Friday 31 January 2014

362. Royal Mail Buckingham Palace "Collection" Will Cost Collectors Well Over £20.

  On 15 April 2014, Royal Mail will issue 6 stamps, 1 miniature sheet containing 4 different stamps, 1 retail booklet of 6 stamps and 1 prestige booklet containing 4 panes to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Buckingham Palace, previously known as Buckingham House. The set was lithographed by Cartor, the miniature sheet was lithographed by Enschede and the retail booklet was printed in photogravure by Walsall Security Printers.

The set of 6 basic stamps.

The miniature sheet.

The contents of the retail booklet.

  The face value of this issue, or should I say "Collection", (not including first day covers, presentation packs and postcards) is £19.80p but since the prestige booklet is sold at a price higher than the total face value of the stamps and there may also be an increase in postal rates before these items are released we may conclude that this single issue will cost the collector who wants "one of everything" a total of well over £20.
  Royal Mail will also issue 6 stamps on 13 May 2014 on the subject of "Great British Films" released since the end of the Second World War. One of the stamps will depict the movie "A Matter Of Life And Death" which was released in 1948 and starred David Niven and Kim Hunter, both of whom are featured in the stamp design which shows them in an iconic scene from the film:-

  This is not the first time that David Niven has been depicted on a British stamp - his portrait was featured in one of the 5 stamps issued in 1985 which depicted British film actors and actresses:-

  He has also been depicted on a stamp from Sierra Leone but then again, who hasn't?:-

  Royal Mail has also announced that it will issue 2 "Commemorative sheets" (philatelic items which contain £6 worth of stamps but are usually sold to collectors for £14.95) - one will be issued on 25 February 2014 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Middlesex County Cricket Club and the second will be released on 25 March 2014 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of The Royal Marines.
  According to my calculations, then, the cost from Royal Mail to "one of everything" collectors of all stamp issues (basic stamps, post and go stamps, miniature sheets, prestige booklets, retail booklets, "Generic sheets" and "Commemorative sheets") which will be released up to 21 April 2014 will be a whisker away from £100 at £99.25p not allowing for postal rate increases affecting face values of "1st" stamps and necessitating new definitive stamps. So, extrapolating the face value of items for the first quarter of 2014 to the whole of the year we may suggest that Royal  Mail will release at least £400 worth of new issues for collectors to buy during 2014. Co-incidentally that is about the same face value as the total cost of stamp issues produced by Philatelic Collector Inc. for the combination of Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga in 2013 (see Blog 359) - planners of Royal Mail's stamp issues will no doubt be proud to be in the same category as the "Boutique Agency".
  I've noticed that in its publicity about these stamp issues Royal Mail now tends to talk about an issue being "a collection" - for example - "The Buckingham Palace Collection" rather than a new stamp issue - in most cases a simple stamp issue is not adequate, rather it must be accompanied by additional booklets and/or miniature sheets and all the other usual accompanying paraphenalia. I made a similar point about the Manx Post Office's new issue publicity in Blog 361 and concluded that these postal administrations are just not interested in old fashioned collectors who buy postage stamps since it's probable that most of the profit comes from all the extra collectibles. Where will it all end?

  Meanwhile Australia Post keeps churning out the stamp issues with a release being due on 4 February 2014 on the subject of "Romance" for use in particular, I suppose, on St. Valentine's Day greetings cards. The issue consists of 2 gummed stamps and 2 self-adhesive stamps - 1 design only being sold in booklets of 10 stamps and the other being sold in booklets of 20 stamps meaning that if a stamp collector wants to obtain a single example of each self-adhesive stamp (face value $1.20c) from the Australian Post Office then he must buy a total of 30 stamps (face value $18 - 1500% more
than the face value of the stamps he wants to put in his collection!) To repeat myself, where will it all end?

  Malta Post reissued its 37c Map of Malta "Occasions" stamp with attached label on 24 January 2014 with, I think, a "2013" imprint in the lower border (depicted above). The stamp was originally issued in this format on 17 March 2010.

Thursday 30 January 2014

361. Manx Aviation Issue And Yet More Year Of The Horse Stamps.

  The Isle Of Man will issue 6 stamps on 19 February 2014 to commemorate the "50th display season of the Red Arrows" which appears to be an excuse to release a set at a price of £5.59 which depicts the popular theme of aircraft. This expensive set does not appear to have any direct relevance to the island and the Manx Post Office does not seem to have any particular special reason to issue such a set so this will be the first issue of The Isle Of Man which I shall not bother to buy for my collection. I will make it a "Footnote Issue".
  The set was designed by Isle Of Man Advertising and lithographed by Lowe Martin.
  Future Manx issues will be more locally relevant:-
  4 April 2014 -150th Birth anniversary of Archibald Knox, early 20th century designer, who began his artistic career in The Isle Of Man;
  15 April 2014 - "The Manx Ark" - preservation of rare farm animal breeds by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust - 1 miniature sheet of 6 stamps;
  23 April 2014 - Millenium commemoration of the Battle of Clontarf in which the Irish of Munster defeated Vikings and Leinster Irish in the struggle for the control of the Irish Sea area. Vikings from The Isle Of Man took part in the battle.

  The flood of Year Of The Horse stamps continues unassuaged. A sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet containing 2 other different stamps has been released with the name of Antigua And Barbuda printed on them, though the date of issue is not yet known:-

The 4 stamps from the sheetlet
  The Antiguan Press reported the issue of the previously mentioned Nelson Mandela stamps during December 2013 but a reader commenting on one Antiguan newspaper website said that they had visited the post office in St. John's and been told by a clerk there that the Mandela issue would not be released at least until 10 January 2014 so any source reporting an earlier date of issue is inaccurate. The newspaper reports said that there were no official first day covers to accompany the issue.
  The Grenada Year Of The Horse issue appears to consist of a sheetlet of 9 identical $1.50 stamps accompanied by an expensive $22 (£4.95p) single embroidered stamp. Doubtless there is someone somewhere who will feel the urge to buy such items:-

  There is also an embroidered stamp on the market from Sierra Leone with a face value of Le34000 (£4.76p). Doubtless Chinese New Year is a big occasion in this West African country to justify such an extravagant issue or perhaps, on the other hand, it isn't!

  Turks And Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean Sea (rather a long way from China, I think) has felt it acceptable to allow its philatelic agents to sell  on its behalf a sheetlet of 6  different stamps and an accompanying miniature sheet to commemorate the lunar new year. The stamp designs depict ancient glazed ceramic horse sculptures. Again, I do not yet know the date of issue:-

The 6 stamps from the sheetlet.

  Finally, news from Nevis of a locally relevant stamp issue from late 2013. Three stamps and 1 miniature sheet were released which commemorate the 225th anniversary of the appointment of Alexander Hamilton, who had been born in Nevis, as the first Secretary Of The Treasury of The USA:-

  Nevis also issued 4 stamps to commemorate Christmas 2013. the designs depict paintings by the Italian artist Crivelli. I do not yet know the date of issue of the above Nevis sets:-

Wednesday 29 January 2014

360. Malta's Joint Issue With Israel; Possible Previously Unreported Maldives Turtle Stamp.

  Malta's second stamp issue of 2014 was released on 28 January and takes the form of a single stamp which is part of a joint issue with the Israeli Post Office. The stamp was designed by Ronen Goldberg. I am not sure why a joint issue  by the 2 countries was felt necessary but it follows on from last year's Maltese joint issue with the Caribbean island of CuraƧao. For other 2014 Maltese new issues see Blog 351.

  The Isle Of Man will issue a £3 miniature sheet on 19 February 2014 which will accompany its previously mentioned 6 stamp set which commemorates the centenary of the outbreak of The First World War. The miniature sheet is on the subject of art work carried out by troops in the trenches and was designed by EJC Design and lithographed by BDT International. It is an attractive and interesting item but does it really have to cost as much as £3?

  The Isle Of Man Post Office has updated its website and put the emphasis on packs and philatelic items rather than straightforward stamp issues so that it is very difficult to find simple sets of new issues on the site without being offered expensive "collections" and "sheetlets" and countless other philatelic detritus. In this modern world it isn't enough to simply collect stamps but you have to have the stamps pushed at you in various forms of packaging, which add no real value to the stamps but greatly increase the price that you must pay for your stamps. From the point of view of the ordinary stamp collector who just wants to buy a set of a new issue from the island, the new website is awful. Then again, I suppose, the ordinary stamp collector who just wants to buy a simple set of stamps is of little interest to a post office or philatelic agent as the profits extracted from such a customer are minimal. The modern stamp business seems to be all about collectibles rather than stamps and ordinary stamp collectors are probably just a nuisance to such businesses. See also Blog 354.
  Depicted below are some of the final issues of 2014 from Sri Lanka which I have previously mentioned but not illustrated:-
  1 November 2013 - Dr. Premasiri Khamadasa (music composer) - 1 stamp;
  30 October 2013 - Deshabandu Alec Robertson (writer) - 1 stamp:-

  8 November 2013 - Centenary of the Excise Department - 1 stamp;
  27 October 2013 - Inaugurationof the Colombo to Katynayake Expressway - 1 stamp:-

  I believe the last 3 issues of the year from Sri Lanka were released in December and each consisted of a single stamp which commemorated 
  The Sri Lankan Administrative Service,
  Ven. Baddegama Wimalawansa Nayaka Theor and
  Dharmadasa Walpola.
 I do not yet know the precise dates of issue of these 3 stamps.
  The first Sri Lankan issue of 2014 commemorated the Thai Pongal Farmers Festival and consisted of 2 stamps and 1 miniature sheet which were released on 12 January 2014. See also Blog 354.

  The stamp depicted below has a Maldives postmark dated 23 December 2013. I am not sure that I have seen this stamp before with its interesting currency inscription in "MVR" (Maldives Ruffiya) - usually the value is expressed as "Rf" - and I cannot find an image of it on the internet nor is anyone offering it for sale on the internet auction sites. I suspect that this is part of a set which Maldives Post was having prepared in  2012 (see the Blog of 29 April 2012) and that these stamps are what are actually being used on mail in the islands even though Stamperija released a large number of philatelic items in the latter part of 2013 including a sheetlet and miniature sheet which depicted "Turtles of the Indian Ocean". If anyone knows about this stamp I should be grateful for any information in the "comment" box especially if it is part of a previously unreported set.

Previously unreported stamp?

Stamperija Turtles sheetlet of 2013

  I have previously mentioned the stamps released by Australia Post on 20 January 2014 to commemorate the Australian victory over England in The Ashes cricket test series match series. I now also depict the miniature sheet which accompanied the stamps. See also Blog 355.

  The final issue of 2013 by India was released on 31 December and commemorated Babu Banarsi Das (1912 - 1985) who was a previous Speaker and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He was a promoter of the Co-operative movement and supporter of female education. For other recent new issues from India see Blogs 338 and 351.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

359. £422 Cost Of 2013 Year Sets Of Cook Islands, Tonga And Samoa.

  Uganda issued a set of 4 triangular stamps on 15 January 2014 which commemorated the centenary of the Kampala Sikh Temple - a pleasing set of local relevance which is obviously meant to be used on actual mail rather than just as a philatelic collectible.

  In the previous Blog I overlooked yet 2 more issues which were released for Tonga - one was issued on 11 December 2014 on the subject of the previous "Tin Can" mail service of Niuafo'ou. The set is comprised of 1 single stamp and a miniature sheet which contains 1 other stamp. This set is a bit of a mystery because Tonga's postal agents produce stamps regularly with the inscription "Niuafo'ou" printed on them and so if yet another set of "Tin Can Island" stamps really was necessary then why not produce them with the Niuafo'ou inscription? I have to admit that the pair of items are quite interesting and locally relevant so I think I shall obtain them for my collection.

  The second set was issued on 27 September 2014 and depicts cruise ships which have visited Tonga. The issue consists of 2 sheetlets each of 6 different stamps. The total face value is rather high but at least the issue is relevant to Tonga and the stamps may well be of interest to tourists who visit the islands.

  Philatelic Collector Inc., the philatelic agents for Tonga, Cook Islands and Samoa, are offering year sets for all three territories for 2013 as well as their appendage islands. The cost of these year sets is interesting as it is the face value of all the stamps released of these various small philatelic entities for a single year. Hence the year set for Cook Islands is US$134.11, Aitutaki US$86.14, Penryhn US$86.12 and Rarotonga $3.28 (making a grand total for the Cook Islands of US$309.64 or £186.33p); for Samoa the year set costs US$95.94 or £57.74 and for Tonga the cost is US$207.04 and Niuafo'ou is US$94.31 (making a grand total for Tonga of US$301.35 or £181.35). This means that if a collector bought 1 mint example of every stamp and miniature sheet produced by this "Boutique Philatelic Agency" on behalf of its 3 clients the total cost for 2013 would be US$702.32 or £422.65. Collectors will draw their own conclusions about whether or not it is reasonable for three small Commonwealth countries to have £422 worth of stamps produced on their behalf in a single year. 
  I have not previously illustrated the 2013 Cayman Islands Christmas set of 4 stamps and so they are depicted below. The set was issued on 5 November 2013 and depicts Father Christmas standing outside buildings of local historical significance. This is an excellent issue, cheerful and seasonal, with local relevance and modestly priced with face values that are relevant to postal rates. Well done, Cayman Islands! If only other postal administrations would follow this example:-

  I also now illustrate the previously mentioned 6 stamps issued in late 2013 by Swaziland on the subject  "Towards 2022":-

Thursday 23 January 2014

358. Birds And Monkeys Of Tanzania.

  On 30 July 2012, Tanzania issued a set of 18 stamps on the subject of Birds of Tanzania. The stamps were lithograph printed by Oriental Press in Bahrain in a format of 3 sheetlets (1 of 8 different stamps and 2 of 4 different stamps) and 2 single stamp miniature sheets. This set has only just appeared on the market and is one of the locally relevant sets that sometimes appear from the Tanzania Post Office rather than being one of the issues emanating directly from its foreign philatelic agents:-

  A second local issue was released on 15 October 2012 on the subject of colobus monkeys of Tanzania. The issue consisted of a sheetlet of 6 stamps with an accompanying single stamp miniature sheet (see also the blog of 18 July 2012):-

  As previously mentioned, the British postal service, Royal Mail, will release 6 stamps on 4 February 2014 on the theme of "Working Horses" for no obvious reason apart from it being a potentially popular theme and possibly with some relationship to the Chinese New Year (The Year of The Horse) and the hope of large far-eastern sales of the set. At least, for once, we are spared an accompanying miniature sheet or booklets but the face value is still £5.52p which is not a modest sum. Of course, that is not the end of the matter since Royal Mail also released a "generic sheet" on  10 December 2013 to commemorate The Year Of The Horse and that is comprised of 20 x 1st class stamps with appropriately illustrated attached labels (the face value of that being £12 although the sale price is £12.50p). I long ago gave up collecting these generic sheets and do not regret their absence from my collection of British stamps at all.

  A similar generic sheet had been issued on  7 February 2013 to commemorate the Year Of The Snake so Royal Mail managed to squeeze 2 of these sheets for successive lunar new years into 2013. In all 5 generic sheets were issued by Royal Mail in 2013 (2 Lunar new years, 1 for Dr. Who and 2 for International Philatelic Exhibitions in Australia and Thailand - total cost to the collector being £62.50!) I wonder how well these items sell given their high cost and if the lunar new year issues sell particularly well in far eastern countries.

  Philatelic Collector Inc. have just given details of their latest products which bear the names of Cook Islands, Tonga and Samoa. They have managed to pack a lot of philatelic items into the first few days of 2014.
 An issue for Cook Islands was made on 3 January 2014 which was titled "Highland Paradise" and consisted of 9 stamps. I am not sure if the title of the issue is a mistake and should read "Island Paradise" or if the stamps depict life on higher ground in Cook Islands. The stamps were designed by the agency's favourite designer, Alison Ditko, and at least depict subjects of relevance to The Cook Islands and one can easily see them being used on mail sent by tourist visitors to the islands.
p.s. "Highland Paradise" is apparently a tourist attraction in The Cook Islands on one of the highest points of the territory hence the name. Perhaps it should be "Island Highland Paradise"(!)

  Unfortunately, that was not the only set produced for Cook Islands in January. On 6 January 2014 another 12 definitives which feature insects were released as well as an accompanying sheetlet which contained all 12 designs. The designer of this issue was again Alison Ditko:-

  Of course there was also a "Year of The Horse" issue, this time a miniature sheet of 2 stamps which is said to have been released on 8 January 2014 and designed by the Chinese artist, Huang Li:-

  And philatelic agencies have not yet exhausted the profits-boosting potential of little Prince George of Cambridge who featured on a miniature sheet released on 14 January 2014 to commemorate his christening:-

  We are not yet done with Cook Islands since there is also the inevitable Year of The Horse issues to be mentioned which were produced with the inscriptions "Aitutaki Cook Islands" and "Penrhyn Northern Cook Islands" - one sheetlet from both, each consisting of 4 different stamps. These items were also designed by the ubiquitous Alison Ditko and the Aitutaki item is particularly irritating since only two of the stamps contained within it can be displayed correctly because the other two lie at right angles to them:-

  On to Samoa - a sheetlet of 6 different stamps was released on 8 January 2014 to, inevitably, commemorate "The Year of The Horse":-

  Then, on 10 January 2014, 12 more definitives which depict marine life were issued although, pleasingly, there was no accompanying sheetlet:-

  And so, to Tonga. Not too much of a surprise that there is yet another "Year of The Horse" issue from  Tonga - another sheetlet of 4 different stamps designed by, yes you guessed it, Alison Ditko and released on 6 January 2014:-

 On 3 January 2014, a miniature sheet had also been released on behalf of Tonga which commemorated the christening of Prince George of Cambridge, even though the country has its own royal family which could be featured on its stamps:-

  A third Tongan issue, inscribed "Niuafo'ou", was also released on 6 January 2014 and was yet another "Year of The Horse" production. The designer was Alison Ditko:-

(See also Blog 332). p.s. See the upcoming Blog 359 for even more Tongan new issues.
  Leaving the productions of Philatelic Collector Inc. behind us for now, I illustrate some recent issues of Eritrea, which of course is not a Commonwealth country but is one of those territories which at one time was administered by the British (though admittedly for a relatively short period) and which, because its stamps are so interesting, I still include in my collection. The country released 2 issues during 2013 - the first being a miniature sheet produced in The People's Republic Of China to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Eritrea. Eight stamps were included in the miniature sheet - 4 depicted buildings and wildlife of Eritrea and the remainder depicted similar subjects in China. The stamps were designed by Ma Xiao Ling (see also Blog 301):-

  Eritrea issued 8 new definitive stamps on 27 June 2013 which depicted a previously used view of Ge'a'lo. The stamps were printed in lithography by Enschede:-

  Prior to these issues, Eritrea had not issued any stamps since 3 September 2011 when it had released 2 stamps which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the armed struggle for independence against Ethiopia. The set was designed by Michael Adonai and lithographed by Enschede:-

  The same printer and designer were involved in the production of another set of 2 stamps which the Eritrea Post Office released on 17 June 2011 which commemorated the 20th anniversary of Eritrean Martyrs Day:-

  A set of 3 stamps was released on 23 May 2011 which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the achievement of Eritrean independence at the end of the long war of liberation against the Ethiopians. This set was also lithographed by Enschede but was designed by Behana Adonai:-

  I think it is possible to see just how interesting the issues of this philatelically conservative country are and certainly they are much more interesting to me than an endless flood of "Year of The Horse" stamps, most of which have no relevance to the country whose name has been inscribed on the items.