Monday 29 June 2020

1694. Number Of Commonwealth Issues Falls By 23% So Far In 2020.

  As we reach the end of June I note that the number of stamp issues (not number of stamps) stated to have been issued by or in the name of all the Commonwealth philatelic entities in the first 6 months of 2020 has fallen by 22.8% in comparison with 2019. In 2019 the Commonwealth philatelic entities had released 351 issues by this stage of the year in comparison with 271 so far in 2020.
  I assume that this significant fall in the number of new issues is more to do with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic than any preplanned intention by postal administrations and philatelic agencies to reduce their annual output of new issues. Most of the habitually most prolific new issuers have maintained a high output of issues. Among these we may include Royal Mail, Australia Post, New Zealand Post, Canada Post, Isle Of Man Post Office, Jersey Post, Royal Gibraltar Post Office, Guernsey Post and the infamous Stamperija which floods the market with issues inscribed with the names of Maldives, Mozambique. and Sierra Leone.

  The self-labelled ‘Boutique philatelic agency’, Philatelic Collector Inc, has managed to put out a number of issues inscribed with the names of various Pacific islands with very high face values which are far from ‘boutique’ but we have seen a considerable reduction in the number of products emanating from the New York-based IGPC which is presumably due to the recently very serious situation in New York as regards the pandemic as well the agency having most of its ‘issues’ printed in China which was the first country affected by the virus.

  The number of issues coming from the excellent Pobjoy Stamps/Creative Direction (South Atlantic, Antarctica, Caribbean) also seems to have been reduced and the issues from the CASCO agency have been rather few and far between. India Post, Pos Malaysia, Pakistan Post and Singapore Post have all had a 2 to 3 month hiatus in their new issue releases.
  It seems likely that many parts of the world will continue to be affected by the pandemic over the next year or so, unless a reliable vaccine becomes generally available before then, and those countries which have relaxed the measures they have taken to control the infection will almost certainly experience ongoing further outbreaks which will severely limit general and economic activity. It will be interesting to see how philately will fare over the next 6 months. The problem is as serious as it ever has been up to now and is particularly dangerous for older men who in the western world are the backbone of the hobby. A large number of deaths in that age group due to the virus could have very serious effects on the continuing viability of the hobby in The West and if potential new issue buyers die in relatively large numbers then philatelic agencies may go under and even the most prolific postal services may not have a market for their numerous products. This is a very dangerous time for the hobby of stamp collecting and yet it may result in a reduction in new issues if greedy new issue stamp producers lose their market.

Saturday 27 June 2020

1693. 🇨🇾 Cyprus Post Celebrates The EOKA Struggle.

🇨🇾 Cyprus Post’s next issues to be released on 9 July 2020 are made up of a set of 3 stamps marking notable local anniversaries and a single stamp which is the Cyprus contribution to this year’s Euromed omnibus series from postal administrations whose countries border the Mediterranean Sea.

  It’s interesting how societies mould their views of history to react to their current ethical, political, cultural and social beliefs. Thus an individual who is viewed as a great hero and philanthropist in a city in one century may be viewed by the majority of the inhabitants of that city, and of wider national and even international society, as an evil villain 200 years later because he lived by the values and carried out deeds acceptable in his time which society views, two centuries on, as unacceptable and appalling, even abhorrent, without taking into account the changed values. Thus a statue may be erected to a hero by public acclaim and several generations later be brutally torn down by the descendants of that public as the hero’s reputation changes to that of a villain. Such is history. We write the history that suits us and fits in with our needs.

  Of course history is also moulded, particularly by ‘young’ countries, to provide the basis for a national story which is vital for the establishment of a national identity without which a sovereign state can not survive in its entirety for very long. Sometimes heroes become villains and sometimes villains become heroes. ‘Terrorists’ become ‘heroes of liberation struggles’. Margaret Thatcher thought that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. History now tells a different story.

The first stamp of the Anniversaries set from Cyprus Post commemorates the 65th anniversary of the founding of EOKA, a terrorist organisation, or if you wish, a guerrilla liberation organisation, which was founded in 1955 by the former Greek army officer George Grivas to resist British rule in Cyprus and achieve the Union of Cyprus with Greece, Enosis. The organisation launched a campaign of bombings, murders and assassinations against the British administration and forces in the island and when the British hanged two of the men who were carrying out these activities, Grivas ordered the execution of two captured British soldiers. The Turkish Cypriot community saw a threat to themselves if Cyprus achieved Enosis and generally supported the British against the Greek Cypriot community and a growing divide between the two communities took place.
  The Greek Cypriot leader, Archbishop Makarios III, sought a more peaceful solution to the problem which would limit the campaign to acts of sabotage but the British exiled him in 1956 for a while to Seychelles. This triggered a general strike and a much higher level of EOKA activity which included an assassination attempt on the life of the British Governor, John Harding, and the killing of 2 British soldiers per week on average. In the immediate period EOKA carried out 104 house bombings, 403 ambushes, 35 attacks on the police, 136 acts of sabotage, 38 attacks on soldiers and staged 53 riots. At this point Grivas began to target Turkish community policemen which led to inter-communal riots  and a series of strikes.
  The EOKA campaign continued and it became obvious that the British would never achieve a successful military outcome and in late 1958, Archbishop Makarios began to shift his stance from Enosis to Cyprus becoming an independent sovereign state. The Cypriot people were becoming exhausted by the continuing conflict and influential Greek Cypriot community members supported Makarios and EOKA began to lose its broad support base. On 5 December 1958 representatives of the Greek and Turkish governments accepted the London-Zurich Agreements which negotiated the establishment of a State of Cyprus and on 9 March 1959 Grivas released a pamphlet accepting the outcome of the Agreements.
  The activities of EOKA had resulted in the deaths of 104 British soldiers, 54 policemen including 15 Greek Cypriots, 22 Turkish Cypriots and 12 British) and 238 civilians (203 Greek Cypriots, 7 Turkish Cypriots and 26 British). 
  The authorities of The Republic of Cyprus consider the EOKA struggle as a struggle of national liberation and its members as heroic freedom fighters. 1 April, the day of the start of the EOKA campaign, is considered to be a national anniversary in the Republic of Cyprus but not in the area of the island called The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
  The 34c value of the new set commemorates the 75th anniversary of the commencement of the EOKA campaign:-

  The second value commemorates the 25th anniversary of the founding of Melathron Agoniston EOKA, an organisation founded by former members of EOKA to provide health care, medical care and decent living for members in the last stages of their lives.

  The final value of the set commemorates the 60th anniversary of OEB, the Employers and Industrialists Federation.

  The second release, the Euromed issue, is on the theme of Traditional Gastronomy, which is an apt subject for a collection of Mediterranean countries to celebrate on their postage stamps. The single stamp depicts kolokasi which is taro root, a tropical plant grown for its edible corms and thought to have been one of the earliest plants cultivated by humans. The Cyprus Tourist Office gives a recipe for use of the vegetable in a stew with belly pork or shoulder of pork and very tasty it looks too. I think that is the dish actually depicted on the stamp. Rating:- ***** (for both the stamp and the dish).

🇺🇸 Following on from Blog 1691, where I illustrated the Chinese New Year single stamp miniature sheet issued by IGPC on 24 March 2020, I now add an illustration of the 4 stamp miniature sheet. The name of Guyana is printed on the item. It’s hard to believe that anyone would spend their money on such stuff. Rating:- 0.

Tuesday 23 June 2020

1692. 🇳🇿🇬🇧 Cakes And Queen.

🇳🇿 New Zealand Post intends to issue a sheetlet of 15 different stamps on 1 July 2020 on the subject of ‘Cakes and Bakes’. This is one of the most trivial issues put out yet by the New Zealand postal service and hardly warrants so many different stamps in one issue. The design by Graeme Mowday is twee and dull and the colours used are anaemic; it attempts to create an image of New Zealand as a country still living in the 1950s which, to some degree, is accurate I suppose. Finally, it has to be said that the depicted cakes hardly have the visual appeal of French patisserie.The issue was lithographed by Southern Colour Print and perforated 14.5 x 14. Rating:- *.
  Mary Berry would judge I think that this issue has a soggy bottom.

🇬🇧 While New Zealand Post seems firmly lodged in the 1950s Royal Mail is doing its best to locate Britain in the 1970s as it again releases a set featuring aged or deceased popular musicians of that era.  On 9 July 2020 a large and expensive issue will be released which is made up of 8 stamps, 1 miniature sheet containing 5 different stamps, 1 counter booklet containing 4 x 1st Class Machin Head definitives and 2 of the commemoratives, 1 Prestige booklet containing 4 different panes (one of which includes 4 copies of a small definitive-sized stamp also found in the miniature sheet plus 4 x 1p Machin Head definitives - to be sold for £19.10) and 2 x ‘Commemorative sheets’ (one costing £13.15 and the other £8.80). Finally there are 2 additional special sheets - so-called ‘Fan sheets - one sold for £7.50 and the other for £10.20. Theare are numerous other products related to the issue of course.
  The issue was designed by Royal Mail Group Ltd from an original design by Studio Dempsey and lithographed by International Security Printers and perforated 14. Rating:- *.

Addendum - Reply to comment by Bearhunter (see below) - Thank you for highly enjoyable and amusing comment - less bland than the latest New Zealand Post stamps, that’s for sure.

Monday 22 June 2020

1691. 🇾🇪 Socotra Seized By Rebels - Philatelic Consequences?

🇾🇪 With the news here in England telling us little about what is happening in the rest of the world unless it is to do with the COVID-19 pandemic or the Black Lives Matter campaign, this fascinating piece of news would have passed me by had it not been for a comment just published on Stamp Boards by saifbeg. The comment points out that the island of Socotra which was part of the Republic Of Yemen has been seized by rebel forces which support the reestablishment of the Democratic Republic Of Yemen (previously The People’s Republic Of South Yemen which was granted independence by The United Kingdom on 30 November 1967, being made up as it was of the former British colony of Aden along with the former states of the Federation Of South Arabia).
  Socotra had been part of the Mahra State of Qishn and Socotra. From 880AD the island had been ruled by Ethiopians and had a Christian population and Marco Polo who did not actually visit the island, noted that its inhabitants were Christian but had no allegiance to the Pope but to an archbishop in Baghdad. In 1507 a Portuguese fleet under the command of Tristan Da Cunha (where have I heard that name before?) captured the port of Suq, then the capital, but abandoned the island after only four years because of the infertility of its soil and the lack of a proper harbour.
  In 1511 the island passed into the hands of the Mahra sultans and the inhabitants were Islamicised. In 1834 the British East India Company attempted to buy Socotra from the Mahra sultan in order to establish a garrison there but he turned the offer down and the British left the island in 1835. The British captured Aden in 1839 which met their needs for a coaling station on the Suez-Bombay route and they subsequently lost all interest in Socotra. In 1876 the Mahra sultan came to terms with the British in exchange for a large payment and annual subsidy so that he pledged, “himself, his heirs and successors, never to sell, cede, to mortgage or otherwise give for occupation, save to the British government, the Island of Socotra or any of its dependencies”. In April 1886 the British, increasingly worried about German naval activity in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, agreed a Protectorate treaty with the Mahra sultan whereby he promised to “refrain from entering into any correspondence, agreement or treaty with any foreign nation or power, except with the knowledge and sanction of the British government”. Hence The Mahra State, including Socotra, became a Protectorate of the British Empire and was to finally make an albeit ephemeral appearance in its own right in the Stanley Gibbons Part 1 Stamp Catalogue approximately 80 years later in the mid-1960s.
  The Mahra Sultanate was abolished in October 1967 and Socotra was subsequently incorporated in the People’s Republic Of South Yemen.  Naval facilities were provided on Socotra to the Soviet Navy for a period.
  The two Yemen Republics (north and south) were unified on 22 May 1990 but after the Arab Spring in 2011 President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to resign and was replaced by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in February 2012. In the time before Saleh’s overthrow, the united Yemeni state had expressed an interest in joining The Commonwealth but general disorder increased in the country and some factions from the former South Yemen increasingly promoted the reestablishment of the South Yemen republic. In September 2014 a faction called the Houthis, backed by Iran,  seized the capital of the unified state, Sa’na, with the support of Ali Abdullah Saleh and President Hadi fled to Aden. Yemen became engulfed in a devastating civil war. Saleh was shot dead by a sniper in December 2017 and Saudi-Arabian and other Gulf states forces became involved in the fighting.
  One group calling itself the Southern Transitional Council (STC) announced on 20 June 2020 that it had taken over control of Socotra by deposing the local governor, driving out the Saudi-backed government forces and seizing the government’s facilities and military bases on the island. The deposed Governor, Ramzi Mahroos, accused the Saudis and Emirates of turning a blind eye to the seizure of Socotra and indeed previously United Arab Emirates had supported STC forces with air strikes in their fighting against government forces.
  In conclusion, saifbeg raises the question in his comment on Stamp Boards of whether the STC will use its seizure of the islands as a basIs for establishing a new version of the South Yemen Republic and expects that the result may be the issue of postage stamps (dependant, one presumes, on there being a functioning postal service on Socotra) in a few months time or some time next year. It’s an interesting suggestion and we will see what developments occur amid the horrific present chaos that is Yemen. I shall be very interested to see if saifbeg’s suggestions that the reestablishment of a state with formerly strong Commonwealth links do indeed become a reality and if a former philatelic entity once more finds its place in the Stamp catalogues.

1 of a set of 10 definitives of South Yemen, issued 1971.
Satellite photograph of Socotra

🇮🇳 According to comments on Stamp boards, India Post will return to new stamp issuing in the very near future with the release of 12 stamps (6 se-tenant pairs) on the subject of Musical instruments of travelling musicians. It is suggested that the date of issue will be 25 June 2020. It is difficult to believe that there will not be an accompanying miniature sheet containing all 12 stamps. Rating:- ***.

🇬🇾 IGPC has previously mentioned an issue it put out with the name of Guyana printed on it to commemorate the Chines New Year, Year of the Rat. The stated date of issue is 24 March 2020 which is somewhat after the event. An illustration of the single stamp miniature sheet, but not the 4 stamp miniature sheet, is available:-

Absolute tat. Rating:- 0

🇧🇼 Botswana Post issued a miniature sheet containing all 4 stamps as part of its African Scops Owl issue which I mentioned in Blog 1684 and which was released on 5 June 2020.