Royal Mail will issue a new definitive stamp on 22 March 2016 due to the increase of the £1 postage rate (airmail postcard, Europe 20g airmail and World 10g airmail) to £1.05p. The stamp is in the imaginatively named colour of "gooseberry green" and the self-adhesive stamp is printed in gravure.
£1.05p stamps will also be issued on 22 March 2016 for use in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. These have been lithographed by International Security Printers and are perforated 15 x 14.
The Isle Of Man Post Office will issue a set of 10 stamps on 24 March 2016 titled "Matt Sewell's Birds". The designs depict cartoon-style portraits by artist and ornithologist, Matt Sewell, of birds found in the Isle Of Man. Presumably the stamps are meant to be whimsically entertaining but personally I'm not sure I understand the point of them. I would have much preferred realistic portraits of the island's birds. The issue, though cheerful, seems childish and pointless.
The stamps are sold in two formats - gummed in sheets of 2 sheets of 25 (5 x 5 designs in each sheet) and self-adhesive in booklets of 10 x 1st stamps (2 x 5 stamps) priced at £4.40p. Rating:- **.
Philatelic Collector Inc. has released a number of philatelic items which include a 12 value set of stamps for Samoa on the subject of "Marine life" which, judging by the number of stamps in the set as well as the face values (up to $19.75) has the appearances of being a series of definitive stamps although I have not seen it labelled as such. The date of issue is given as 7 March 2016. The wildlife photography used in the designs is stated to have originated from National Geographic Creative, hence, I suppose, the use of yellow borders to make the stamp look like the cover of a National Geographic magazine. Rating:- ***.
Moving to Tonga - having expended a lot of energy in the past couple of years producing philatelic items with a presumed appeal to the Chinese philatelic market, Philatelic Collector has now produced items which might appeal to collectors in another economically thriving country - India (perhaps the Chinese-themed items did not prove as successful as the philatelic agency may have hoped them to be). A set of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet were issued on 14 January 2016 to commemorate the Second Summit of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Co-operation which, according to the publicity for the issue, was attended by representatives of India, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Niuafo'ou, Tubalu (sic) and Vanuatu. The meeting had in fact been held in Jaipur on 21 August 2015 and contrary to Philatelic Collector Inc.'s publicity, Niuafo'ou which is part of Tonga, did not have separate representation at the meeting.
This set is clearly designed to appeal to a number of theme collectors - animals, plants, Gandhi, mammals, reptiles, snakes and was designed by Derek Miller in his inimitable style. As Tonga was represented at the meeting, I suppose one could say that the issue has some relevance to Tonga. Rating:- **.
On 2 February 2016 two sheetlets were released which commemorated Tongan involvement in the First World War and Tonga's role in World War II (the sheetlet marks the 75th anniversary of the war). These are interesting items because they illustrate locally relevant subjects unlike the issues put out by some agencies for other territories which frequently fail to link the subject with the territories themselves. Rating:- ****.
Philatelic Collector Inc. also issued 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet with the name of Niuafo'ou printed on them on 14 January 2016 on the subject of the 2nd India Pacific Islands Co-operation Forum held in Jaipur. Further animals are depicted (including a peacock to entice bird stamp collectors) along with Gandhi again. Again the issue was designed by Derek Miller. Rating:- *.
On 29 December 2015 twelve stamps were issued in 3 blocks of 4 in the name of Cook Islands and depicted "Night skies of Rarotonga". Despite the subject this seems to have been an issue for Cook Islands rather than Rarotonga itself. It's all very complicated. Rating:- ***.
Always greedy with its excessive stamp issuing is Jersey Post which feels it is necessary to issue 10 stamps to commemorate the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II and which will be released on 21 April 2016. The cost of the set is £7.49 plus tax. Despite the impression gained from the illustrations below all of the stamps will be the same size. There's nothing original about these designs - just standard photographs many of which we have seen before - dull! dull! dull! Rating:- *.
If you want to know how a great philatelic agency approaches the subject then Ascension Island's set of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet (safely in the Pobjoy Stamps/Creative Direction stable) which will also be released on 21 April 2016, shows a very interesting approach to the subject. It's issue is titled "Style" and depicts The Queen's clothes during the period of her reign to reflect how immaculately dressed she has been throughout her life. It's a very clever approach to a royal birthday issue and as usual the photographs used on the stamps are extremely well chosen. The issue was designed by Bee Design and lithographed by BDT Security Printers and perforated 14.
The same theme has also been used for the issue of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet also to be released on 21 April 2016 by the Bahamas Post Office - 5 more marvellous photographs of the stylish monarch. Again this set was designed by Bee Design and lithographed by BDT with perforations 14. Rating:- *****.