Wednesday 31 July 2013

282. Dominican Republic Wants To Join The Commonwealth.

  I have already described in Blog 275 how Timor Leste has begun a campaign to gain support for its admission to Commonwealth membership and currently there is a list of applicants and possible applicants - South Sudan, Sudan, Algeria, Madagascar, Yemen, Surinam and Burundi - but I was quite surprised to come across a report from March 2013 that the Foreign Minister of The Dominican Republic had announced that his country would make approaches to The Commonwealth with view to joining the organisation.
  He said, "It is a membership that will consolidate our common values that we already share and that, together with Haiti, we must consolidate our democracy, freedom, culture of peace, the rule of law and equality of opportunities." He particularly hoped to gain support from Malaysia, India and Australia in the bid for membership, all countries which have diplomatic representation in Dominican Republic, and thought that Commonwealth membership would help strengthen the country's international connections.
  Commonwealth membership by Dominican Republic would not be too menacing a prospect for collectors of Commonwealth stamps since its new stamp issues appear regularly but not excessively and are always on locally relevant subjects. Two issues which have appeared during 2013 are depicted here; above is a sheetlet which promotes Dominican Republic's tourism industry (the country is a favourite destination for British tourists) and a slightly less attractive set of four, shown below, which depicts local arachnids:-

  The country's historical connections with Great Britain are not very notable - having been discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, the island of Hispaniola became a Spanish colony which became the target of English pirates in the 16th century. On 1 January 1586, Francis Drake attacked the city of Santo Domingo and captured it. After looting the city, Drake ransomed it to the Spanish and after he and his men had started to set fire to the city, the Spanish agreed to pay him 25000 ducats. When Drake had departed, other English pirates moved in to get a share of the action.
  During the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, English ships landed forces on the island about 30 miles from Santo Domingo on 14 April 1655. The English set out to take the city but 4 days after landing were attacked by a small number of the local population. The English bombarded the city ineffectively and eventually withdrew from the island and sailed to and captured Jamaica instead.
  The Dominicans expelled the Spanish from the island in 1865 and established a republic and issued its first postage stamps on 19 October 1865. The first designs depicted the national coat of arms. The British had established postal agencies on the island prior to 1866 but details of 2 offices which were established at Porto Plata and St. Domingo are only known from that year. A number of contemporary British stamps were used from those agencies cancelled with circular date stamps or "C86" (Porto Plata) or "C87" (St. Domingo).  The British stamps were supplied to these agencies from 1869 but both agencies did not operate between 1870 and 1876 and both finally closed in 1881.

Monday 29 July 2013

281. Australia Post First To Depict Royal Baby.

  Hot on the tails of the news that Isle Of Man will issue a pair of stamps to commemorate the birth of Prince George Of Cambridge on 31 July 2013 comes the news that the first stamp to actually depict the new prince will be issued by Australia Post on the same date. The stamp was designed by Sonia Young and lithograph printed by EGO and is issued in a $6 sheetlet of 10 x 60c stamps. The design depicts a photograph of the Duke and Duchess standing outside the hospital where the baby was born presenting the prince to a huge gathering of press as well as TV cameras which captured images of the baby and sent them out across the world. This charming photograph makes the modestly priced item highly collectable and will surely prove to be highly popular with the Australian mail-sending public and stamp collectors alike.

280. Isle Of Man Rushes Out Baby Stamps But Where's The Baby?

  The greedy little Isle Of Man Post Office seems to have won the race to cash in on the birth of Prince George of Cambridge by having a commemorative stamp issue available for release on 31 July 2013. The issue comprises a surprisingly modest pair of 2 £1 stamps,  which is a reuse of the designs of the 2 stamps originally issued in miniature sheet format to commemorate the wedding of Prince William and the former Catherine Middleton, now The Duke and Duchess Of Cambridge. For this latest issue, the 2 stamps are joined by a label which states 'ANNOUNCING THE BIRTH OF HRH PRINCE GEORGE ALEXANDER LOUIS OF CAMBRIDGE 22ND JULY 2013".
  The stamps are issued in a sheetlet of 8 as shown below but it is worth noting that the Isle Of Man Philatelic Bureau is selling them as a pair for £2 rather than having to buy the whole sheetlet for £8 so for that act of self-restraint the Bureau deserves some praise:-

  A special souvenir cover is available in a number limited to 500 in which the 2 stamps (presumably extracted from the previous miniature sheets) are cancelled on 22 July 2013, the date of the Prince's birth. A special enough souvenir for any royal devotee and I expect that the price of £25 will not prove to be a barrier to sales of this particular item:-

  So, The Isle Of Man appears to have won the gold medal in the Royal Baby stamp issue race but I can't help but think that it would have been rather better if the IOM Post Office had held its fire and actually issued stamps with a portrait of the new baby depicted on them. After all, it is Prince George whose birth is supposedly being celebrated by this issue. But I guess we all know that this is just a stop-gap till a set which actually depicts the baby can be finalised, approved and printed and then, no doubt, we will have a second issue to buy which will double the IOM Post Office's Profits and further bleed the pockets of stamp collectors and the public at large.

Sunday 28 July 2013

279. Whatever Happened to....?

  I have had a few philatelic questions on my mind recently which all begin with the line "Whatever happened to....?" Some stamp issuing territories seem to have disappeared off the face of the new issue map over the last couple of years. What Happened? Perhaps someone out there knows the answer. Firstly, Nauru which seemed to have been trundling along happily under the guidance of the philatelic agents, CASCO, but has not issued any stamps now for 2 years. The very last issues were the Russian space issue which was released on 12 April 2011 and which has been discussed in a previous blog and just a few days after that, on 29 April 2011, a single miniature sheet was issued to commemorate the royal wedding of The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge. Nothing has appeared since then and one can not help but get the feeling that, as in the case of Tuvalu and Samoa and others, the production of stamp issues is just too expensive for the Nauru Post Office unless someone else produces them on their behalf. Even now you feel that there must be one of the less scrupulous philatelic agencies rearing its ugly head, praying mantis-like, over  Nauru and hoping to gobble up responsibility for its philatelic new issues and begin a flood of sheetlets and miniature sheets with the name of Nauru printed on them, the profits from which go straight to the philatelic agency after a small payment has been made to the Post Office. Let us hope that I am just letting my imagination run wild in this case.
  Whatever happened to British Indian Ocean Territory? Its last issue, too, was released on 29 April 2011 to commemorate the Royal Wedding with no news of any new issues since then, not even to commemorate The Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Could those who administer the BIOT Post Office be thinking of changing its philatelic agents as a number of other British territories have done in recent years - usually from CASCO to Pobjoy stamps? Time will tell no doubt.

  Whatever happened to The British Virgin Islands? This is one of the territories which changed its philatelic agents from CASCO to Pobjoy Stamps about a year ago, but I have not yet seen any news of new stamps being released by The BVI. Just like BIOT, the last issue from BVI was the Royal Wedding issue of 29 April 2011 with nothing appearing since including, again, no issue for the Diamond Jubilee. I imagine it takes time for a new agency to prepare stamps for a new client and the client then has to approve the plans and designs and that, no doubt in some cases can be a rather bureaucratic process, but it is taking rather a long time for BVI to issue some new stamps. There must be something happening in the islands that is worth commemorating. Perhaps we will see a set to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation and, probably, the birth of Prince George of Cambridge and the territory has just been holding its philatelic gunfire so as not to flood collectors with new issues (if so, I would welcome other countries following BVI's example).

  Whatever happened to Guernsey's set of 6 stamps and Prestige Booklet which were due to be issued on 31 July 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the musical performance given by the British musical group, The Beatles in Guernsey? This issue seems to have disappeared from the stamp programme for 2013 which appears on the Guernsey Post Office website and does not appear on the list of issues which it is offering for sale from 31 July. Perhaps problems have arisen with the production of the issue but I have not found any explanation. Perhaps someone can let me know.

  Finally, whatever happened to the issue which was due to be released at the end of last year by Grenada to commemorate the island's Olympic gold medal-winning athlete, Kirani James? When I visited Grenada in November last year I was told that supplies of the stamps had arrived on the island and the Post Office was awaiting approval to put them on sale. Since then, I am not aware of any news about them and Grenada's New York-based philatelic agent has not listed them on its website. Perhaps the designs met local disapproval or the Post Office there intends to put them on sale on the first anniversary of Kirani James' victory which will occur in the next few days. As I wrote previously, time will tell or maybe some-one knows the answer.

Saturday 27 July 2013

278. Never A Cross Word.

  The tidal wave of new stamp issues from Commonwealth countries continues and of the items mentioned in this particular blog I feel no need to buy any apart from the first mentioned pair from St. Kitts which is about the only set which has a direct relevance to the country whose name appears on the stamps. The set was issued on 3 June 2013 and commemorates the 50th anniversary of Antioch Baptist Church in St. Kitts. A worthy little pair of low face values which means that they really have been issued to use on mail rather than to extract money from stamp collectors. Everything else below falls into the second category but I have to admit that there are one or two interesting items among them and first and foremost are the 2 sheetlets which were issued in the name of Nevis on 3 April 2013 and which commemorate the centenary of the first crossword puzzle. I am not sure why this anniversary is of so particular an importance to Nevis that it needs to issue 18 different stamps to commemorate it but the 2 sheetlets, each of 9 different stamps, each make up a complete crossword puzzle and I think that this is the first time a crossword together with clues has appeared on a set of stamps so congratulations to Nevis' philatelic agents for ingenuity:-

  Other recent new issues from Nevis are a set of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet issued on 25 April 2013 to commemorate the United Nations Radio Day and a single "gold" stamp issued on 8 July 2013 which commemorates the late Elvis Presley, an American singer:-

  From St. Vincent And The Grenadines, 2 conflicting dates of issue for the previously mentioned Caribbean reptiles sheetlet of 4, Caribbean crabs sheetlet of 4, Coral reef life sheetlet of 4, Dogs sheetletof 4 and 1 m.s., Caribbean beetles sheetlet of 4 and 1 m.s. (date of issue given as 28 November 2012 or 28 February 2013) and the date of issue of the Joan of Arc sheetlet of 4 identical stamps was 27 September 2012.

  Recent issues from Ghana are:-
    24 June 2013:- Commemoration of the late Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister (illustrated in Blog 266) (4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet);
     7 July 2013:- The history of art (6 stamps - 2 sheetelets each of 3 different stamps - and 2 m.s.):-

    7 July 2013:- African reptiles (not specifically from Ghana) (2 sheetlets each of 4 different stamps and 2 m.s.):-

  Grenada:- 29 April 2013 (mentioned before but now illustrated and date of issue given):-  29 April 2013:- "Ancient Rome" (sheetlet of 6 different stamps and 1 m.s.). I have no idea why Grenada should issue a set of stamps depicting ancient Rome:-

    29 April 2013:- "Papal Retrospective" - the reign of Pope Benedict XVI (2 sheetlets each of 4 different stamps and 2 m.s.):-

  And finally, to our old friend, the philatelic agency Stamperija, which has announced its latest issue for  Uganda. A set of 40 stamps (issued as 10 sheetlets each containing 4 different stamps) and 10 miniature sheets was said to have been issued on 8 July 2013 on the subject of "Endangered and Vulnerable Species of the World/Famous Peoples of African Origin, there being 10 subsets each of a sheetlet and m.s. on the following subjects:- 
 African Hunting Dog:-


Wild cats:-

Turtles, Predators, Basketball players, Boxing champions, Civil Rights leaders and activists (including Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King):-

  Football players including Roger Milla:-

  and Serena and Venus Williams, US tennis players:-

Tuesday 23 July 2013

277. Royal Baby Ensures Philatelic Deluge.

  At 4.24PM on 22 July 2013, a baby son was born to the Duke and Duchess Of Cambridge and this small prince automatically became third in line not only to the throne of The United Kingdom but also Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Bahamas, Papua New Guinea, Grenada, Antigua And Barbuda, St. Kitts And Nevis, St. Vincent And The Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Belize, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Doubtless, in the next few weeks we will see numerous commemorative stamps being issued by most, if not all, of these countries (probably not Jamaica, I suspect) as well as other Commonwealth countries where the British monarch is not head of state and a large number of the various dependencies of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Just as the new baby's birth has been followed by English summer storms and deluges of rain, so no doubt, the birth will also be followed by a deluge of stamp issues, with various postal administrations hopeful of cashing in on the birth of this child of two very popular royal figures.
  The birth of the child's father, The Duke Of Cambridge, set a precedent with stamp issues from numerous territories of The Commonwealth being issued to commemorate his birth. Among the first to appear, pictured above, was a single stamp released by Mauritius on 22 September 1982 which depicted The Prince and Princess of Wales standing at the entrance of the hospital where the birth had taken place, the Princess hold the baby Prince William in her arms as they left the hospital to return home. The simplicity of the issue has a lot to recommend it and it represents the earliest photograph taken of the baby, a future king. The Isle Of Man issued another attractive item, even if it may be considered rather twee, on 12 October 1982 which depicted a formal portrait of Diana, Princess Of Wales with the baby Prince William which took the form of a miniature sheet as shown below:-

  It is not surprising that the Cook Islands even then got into the act with a set of 4 stamps issued on 30 November 1982 which depicted details of paintings by Peter Paul Rubens showing cherubs with an inset formal portrait of the Princess with her baby. Previously on 12 July 1982, 4 stamps and a miniature sheet which had originally been issued to commemorate the Princess's 21st birthday were released with an overprint "Royal Birth . 21 June 1982" and on 30 November 1982 a Christmas miniature sheet was also issued which again featured the formal portrait of Princess and baby. Not content with all that, issues were also made for Aitutaki and Penrhyn and just to prove that what goes around comes around, 31 years later, The Cook Islands and all its subsidiary philatelic entities are planning an issue, no doubt lavish and expensive, to commemorate the birth of Prince William's son.

A large number of Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries also issued "royal baby" stamps. A large New York-based philatelic agency had released a number of sets of 3 stamps and a miniature sheet during 1982 to commemorate the 21st birthday of Diana Princess Of Wales and these issues were overprinted with the inscription "ROYAL BABY 21.6.82" which made a cheap way of producing stamps to commemorate the birth as well as a good way of reducing unsold stocks of the original stamps. These countries were Antigua And Barbuda, (Barbuda also issued 3 stamps and a miniature sheet of its own as well as 3 more stamps and a miniature sheet in which "BARBUDA MAIL" was overprinted on the Antigua Royal baby overprinted set), Grenada, Grenadines Of Grenada, Dominica, Guyana, Maldive Islands, Sierra Leone, Turks And Caicos Islands and Bhutan. Three of these territories issued the same stamps in sheetlets with different perforations (Grenada, Grenadines Of Grenada and Guyana) thus increasing the number of items for collectors to buy. The miniature sheets supposedly depicted distant relatives of The Princess Of Wales in their margins and that is why personalities such as Franklin D Roosevelt and Humphrey Bogart found their way into this issue:-

  The territories under the control of Philatelists Ltd, which was to go on and produce the notorious "Leaders of the World" series of stamps, also released overprints on stamps which had originally been produced to commemorate the Princess Of Wales' 21st birthday - these territories were St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Vincent, The Grenadines Of St. Vincent, Kiribati and Tuvalu:-

  It was an interesting set in that 1 value depicted a former Princess Of Wales while a second depicted her coat of arms and the third value showed a portrait if Diana, Princess Of Wales. The overprint said nothing more than "ROYAL BABY". I think that some of the other princesses have never been depicted on any other stamps.

  Finally I should mention that other Commonwealth countries to participate in this particular omnibus were Belize, Jamaica, Lesotho and Niue. We must wait with baited breath to see what appears this time - I expect we will have issues from Royal Mail, all the offshore islands and most of the British Overseas Territories, most of the countries where The House of Windsor provides the Head of State (Australia Post has already commissioned their regular designer, Lynette Traynor, to produce designs for their issue) and quite a few more as well. When this young prince is named it will be one more to add to the line of descent that was featured on the 1982 miniature sheets:-

Post scriptum: In addition to Australia Post's indication that it intends to issue "Royal Baby" stamps, it has also been announced that stamps will be released by New Zealand and also produced by a large New York-based agency in the names of Sierra Leone, St. Vincent And The Grenadines, Antigua And Barbuda, Grenada, Guyana, Dominica and The Turks And Caicos Islands. Guernsey Post Office has also announced that it will issue a miniature sheet to commemorate Prince George's birth and expects to release the item in the course of the next "couple of months".

Monday 22 July 2013

276. Royal Mail New Issue Policy: How Long Can It Last?

  No matter how you look at it, and yes I know that Royal Mail is a business and the point of a business is to make a profit, new issue releases for ordinary collectors of British stamps - the people who want to form as near a complete collection of British stamps as they are able to - are wholly excessive as Royal Mail comes up with more and more philatelic products to sell to collectors and non-collectors alike. A recent sentence in the unmissable Norvic Philatelics Blog states that "They (Royal Mail) no longer build the stamp issue programme around the collectors who want one of everything".
  This is dangerous for both collectors and Royal Mail. A business is rather like a political party - both have to attract the support of a wide range of people and not just a loyal core - if a business fails to do so it loses money and if a political party does so it loses votes. But both must look after their core customers/voters - if they lose them then financial failure/political meltdown is staring them in the face. So if Royal Mail fails to think of its long-term regular purchasers in preference for opportunist sales to people who may occasionally buy a souvenir of some celebrity or popular event then the collapse of their philatelic business must eventually occur. A business exists not only to make a profit but also to meet the needs of its customers. If its regular customers feel swamped with products of dubious value and quality then eventually they will refuse to allow themselves to be taken advantage of and will give up customers altogether.
  How much more will they take as they find it increasingly expensive and depressing to try to keep their collections up to date? Yes, I know that no-one makes them buy items but collecting naturally involves a psychological state where the collector must do their best to keep their collection as complete as possible - in some ways they are forced to buy items for their collection by the simple fact that those items exist. Postal administrations have only to follow the simple idea that "If you print them, they will buy" and that is exactly what Royal Mail and other greedy postal administrations are doing.
  I am driven to write this by exasperation at Royal Mail's latest little tricks - yet more "Post And Go" stamps which were issued on 19 and 20 July 2013 at the York Stamp Fair in the form of the Machin design (6 values) and Union Jack design printed by the itinerant Hytech machines but with, for the first time, the date code MA13 incorporated in the design thus creating 12 new stamps for the devoted collector to buy. It may seem a trivial difference but they know that collectors will want - even need - to obtain these varieties for their collections and thus spend at least another £12 (if they were able to get to the stamp fair or far more if they need to buy them from dealers). So, even if no "overprint" was applied to the stamps the York Stamp Fair has produced 12 new stamps with extremely limited availability and selling, as I write, like hot cakes from the dealers on E Bay who have them to sell.
 And then there is the massive increase in numbers of retail booklets which are being produced in 2013 to accompany almost every commemorative set thus producing a self-adhesive version of at least 1 stamp from every set which would not otherwise be obtainable. There is also the increasing numbers of prestige booklets to contend with, each one usually containing new definitive varieties as well as commemoratives.
  But the darkness is added to by the news of the Andy Murray miniature sheet which is the first of an ongoing series meaning that we will no doubt have a Tour de France winners miniature sheet (I expect that they will have a combined Bradley Wiggins (2012 winner) and Chris Froom (2013 winner) sheet), an Ashes winners miniature sheet and a British Lions miniature sheet all in the near future. Then of course we will soon have a Royal Baby issue (another miniature sheet I expect). It's all too much. We may have slightly lower numbers of commemorative sets but that is cancelled out by the fact that many sets are now comprised of 10 stamps. There certainly is no doubt that Royal Mail does not build its stamp issue programme around traditional collectors anymore. There are clearly short-term profits to be made by doing so but if traditional collectors are turned away from buying new issues then those profits will not look so impressive. The golden goose is now lying prostrate and gasping desperately. Is the end of new issue collecting just around the corner?

Sunday 21 July 2013

274. European Commonwealth New Issues.

  On 18 July 2013, the Gibraltar Post Office issued a set of 14 stamps to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first Gibraltar definitive set of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It is not clear to me whether this is meant to be a new definitive set for the territory or just a very expensive commemorative set which is commemorating a definitive set - either way there are £2, £3 and £5 values in the set necessitating collectors to dig deep into their pockets to buy the set. All the designs of the original set which was designed by Norman Cumming are reproduced on the new stamps except that the face value is in decimal currency and, of course, massively increased, and they demonstrate just how wonderful many stamps produced in the George VI and early Elizabeth II period were compared with what is produced for a quick profit in these recent times. Of course the original stamps were also helped by having been printed by intaglio rather than the modern day cost-effective lithography. The current stamps were designed by Stephen Perera and printed by Lowe-Martin:-

  One thing you can say about the Jersey Post Office is that it never lets up, hot on the tail of the Tall ships issue which I mentioned in the Blog 273 comes the news of yet another set of 6 stamps and an accompanying "prestige booklet" which costs a remarkably greedy £15.84 (plus VAT if you are buying it from The United Kingdom). This set's subject is one of the most bizarre that Jersey has ever produced - military vehicles - you would have thought that Jersey saw more than enough military vehicles on its territory during World War II when it was occupied by German troops. But these vehicles are said to belong to collectors (apparently people collect military vehicles - how tame stamp collecting is in comparison) who hire the vehicles out for charity events so I suppose the citizens of Jersey must be quite used to a constant flow of tanks and troop transporters trundling around the country lanes of the island. Actually, it's an interesting enough set with good original art which illustrates the subject well so I shall certainly obtain it for my collection though I shall not bother with the ludicrously expensive prestige booklet just as I have given up buying such items from Isle Of Man, Guernsey and Guernsey Alderney.

  Finally from Malta, something a little more reasonably priced - 2 stamps which were issued on 20 June 2013 which depict local fauna - a rabbit and a Maltese ox. I have mentioned these stamps in a previous blog but now provide illustrations of the very attractive stamps:-