December 30, 2011

Mr Woof

In the ongoing forum thread on which country has issued the most beautiful stamps, the Newfoundland Dog got a special mention by Julia as being a beautiful example of a recess-printed stamp. So I had to go out and get it of course! And here it is:

Newfoundland Dog

It is a lovely stamp indeed, I must say, and one of the better ones of the large set of 12 values which was issued in Newfoundland in 1932. It includes a varieties of designs, mainly members of the royal family and various animals. Not all designs are very striking but some really stand out, such as the cod stamp. It's almost avantgarde art, rather peculiar, but it is an interesting design.

Atlantic Cod

I also like the reindeer stamp which somehow is the one I always think of when thinking of Newfoundland stamps.


And with that stamp we enter the field of differences in dies, which is always great fun when you're collecting definitive stamps! This one is fairly easy as you only have to compare the size of the antlers on both dies to know them apart.

King George V

I'm having more trouble with the dies of the stamp portraying King George V. Apparently, the main difference is the scar on his cheek which is visible on Die I and removed on Die II. Now if I get it right, the carmine version is always Die I so there's got to be a scar somewhere there. The subsequent green version comes in either Die I or Die II. I must admit I'm slightly flummoxed but I would venture a guess and say that my green version is Die I.

Is this the scar?

And what about this then?

And I'm even more flummoxed when I look at all the royal portraits included in the set. First up there's the King and Queen, which makes sense. Then we have the eldest son, heir to the throne (the future King Edward VIII). I'm still with them. Next up is (then) Princess Elizabeth, which is fine as well, she being the King's first grandchild. Later in the year, a final royal was added to the set, this being the (then) Duchess of York, wife of the King's second son. Now, bearing in mind that nobody could yet foresee the royal events of 1936, why was she included? And not her husband first? Was she to symbolise the first inlaw?

Mmh. Answers on a postcard please. (Or just place your comments here of course!)

See yous later!

December 23, 2011

Top Three

Well, I had to, hadn't I ?! It's nearly Christmas, so what better way to prepare for the festive days than to think about which Christmas stamps I like best! Which is no easy task because basically I'm not that fond of Christmas stamps at all. To put it mildly. But I have a few favourites, so I'll show these. They all happen to be British, but that is basically because I wouldn't normally buy any, so the ones I'm showing are just part of my general GB collection.

Father Christmas with Traditional Cracker

I actually had this on number two to begin with, but seeing it again after having been tucked away in a stockbook for so long (the stamp, not me), I do find it's a bit American (no offense!), so it dropped a place. Probably also because I don't like the other stamps in the set, it's just this one that has made such an impact. But I like it very much and when it was issued, in 1997, I absolutely loved it and used it constantly, even though it was a first rather than second class stamp. Very Christmassy and I like the design idea of Father Christmas crushing out from out of the background. So: well done, J. Gorham and M. Thomas!


Ah yes, this must be a favourite of many. The symmetrical Christmas stamps designed by Jeffery Matthews of Machin fame. Brilliant, clean, and festive designs, all five of them. They were issued in 1980. Needless to say I never used them for my Christmas mail, but would have loved doing so!

Angel with Hands Raised in Blessing

Yes, yes, yes, I still love it, every time I see it. Wish this one would be reissued every year! It's so beautiful and by far the best of the set, although I like the others too. The design is by Irene von Treskow and the stamp was issued in 1998. It hasn't been surpassed by any other Christmas stamp yet, and I dare say that might take some doing!

The Journey to Bethlehem

Well, there's always one who doesn't make it into the top three, yet deserves to be mentioned, I suppose. I've included this 1996 stamp because I think the whole set was very original and beautifully designed (by Laura Stoddart). It's not an easy design, so I'm not sure whether it's very effective or successful as a Christmas stamp, but study the designs of all five values more closely and you'll see how refined and lovely they are. So let's give this set the honour of "Most Sophisticated Christmas Stamps"!

Leaves me to wish you a very good one, and you know the procedure by now: why not tell me which Christmas stamps you like best (not just GB, mind!), either here or on this forum thread.

See yous later!

December 16, 2011

The Good Thing

Some may say I should move on a bit, but I say you can never have enough of a good thing! So you'll just have to bear with me whilst I revel once more in the beauty of Austrian stamps! And it's not really my fault, so don't blame me. It's just that when Stewart mentioned the 1973 "Views" definitives on this forum thread and how they introduced him to the wonderful stamps of Austria, I was immediately taken back to my early days as a teenage stamp collector. These particular definitives were almost standard part of any kiloware or used stamps pack that you came across at the time, so I had loads of them.

Old Bridge, Finstermünz

Even then, when I still hadn't a clue about recess-printing or whatever, and just either liked a stamp or didn't, I was constantly struck by how nice they were. It was only later, when I started collecting more seriously, that I rediscovered these stamps and decided to get the whole set. The great thing about them is that they are relatively cheap, and it's a large set of nearly thirty values. Arranged nicely on a page it really becomes a thing of splendour.

Villach, Carinthia

The top value, as was usually the case in Austria, is similar but of a larger design. But like the normal size values, this 50 shilling stamp, too, was printed in a combination of recess and photogravure.

Hofburg, Vienna

The only stamp printed in photogravure only (by Harrison!) is the 3 shilling in small format. This was a coil stamp, hence its smaller size, although it has also become available in sheets of 100.

Bischofsmütze and Alpine Farm

There's not really that much to look for if you're specialising; it's a relatively straightforward set. Some values are printed on different types of paper, which vary in strength and shade of fluorescence, and there's copies with blank labels attached, which were sometimes privately overprinted for advertising purposes.

But the aim of the set is just to be a wonderful showcase of the country's sights. And it succeeds handsomely, living up to its official name "Beautiful Austria". It shows Austria in all its glory and leaves you wishing all countries would have the guts to produce such a gem of a definitive set!

See yous later!

Have you had your say yet on the most beautiful stamps in the world? Why not leave your comment here or, even better, on this forum thread!

December 09, 2011

War and Peace

I suppose we're all more or less familiar with the main stamp printing processes, such as (photo) gravure, lithography, letterpress/typography, embossing and intaglio/recess-printing. And with a bit of luck we're also vaguely able to explain them an' all. After all, virtually all stamps are printed in one of those processes, so we see them constantly crop up in catalogues, displays, and what have you. That's why I was so surprised to suddenly come across a printing process I had absolutely never heard of before. 

Last month our local society's meeting fell on the 11th, so we decided to have a members' night and have "War and Peace" as its central theme. It was a great success with over 30 members present (which is about 90% of our total membership!) and some 15 members displaying.

I had a frame full of war-themed stamps (including the War Tax stamps I showed last week), a frame full of peace-themed stamps, and a single sheet to link the two. That single sheet was of course based on the famous book War and Peace, written by Leo Tolstoy. I managed to find enough Tolstoy stamps to nicely fill the page, and central to that page was the 1935 set from Russia, issued to mark the 25th death anniversary of the author.

And that's where I came across it, for the printing process mentioned in the catalogue was: collotyped. Ever heard of that? Well, I hadn't.

I had to look it up but my limited technical brain clonked out rather immediately, so what I'll do is just refer you to the page where it is explained!

If I'm correct it is another form of photogravure, but what exactly the difference is, is not clear to me. Maybe somebody can explain it to me in plain English!
If I'm not mistaken, the first time the process was used for Russian stamps was in 1931, for one value in the Airship Construction Fund set. After that, most 1930s issues were printed with this method. In the 1940s, both photogravure and collotype are used for different issues, so there must have been enough of a difference to choose the one method rather than the other for specific issues. The method seems to disappear from the catalogue pages in the early 1960s.

According to Stampboards, the process was also used for 1912 Russian Zemstvos (Poltava) and even for the 1950 London International Stamp Exhibition souvenir sheet. It's all rather intriguing, I think, so if there's any Russia experts around, I'd be interested to hear more about this process and why/when it was used!

See yous later!

December 02, 2011

Late Edwardian

There's been a forum thread running on the December issue of Stamp Magazine, so I thought I'd better have another read and see what grabbed me most. And the winner is: (drum roll) John Gledhill's Overprint Overload feature.

He makes a very valid point that by collecting overprints it's often easier to distinguish types of the unoverprinted stamps, with regard to shades, printers or papers, for example. For him it led to this collection of overprints on GB stamps (and related material). For me, his feature rekindled my desire to build up a worldwide overprint collection.

Not so much to be able to tell apart various types of stamps, but just because they give a fascinating insight into a country's history. Think of all the occupation issues, the protectorate issues, the mandate issues, currency changes, deposed heads of state, charity surcharges for disasters, the list is endless. You could even include a sub-collection of forged overprints which might well be larger than the real thing! And when you've got all the basic overprinted stamps, how about expanding your collection to include flaws?! That'll keep you busy until the end of your days, I would say. Really gripping stuff.

My latest overprinted stamps are from the large amount of War Tax issues of the British Empire. Nothing fancy, just the basic stuff, but nice anyway. I have a beautiful book on them, by John G.M. Davis, which deals with the War Tax issues in the West Indies. It's a good read, featuring all the stamps, the reasons why they were issued, the overprint varieties, the copies in the Royal Collection, and much more, all lavishly illustrated as well. In there I read that Antigua and Malta were the only colonies to use Edward VII stamps for their War Tax overprints, rather than the more obvious, because contemporary, George V issues. Now there's a bit of news to you! Well, it was to me anyway. So when I had to do a mini display for my local society the other day, I made sure I had at least these two colonies included, as well as a nice Gibraltar plate block.

I suppose I had better give in yet again, and see if I can get myself a nice War Tax collection together. My latest craze! And if I persevere (not my strongest point!) I'm sure I'll feature some of them here on this blog one day...

See yous later!