Monday 30 December 2013

346. Important Commonwealth Philatelic Events Of 2013.

  Another hard year of Commonwealth stamp collecting comes to an end with collectors' pockets a lot emptier than they otherwise would be if some postal administrations or philatelic agencies had proved less greedy and less cynical about exploiting their customers. What were the highlights of Commonwealth new issue collecting during 2013? For me they were (not all of them good):-

1 January - Zambia devalues its currency, the Kwacha, necessitating the issue of a large number of surcharged stamps over the following months.

28 February - Pope Benedict XVI abdicates leading to a number of issues commemorating his Pontificate from Commonwealth territories.

13 March - Election of Pope Francis resulting in even more Papacy-themed stamps from numerous Commonwealth territories. 

19 March - Bicentenary of the birth of David Livingstone. Although Royal Mail chose to ignore this important anniversary of this great Scottish explorer and missionary, belatedly issuing a "business sheet" consisting of "Smilers" stamps and attached labels, Zambia chose to commemorate Livingstone with a special miniature sheet.

26 March - Royal Mail issues 11 stamps, 1 miniature sheet, 1 "Smilers" sheet, 1 retail booklet and 1 "Prestige Booklet" to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Who (actual anniversary date being 23 November).

8 April - Death of former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, results in stamp issues from a number of Commonwealth territories but interestingly no commemoration of her life and achievements by Royal Mail.

3 May - Centenary of Indian Cinema celebrated by India Post issuing 50 stamps.

2 June - 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II results in the issue of commemorative stamps by many Commonwealth territories.

22 July - Birth of Prince George of Cambridge results in the issue of commemorative stamps by at least 38 Commonwealth philatelic entities.

25 September - First issue of stamps produced by Stamperija for Maldives -a total of 40 stamps and 10 miniature sheets. Many more soon follow.

1 October - First Pobjoy Stamps stamp issue of British Virgin Islands released. The first issue to appear from the territory since 29 April 2011 commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

2 October - The Gambia leaves The Commonwealth. Commonwealth stamp collectors heave a sigh of relief as they realise that they do not have to buy any more philatelic items from the country. The Gambia's leader, President Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen announced that The Gambia "would never be a party to any institution that represents an extension to colonialism" although only a few months before, on 3 April, his government had been quite happy to allow its foreign philatelic agents to release 8 stamps and 2 miniature sheets to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Head of State of the imperial power that had ruled The Gambia.

17 October - The Foreign And Commonwealth Office put the contract for Philatelic agents of British Antarctic Territory up for re-tendering.

14 November - Opening of the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka issues 2 stamps and 1 miniature sheet to commemorate the event. A number of Commonwealth leaders fail to attend the meeting in protest against Sri Lanka's Human Rights record.

22 November - 50th anniversary of the assassination of US President Kennedy. Numerous Commonwealth territories issued stamps to commemorate the anniversary.

23 November - 50th anniversary of Dr. Who (see above). Australia Post issued a pack containing 2 different sheetlets of greetings stamps with labels depicting 11 Doctor Whos and their enemies.

5 December - Much loved South African statesman, Nelson Mandela, dies. Many stamps will doubtless be issued by numerous Commonwealth territories over the next few months.

12 December - Kenya issues 100 stamps to commemorate its 50th anniversary of Independence.

15 December- Attempted coup in South Sudan, an applicant for Commonwealth membership, leads to fighting between the forces loyal to the President and former Vice President. What will be the philatelic consequences of this conflict? Up to now South Sudan has only issued a small number of stamps provided by The People's Republic Of China but if the conflict persists what will be the country's philatelic future?

Saturday 28 December 2013

345. Philatelic Items From Seychelles, Swaziland, And Norfolk Island.

   The excellent Seychelles Post Office appears to have issued no stamps during 2013 (Jersey, Guernsey, Isle Of Man, Gibraltar etc etc take note - it is possible to show restraint) but I came across a commemorative envelope which it released on 24 October 2013 which commemorates the 5th Indian Ocean Philatelic Meeting and Stamp Exhibition which was held between 24 and 26 October 2013. I do not normally collect commemorative covers but I rather like this item coming as it does from one of the most philatelically conservative countries in The Commonwealth and I think I may look out for it to see if anyone is offering it for sale:- 

  I have also heard from a contact in South Africa that another philatelically ultra-conservative Commonwealth country, Swaziland, has issued a set of stamps during 2013. The set titled "Towards 2020"  seems to have the theme of local development and features education, health services and sports. I have not yet seen the date of issue, any illustration or other details of the issue.
  I now include illustrations of some of the 6 stamps to be issued on 7 January 2014 by Jersey which depict local manor houses. They are very interesting and attractive stamps and unlike "The Year of The Horse" set of 6 stamps and 1 miniature sheet to be issued by Guernsey on the same day are completely relevant to the issuing territory.
  It is not easy to know how many of the inhabitants of Guernsey have an ethnic background which makes celebration of the Lunar New Year of relevance to the island because the Guernsey government cancelled the 2011 population census meaning that the ethnicity of the various local population groups  on the island is something of a mystery but I can not help but think that the size of the East Asian population in Guernsey is tiny and makes the issue of a Lunar New Year set completely unnecessary. This will be the first set of Guernsey stamps which I will not add to my collection because it seems to represent exploitation of its loyal collectors and I do not intend to be one of the victims. By releasing this issue the Guernsey Post Office has taken steps to put the country's philatelic reputation on the same level as Grenada, Guyana and Tonga.

  Norfolk Island issued a set of 6 stamps on 30 September 2013 which depicts local shoreline scenes. The set was designed by Mary Pavovich and lithographed by Southern Colour Print:-

  Norfolk Island also released a set of 4 stamps on 1 November 2013 to commemorate Christmas. This set was also designed by Mary Pavovich and lithographed by Southern Colour Print:-

  Norfolk Island has also issued a set of 4 stamps on 18 December 2013 which commemorates the holding of the Trans-Tasman FMX competition (details awaited).
  Articles in the Nigerian media in April 2013 claimed that  Nigeria was about to commemorate philatelically Agbani Darego, the Nigerian woman who was made Miss World in 2001. The former Beauty Queen released a photograph as an "Instagram" (a means of communication about which I am totally ignorant) on 6 April 2013 which showed a sheet of N50 stamps featuring a portrait of her. It was said that the stamps would be released a few days after Miss Darego's communication had appeared. I have not yet seen any other publicity about this stamp:-

Miss Darego's Instagram

 However Miss Darego appears to have been using previously issued stamps to publicise herself since 2 Nigerian stamps which were issued in 2006 had commemorated the former Beauty Queen and the N50 value looks exactly like the stamp which Miss Darego claimed  was to be released a few days after the appearance of her Instagram. It appears that the Nigerian press which publicised her recent announcement were ignorant about, or had forgotten about, the set of 2006. It's amazing how postage stamps are recognised by "celebrities" as a means of publicising themselves even though those who mainly collect stamps are now from a generation who really are less impressed by transient celebrity than younger generations appear to be.

The 2006 N50 stamp.

Friday 27 December 2013

344. Cayman Islands Issues Prince George Commemorative.

  Although the ordinary stamp collector might not know it because of lack of publicity from Cayman Islands' philatelic agents, the territory did issue a set of 4 stamps on 31 October 2013 to commemorate the birth of Prince George Of Cambridge. Issues to commemorate the baby's arrival as third in line to the British and numerous other countries' thrones have thus been made by a number of Commonwealth territories and I list them below:-

  Aitutaki Cook Islands (4 stamps in a sheetlet), Antigua And Barbuda (sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s.), Australia (1 gummed and 1 self-adhesive stamp); Canada (1 stamp and 1 m.s.), Cayman Islands (4 stamps), Cook Islands (sheetlet of 7 stamps), Gibraltar (1 stamp), Grenada (sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s.), Grenada Grenadines (sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s.), Guernsey (1 m.s.), Isle Of Man (2 stamps), Montserrat (4 stamps and 1 m.s.), Nevis (sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s.), New Zealand (4 stamps), Papua New Guinea (4 stamps, 1 sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 m.s.), Penrhyn Northern Cook Islands (sheetlet of 4 stamps), Pitcairn Islands (1 m.s.), St.Helena  (4 stamps), St. Kitts (sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s.), St. Vincent And The Grenadines (sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s.), Turks And Caicos Islands (sheetlet of 3 stamps and 1 m.s.), Tuvalu (sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s.).
  All the above issues are justified since Prince George's great grandmother is Queen of all the territories and, theoretically at least, he too should be the head of state of those countries one day. Less understandable is the need of some Commonwealth countries which have decided to put aside the House Of Windsor as the source of their Heads of State but who have felt it necessary to also commemorate the prince's birth since the birth really has no significance to them other than as an easy source of philatelic revenue. Such cynical issues have appeared from Dominica, Fiji, The Gambia (prior to it giving up membership of The Commonwealth), Ghana, Guyana, Malaysia, Maldives, Niuafo'ou Tonga, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Tonga, Uganda, Vanuatu and Zambia.

  So far then, it appears to me that 38 Commonwealth philatelic entities have issued philatelic items to commemorate Prince George's birth - I suspect that no other person's birth has ever before been commemorated by so many territories by the issue of stamps. Quite an expensive omnibus series for collectors of Commonwealth stamps, I'm afraid. 
  Ironic though, isn't it, that so far the British postal service, Royal Mail, has failed to issue a "Royal Baby" commemorative when the organisation appears to care little about what subjects are used for a stamp issue (an example is next month's ludicrous "Children's TV characters" issue)? It is also very surprising as I am sure that a Royal Baby issue would be very popular with the general public and sell very well and make lots of money for Royal Mail. I'm sure that those who are responsible for boosting Royal Mail's profits must be working on some way to make money out of Prince George stamps - perhaps Royal Mail will follow Australia Post's idea of issuing a "Royal Christening" commemorative (but perhaps the celebration of a religious ceremony of a particular faith is now viewed as politically incorrect and offensive to those of other faiths and hence too controversial for Royal Mail to deal with). Or perhaps Royal Mail is waiting to issue stamps to commemorate Prince George's first birthday with a stamp issue. We will see but where there's money to be made Royal Mail will find a way to get at it. And there's definitely money to be made from exploitation of the royal birth. Thirty eight postal entities can not be wrong!

  One final thought comes to mind about the royal baby stamps: so many of them are alike that with the country name removed from the design the collector would have no idea which country had issued which particular stamp. Almost all of them are merely photographs with a pale blue edging to the design (blue for a boy). The people responsible for the designs have shown minimal original thought in producing the designs (except of course in the case of the recently mentioned issue from Turks And Caicos Islands which is, frankly, just bizarre). And if they must insist on putting cliched blue edging on their designs could they not have used Windsor blue?

343. Australia's Royal Christening Issue.

  Australia Post will release an issue of stamps on 7 January 2014 to commemorate the Christening of Prince George of Cambridge. The issue consists of 2 gummed stamps, 1 miniature sheet and 2 self-adhesive stamps (the 60c from a booklet of 10 and the $2.60 from a sheetlet of 5 stamps). The issue was designed by Jo Mure and lithographed by McKellar Renown:-

  Australia Post will also release a second issue on 7 January 2014 to commemorate the Chinese New Year; the issue is additionally inscribed "Christmas Island". The issue consists of a large number of items - 2 gummed stamps, 1 miniature sheet containing the 2 stamps and a second "zodiac" miniature sheet which contains 12 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet, as depicted below. The issue was designed by Sonia Young and lithographed by McKellar Renown:-

  Royal Mail, the main British postal service, will issue 12 different self-adhesive stamps on 7 January 2014 which depict characters from British children's television programmes. The stamps were designed by Interabang and printed in photogravure by International Security Printers. The total face value of the basic stamps is an extraordinary £7.20:-

  I mentioned the latest issues produced on behalf of Solomon Islands in Blog 337 and now illustrate the enormous 25 value definitive set which was issued on 10 September 2013 It's hard to know which is worse - the above nonsense issued by Royal Mail for no obvious reason (12 stamps) or the poor art work used on the 25 stamps which probably will meet postal needs in The Solomons:-

  Below, I also illustrate a couple of sets and miniature sheets produced on behalf of Solomons as also mentioned in Blog 337. One commemorates the election of Pope Francis and the other commemorates the late Baroness Thatcher, former British prime minister:-

Monday 23 December 2013

342. More Zambian Surcharges And Trinidad And Tobago Issues Seed Stamp.

  Following on from Blog 318, two more old stamps surcharged with the new devalued currency have been issued by Zambia. Both of them are stamps which had previously been surcharged. This means that there are now13 such surcharged stamps in existence which have been issued since the currency was devalued plus all the values of the 2012 definitive series which have had their face values similarly altered:-

  It's amazing where you can find out information about new stamp issues when information from philatelic sources is so scarce or non-existent - but I had not previously considered that I might get information about a new stamp issue from the website of a Ministry of Agriculture. But in the absence of any information on the Trinidad And Trinidad Post Office website I stumbled across news of a new Trinidad And Tobago stamp issue on the website of the country's Ministry Of Agriculture - it tells us that 5 stamps and 1 miniature sheet (I think) were released on 4 December 2013 on the subject of the sorrel plant and one or more of the stamps appears to have real sorrel seeds incorporated in the design.
  A publicity photograph shows local dignitaries being presented with what looks like a clock incorporating the miniature sheet sheet design. The miniature sheet contains 5 different stamps and a large picture of the sheet displayed on a board in the background was included in the report and gives us an idea of what an attractive issue it is:-

  No doubt information about the issue, particularly if it has the gimmick of a seed incorporated in the stamps, will eventually become available in the philatelic press.
  Meanwhile, Tuvalu, has given details of yet another stamp issue for 2013; this sheetlet of 2 x 2 different stamps plus 1 miniature sheet is due for release on 23 December 2013. This issue commemorates the late Pope John Paul II and is the second papal-themed issue of the year which seems excessive for a country where only about 100 inhabitants are Roman Catholics:-

  Malaysia has released the following issues recently:-
22 October 2013 - Children with disabilities - 3 stamps, designed by Kakiriatif from paintings by children and lithographed by Chan Wanish Security Printers, Thailand:-

28 October 2013 - Rare fruit (4th issue) - 3 stamps designed by World Communications Network and lithographed by Malaysia Security Printers:-

23 November 2013 - Centenary of RHB Bank - 4 stamps designed by World Communications Network and lithographed by Chan Wanish Sec Ptrs:-

29 November 2013 - Heritage of the Baba and Nyonya - 4 stamps (2 se-tenant pairs) designed by Reign Associates and lithographed by Cartor:-

1 value from a se-tenant pair

1 value from a se-tenant pair

23 December 2013 - Endangered species of big cats - 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet designed by Hazel Design and lithographed by Malaysia Security printers:-