Wednesday 21 October 2020

1758. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ญ ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง Ghana And China, Royal Mail And Star Trek. Malta And Pope John Paul II.

๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ญ The postal service of Ghana issued 1 miniature sheet containing 5 different stamps on 20 October 2020 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the country’s establishment of diplomatic relations with The People’s Republic of China. This issue was launched jointly by officials of the Chinese embassy in Accra and “their Ghanaian counterparts”. The stamps “were designed through collaboration between Ghanaian and Chinese experts” and “bear multiple photos including development projects in Ghana with Chinese support”. I assume that this miniature sheet is a gift from the Chinese Government to the Ghanaian postal service. This is the first known new issue of 2020 from the Ghanaian postal service.

  Many thanks to super for their comment on this Blog which kindly drew my attention to this issue reported in an article on Xinhuanet.

๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ญ Juliet Warner of Pobjoy Stamps has passed on the news that the date of issue of the new Tristan Da Cunha definitive series has been postponed for a short period to allow for the addition of another stamp to the series. This stamp will depict the island’s main fishing and factory freezer vessel MFV Geo Searcher to be included in the set after it recently sank after hitting a rock off Gough Island. It had 62 crew members on board including 2 Tristan islanders who were there as Fisheries Observers. Fortunately everyone managed to make it safely to Gough Island where there is a small South African weather station and the SA Agulhas is sailing from Capetown to rescue them.

The tragedy is a great loss for Tristan Da Cunha as the ship had capacity for passenger and cargo transport and it regularly transported mail to and from the island. It was therefore felt appropriate to include a design featuring it in the new definitive series which depicts Mail ships of the island.

The previously published illustrations of the intended stamps may now be incorrect as revisions may be carried out to enable the new stamp to be included in the issue.

Thanks to Juliet Warner for this information.

๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง The decision by those who plan Royal Mail’s annual new stamp issue programme to include subjects in it which are seen as being potentially powerful sources of income for Royal Mail, which in this era of knowing “the price of everything but the value of nothing” is commercially understandable, but highly regrettable. For decades it was a signal honour to be commemorated on a ‘British stamp’, to be accorded to those whose contribution to the life and history of the people of The United Kingdom was of the highest possible level. Great literature, Art of the greatest significance, Philanthropy of the utmost generosity, Science and technology of the highest degree of achievement, Extraordinary bravery and valour and Politics which changed the nation’s future in the most significant and beneficial way - nation-changing achievements to the benefit of the British and often to the whole world.

Now we have a Royal Mail stamp issue commemorating Star Trek, a North American television programme and movie series which has enjoyed, and probably continues to enjoy, significant popularity but which has little to do with the story of Britain apart from the participation of a few British actors (usually because they accepted lower fees for their performances than would Americans) including the distinguished Shakespearean actor, Sir Patrick Stewart - already featured on a stamp released in 2011 which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Royal Shakespeare Company, based at Stratford upon Avon.

The designs of this lamentable issue seem to be strangely garish and, unless the potential buyer is a Star Trek enthusiast, the stamps are of minimal interest to a collector of ‘British’ stamps except as an illustration of how low the planners of Royal Mail’s new issue programme have sunk to make a quick buck. I assume that Royal Mail has attempted to make the issue relevant to Britain by including a number of characters played by British actors though some of them are unrecognisable because of the makeup or masks they are depicted as wearing. This particular collection of products has a precedent in the form of the 2019 release of numerous items featuring cartoon characters which appear in the American Marvel Comics which have very little to do with Britain. It is distressing to see what Royal Mail is doing to the pleasant hobby of collecting British stamps. No end appears to be in sight alas. Rating:- 0.

  The following products are among the items to be issued on 15 November 2020 as part of this tiresome issue:- 12 stamps, 1 miniature sheet, 1 Prestige booklet (cost £18.80) (the Machin Head definitives in the fourth and final pane look particularly out of place), 1 limited edition Deluxe Prestige booklet (cost £75), 1 counter booklet containing 6 x 1st Class stamps and 1 Collectors sheet depicting Starship captains.

  The issue was designed by Interabang and lithographed by International Security Printers and the stamps are perforated 14.5.

Sir Patrick Stewart strangely lacking his legs was depicted on a Royal Mail 2011 stamp showing him playing Mark Anthony in the 2006 RSC production of Anthony and Cleopatra. 

 ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น MaltaPost will issue 1 miniature sheet containing a single stamp on 22 October 2020 to commemorate the Centenary of the birth of Pope John Paul II who was canonised on 27 April 2015 (along with Pope John XXIII) and is now known as St John Paul. The item was designed by Miguel Farrugia and printed in lithography by Printex and is perforated 14. Rating:- ***. 

  Two days later on 24 October 2020 MaltaPost will then issue 2 different stamps as a joint issue with the postal service of Slovakia featuring the subject of Viticulture. The issue was designed by Miguel Farrugia and Adrian Ferda using photography by Ta’ Betta Wine Estates and Turecek Winery. The issue was lithographed by Printex and is perforated 14. Rating:- **.

๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง Moving from the Roman Catholic to Anglian Church, this year’s Royal Mail Christmas issue offers an opportunity to add to my list of philatelic items relevant to the subject of Archbishops of Canterbury (see Blog 333). Buckingham Covers has prepared a first day cover for the stained glass windows stamps (See Blog 1757) which centres on Canterbury Cathedral and notes the 850th anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Thomas a Becket in the cathedral by 4 knights carrying out what they believed to be the wishes of King Henry II. The stamps on the cover are cancelled by a special postmark, dated 3 November 2020, and the inscription “St Thomas รก Becket 850 Canterbury”. An attractive and interesting item cleverly identifying a notable anniversary of English history.

๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ I like this item which was featured recently on Stampboards. It illustrates nicely the dangers of postal services allowing individuals to organise My Stamps. Canada Post was recently somewhat put out and embarrassed by a personalised stamp it allowed a customer, one James Bone, to have produced which showed the decapitated head of the statue of the former Canadian prime minister John A Macdonald which had been toppled in Montreal during the generalised civil disorder which accompanied the Black Lives Matter campaign. Macdonald, according to present historical fashion, is now held responsible for “widespread mistreatment, displacement and forced assimilation of indigenous peoples during Canada’s founding”. He is in contrast also credited with “securing Canada’s unity, including overseeing the completion of the Pacific railway that connected the country from coast to coast”. This item was clearly a bone of contention for Canada Post. And an interesting philatelic product reflecting the events of this turbulent year.

Macdonald going ....

Going ...

Gone ....

Yes, definitely gone ....


  1. Completely agree with you about the Star Trek stamps. I’d be really interested to learn more about the finances around stamp issues: cost of production, sales general / collectors and which themes etc. Are profitable. Just curious to see the difference this kind of issue actually makes

    1. Thank you. I agree with you. It’s a fascinating subject but these commercial secrets I suppose are carefully guarded. We ordinary collectors are unlikely to be privy to them and we can only speculate. It does seem apparent that these big, expensive multiple products- based issues centred on popular culture as a subject must be profitable or else, one presumes, Royal Mail would not continue to produce them.The organisation must feel it can make more money from selling such products as one-offs to non-collectors than it can make from maintaining a steady base of loyal collectors and addressing their needs and responding to their feelings about what they want to include in a collection of British stamps. It does seem remarkable that anyone would be prepared to pay £75 for a “deluxeLimited edition prestige booklet” but Royal Mail must consider that there are enough people out there prepared to do just that as to make it profitable to produce the product. I suppose that the profit made on selling just a few such items must be so very large that sales of these prestige booklets need to be quite small to start making a profit on them. It will be interesting to watch what happens as a result of the financial effects of the pandemic as to whether numbers of people buying all this stuff fall off to such an extent that the number of such products offered for sale declines. It may be that this is a foolish long-term policy - alienating their regular customers who, once lost, will probably never return and who would have otherwise been a regular base on which to increase sales to other one time buyers who may never buy a philatelic item again. I shall certainly NOT buy any of these Star Trek products as I did not with the Sherlock issue and the Queen products and shall not do with similar items unless there really is a good reason for them.

  2. About the Star Trek issue, there are a few different ways to look at it. One is to focus on the publicity that these stamps are redounding to Royal Mail. Same as with the Sherlock and Queen issues, these are events that generate press -- mainstream press that ordinary people are exposed to. When Royal Mail commemorates a national historic milestone or launches a butterfly-themed set of stamps, it gets minimal mainstream coverage. In an age where few people are sending letters to each other in the mail, much less sticking postage stamps on them, visibility is important, and a theme like Star Trek guarantees it. Then there is the question of the validity of the issue in the first place. Fifty years of Star Trek is a good enough reason, as far as I'm concerned, even if the UK's involvement in the franchise has been incidental. Lastly, the designs. This is where these stamps fail miserably, as they look like the kind of product a novice designer put out after a day or two of playing around with a freeware graphic design program. If I didn't know the faces on the stamps represented real-world people, I would assume they were figments of the designer's imagination, like faces on the cover of a fiction novel.