March 29, 2013

British Postnotes

Had you ever heard of British Postnotes? I must admit I hadn’t but a good friend of mine was involved in one of the advertising campaigns involving them. The postnotes were introduced by the Post Office in 1982. They are basically a modern-day version of the old-fashioned lettercard.

Now, at the time, my friend was working for the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) and they were preparing to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in 1983. My friend being a philatelist, it didn’t take long to come up with the idea to try and involve the Post Office into this. And so a campaign was set up which would encourage the general public to buy Fresh Cream Pots. Two pot tops would entitle the customer to buy seven first class postnotes for only 12p each (first class rate at the time was 16p).

And these would be no ordinary postnotes but special ones with dairy-inspired designs on the left. The MMB was involved in the design process and below is shown how one of the provisional designs was changed somewhat before being approved. The windmill, though a well-known feature of East Anglia at least, was considered to be too foreign. They didn’t want their customers to think their cream was maybe imported from the continent!

The eventual design showed a farm and a small footbridge. The jug of milk was allowed to remain, as long as it was a glass one.

In all, there were five different designs made. Another change to the format was the use of the actual Machin head. The plain postnotes had used a Head B, with a shadow below the bust. The MMB postnotes had a Head A, without the shadow.

Head A (left) and Head B (right)

The postnotes came with extra offers, such as a little cookery book.

Although the Post Office was not involved in the actual campaign, they did advertise it with posters in their offices.

The campaign ran from March to May 1983, and 25,000 packs in total were sold.

(All images courtesy of Alfred Thorp.)

See yous later!

March 22, 2013

Germany's long-running definitives

“Am I right that Germania is the longest running German definitive series?”

That was the question posed on our forum the other day and I was more or less challenged to find the answer. I soon found out it wouldn’t be as easy I thought it might. For a start, what do we consider Germany? I’ve decided to include all of Germany into my research; east, west, Berlin, German states, occupied territories and colonies. The second parameter which needed to be determined was: what do we consider the lifetime of a definitive set? Is it validity? The time between first and last issues? Do we count overprints, slight design changes? I thought it would be fairest to measure the years between first and last issue of a particular design, with slight changes to a basic design not considered to be a new series, and to also include any overprints and surcharges.

Needless to say the answers were rather surprising and although some of the more obvious series I thought would be included indeed are, quite a few were much more obscure. So here (after one night of catalogue browsing, so do forgive me if I got something slightly wrong here) are the results, presented in a Top 5 of longest running German definitives:

Number Five

In 1857, the German state of Württemberg issued a new definitive set depicting their coat of arms. The stamp was designed by P. Reusch and printed by letterpress, with embossing, by the Railway Commission Ticket-printing Office. Between 1859 and 1862 the design was reused, now with silk threads removed, and on various types of paper. In 1863-1864 properly perforated stamps were issued, followed in 1865-1868 by roulette versions. Two final stamps were added to the set in 1873. So, in all, this design lasted for 16 years.

Number Four

We have a tie in fourth place, with two sets running both for 17 years. And as it happens, they were in use in tandem. The ‘Famous Women’ set was introduced in 1986 and survived the change to euros, having its final stamps added in 2003. The ‘Tourism’ set followed in 1987, but the final stamps to this set were added in 2004, so it ran for just as long.

Number Three

Surprised? I sure was, to find that the famous 'Germania' series only made it to number three! It was introduced in 1899, inscribed Reichspost and lasted until its final issue in 1922, clocking up 23 years of service. By that time Reichspost had morphed into Deutsches Reich and the design came in two versions, with and without a background to the portrait.

Number Two

Beating it just, with one more year, is the numeral design which was introduced in the German Empire in 1875. There is only one value, but it has been reprinted often, and that has led to major shade varieties, which have been dated and catalogued. The stamp basically went from dull violet in 1875 to red-lilac in 1899, and that makes 24 years. I was amazed that such an unassuming stamp, which I had never consciously seen before, could make it almost all the way to the top.

Number One!

Dwarfing all these previous series is the Bavaria series which was introduced in 1867. It survived currency changes and kings, and as late as 1911, new values were still being added to the series, giving it a lifetime of a whopping 44 years!

So there we have it: the five longest running German definitive series. Now don’t tell me you thought this all along.

See yous later

March 15, 2013

Sede Vacante

And so the dust has settled, the white smoke has vanished into thin air and a new pope has been elected, bringing an end to another Sede Vacante (Vacant See) period in Vatican City. The circumstances leading up to these events were highly unusual, what with the pope abdicating rather than dying, and this may well have led to the customary Sede Vacante stamps being extra popular. These stamps, however, have been in use ever since Vatican City started issuing its own stamps, in 1929.

At the time, Pius XI was pope. He died in 1939, giving rise to the first ever Sede Vacante stamps. Not much of an effort was made, with just a simple overprint on some of the existing definitives.

The set does highlight one of the traditions linked to this period, that being a change in the Holy See’s Coat of Arms. Normally, the Coat of Arms includes a papal tiara, but when there is no pope, this is replaced with a so-called umbraculum, or umbrella. The keys, as they are St Peter’s Keys to Heaven, do remain in place.

In 1939, Pius XII became pope, and he lasted until 1958. The Sede Vacante set of that year was the first to be properly designed as such. It was still a rather plain affair, with just the Arms and some explanatory text included.

The next pope, John XIII, died in 1963, and the Sede Vacante stamps following his death were just as plain as their 1958 predecessors.

Things finally started to brighten up a bit in 1978, when there were not one but two popeless periods. Pope Paul VI died in August 1978. The Sede Vacante stamps show a stylised depiction of the Arms. It’s quite a remarkable design, especially in view of the remainder of the Vatican stamp catalogue, which is highly traditional as far as designs is concerned.

His successor, John Paul I, only lasted a couple of weeks, giving rise to the need for yet another Sede Vacante set. This time, the Arms are depicted as some sort of mosaic or stained glass, take your pick. Though only issued in October, the pope had died in September. Unprepared for this, there were no stamps ready yet so it took a while for them to be issued. Hence the inclusion of Sett, being short for September.

The next pope, John Paul II, lasted quite a bit longer, until 2005 to be precise. The Sede Vacante stamps following his death still depict the Arms, but it’s a much more romantic design, with an angel taking the Arms up to Heaven, surrounded by chubby cherubs. This is actually an 18th century fresco by Carlo Malli.

And so we end up at the Sede Vacante stamps which were issued this month. The idea of the angel lifting up the Arms has been retained, but this time we have a purpose-made design, by Daniela Longo.

Though probably extra popular at the moment seeing they are linked to the first papal abdication since time immemorial, it remains to be seen whether they can hang on to their popularity or will just become one in a row of many!

See yous later

March 08, 2013

Maps on Stamps

After my ‘Moscow Metro’ blog of some weeks ago, I received an email from the President of the CartoPhilatelic Society, them being folk who collect Maps on Stamps. I failed to see the link first, until I realised that there were stamps with railway maps included.

Now I like my maps, old ones to see what has changed, new ones to plan walks in the wild. All maps have a different appeal. So I started wondering what I would do if I were to collect Maps on Stamps as well. I was reminded of a TV advert in which you started off in the universe, zooming further and further in until you were left with an image of someone lying on the beach with a particular brand of beer, I think it was, next to them. So I had a go and tried to do a similar thing with stamps.

Starting off with the whole world we have plenty of choice. This 2003 stamp from Uruguay, to celebrate their international relations, shows the world as taken off a globe and flatted out. The perfect way to show all of it rather than just the part of the globe which would be visible to the eye.

Getting a bit closer we end up on this 1988 stamp from Uruguay, which marked the 60th anniversary of the Interamerican Institute for the Child, hence a depiction of the Americas. I understand thematic collections are allowed to diverse into varieties, so I was rather pleased to find this set of progressive proofs.

In 1992, Uruguay issued a stamp to mark the 22nd Latin American and Caribbean Lions Clubs Forum, which has a good map of South America. As with the all-world stamp, this one has the great design touch of including the country as well, so that we all know where they’re at.

Which is where we end up now: the 1984 stamp showing the country Uruguay, nicely subdivided into departments as well. This is actually a reprint of the original 1973 stamp, with a new value. And again I managed to find a great variety, consisting of the colour yellow shifted to the right.

The 1992 stamp for the 70th anniversary of ANDEBU, the association of broadcasting stations, zooms in nicely on the southern part of Uruguay.

We get closer and closer, and are now in muddy waters, with this 1999 stamp marking the agreement on the maritime borders between Uruguay and its neighbour, the Argentine Republic.

And still I managed to zoom in just that bit more, to Uruguay’s capital Montevideo on the southern coastal border of the country. This 2007 stamp to mark the centenary of the National Cadastre shows an early map. See how well you can see the grid pattern of the streets, for which Montevideo is known.

With South American countries having issued a fair proportion of map stamps, it wasn’t that hard to come up with this sequence. But is it possible for other countries as well? Can you do it? If so, or if you want to see or show off some other map stamps, why not visit our forum thread on Maps on Stamps and have a go yourself!

See yous later