare local bird, the sisserou parrot, which is the national bird and which appears on the national coat of arms, is designed to have local relevance and even includes the number of a local AIDS telephone information line. Dominica has greatly cut back on the number of stamp issues it is producing in the period of the last 18 months and the New York philatelic agents which Dominica has used for years do not seem to mention its new issues on its website. Certainly, Dominica has not produced an Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe stamps for a while - perhaps the little country has severed its contract with the company. Meanwhile Tanzania, another country which uses the same agents but not only allows stamps of no relevance to the country to be produced by those agents but also, separately, produces stamps often by local designers and with local themes, has set up a website offering issues of the last few years for sale and has finally clarified what issues have been made from 2004 to 2011.

I list here the issues of recent years which are identified on that site although I have not bothered to include those items produced by the philatelic agents on New York which have no relevance to Tanzania. 
2011:- 15 March: Flora and fauna of the Serengeti, 2 miniature sheets, 15 April: Grasshoppers of Tanzania, 4 stamps and 2 m.s., 22 April: Wonders of Zanzibar, 2 m.s., 16 May: Tourism Booklet or booklets (not clear on website) of self-adhesive stamps, 4 values - 500/-, 700/-, 800/- and 900/-, 25 August: Traditional methods of grain storage, 4 stamps and 2 m.s., 30 September: World Vision, 4 stamps, 9 December: 50th anniversary of the independence of Tanganyika, 4 stamps and 4 m.s./sheetlets.

Grasshoppers 2011

Flora and Fauna of the Serengeti 2011 
2010:- 18 January: 30th anniversary of the Pan-African Postal Union, 3 stamps and 1 m.s., 28 October: St. Jude School, 5 stamps and 1 m.s., 23 December: Jane Goodall commemoration, 6 stamps and 7 m.s.

2009:- 20 January: 15th anniversary of the Tanzania Postal Corporation, 2 stamps, 27 January: Visit of US President George Bush to Tanzania, 1 m.s., 30 June: Tanzanian butterflies, 4 stamps and 2 m.s., 31 July: Zanzibar attractions, 4 stamps and 2 m.s. 31 August: Wild animals of Tanzania, 11 stamps and 2 m.s., 30 December: Youth sports, 4 stamps and 2 m.s..

stamp from self-adhesive booklet, 2011
2008:- 30 January: Animals of Tanzania, 4 stamps and 2 m.s., 26 April: Spices of Zanzibar, 4 stamps and 2 m.s., 15 August: Tanzanian Marine Parks, 4 stamps and 2 m.s., 25 November: Botanical gardens, 4 stamps and 2 m.s..

The programme for 2012 is:- 15 February: Material culture, 26 April: Zanzaibar attractions (II), 30 July: Birds of Tanzania and 15 October: the Tanzania Colobus monkey (the last 2 issues are described as "philatelic issues", whatever that may mean - time will tell I suppose. Finally, there is some puzzlement on the Stampboards website at present about some Tanzanian stamps which are appearing fairly regularly which seem to commemorate the 1994 Football World Cup and which seemed to have been used on ordinary post around that time.

The stamps seem to have the appearance of locally designed stamps of that period but are notable for excruciating spelling mistakes on them. Up until recently, I have never seen anyone write about them and they are not listed in the standard catalogues. As I've shown in a recent blog, there is a lot that is not known about Tanzanian stamps of recent years and I think these stamps are almost certainly genuine but up until now, have just passed under the radar. It would be excellent if anyone who knows the definitive facts about these items would make a comment.