Wednesday, 30 January 2013

203. Commonwealth New Issues.

The first issue from Tanzania in 2012 has finally become available although it had been released on 15 February 2012 and is on the theme of material culture and consists of 5 stamps (depicted above) and a sheetlet of different values and a miniature sheet. Below I depict one of the 4 miniature sheets issued by Tanzania on 9 December 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of the independence of Tanganyika:-

The 8 stamps depict Presidents and Vice-Presidents of Tanzania as well as the various flags which have flown over Tanganyika in the past and present. In the lower border of the sheet, the first flag at the left relates to that which was flown from 1884 to 1916 when the Germans ruled the territory and the second depicts the civil ensign of the country, with its flag badge depicting the head (and neck) of a giraffe, when it became a League of Nations Mandate of Great Britain in 1919, the British having occupied Tanganyika  by 1917 during the First World War. The third flag from the left is the national flag adopted by Tanganyika when it achieved independence on 9 December 1961 as a Monarchy within The Commonwealth and retained by it when the country became a Republic in 1962. The flag furthest to the right is the current national flag of Tanzania which was adopted on 26 April 1964 when Tanganyika combined with Zanzibar to form The United Republic.
  A large number of new issues have appeared recently. From St. Vincent And The Grenadines comes a Christmas set which was issued on 28 November 2012 and consists of 5 stamps and 1 miniature sheet:-

I have previously mentioned the Pitcairn Islands Dickens Bicentenary issue which was released on 5 December 2012 and consists of 4 stamps but I can now include a better illustration which shows that as well as various portraits of Dickens, each stamp also depicts one of his characters - I recognise Sairey Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit on the $1 value, The Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist on the $1.80, Pickwick from The Pickwick Papers on the $2.10 and, I think, Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol on the $3.00 value. They are very good designs but it is a pity that they feature characters very frequently depicted on Dickens stamps rather than some which have never yet appeared philatelically:-
Nevis issued 3 sets on 28 November 2012:- Beetles and Butterflies of the Caribbean area (6 stamps and 2 miniature sheets); Michaelangelo Quincentenary (4 stamps and 1 m.s.) and "Classic hits" of the US musician, the late Elvis Presley (4 m.s.):-

There were 3 issues from Ghana on 12 December 2012: Michaelangelo quincentenary (3 stamps and 1 m.s.), Toxic mushrooms (!) (2 sheetlets, each of 3 different stamps) and, even more bizarrely, aircraft carriers of foreign navies (sheetlet of 4 different stamps and a miniature sheet):-

The Gambia issued 5 stamps and 1 m.s. to commemorate Christmas on 25 September 2012, 2 sheetlets each of 4 different stamps to commemorate the US boxer, Muhammed Ali, on 27 September 2012 and 4 stamps and 1 m.s. depicting insects (not necessarily local) on 31 December 2012.

A date of 13 January 2013 is given for an issue of 4 stamps in a sheetlet by The Gambia which commemorates the Year of The Dragon. This is rather confusing since 2013 is the Year of the Snake - either the information is incorrect or a design error has been made, one which is almost as bad as the Guyana Edward XIII error (see previous blogs).

New issues from Antigua and Barbuda are: 12 November 2012: Christmas (6 stamps), 12 November 2012: Bicentenary of the War of 1812 (sheetlet of 6 stamps and 1 m.s.), 3 December 2012: Stingrays and skates (4 stamps and 1 m.s.); 3 December 2012: Caribbean turtles (sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s.); 3 December 2012: Marine life of the Caribbean (12 stamps in a sheetlet):-

More Chinese new year issues from the Caribbean area - from Grenada, issued on 28 November 2012, a miniature sheet of 2 stamps depicting creatures of the Chinese zodiac with a similar issue being released by Guyana on 5 December 2012:-

Friday, 25 January 2013

202. Brunei Butterflies, India Future Post Office And Gibraltar Coronation Anniversary.

During 2012, though I do not yet know the exact date of issue, Brunei Darussalam issued an attractive set of 3 stamps and a miniature sheet which was titled "Butterfly Series 1" which presumably depicts local butterfly species and, judging by the "Series 1" inscription, is the first of a number of more such issues:-

The 2013 Indian Children's Day stamp had a highly original theme, that of the post office of the year 2050. The rather crowded design appears to depict technology which will be used by a post office in 38 years time and appears to suggest that people will still write ordinary letters, put them in envelopes and stick a postage stamp on them. Somehow, I don't see it myself - surely communication will be entirely electronic by then and the postage stamp will be a paper equivalent of a dodo. As for philatelists, surely they will be antiquarians in 2050 rather than the obsessional victims of greedy postal administrations which we are at present. I think that the originality of the theme makes this an excellent stamp especially as it celebrates postal history, albeit it future history.

Another branch of history - military history - was commemorated by India in 2012 by the issue of a single stamp commemorating the Scinde Horse Regiment:-

Gibraltar has announced its first issues of 2013. On 30 January 2013, four stamps and a miniature sheet will be released to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabath II:-

Really the designs are not terribly interesting and of course the miniature sheet must be have a high face value - £3:-

At least the Coronation stamps are relevant to Gibraltar. Another issue to appear on 30 January will be a pair of stamps to commemorate the Year of the Snake. I do not know what percentage of Gibraltar's population originates from east Asia but I suspect that any such population there is rather small so why Gibraltar needs to commemorate the Chinese new year is a mystery. At least the set is modest - just 2 stamps costing a total of £1.42p:- 

The stamps are issued in sheetlets of 10 (5 of each design) and although the basic pair of stamps seems modest, the Gibraltar Post Office has come up with a little trick in which they have also produced a "gold miniature sheet" to accompany this issue which is only available to the collector if he buys a £19.99 souvenir pack which contains the miniature sheet, a sheetlet of 10 stamps and a basic pair for good measure. The gold miniature sheet, not available separately, is produced in a limited quantity of 2013 sheets making it hopelessly alluring to the completist collector of Gibraltar stamps who must buy what amounts to 11 sets of the basic stamps (remember, that means buying 11 x £1 stamps) to obtain a single miniature sheet. O dear! But don't worry, the circumstances of issue of this miniature sheet mean that, even if it has postal validity, it is a "collectable" and not a postage stamp and can be safely avoided by people who collect postage stamps and that's £20 they don't need to spend to ensure that their collection remains complete. To paraphrase an old saying, "Everything that glisters is not...a stamp".

Meanwhile, Namibia has published a list of its planned issues for 2013. Namibia has one of the sanest new issue policies and produces some of the very best stamps in The Commonwealth. The subjects of the stamps are always relevant to Namibia, as are the designs of the stamps which usually feature art work of the highest quality and which are usually produced by a small group of artists and designers. The programme for 2013 is:- 1 March: definitives, new values (5 stamps), 5 April: Beetles (5 stamps), 17 June: Namibian children (6 stamps and a miniature sheet), 20 June: Environmental education (1 miniature sheet), 12 July: Transport by donkey cart (1 m.s.) and 30 September: Large antelopes (3 stamps). All the stamps are beautifully illustrated by the artist Helge Denker who has been responsible for some classic Namibian stamp designs in recent years. Some of the 2013 stamp designs will also be classics (especiallyy the donkey cart issue) and continue to keep Namibia in the highest rank of stamp-issuing countries of The Commonwealth. Highly recommended.
  One point of note is that the Namibia programme does not mention a 4th SAPOA issue which we might have expected in 2013, there having been 3 previous such issues in 2004, 2007 and 2010. Nor have I seen any post offices of the other SAPOA countries suggesting that they will make such a stamp issue in 2013. Time will tell.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

201. Australia Has A Busy Start In 2013.

Having passed much time complaining about the new issues of Mauritius recently, I confess that I like the miniature sheet issued on 12 December 2012 to commemorate the 240th anniversary of postal services in Mauritius although I do have some reservations about releasing a stamp issue to commemorate a 240th anniversary; is ten years too long to wait for a really significant 250th anniversary commemoration? The item is designed by Nurveen Ratty and lithographed by Cartor and is accompanied by a set of 5 stamps which are issued in a se-tenant strip in which 2 of the triangular designs are upside down which means it is hard to appreciate the subject on the 2 stamps when placed in an album, although I suppose if one buys 2 strips together then one would have tete-beche pairs and be able to appreciate all 5 designs although one would then have 5 designs displayed upside-down as well as having paid for 2 sets rather than one. I suppose I had wanted Mauritius to do something a little more interesting with its design work and this may be an example of something a little more adventurous:-

The issue, from a postal history point of view, reminds me of the single stamp issued on 9 October 2011 which commemorated the 150th anniversary of Rodrigues post office; I do very much like stamp issues which illustrate a country's postal history and which feature old post offices in particular and Mauritius certainly has a much more impressive philatelic and postal history than a lot of countries.

Rodrigues post office issue.

The first 2 issues of The Republic of Ireland for 2013 are interesting. A single 55c stamp was issued on 17 January to commemorate the assumption of the Presidency of the European Union by Ireland. The stamp was designed by a regular designer of Irish stamps, Steve Simpson. Another issue, of 24 January commemorates "The Gathering", which sounds rather sinister but is actually a year-long tourist promotion to try to persuade people of Irish descent who live in other countries to return to Ireland for a visit there during 2013. The design is attractive although not really self-explanatory enough as a tourist promotion and was designed by Design Factory, both stamps being lithographed by Irish Security Printers.

I have obtained some more of the 2011 stamp issues from Tanzania. The 50th anniversary of the granting of independence to Tanganyika was celebrated by a number of miniature sheets and single stamps which were released on 9 December 2011. There are 2 stamps produced in ordinary sheets - one depicts the country's first prime minister, Julius Nyerere, with Nelson Mandela who became President of South Africa in 1994. Nyerere became Tanganyika's first president in 1962 when the country became a republic and was the first President of The United Republic Of Tanzania when Tanganyika joined with Zanzibar on 26 April 1964:-

The second value of the pair depicts President Okwete of Tanzania meeting the US President, Obama, who is much loved by stamp designers at present and has been depicted on a very large number of stamps in recent years. The picture was clearly carefully taken to also include a portrait of another 
US president, Lincoln, in the background who is also much depicted on recent stamps particularly those produced by a large New York-based philatelic agency which produces stamps for a number of territories:-

The 50th anniversary issue includes 4 miniature sheets, the two that I have received so far each feature the 4 stamps as shown in the illustration below:-

I have also received the 5th "World Vision" set of 4 stamps which was issued on 30 September 2011. These stamps were printed in lithography by Enschede. I have discussed Tanzania's World Vision issues in a previous blog:-

I do not yet know the date of issue of, but have received, an unusually colourful block of 4 stamps which was released during 2012 by Pakistan and which depicts coral reefs of the Arabian Sea:-

and having now obtained the Dominica 2012 Christmas set, which I have previously mentioned, I include better illustrations of 2 of the 4 values than I have previously shown:-

This appears to have been the only set of stamps to have been issued by Dominica during 2012. On 28 January 2013, Tristan Da Cunha will issue a WWF set which depicts the Tristan albatross. Designed by Andrew Robinson, it comes in various formats - 4 stamps with white borders and the same stamps with no borders as well as a £3 miniature sheet. Referring back to the recent blog (183) which drew attention to an article in the recently published edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly where Mr. Peter Jennings writes about how he has been an important influence on the stamp-issuing programme of the island, one is certainly convinced of the veracity of his claims given the number of items being produced by the tiny island for this issue and the increased cost, especially that of the miniature sheet - the issues seem to fully fit in with his recommendations, which as I pointed out in Blog no. 183, significantly increases the cost of Tristan issues to collectors.

The WWF stamps website also tells us that a set is soon to be issued by Stamperija in the name of the Solomon Islands which features the Solomon Islands cockatoo. Designed by Vyautas Svartis, the issue comprises 2 sheetlets, one of 8 stamps and one of 16 stamps, which contain 4 basic stamps and there is an additional accompanying miniature sheet. It seems that this issue is no more excessive or expensive than that being produced by Tristan da Cunha.
  Australia Post gets off to  a busy start in 2013 with an issue of at least 20 stamps on 18 January. This is the latest release in the "Australian Legends" series and features "Legends of Music". The 10 designs will of course be produced as gummed stamps and self-adhesives and the latter will no doubt be produced as coils and in booklets. The good news for collectors of Royal Mail stamps is that no matter how excessive British stamp issues may be, they never quite match up to the greediness of Australia Post.

Australia Post also has a few extra cash-cows in the form of the Australian territories. A number of items were released on 8 January 2013 with the name of Christmas Island inscribed on them and these were to celebrate the lunar new year, the year of the snake. There were 2 basic gummed stamps:-

and then various miniature sheets and souvenir sheets. The basic sheet contained the 2 stamps:-
Then there was a sheet which combined the miniature sheet with 12 different stamps depicting the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac:-

as well as a "Zodiac" miniature sheet with 12 different stamps in a circular arrangement:-

Phew! Sometimes the boringness of Mauritius stamps is quite an attractive feature. Finally, an item I have long overlooked - a booklet issued by Cyprus in 2011 which was intended to supply stamps for use on postcards. Two different stamps were included in the booklet - the 43c Cape Greco lighthouse stamp of 2010 but with different perforations from the stamps produced in ordinary sheets and the 2011 2c Refugee stamp:-

Sunday, 20 January 2013

200. Some Interesting Recent Mauritius Stamps And Yet More Post And Go.

I recently moaned about new issues from Mauritius and wondered if they might be the most boring stamps currently being issued by any country in the Commonwealth. Nitish Peechen, the designer of some recent Mauritius stamps, kindly replied in a comment on the blog dated 10 September 2012 and rightly points out that the designer is very much subject to the vagaries of what the people on national stamp committees want to see both in terms of design and subject matter. Mauritius has been very pleasingly conservative in terms of the new issues produced every year as well as the modest face value of their issues. Unfortunately the subjects featured on the stamps have also been very conservative and included such thrilling depictions as a collection of tea-bags and some water being poured from a kettle into a cup. These designs are not the designer's fault but the choice of those who finally approve the stamp to be issued. However, I have to say that I do have a few favourite designs which have recently appeared from Mauritius. The above stamp from the 2012 Customs Department set which features a labrador retriever hard at work sniffing out undesirable substances was bound to be a winner with me and finds its way straight into my collection of "labradors on stamps" stamps.
 I was also interested in the recently issued stamp which commemorates the 40th anniversary of China-Mauritius diplomatic relations not because it is a particularly good design but because of the subject - I have pointed out before the number of countries which in recent years have issued such stamps and this is another to add to the growing number of issues which illustrate the in-roads that The People's Republic is making in its international influence:-

Perhaps the best set of 2012 from Mauritius was that which was released on 25 June and commemorated the bicentenary of the Mauritius Turf Club - the most colourful and lively designs were those of the Rs7 value and the Rs50 miniature sheet:-

Royal Mail, straining to limit itself to 12 commemorative sets per year has found a way around to this stricture, by producing stamps which it clearly does not think are real stamps - "Post And Go" machine-printed stamps. There were two further issues to add to the albums of a collector of British stamps when Royal Mail opened a temporary ("Pop-up") post shop at Staples Market in Camden in London on 16 November 2012 which stayed open until 24 December. Two "Hytech" machines were installed at the temporary shop (machines A3 and A4) and the stamps depicted below were digitally printed by them. It is necessary to obtain these items because they represent the first Hytech printing of all the values of the Robins stamps and the first Hytech printing of the 40g Worldwide Machin head value (although it has been produced previously with added inscriptions such as the previously featured "Perth 2012" issue and the Spring Stampex Diamond Jubilee issue):-

Flyer produced by Royal Mail to promote the temporary post office.
The theme for the pictorial Post And Go issues in 2013 will be "Pond Life" and the first issue will be made on 20 February 2013 to coincide with Spring Stampex 2013. As well as the machine-produced stamps, the stamps will also be sold in a pack of 6 designs as depicted below:-

On the same date Royal Mail will also issue 2 additional "Post And Go" stamps in the form of Second class values (produced for the first time) - for small items of mail and also for the larger size. They will also be released at Stampex and the basic design is printed by Walsall Security Printers with one phosphor band applied:-