November 30, 2012

Repeat Performance

I've just returned from my occasional trip to the Netherlands, with my bags filled with new Dutch philatelic goodies. I'll be showing some of these over the next few blogs, starting off with a miniature sheet which I got from a very dear friend of mine (Hi Pim!).

It's the 2012 version of the annual 'Child Welfare' issue. On the six different stamps we find the three daughters of the Dutch heir to the throne, Prince Willem-Alexander. Top left on the sheet we find Amalia, the eldest and, if all goes according to plan, the future Queen of the Netherlands. She was born in 2003 and until now the only one from her siblings to be honoured with a stamp issue.

Royal stamp issues are less common in the Netherlands, compared to for example here in Britain, so this latest miniature sheet was welcomed widely by both the general public and the brotherhood of stamp collectors. It is extra special because the photographs of the three princesses have been made by their father, the Crown Prince himself, a fact which is mentioned in the top right corner of the sheet.

Even more special is the fact that the whole issue harks back to the 1972 Child Welfare issue.

Again we have a miniature sheet with children, all boys this time, of a future Dutch monarch. On this particular sheet we see the boys of the current Dutch monarch, Queen Beatrix, with the top row portraying the same Willem-Alexander who photographed his girls for the 2012 miniature sheet. And this 1972 issue, too, was photographed by the children's father, the late husband of Beatrix, Prince Claus.

In those days, the annual issue consisted of normal sheet stamps and a miniature sheet, with the top value of the issue only available in sheets. It is also the only value which portrayed all three boys together.

Going back a bit further in time, we come across another similar issue, from 1946. Here we have the 'Princesses' charity issue, portraying the (then) three girls of Queen Juliana, with among those the future Queen Beatrix. A set of six stamps in three designs. Daughter number four was born in 1947, so she missed out on this occasion.

The first time an heir to the Dutch throne appeared on a stamp was in 1934, when two stamps were issued with a surcharge for the National Crisis Fund, of which Princess Juliana (for it is her we're talking about) was the founder.

It's great to be able to chart the Royal Family in stamp issues, at the same time noting how stamp design and production changes, and with that the perception of the Royal Family and how it likes to be portrayed.

See yous later

November 23, 2012

Scottish Inventions

Fresh into our second year and we have another request to fulfill! "How about Scottish inventions on stamps?" Luckily, I'm a member of the Alba Stamp Group, for those who collect anything Scottish, and they published a great book called 'Scots and Philately' some years ago, so it didn't take me long to find a couple of Scottish inventors. And famous ones at that.

I suppose the most famous one will be Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, and the bel in decibel.  He was born in Edinburgh in 1847. The book contains pages and pages of Bell stamps, though most will probably only feature a telephone rather than the man himself.

One highly interesting inclusion, however, would be the 1980 US stamp marking the birth centenary of Helen Keller. You see, Bell was Professor of Vocal Physiology at Boston University where he specialised in the treatment of deaf mutes. Helen Keller's mother turned to him for help. He subsequently played an instrumental part in the little girl's triumph over her disabilities.

Next up we have another well-known invention, but do you recognise his name? He is John Logie Baird, and I must admit it didn't ring a bell at all when I first saw it. But this man, born in Helensburgh in 1888, is held chiefly responsible for the invention of television! Naturally, many inventors and engineers have played a part in the eventual television as we know it, but Baird was prominent among them and the first to be able to transmit a moving televison image. As with Bell, there are loads of stamps fitting this theme, but most will be depicting actual televisions. In 2007, Great Britain issued a John Logie Baird stamp as part of their 'World of Invention' set, so I presume he is more famous than I would have thought.

Another invention of an article we're so used to nowadays is the invention of the hypodermic syringe by Alexander Wood. The Edinburgh physiscian, born in 1817, is thought to have been inspired by the sting of bees.

Unfortunately for him, the needle has partly become synonymous with drug taking, and it is therefore highly ironic that the first person to die of injecting a drug overdose was Wood's wife, who had been  enjoying her morphine injections a tad too much.

Often, it is the more obscure entries that make thematic collecting interesting, as it throws light on links you'd never thought were there. Here, for example, we have a stamp of a water-distillation plant in Aruba, on a 1959 Netherlands Antilles stamp.

This stamp is linked to James Weir, born in Airdrie in 1843. He basically invented the process of desalinating water, providing much-needed drinkable freshwater. He was also founder of J&G Weir of Cathcart, and that firm installed the Aruba plant on the stamp!

So next time you drink a glass of tapwater, while waiting in an endless call centre queue, while your kids crank up the volume of the TV way too loud, just remember to blame the Scots!

See yous later

November 16, 2012

One Year Old

Funny how time flies. But it's true, the Stamp Magazine Blog celebrates its first anniversary! 

It feels like so much longer since we first started, and yet on the other hand I can't believe I've already written 52 blog posts. And all thanks to you, my dear and faithful readers! It's always a bit of a gamble whether other people will like what you do, even though I had (very infrequently) written my own blog before I embarked on this one. But it seems the blog does hit a note with you all, which is great.

So I'm glad to say we seem to be doing alright! The statistics show 19,821 page views up to now,  which is some 1600 per month, so that is absolutely fantastic. Obviously, most come in through the Stamp Magazine website, but very high on the list of referring sites is Ian's Norvic Philatelics blog, so great to have you all here as well.

As far as the audience is concerned; again, I suppose it's obvious that most readers are situated in the UK. In second place we get loads of visitors from the other side of the pond, from the United States, with the Netherlands coming third. That may have something to do with the background of yours truly, so I should also really mention Canada, which comes just after that. Great to see, too, that maybe slightly more unlikely countries manage to enter the top 10 as well, with Ukraine on the number 10 spot being one of those. I don't think I've ever much featured Ukraine on the blog so remind me that I will make it up to you!

I always like keeping track on which posts are more popular than others. Apart from the very first 'Welcome' post, which I suppose is one many sites direct to automatically, it is the 'Canadian Beauties' post of 6 January which has come out on top. 

In second place we have the 'Esperanto' post of 20 July, which literally raced up the ladder,

and in third place we have the 'Europa' post of 8 June. 

All big hitters and popular subjects, but here, too, we see a few entries which may be a bit more surprising, such as the 'Abdullah, Ruler of Jordan' post of 2 March which takes up the ninth position.

Anyway, it's all good fun, these statistics, and I'm very glad that the blog will enter its second year in a healthy state. So here's to another successful year!

See yous later

November 09, 2012

Diamond Diadem

I've just visited a friend of mine who collects Royal Jewellery, and seeing her collection brought back memories of my own erstwhile collection on the Diamond Diadem. It is also known as the George IV State Diadem, made in 1820 for his coronation. Being a Machin fan it is easy to guess why I quite liked this particular bit of royal jewellery.

The diadem is of course mainly known because of the Machin and Wilding portraits of Queen Elizabeth. In fact, you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find any other examples of the diadem on stamps. But thanks to this year's Diamond Jubilee, it would be possible to enlarge the collection quite a bit. First of all, we have two new British stamps with the diadem on, both part of the miniature sheet which was issued in February.

The two stamps show part of old banknotes with the Queen's portrait on.

Of the other jubilee stamps, I am quite fond of this Australian stamp, which shows an utterly charming portrait of a young queen.

To prove that Elizabeth can still be just as charming today, Canada issued my other favourite Commonwealth jubilee stamp. Again, a wonderful portrait of the Queen.

It's not just Elizabeth who has worn the diamond diadem, though. Victoria, too, used to wear it, and her inclusion in the recent Kings and Queens series makes for a perfect addition to our theme.

She did of course appear on a 1987 GB stamp as well, wearing her diadem, and could one maybe even venture a guess and say she's wearing it on all her contemporary British stamps? I'm not sure, though it could well be, for in those days the diadem was often portrayed looking like anything but the real thing. On the famous Chalon portrait for example, Victoria also wears the diadem and there, too, it doesn't look that much like the real diadem. You see, the real thing only has four crosses and four 'floral bunches' (consisting of roses, thistles and shamrock), and on the Chalon portrait you can already see six of those eight features whilst only seeing the front bit of the diadem, so that just doesn't add up.

I seem to remember that there are also stamps of Queen Mary (and maybe even Queen Alexandra?) wearing the diadem, but couldn't find any. I'm sure, though, that there's some staunch royalist collector out there who can enlighten me!

See yous later

November 02, 2012

All that jazz

You see, it really works! Put in a request and I'll honour it if I can. The other day, Bruno asked me to write about these two stamps:

and here I am writing about them. Lady Luck did play her part as well though, for the day after I read Bruno's comment and request on this blog, I was at a stamp fair and happened to find these stamps!

They were issued in June this year, as a joint issue for the US and France. The general thought behind this issue is that music speaks an international language and that was enough for the two postal administrations to embark on this project, choosing two artists whose fame reached far beyond their country's borders.

The photographs were selected for the body posures the two musical giants were famed for. That makes them work perfectly well as a stamp set, and the predominantly black and white appearance gives a good ambience of the old days. I must secretly admit, though, that I have a slight preference for the French stamps, these being completely black and white.

It is, of course, not the first time that France has issued a stamp for her Little Sparrow singer Edith Piaf. She was also part of a 1990 issue honouring France's chansonniers.

And neither is it the first time that France has honoured American musical talent. In 2002, a set was issued with jazz musicians on, and these included the likes of Louis Armstrong and, one of my favourites, Ella Fitzgerald.

She, of course also appears on American stamps, such as this 2007 issue, part of the long-running 'Black Heritage' series.

Now jazz and philately seems a slightly odd combination. Somehow the smoky cellars of old, where music was played which at the time was very much criticised for luring the young into a world of intimacy and amorality, doesn't fit well with the image of the precise philatelist, researching minute details and getting excited over perf holes that are 0.005mm smaller than normal.

But it seems that jazz has come a long way and has become part of the establishment if you like. But how to translate this into jazz stamps? I suppose for that we really have to look at the country of its origin, the United States, where many a jazz issue has seen the light of day. The easy way to represent this subject has been to depict musicians, as done here on a 1998 'Twentieth Century' stamp representing the popularity of jazz in the 1920s.

But my favourite US jazz stamp, issued last year, does more than that: it actually manages to come up with a very jazzy design. The designer, Paul Rogers, wanted the design to be the visual equivalent of the music. His inspiration came from the artwork on album sleeves of vintage jazz records. Absolutely brilliant!

See yous later