Monday 29 April 2013

233. Malta, Gibraltar And Akrotiri And Dhekelia.

Malta; The Shipwreck of St. Paul (see below).

Malta has issued some interesting stamps for the beginning of 2013. A miniature sheet was issued on 15 February which commemorated the 900th anniversary of the Papal Bull given by Pope Paschal II in 1113 which confirmed the Blessed Gerard Thorn as the founder of the Knights Hospitaller which became the Knights of St. John. Blessed Gerard had founded the Knights in 1023 to care for sick, injured and poor pilgrims to the Holy Land and when Jerusalem had been conquered by the First Crusade in 1099 the Knights became a religious and military order under charter to protect the Holy Land. A painting of Blessed Gerard is featured on the E2.47 stamp contained in the miniature sheet:-

On 24 February 2013, a second miniature sheet was issued on the actual date of the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Italian baroque artist, Mattia Preti, who was known as Il Cavalier Calabrese, the Calabrian Knight. He was born in Taverna in Calabria in 1613 and was apprenticed to the "Caravaggist" artist, Giovanni Battista Caraciollo. After becoming a Knight of the Order of St. John, he visited Malta and was to live there for many subsequent years, carrying out a considerable amount of work in St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valetta, much of it depicting the life and martyrdom of St. John The Baptist. He died on 3 January 1699:-

Other recent issues sold by Malta Post are a Greetings stamp with attached label which was produced to coincide with Spring Stampex in London, attended by a representative of Malta Post. The date of issue was 24 February 2013:-

Malta also released the latest issue in its "Treasures" series on 25 March 2013 when a set of 3 stamps appeared which featured fountains of Malta. The stamps were designed by Cedric Galea Pirotta and, as were all the previous mentioned issues, printed in lithography by Printex, Malta:-

On 20 March 2013, Gibraltar issued a set of 4 stamps depicting RAF aircraft and a miniature sheet of 4 different stamps as the second issue in its RAF Squadrons series. They were designed by Stephen Perera and lithographed by Cartor:-

One of the 4 miniature sheet stamps.
I have recently obtained another cover to add to my small collection of items which relate to the British Overseas Territory of the Sovereign bases of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus. This item dates back to 1972 and is a first day cover of the British "General Anniversaries" set which was released on 26 April 1972. By modern standards it was a very modest issue and commemorated 3 very diverse anniversaries - the 50th anniversary of the discovery by Lord Caernarvon and Howard Carter, 2 British archaeologists, of the fabulous tomb of the Pharoah Tutankhamun in Egypt (3p), 150th anniversary of the Coastguard Service (7 and 1 half p) and the birth centenary of Ralph Vaughan Williams, British musical composer (9p). The stamps are cancelled by a circular date stamp, "FORCES POST OFFICE 124" and dated, as you would expect, "26 APR 72". The postmark apparently derives from Dhekelia:-

Finally, while we await news of a flood of issues from various Commonwealth countries to commemorate the succession of Pope Francis to The Pontificate, I look back at the stamp issues produced by Malta, one of the most devoutly Catholic countries, which have featured recent popes. The first is that which was issued on 15 April 2005 to commemorate the late Pope John Paul II:-

John Paul's successor, Benedict XVI, was featured on a miniature sheet issued on 17 April 2010 to commemorate the Pope's visit to Malta which was in connection with the 1950th anniversary of the shipwreck of St. Paul on Malta. A number of Maltese stamps have depicted St. Paul including the magnificent 10/- stamp issued on 6 March 1919 which was beautifully printed in black by intaglio and is depicted at the top of this blog. The design shows the saint standing on the Maltese shore, his right arm raised and the wreckage of his ship in the background.

Pope Benedict XVI issue, 2010.
The Maltese Post Office also issued an official postcard to accompany the miniature sheet and that depicted a portrait of Pope Benedict:-

Finally, worthy of mention in this context, is a pair of stamps which were issued by Malta on 28 May 2007 to commemorate Malta's most recent own saint, St. Gorg Preca, on the occasion of his canonisation:-

Saturday 27 April 2013

232. Dog To Be Next Dr. Who?

"Goodness Doctor, Your latest regeneration has certainly brought on quite a change in you. For a start you have become female and you look like a, er, dog, if you don't mind me sayimg so!". 

Complete sheet of stamps and personalised labels

One of the favourite characters of an earlier period of the BBC television programme, Dr.Who, was Doctor Who's robotic dog who went by the name of K9. So far, K9 has not been depicted on any of the stamps issued by Royal Mail in their extravagant issue which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the programme. However the personalised sheetlet which has been produced as part of the issue offers every dog owner the chance not only to make their dog a Dr Who companion but a "Future Dr Who" himself. This opportunity is available to cat owners, parents, proud grandparents, people who have secretly wanted to be Dr. Who themselves and anyone else with any particular reason to send out personalised stamps. Personalised stamps are ordered on line and a sheet of 10 Tardis stamps plus 10 personalised labels costs £9.99p, a sheet of 20 costs £18.25, 10 "International Europe" (68p ) sheet costs £13.90" and 10 "International Worldwide" (£1.10p) stamps cost £18.50p. Thus my newly bought sheet of 20 stamps proudly announces that Lucy Knight, my labrador, is a "Future Dr. Who", her mission in the year 2013 is doing what she does best (apart from eating) which, of course, is "retrieving".

Left hand part of sheet of 20.
This Dr. Who issue certainly is great fun even if it is proving to be remarkably expensive and although it is said to be popular with the mail-sending public, I have yet to see any genuine commercial mail coming through the post with any of the Dr. Who  stamps applied to it. 
 I have only just received a copy of the Sri Lanka peony stamp which, I believe, was issued on 10 March 2012:-

There are a number of new issues around at the moment on the subject of flora and natural history in general. Canada issued 2 stamps which depict magnolias on 4 March 2013 and these are available in 3 formats:- self-adhesive from booklets and coils and gummed in miniature sheet format:-

Bangladesh issued 8 stamps in a sheetlet on 13 January 2013 on the subject of migratory birds. They were designed by Enam Al Haque and lithographed by The State Printer at Gazipur:-

2 of the set of  "migratory birds" stamps.

Sheetlet of 8 stamps
Bangladesh also issued 1 stamp on 30 January 2013 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of SOS Children's Village in Bangladesh and a single stamp on 7 February 2013 to commemorate Audit Day. Both stamps were designed by Anowar Hossain and lithographed at Gazipur.
  Another attractive flower stamp was issued by Ireland on 21 March 2013 and depicted a daffodil to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Irish Cancer Society. It was designed by Red Dog Design and lithographed by Irish Security Printers. Ireland also released 2 self-adhesive "Greetings" stamps on 7 March 2013 and these were designed by Steve Simpson and lithographed by Irish Security Printers.

Returning to Royal Mail, I was pleased that although Royal Mail will install Hytech Post And Go stamp machines at several philatelic fairs during 2013, only those at Stampex and the 84th Scottish Congress in Perth will produce stamps with special inscriptions applied. This clearly is a financial help to collectors but I still wish it were not necessary to produce 2 different designs at the same exhibition - thus, as at previous stamp fairs, we have had Post And Go stamps produced for Perth not only in the "Union Jack" design but also in the "Machin" format, 2 sets instead of one. I must also say, that the constant repeating of designs - be it Machin head, Union Jack or Christmas Robin, is now also becoming rather boring and I wish that Royal Mail would come up with a new design to use under these circumstances.

Just issued, but I do not know the precise date, is a set of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet from Belize to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. These are very attractive and preferable to the "Royal Occasion Souvenirs" omnibus which has been appearing with issues from a number of territories recently:-

Finally. some pleasing new issues from Cyprus. Three stamps were released on 3 March 2013 to commemorate Easter:-

and on 3 May 2013 a further floral issue will be released in Cyprus' Fragrant Plants series, a single stamp and a miniature sheet which depict oregano:-

with the Europa issue also appearing on the same date. In line with the 2013 Europa theme of postal vehicles, there are 2 stamps and a booklet in the issue. Interestingly, both designs also show postboxes, both of which appear to be gold in colour. Is that the usual colour for Cypriot postboxes or have they been painted in the colour to tie up with Olympic victories as Royal mail did in the home cities of Olympic gold medal winners of 2012 (though I guess that that is not the case as I think Cyprus won a silver but not a gold medal)?:-

Wednesday 24 April 2013

231. Ascension Flies New Flag For Diamond Jubilee.

Mark Capes, the Governor of St. Helena and Tristan Da Cunha and Ascension Island recently announced that the latter, itself a dependency of St. Helena, would fly its new national flag for the first time on Saturday 11 May 2013 which is Ascension Day, after which the island was named when it was discovered in 1503. The flag is a Blue Ensign with the coat of arms of the island placed at the fly and the arms were granted by Queen Elizabeth II in May 2012 in connection with her Diamond Jubilee. Until then, Ascension was the only Overseas British Territory, apart from the Sovereign Bases Of Akrotiri And Dhekelia, not to have its own national flag. Ascension commemorated the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II with a set of 5 stamps and a miniature sheet issued on 6 February 2013. The stamps depicted motifs from souvenir items of previous notable royal events:-

Up until the adoption of the new flag, Ascension had flown the Union Jack but the island has issued a set of 4 stamps on 1 April 1997 which depicted flags connected to the island - the merchant flag or "Red Ensign", the RAF flag, the NASA emblem and the naval flag, the "White Ensign". The stamps were designed by Anthony Theobald and lithographed by Walsall Security Printers:-

St. Helena adopted its current flag on 30 January 1984 when a new flag badge was adopted, replacing one that had been in use since 1876. The new badge depicts a wirebird over the sailing ship which appeared on the original badge. The St. Helena Post Office issued a booklet of 12 x 35p self-adhesive stamps on 19 August 2008 which depicted the national flag:-

complete booklet.

Tristan da Cunha, a dependency of St. Helena from 1938. adopted a flag by Gubernatorial proclamation on 28 October 2002 with the badge depicting the island's arms which consisted of a diamond at the centre white over blue, representing the island, with 2 albatrosses in flight at the chief and supporters of 2 crayfish with a naval coronet as the crest under a depiction of one of the local longboats. A booklet of 12 x 30p self-adhesive stamps, similar to the St. Helena booklet, was issued on 27 July 2004. It was designed by the Crown Agents and lithographed by Walsall Security Printers:-

complete booklet.

Tristan had issued a set of 4 stamps on 30 September 1985 which depicted previous flags of the island. The 10p value showed the flag used by the short-lived settlement on Tristan in 1811 which had been founded by Jonathan Lambert. The 15p showed the flag of the 21st Light Dragoons, stationed on Tristan in 1816 and the 25p depicted the White Ensign to represent the period 1944 to 1946 when the island was known as HMS Atlantic Isle. The Union Jack was used from 1816 to 2002 as the national flag and is shown on the 60p value:-

Some issues also appeared with the national flag of 2002 printed in the gutters, the example below is the 60p value of the 2008 set which commemorated the designer of Tristan's famous "potato stamps", Allan B Crawford:-

CASCO continue to print local flags in gutters separating sheets as evidenced by this recent issue from The British Antarctic Territory which shows the flag flown locally on research vessels in the territory:-

A stamp issue to commemorate the first flying of  Ascension's new flag would be very interesting and I look forward to seeing if Pobjoy Stamps, Ascension's philatelic agents, prepare such an issue on the island's behalf.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

230 Why Don't Bureaux Use Their Own Stamps?

I buy quite a lot of my new issue stamps directly from philatelic bureaux and I am always surprised that all from whom I buy, with just one exception, never use stamps on the packaging which they send to me with my purchases contained inside. Why don't they put their postage stamps on the return envelopes? What sort of businessman makes a point of not using himself the product that he is trying to sell to others or not using the service himself which he is offering to the public? Is it just that the philatelic bureau are so keen to screw every last penny out of their customers that they can not bear to give their customers free stamps on the return mail ? Actually, as the customers have to pay for the return postage, any stamps used would not be free at all - the customers would have paid for them. And it's not as though return postage is cheap - Australia Post charges A$9 to send a packet with a few stamps inside to the UK. They are the first of the villains - no stamps used on mail from Australia Post. Nor on mail from Canada Post either. What about Royal Mail - any chance of a Dr Who stamp appearing on covers from that organisation? The answer is a resounding no as the cover depicted above and the imprinted postage paid mark shown below, clearly demonstrate.

If you buy stamps from Harry Alan which is linked with CASCO you get your stamps sent back to you in the type of packet shown below:-

So Harry Alan can not be bothered to use stamps on its mail as a service to its philatelic customers - a pity as the postage and packing on the above item was £2.12p. And the offshore islands - how do they treat their customers? Money-grabbing Jersey Post, famous for the diamond-studded £120+ stamp, and the equally greedy Isle Of Man Post Office's Philatelic Bureau, not surprisingly return customer's purchases in stampless covers. The Isle of Man has imprinted "stamps" on the covers as shown below:- 

while Jersey also uses imprinted envelopes:-

But what about Guernsey? Three cheers for Guernsey! Guernsey Post Office uses proper postage stamps on its mail to philatelists and very attractive little covers turn up ever so often. Guernsey go to the top of the Philatelic Bureau League for this consideration of its customers and interestingly they are by far the most efficient in mailing purchases back to their customers especially compared with its sister  Channel Island, Jersey. It is notable that Guernsey Post Office Philatelic Bureau also recently mailed gratis to all its standing order customers a copy of its Gold Post Box miniature sheet. Such generosity is rare on the modern philatelic scene and establishes Guernsey as standing head and shoulders above other philatelic bureaux around the whole Commonwealth for customer care and making their customers feel valued. Perhaps a few other bureau managers could go along to Guernsey to learn how the job should be done properly.
 Elsewhere in The Commonwealth, the story is as depressing as it is in the British Isles (with, of course the shining exception of Guernsey). Malta sends its mail out in illustrated envelopes but sometimes there is not even a postage paid imprint, merely a cancellation:-

or, alternatively you may fond a meter mark applied to the cover:-

Gibraltar is equally mean in not using postage stamps on its mail. I have a couple of covers which are vaguely interesting in that one has a printed postage paid mark on it :-

while the second has a hand stamp applied to it:-

Further afield, New Zealand Post has not been tempted to stick a Hobbit stamp on its mail to philatelists:-

and the Singapore Philatelic Bureau uses a printed postage paid mark on its mail although the mark does at least have a pictorial image of the impressive building which houses the Singapore Post Centre:-

Really, the non-use of real postage stamps on mail from philatelic bureaux around The Commonwealth is lamentable and really raises a fundamental question - if the people selling stamps do not use them what is the point of collecting something which has clearly become of no practical use? All of the philatelic bureaux - apart from Guernsey - show a form of contempt for their customers, the collectors, and this is just an extension of the way in which they continue to flood the market with increasing numbers of expensive stamp products which are often of poor design and have little relevance to the country that is issuing them. Where will it all end? The end of new issue collecting may be closer than these bureaux think it is.
 But the bureaux are not the only villains, a leading stamps dealer, Stanley Gibbons, does not use postage stamps on its mail either. That fact is somewhat jaw-dropping - if a leading commercial seller does not use stamps then it really does make you think that stamp collecting is a true nonsense. Oh dear, I wonder if I should give it all up now. Any thoughts?