Wednesday 27 November 2013

331. Stamperija Produces Provocative Marilyn Monroe Designs On StampsOf Devoutly Muslim Maldives.

  The Maldives Post website gives details of the latest stamp issues being produced on its behalf by the philatelic agency, Stamperija. We perhaps should not be too surprised to learn that 120 more stamps and 30 miniature sheets are being issued in the space of 6 weeks and many of them feature designs of subjects which have no relevance to the Republic Of Maldives. What is, however, rather shocking is the production of a sheetlet of 4 stamps and an accompanying miniature sheet which commemorate the late US film actress, Marilyn Monroe, and depict her fully dressed but in provocative poses, which seem to be inappropriate given the nature of Maldives' devout Islamic religious background. One cannot help but think that such an issue would never actually be sold across post office counters to members of The Maldives public for them to use on their mail. 

  This issue alone suggests that the Stamperija productions for Maldives are more philatelic collectables rather than true postage stamps even if they do theoretically have postal validity. Perhaps local sales are aimed at the tourists who visit Maldives and are for sale at the philatelic counter rather than at ordinary post offices.
 The details of the new "issues" are as follows - 
25 October 2013 - "Flora and Fauna of Maldives" - 10 sheetlets, each of 4 different stamps, and 10 accompanying miniature sheets, each combination of 1 sheetlet and 1 m.s. being devoted to a different subtheme which are:- Water birds, Tropical butterflies, Short eared owl, Saltwater crocodiles, Protected marine species, Orchids, Lizards, Fruit bats, fish and Birds of prey. The set depicting saltwater crocodiles is, I'm sure, a particular delight to the foreign tourists who visit the islands and who will enjoy being reminded that such creatures may be lurking there when they are frolicking in the sea.

18 November 2013 - "Celebrities" (none of them Maldivians) - 10 sheetlets of 4 different stamps and 10 m.s. depicting Elvis Presley (inevitably), the Birth of Prince George of Cambridge, 40th anniversary of the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, 95th Birthday of Nelson Mandela (former South African president), 85th anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi (Indian statesman), 50th anniversary of Valentina Tereshkova as the first woman in space, 70th anniversary of the birth of Bobby Fischer (US chess player), Confederations Cup (Football) held in Brazil in 2013, Marilyn Monroe and 150th birth anniversary of Pierre de Coubertin (Founder of the Modern Olympic Games). Many of the designs are very poor with some of the "celebrities" on the stamps being barely recognisable from the black and white illustrations which constitute the stamp designs.

2 December 2013 - "Transport" - 10 sheetlets each of 4 different stamps and 10 m.s. depicting High speed trains, Seaplanes, "Space Tourism", Fire engines, Concorde aircraft, Formula 1 racing cars, "History of the "Automobile", Rescue boats, Yuri Gargarin (first cosmonaut) and Steam trains.

Needless to say, I view all of the above as "Footnote issues" and will not be adding any of them to my collection of Maldives stamps. But I shall be interested to see if there is any fall out in Maldives and elsewhere from the production of the provocative Marilyn Monroe items.
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Monday 25 November 2013

330. Commonwealth New Issues.

Recent and Upcoming issues of Commonwealth stamps:-


5 November 2013 - Allahabad Boys'School (1 value) -

7 November 2013 - 75th anniversary of Bharatiya Vidya Bhaven (cultural and educational institution) (1 value)-

8 November 2013 - 50th anniversary of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (1 value) -

11 November 2013 - The Central Bureau of Investigation (1 value) -

Pakistan - 

8 November 2013 - Men of Letters - Jon Elia (1 value) -

Singapore -

10 September 2013 - Globalisation of Singapore - 4 stamps. Printed in lithography by Lowe Martin  - 

12 September 2013 - Joint Issue with Vietnam - 2 stamps and 1 miniature sheet -

16 October 2013 - New definitive series, "Vanishing Trades" - 8 gummed stamps from ordinary sheets and 2 booklets (10 x 50c and 10 x 1st Local rate) containing self-adhesive stamps -

8 November 2013 -  Joint Issue with France - 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet. Designed by Petrossian (France) and lithographed by Lowe Martin. Perf 13. -

22 November 2013 - 50th anniversary of television broadcasting in Singapore- 5 stamps. Designed by Eric Kong and lithographed by Enschede -

South Georgia And The South Sandwich Islands - Land restoration and rat eradication - 6 stamps. designed by Bee Design and lithographed by BDT. Perf. 14 - 

Footnote Issues -

Solomon Islands -

30 September 2013 - "Celebrities, Transport and Fauna". 9 sub-issues each consisting of a sheetlet each of 4 different "stamps" and 1 accompanying miniature sheet on the following subjects - Mahatma Gandhi, Dugongs, Rennell Island World Heritage Site, Enzo Ferrari, Fruits and Nuts of The Solomon Islands, Accession of King Willem Alexander of The Netherlands, the London Underground Railway, Elvis Presley and Trains of Australia - 

This means that during 2013, and only to the end of September, 370 "stamps" and 94 miniature sheets had been produced on behalf of The Solomon Islands Post Office. Has anyone ever seen any of these items actually genuinely used on commercial mail rather than as philatelic productions?

Friday 22 November 2013

329. Royal Mail Masters Time Travel.

  It was bound to happen - 1 day before "The Day Of The Doctor" when the 50th anniversary episode of BBC's television programme "Dr Who" is shown simultaneously in over 80 countries - Royal Mail has apparently actually mastered time travel itself. Since the company has been criticised for not achieving its targets on promptness of delivery of first class local mail (it has not managed to deliver 93% or more of first class mail the day after it was posted), this achievement of time travel will no doubt come as a surprise to many people. 
  But here's the evidence - the postman has just delivered a cover being sold by Royal Mail to commemorate the precise 50th anniversary day of the first broadcast of Dr Who (23 November 1963). The cover has 11 Doctor Who stamps attached to it and is cancelled by a circular blue postmark which depicts Dr Who's time travelling machine, the TARDIS, with "50 YEARS" inscribed on it and at either side the dates 1963 and 2013. The inscription around the edge reads "50TH ANNIVERSARY OF DOCTOR WHO   BBC LIME GROVE STUDIOS, LONDON W12" and at the bottom, the date "23.11.2013", presumably indicating the date the cover was posted. Since the cover has been delivered one day before the date of the postmark - that is - on the 22 November 2013 one can only conclude that this represents a documentable example of real time travel.
  Well, I guess not. It's just a commercial souvenir where no care has been taken to even give the semblance of real postal use but it's all a good bit of fun and no doubt this particular item will give a lot of pleasure to the enthusiasts for Dr Who whose purchase of the stamps and associated philatelic products have made the issue a great financial success for Royal Mail during 2013. Perhaps some of the profits can be used to increase the chance of ordinary mail being delivered on time. Or perhaps, now that Royal Mail has mastered time travel, that technological achievement will help speed up the posts.

Monday 18 November 2013

328. Giant Pandas In Tonga?


  A recurring theme of recent blogs has been the increasing number of stamp issues released by Commonwealth countries which are aimed at the philatelic market in China. In the previous Blog I suggested that even Royal Mail was choosing subjects to include in its new issue programme which related to Chinese subjects such as the Chinese New Year of the Horse. Very frequently, stamp issues on Chinese subjects are being produced by the Chinese authorities and given to various small postal administrations for them to sell to collectors.
  The US-based postal agency which manages the stamp issues of Cook Islands, Tonga and Samoa has shown itself to be very prepared to accept such items from China in the last couple of years or so and many stamps from those territories seem to have more to do with China than with the South Pacific territories themselves. On 26 September 2013 a sheetlet of 5 stamps is said to have been released by Tonga (see above) along with a second sheetlet of 2 stamps (depicting a Chinese landmark and a painting by Paul Gauguin) which has a picture of the Great Wall Of China in its large lower margin. The latter specifically commemorates the China International Collection Expo 2013 as presumably does the giant panda sheetlet. I did visit Tonga a few years ago and I can confirm that there are no giant pandas in Tonga! Why, you might ask, is Tonga issuing 5 stamps which depict the creature? Answers on a postcard please.....

   The Tonga Post Office also feels the need to allow a similar Great Wall of China miniature sheet to be produced in its name but with the inscription "Niuafo'ou", this time with a different Gauguin painting depicted on one of the stamps:-

  Of the 3 territories which have allowed Philatelic Collector Inc. to take over their stamp issuing, Samoa seems to be keeping a tighter grip on what is being done to its philatelic reputation than the others. Thus there is to be a very modest and restrained Christmas issue for 2013 which wasreleased on 8 November 2013 and consists of just 2 stamps in values which actually represent local postage rates:-

  One stamp and 1 miniature sheet were issued on 17 September 2013 to commemorate the local Teuila Festival. My problems with this issue is the fact that the miniature sheet contains three $10 stamps and for some reason was issued 10 days after the end of the festival which seems to make the stamps rather redundant. Still, the stamps are colourful and attractive and are locally relevant so I shall find a place for them in my collection:-

  Unfortunately Samoa has also issued a Great Wall Of China sheetlet (on 26 September 2013) similar to Tonga and again there is a Gauguin painting depicted on one of the stamp designs. I think this is meant to represent South Pacific culture except of course Gauguin was a Frenchman who visited what is now French Polynesia for a while and I have not found anything that says he visited either Tonga or Samoa. So I view all of these items as "Footnote" issues and they do not have a place in my collection.

   And so, to The Cook Islands. A fairly modest 3 value Christmas set, designed by Alison Ditko, is to be released consisting of fairly low face values. Unfortunately this set is supplemented by a 3 valued miniature sheet. I have not seen anything to say that Christmas stamps will be issued with the additional inscription of Aitutaki or Penrhyn.

  We should not be surprised that Cook Islands is also involved in the Great Wall of China sheetlet issues. Another Gauguin painting though again I have not found anything to say that he visited The Cook Islands. Three sheetlets are being issued on 26 September 2013 with one inscribed "Cook Islands" and the other two with additional inscriptions for Aitutaki and Penrhyn. I view them all as Footnote issues and shall not be bothering with them.
  Interestingly, the British philatelic publication, Gibbons Stamp Monthly, does not appear to have any concerns about the number of philatelic items emanating from this particular postal agency and is giving free samples of some values of the recent Samoa definitive set with its December 2013 edition and gratefully acknowledges the agent's participation in the promotion. This is despite the fact that the Stanley Gibbons Catalogue editor wrote recently in the magazine's Catalogue column that Catalogue editors, including himself, should have possibly been less willing to list excessive issues in their publications. However, that was obviously only a passing thought since even in the latest edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly, he has shown no hesitation in giving catalogue numbers to numerous philatelic items produced with the name of The Gambia printed on them, said to have been released between 25 September 2012 and 3 June 2013 and which moves the catalogue numbers on from 5514 to MS 5568 (this numbering gives no indication that most items are multistamp sheetlets rather than miniature sheets). 


Sunday 17 November 2013

327. Royal Mail Cashing In On Chinese New Year?

Royal Mail has announced that its second new commemorative set of 2014, after the inconsequential "Children's television characters" set to be released in January, will be a set of 6 stamps which pays tribute to Britain's working horses. Superficially there does not appear to be any particular reason to issue such a set particularly on the date chosen, 4 February 2014, but if one thinks about it, this set will be released only 4 days after the Chinese New Year - 31 January 2014 - which just happens to be the Year of the Horse. Perhaps this is an attempt to attract the burgeoning Far Eastern philatelic market and appeal to collectors in that region of the world as Royal Mail finds a need to replace its traditional local collector-buyers in Britain who are giving up collecting British stamps in their droves because of excessive issuing and the expense associated with purchasing new issues.
  The set is quite pleasant although the designers appear to have done little more than select 6 photographs and add some lettering to them along with a representation of the Queen's head. Notably, there are no second class postage values included in the set despite Royal Mail's promise to collectors in 2012 that they would help their philatelic customers by producing more such values thus reducing the cost of a set to for the collectors. I think that collectors have long given up expecting that Royal Mail would keep any promise that they made to them.
  For the record the stamps were "designed" by Micael Denny and Harold Batten - a far cry from the days of David Gentleman (see Blog 326). Printing was carried out in lithography by ISP.

  30 September 2013 - Churches of Barbados - 4 stamps - lithograph printed by BDT International - 

  This Barbados set is the only issue to be featured on the CASCO website for September 2013 which was published in the last few days even though it is now mid-November. The agency really does seem to be losing a grip with little effort seeming to be put in to promoting the stamps to collectors of their 12 client territories. Perhaps they are more active in promoting new issues to dealers but if the collectors do not know that something is on the market then they will not seek them out and buy them. There seems no point in having a website if you don't keep it up to date.

  Date of issue awaited - The Pallottine Sisters, a branch of the Roman Catholic Church - 3 stamps :-

Fiji:- date awaited - Mangroves - 4 stamps:-

Jamaica:- date awaited - definitive reprints presumably with "2013" imprints - 4 stamps:-

Pitcairn Islands:- 22 November 2013 - 50th anniversary of the assassination of former US President Kennedy - 4 stamps. Designed by Denise Durkin and lithographed by Southern Colour Print. I have no idea what the connection between Pitcairn and Kennedy is - perhaps someone could tell me what the justification for this issue is. This is the 7th issue of stamps from the island during 2013, admittedly only amounting to a total of 18 stamps and 3 miniature sheets: nevertheless that means that each resident of Pitcairn has had half a stamp each designed for them during this past year.

Grenada:- 10 October 2013 - 60th anniversary of the Coronation of the Queen of Grenada, Elizabeth II - a further sheetlet of 4 stamps and an additional miniature sheet:-

St. Helena:- date of issue awaited - Birth of Prince George of Cambridge - 4 stamps:-

Bhutan:- 18 June 2013 - The Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava - sheetlet of 8 stamps and 1 miniature sheet:-

Footnote Issues:- these are issues of philatelic items which are produced usually by foreign philatelic agents on behalf of various countries which have little or no relevance of subject matter to the country whose name appears on the philatelic item. They have postal validity in theory but probably receive minimal true postal usage in the territories whose names are printed on the items. I do not include such items in my collection of Commonwealth stamps:-

Antigua And Barbuda:-

28 October 2013 - Dogs - Sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet:-

28 October 2013 - China International Collection Expo - "Sites and Scenes of China" - Sheetlet of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet which contains 2 different stamps:-


10 October 2013 - Constellations - Sheetlet of 3 stamps and 1 m.s.:-

16 October 2013 - Domestic cats - Sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 m.s. (depicted in a previous Blog):-

16 October 2013 - Commemoration of the late Baroness Thatcher, former British prime minister - sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s.. I do not not believe that, like Kennedy and Pitcairn, there was any particular connection between Grenada and Margaret Thatcher except that she angrily berated the US President Reagan when he ordered American troops to invade and occupy the island, a Commonwealth Realm, without informing the British government beforehand.

10 October 2013 - World Radio Day - Sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 m.s.-

Grenada Grenadines:-

16 October 2013 - Bats - Sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 m.s. There is no indication that the feature species are local in the Grenadines.

10 October 2013 - Marine life - Sheelet of 4 different designs and 1 m.s. There is no indication that any of the featured species are found in the local waters of The Grenadines.


10 October 2013 - Chinese New Year - Year of the Horse - Sheetlet of 6 different stamps and 1 m.s. Bizarrely released 3 and a half months before Chinese New Year (perhaps the Guyanese like to "Post Early for Chinese New Year") and a subject of dubious relevance to Guyana. Apparently, the Guyanese (or their philatelic agents) - like the British - see exploitation of Chinese stamp collectors as the way ahead now that western collectors have all but given up. Where will it all end?