Monday 30 March 2015

544. Absolutely Fabulous - Royal Mail's Surprise Gimmick - A Laughing Stamp.

  Royal Mail has issued a surprise item among the 10 new "Comedians" stamps released on 1 April 2015. It is the most original philatelic gimmick to come along for a long time. In Blog 542 I grumbled about the use of philatelic gimmicks, such as the recently announced rose-scented stamps from Isle Of Man, on the grounds that gimmicks were incorporated in stamps at the expense of undistinguished designs along with the fact that most gimmicks are hardly original - there have been scores of issues over the years with all sorts of scents attached to them as well as stamps with holograms, stamps printed on strange forms of paper, stamps printed on metals and textiles, strangely shaped stamps, stamps in the form of music records and C.D.s and so on. 
  But the new item from Royal Mail is both original, clever and hilarious....a stamp that laughs! Royal Mail is using a clever piece of paper technology which gives the effect that when a finger is rubbed along the reverse of the stamp over the special gum, a noise is made which convincingly sounds like the laugh of a woman. The noise produced by the stamps is very funny and the specially-treated paper has been used appropriately in the printing of the French And Saunders stamp because of the female-sounding rather than male-sounding laugh produced by the special paper.
  Unfortunately, and doubtless of some annoyance to some collectors and stamp dealers, because of the cost of producing this specially-treated paper, only one sheet in every 200 containing the French And Saunders stamp will be printed on the specially-treated laughing paper (and then only the F and S stamps themselves) which means that collectors will need to hunt around for the special laughing stamp because the special sheets could turn up at any branch of the Post Office and to make the quest more interesting the Philatelic Bureau will not be offering the special laughing stamps for sale as items separate from the basic set - it will be a matter of pure luck if a collector obtains the laughing stamp. What fun!
  Counter staff at local post offices, despite being busy carrying out all the duties associated with their work, seem to be having an excellent time rubbing the reverse of their French And Saunders stamps to  see if they can make them laugh and in the post offices where the laughing stamps have turned up, the noise has brightened up most of of the customers lining up to be served and whole queues have been observed to be in stitches as someone rubs their newly purchased laughing stamps.
  Well done Royal Mail in coming up with the best philatelic gimmick for years and making 1 April 2015 a date of issue to remember. Even if we collectors have to hunt around to obtain our laughing stamp it's a search well worthwhile to be able to add this highly original stamp to our collection and to have the resulting good laugh.

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Sunday 29 March 2015

543. Birds And Reptiles On New Zealand Tourist Stamps.

White kiwi
  Collectors of bird and reptile-themed stamps will be interested in several of the stamps included in the New Zealand Post Tourism booklets which I mentioned in Blog 536. Three of the booklets contain stamps which depict birds and reptiles appear in two booklets. The Lower South island booklet contains a stamp which depicts a penguin on the Otago peninsula (unnamed species but presumably the Yellow eyed penguin), the Wellington booklet contains a stamp depicting a white kiwi and a tuatara lizard and the New Zealand icons booklet depicts a Kaka parrot, a kiwi and a bird called a Tui:-

Kaka parrot (New Zealand icons booklet).

Kiwi (New Zealand icons booklet).

Tui (New Zealand Icons booklet).
Yellow-eyed Penguin (Lower South Island booklet).
Tuatara (New Zealand Icons booklet).
Tuatara (Wellington Regional booklet).

  As pointed out in Blog 536, the booklets each contain 10 different stamps and each region/theme is available in 4 differently priced booklets - 10 x 70c, 10 x 80c, 10 x $1.90 and 10 x $2  so that if bird stamp collectors wish to obtain all 20 bird stamps then 12 booklets covering all the values must be bought.

  India Post issued a single stamp on 27 March 2015 on the subject of Engineers India Ltd. The stamp was launched at a meeting in New Delhi by the Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (depicted above).

  The British National Postal Museum will issue souvenir "Post And Go" labels on 6 May 2015 as commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black. The motif printed on the label, strangely, does not depict the Penny Black but a Maltese cross postmark so presumably the item also commemorates the postmark's anniversary which does not seem unreasonable. However the added inscription leaves no doubt about the real item being commemorated reading, as it does, "The B.P.M.A./Penny Black 175". Spare a thought for the poor old Twopenny Blue which is forever treated as the Penny Black's poor cousin and, though being more valuable, rarely gets a mention.

  Fiji Post has issued 1 miniature sheet containing 2 stamps on the subject of Blue Coral. I do not yet know the precise date of issue:-

  Pakistan Post issued a single stamp on 24 March 2015 to commemorate the Executive Council meeting of the Asian Pacific Postal Union held in Islamabad from 24 to 28 March. The design depicts a nice collection of Asian and Pacific flags for vexillologists to enjoy along with a surfeit of doves carrying letters in their beaks - where would stamp designers be if men had never invented flags or Noah's dove hadn't carried a form of message in its beak:-

  Judging by an item being offered for sale on an Internet auction site, Trinidad And Tobago was one of the beneficiaries of a gift from The People's Republic Of China during 2014 when the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the 2 countries was celebrated by the issue of 2 miniature sheets - 1 containing 2 stamps depicting birds of importance to each country and the other containing 2 stamps which depict flowers of relevance to each one. The 2 miniature sheets which are offered for sale appear to be contained in a special presentation pack and appear to have a date of issue of 20 June 2014. 
  These ongoing issues whereby China donates an issue to another territory to commemorate, usually,  an anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations are always very interesting and a mini-collection of all that have been issued over the years would make up an interesting album and have some historical significance. I am surprised that some postal administrations in the west have not caught up with this idea - it would be good international publicity for the postal administration which did so and would play a worthwhile if minor role in the day-to-day relationship between the participating countries. Perhaps Royal Mail could kick off with such a project on the subject of relations between The United Kingdom and Sierra Leone given the way that Britain has played a significant role in helping the country deal with its Ebola crisis as well as the role Britain played in helping the country to return to democracy in 2000.

  IGPC has issued 2 sheetlets, each of different stamps, and 2 miniature sheets on the subject of works by First World artists (see Blog 499D). One of the sheetlets depicts John Singer Sargant's  "Gassed" (1919, located in the Imperial War Museum) which shows a line of wounded and blinded British soldiers being led across a terrible, ravaged landscape past men lying in exhaustion on the ground on either side around them. The country whose name appears on this issue is Tuvalu (I will add illustrations of the issue when they come along and give the "date of issue" when I know it):-

"Gassed" by John Singer Sargant.

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Tuesday 24 March 2015

542. Not So Much Jam And Jerusalem As Jaffa Cakes And The Smell Of Roses.

  After a recent promotion by Isle Of Man Stamps which involved the offer of some Jaffa Cakes (orange-flavoured biscuits) (see Blog 538) to the first 100 purchasers of a special cover it has now been announced that a new issue of 6 stamps to be released on the subject of the Centenary of The Women's Institute will be marked by the use of rose-scented paper on which the stamps are printed. 
  There seems to be an increasing use of gimmicks in stamp design, production and sales promotion - hardly an edition of this Blog goes by now without mentioning stamps printed on strange materials (gold, silver, wood, textiles, silk) or with strange aromas attached to them (rose, chocolate and so on) as a way of trying to get hold of collectors' attention. The need for these rather tiresome gimmicks would not arise if modern stamps were well designed and sold at reasonable face values instead of being nothing more than rather randomly selected photographs manipulated by a computer programme to include some text and the face value.
  The increasing use of gimmicks is consistent with a failing new issue market where regular collectors are so overwhelmed by the constant outpouring of expensive sets of stamps that they have effectively given up buying these items while postal administrations are so increasingly desperate to extract money from collectors that they need to draw buyers' attention to thir products by adding unusual features to them - except that now almost every issue seems to have to have an unusual feature.
  These latest aromatic Manx masterpieces are a long way from the "Jam And Jerusalem" view of the Women's Institute - each design depicts members of the WI carrying out some sort of demonstration related to a campaign of interest to the members. The issue was designed by Isle Of Man Advertising and lithographed by Lowe Martin and will be released on 25 April 2015:-


  On the subject of the importance of great, original design, I found 6 stamp designs by the graphic designer, T. Greenwood, on the Internet which are on the subject of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta along with a depiction of a first day cover with an inscription "Royal Mail First Day Cover". I am guessing that these are submitted designs or essays which are indeed very interesting and original with their  shape - basically square but with a circular shape breaking out of the square giving the appearance of the royal seal applied to the charter. Each stamp has the name of one of the towns to which a copy of the charter was sent and gives a fact about the history of Magna Carta. What an exciting set of designs (and not a single strange smell attached to them):-

  Moving from exquisite design to the sort of philatelic products which involve "randomly selected photographs manipulated by a computer programme to include some text and the face value", I  depict some new philatelic items released by IGPC with the names of client postal administrations printed on them:-

  2015 (date of issue not yet known) - Antigua And Barbuda - "Horses in Art" - 2 sheetlets, 1 of 6 different stamps and the other of 4 different stamps plus 2 miniature sheets:-

  2015 (date of issue not yet known) - Valentina Tereshkova, First woman in space - 1 sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet:-

  2015 (date not yet known):- Sierra Leone - Big cats of Africa - 2 sheetlets each of 4 different stamps stamps and 2 miniature sheets:-

  2015 (date not yet known):- National Parks of Africa (none of the parks appear to be located in Sierra Leone) - 2 sheetlets each of 4 different stamps and 2 miniature sheets:-

  Meanwhile Samoa has followed in the footsteps of the other countries for which Philatelic Collector Inc. is the philatelic agent - Cook Islands and Tonga - by issuing 3 high value definitive stamps in a se- tenant block with a total face value of $63.75c (currently equal to £17.35). I do not yet know the date of issue:-

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Monday 23 March 2015

541. Death of Lee Kuan Yew.

  Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, died on 23 March 2015 in the 50th year of the country's existence as a separate state. Doubtless we will see the issue of some stamps to commemorate this great Commonwealth statesman in due course. 
  Lee Kuan Yew was born on 16 September 1923 and studied law at Cambridge University as a young man. Returning to Singapore, Lee had his first experience of local politics in 1951 and was elected to the legislature in 1955 and his party won 43 of the 51 seats in the legislative assembly in elections in 1959.
  Singapore gained self-government on 3 June 1959 and Lee became Singapore's first prime minister. Singapore became part of Malaysia in September 1963 but following the race riots of 1964, Singapore separated from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. Lee Kwan Yew held the premiership until 28 November 1990 by which date he had become the longest-serving prime minister in the world. Lee remained in the cabinet in the role of Senior Minister and in August 2004 was appointed "Minister Mentor" by the third prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kuan Yew's son. Lee Kuan Yew retired from the Singapore cabinet after the 2011 general election but remained a Member of Parliament.
  He has previously been portrayed on stamps - as an elderly statesman he was depicted on a stamp issued by Brunei Darussalam (shown above) which commemorated the 65th birthday of the Sultan of Brunei - Lee is depicted towards the lower left of the stamp shaking hands with the Sultan.
A much younger Lee was also depicted in the border of a miniature sheet issued by Singapore in 1998 to commemorate the "Singpex '98" exhibition and titled "The Singapore Story" - he is depicted standing at a lectern among a group of ministers all with their arms raised after their victory in the 1959 general elections :-

  Australia Post will issue its part of the joint ANZAC issue with New Zealand Post (see Blog 534) on 7 April 2015. The set will be composed of 2 gummed stamps, 2 self-adhesive stamps and 1 miniature sheet and was designed by Sonia Young and lithographed by McKellar Renown:-

Joint New Zealand-Australia cover.
  In contrast, the postal administration of The Turkish Republic Of Northern Cyprus issued a single stamp on 18 March 2015 to commemorate the centenary of the Turkish victory at the Battle of Gallipoli - I do not yet have a satisfactory illustration of the stamp but a maximum card with the new stamp applied to it is currently being offered for sale on an Internet website and I illustrate that item below:-

  India Post issued 1 stamp on 20 March 2015 on the subject of  the Indian Ocean and Rajendra Chola I who was one of the greatest rulers of the Tamil Chola Empire and succeeded to the Chola throne in 1014 AD. He extended his empire along the Ganges in northern India and across the Indian Ocean. He ruled the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Ceylon and the Maldive Islands and sent a fleet to and invaded the territories of Srivajaya in Malaya, Siam and the East Indies:-

  Niue will issue a set of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet on 7 April 2015 on the subject of "Hiapo Niue" which is Niuian tapa cloth. The set was designed by New Zealand Post and lithographed by collectables And Solutions Centre, Whanganui:-

  Meanwhile Tokelau will also issue an excellent set of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet on 7 April 2015 on the subject of local traditional fishing. This issue has the same designer and printer as the issue from Niue:-

    A Cypriot designer, Doxia Sergidou, has won a competition held by PostEurop to provide the design of the 2016 Europa common design which is on the theme "Ecology In Europe - Think Green" and which coincides with the 60th anniversary of the first Europa stamps. Presumably therefore collectors of Commonwealth stamps will find themselves buying stamps with this design from Isle Of Man Stamps And Coins, Jersey Post, Guernsey Post, An Post, Gibraltar Stamps, Malta Post, Cyprus Post and Royal Mail. Well, that will be interesting:-

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