February 24, 2012


Killing two birds with one stone. Though the saying is rather unfortunate seeing that this is going to be a blog on nature and all things beautiful. But it does feel like it. For I wanted to do something to promote this month's issue of Stamp Magazine and I promised my fan in Sweden (Hej, Ann-Mari!) to do something Swedish. So here I am.

Read this month's feature on butterflies yet? You really should as it includes a pic of a most wonderful unaccepted essay for the 1963 GB National Nature Week. Great stuff. Butterflies seem to be a popular thematic subject, for among my philatelic friends I know at least two who collect them on stamps, and I can't think of any other subject that is collected by more than one of my friends.

Me, myself, not so much, to be honest. I like 'em enough in real life but a whole collection of butterfly stamps looks a bit samey to me. Almost like a Western version of  a communist country collection. But having said that, there's always the one issue that contradicts everything I've thought before, and, yep, you've guessed it, this time it's an issue from Sweden!

For Sweden issued the most gorgeous butterfly stamps in 2007 and 2008. Four stamps only but, boy, are they wonderful! The great thing about them is that they do not just have a picture of a butterfly on them, like so many others, but they highlight the wonderful colours of their wings, by showing details of those wings. Perfectly done!

The first two stamps were issued in 2007 and consisted of the 20kr and 50kr values. The 20kr depicts the Maculinea arion, or the Large Blue. It is also depicted on the 1981 set from Britain. Here's a good link for you: This butterfly was extinct in Britain until reintroduced from Sweden!

The second 2007 stamp was the 50kr depicting the Papilio machaon, or Swallowtail. This stamp, as well as the 2008 stamps, has microprint on it. In long lines it repeats the Latin name of the beastie.

On to 2008 and we have the 5kr depicting the wings of an Argynnis aglaja, or the Dark Green Fritillary. It can also be seen on a 1993 Isle of Man stamp.

The final stamp is the 10kr depicting a Paranassius apollo, or the (Mountain) Apollo.

All four stamps are printed in a combination of litho and recess, and they also look stunning under your UV light, with parts of the design having been printed with yellow phosphor ink. The only gripe I have with them is that they are self-adhesive, so they don't display half as nice as ordinary stamps, but I'll just have to grin and bear it and enjoy the design. Which I do, but you will have guessed that by now!

See yous later!

February 17, 2012

The Wild Man of the Snows

Confession time: I have more than one passion. Which seems hardly possible seeing the amount of time per day I spend on stamps, but still, it is true. I'm quite partial to the music of Kate Bush. I know, I know, that puts me even more obviously in the category of Severely Deranged, but what can a man do?

Luckily I am normally able to keep the two well apart, but lately I've found the two mixing more and more. I suppose I should be lucky that that hasn't happened before. After all, there's many subjects in the lady's songs which could have sparked off a thematic stamp collection. Wuthering Heights, Aborigines and the Vietnam War are but a few that spring to mind immediately. But so far I have never felt the urge to act upon any such possibilities.

Until now...

I'm afraid the lady's just released some new work, late last year, and it was heralded in with a song called Wild Man. A song about abominable snowmen of all things. And ever since I've managed to unscramble the lyrics, I have this undeniable urge to get the stamps in as well.

Now ideally, I'd given you the lyrics with accompanying stamps, but I don't want to run into any copyright problems, so I'll just cope without.

So, the abominable snowman, or yeti, or metoh-kangmi as the Tibetans call them, is one of the last remaining myseries of the world. They have appeared in the Kangchengjunga and Annapurna mountains of the Himalays since time immemorial.

The bulk of sightings actually consist of footprints being seen, rather than the yeti itself.

But proper sightings have also been recorded. Many sherpas claim to see the yetis quite often and describe the two types of yeti that seem to be around; a large and small type. A schoolmaster from Darjeeling has also once clarified that there are two types of yeti: not all are dangerous, some are friendly and just like to play in the snow. 

Many of Himalayas' explorers also state to have seen yetis: some claim to have seen him on the mountains, tearing up rhododendrons.

Sceptics say yetis don't exist, and that people will have probably just seen langur monkeys, or big brown bears.

But the lamas say the yeti is not an animal, but a being superior to humans. Living on the roof of the world, they have no time for mankind's feuds and greed, but are solely focused on survival.

The idea of the song is that the yeti is actually quite a lonely, sad figure, being haunted by man and by modern times.

While brushing away the yeti's footprints, the song warns the yeti to run away and hide, to remain a mystery. After all, what would the world be without its mysteries? 

See yous later!

PS: Want to know more? Read the full lyrics here.

February 10, 2012

Wilding Woes

The other day, I had to buy a set of definitives issued in Gibraltar in 1999.They are an adaptation of the 1950s British Wilding definitives. They more or less used the frame originally designed by G. T. Knipe, and placed a different Wilding portrait in the centre.

1999 Gibraltar Wilding definitive

It's not the most beautiful of stamp designs, I must admit, and I wonder why it saw the light of day anyway. Gibraltar never used to have a Wilding definitive set in the first place. They just had pictorials (quite nice ones though) and later more thematically based sets. So it can't have been a nostalgic look back. More likely is that they jumped on the bandwagon when Britain started reissuing their Wilding stamps.

But anyway, it reminded me of one of my silly pet grievances when it comes to the reissued Wildings. I don't normally lose any sleep over that, but now that there's another one added to the list, it rears its ugly head again.

So there we were, in the 1950s and 1960s, enjoying our Wilding stamps, and among them was this nice one by Mr George Knipe.

Original British Wilding definitive

I quite like this one as the frame is not too fussy, though I must admit I like all designs in that set. And so I was quite pleased at the time when they chose this design for the first reissued Wildings, in 1998. They were part of the multi-year promotion of the Stamp Show 2000. They looked gorgeous, I thought, and I used loads of them on my mail.

1998 British reissue

But then, shock horror, Royal mail started milking it a bit and used the designs again and again for various (royal) celebrations, such as the Golden Jubilee, and the 50th Anniversary of the Wilding stamps themselves. Which would have been fine as well, if it weren't for the fact that they absolutely ruined the whole design. Look at it, what monstrosity!

2003 British reissue

Apparently, Royal Mail had received too many complaints about the 1998 reissues. People thought them too clean, too modern and too white. So what Royal Mail did was fuzzy up the design a bit and colour the paper as well, with the above dismal result. So, if those persons who wrote in to complain about the 1998 stamps are still around and reading this: Fie! Hang your heads in shame!

And now the latest Wilding reissue is upon us, as part of the Diamond Jubilee miniature sheet issued earlier this week. It is not the Knipe design that was used, so that rather upsets the delicate design and colour balance of my carefully selected illustrations, but Edmund Dulac's.

The 2012 Wilding, from the Diamond Jubilee miniature sheet

I'm very happy to see that Royal Mail has mended its ways and has reverted to the clean 1998 way of reuissuing the Wildings. The new 1st class Wilding is a lovely stamp, and is part of an absolutely brilliant miniature sheet. In fact, I like it so much, I would already venture to state that it is this year's best issue.

See yous later!

February 03, 2012

Junk Mail!

Yes, you've guessed right. The 'Junk Mail' article, by John Winchester, is my favourite bit of this month's Stamp Magazine. As you may know, I like my definitives, wherever they're from, whenever they were issued. But the Chinese ones are still an unknown quantity to me.

It was therefore good to read about these Junk definitives, which were the first proper definitives of the Chinese Republic, issued in 1913. Of course, I'm not going to give away too much of what's in the article; I suggest you go out and buy a copy while you still can! Or if it's too late for that, why not try and get a back issue.

But what I will tell you, and even show you, is about the three different printings of those stamps. Waterlow & Sons were the first printers to print these Junk stamps. Their 1913 stamps have become known as the London Printings. They were followed in 1914 by the First Peking Printings. Although the stamps look very similar, there are ways to distinguish them. If you look at the fringe below the top tablets, you might see that the London ones are slightly shorter and a little less dense.

London Printing

First Peking Printring

But personally, I prefer to look at the waves below the junk. It's fairly easy to see that the waves touch the junk on the Peking printings whereas they don't on the London printings.

Waves touching the junk

But it goes on, for there is also a Second Peking Printing, dating from 1923. This one is very easy though, for there is no fringe anymore at all.

Second Peking Printing

Now you see why I like definitives? You don't get that with single printing commemoratives, now do you?! And then I haven't even started on the overprints, the various papers and all that jazz. So much more to collect with these stamps. But like I said, you'll have to read the article for that. Sorry!

See yous later!