January 25, 2013

Fiji birds

I love birds and I love definitives, so last Christmas was a good one for me, because one of the presents I got was a set of Fiji bird stamps. And not just any bird stamps, but the Fiji bird definitives! The ones that make modern definitive collecting just as interesting as focusing on more classic issues. Why?

Well, it all started inconspicuously enough in 1995 when, in two parts, a set of 16 definitives was issued depicting various birds. Nothing new there, nothing to write home about, and for more than a decade it seemed that the wrongly inscribed 81c value was to remain the pinnacle of philatelic delight.

The Kandavu Fantail described as Kadavu Fantail.

Not so! From 2006, a number of rate changes and a recurring shortage of low values meant that Fiji embarked on an ambitious programme of overprints, which was considered cheaper than reprinting low value stamps. This practice is still going on at this very day and has thrown up loads of varieties, flaws and other delights along the way.

Generally, all overprints consist of a new value with the old value obliterated by crosses. But that's where the generality of it all ends. The first overprints had two small crosses to obliterate the old value.

Later overprints, however, used two large crosses, and to make things worse: the space between the new value and the crosses may differ, and is usually either 4mm or 5mm. It does not sound like a lot, I agree, but when looking at the two, it is a noticeable difference.

Even later, the overprints reverted to small crosses, but now three were used. 

This still seems to be the norm, judging from the latest overprint, the 40c on 31c value, which was issued late 2012.

Of course, as with any definitives, it is always better to try and get items in cylinder blocks.

Or even better: try and find stamps with flaws, such as this 20c on 23c with a slanting overprint.

Best of all - at least, from what I've been able to scramble together at this short notice - is this cylinder block with an overprint that is both shifted and slanted. Oh what joy!

There are so many different overprints and varieties out there, some of course much less common than others, that you could do worse than spend all your time hunting down all the different items of this one set. I promise you, you won't get bored soon!

See yous later

January 18, 2013

Machin Competition

You may have read in the comments on the recent Machin Varieties blog post that we were concocting a little Machin competition with real prizes. Well, here it is!

Roy from the Machin Mania website has very kindly offered two Machin booklets, of the folded type, both including varieties mentioned in the Stanley Gibbons catalogue. To refresh your memory a bit, the two varieties up for grabs are: the 'Beard Flaw'

and the 'Repair of Background' variety.

Remember, both these varieties come in their complete booklets!

All you have to do is answer this question:

In how many, and which, colours do we know the 1st class Machin?

A few clues: this is not a Machin:

and these labels do not qualify either:

and finally: one of the colours is not an official issue, but it has been found in that colour.

Think you know the answer?

Well, all you have to do is write your answer using the comment feature below. Make sure you include the most detailed information on number and colours in the comment, and don't forget to include your name and either postal address or email address, so I can contact you.

Please be assured that I won't be publishing these comments on this website, so your information won't be splashed around on the internet.

After the entries have been received I will pick two random winners, using the random number generator of random.org.

If no correct answers have been given, the two answers coming closest to the correct one will be awarded the prizes. So do enter, even if you're not sure about the completely correct answer!

The competition is open from this very moment and you can enter until the 31st of January 2013. Entries received after this date will not be valid. I will not enter into any correspondence with regard to the question, so no need to ask for hints, tips, etcetera!

In my blog post of Friday 1 February 2013 I will reveal the right answer and announce the two winners.  


See yous later

Okay, just to be a bit more specific: Horizon labels do not count nor do any Machin imprints on postal stationery.  All other Machin stamps, including slight varieties on the design, do count.

January 11, 2013

Elsa Catelin

Last month's main feature in Stamp Magazine, on collecting stamps by engraver, has led to a lively discussion on our forum. And so, when one of our eminent engraver collectors suggested focusing on the engravings of Elsa Catelin, a relative newcomer on the French stamp-engraving scene, I needed no further encouragement and went in search of Elsa!

The first stamp I came across was this 2010 stamp, depicting Villeneuve-sur-Lot. A lovely, romantic scene, and the reflection in the water, especially, is rather effective. Makes you wonder what it would be like if Royal Mail would embark on a similar, recess-printed, long-running series of all those beautifully quaint English villages!

I was also rather charmed with this 2009 stamp depicting Tarbes. Again a beautiful stamp, but what about that horse on the non-postal label?! If that were a 'proper' stamp, I would immediately vote it my best horse stamp ever.

Now, keeping to a strict collecting frame isn't always as good as it sounds. For it means getting things in which you normally probably would never go for. Point in case:

Not my cup of tea, this dolls miniature sheet from 2009, and although bits of it are engraved (mainly the hair) it is basically just a litho-printed stamp sheet. I'll say this for it though: the lace effect on the border, which is also engraved, is rather stunning.

Improving things no end is the next miniature sheet, from 2011, depicting stained glass windows from Reims Cathedral, marking the 800th anniversary of that cathedral. 

It's not so much the stamps that I like, not being too fond of the circular shape, but the fact that the whole stonework background is engraved. That makes it a beautiful miniature sheet. Pity about that horrid barcode though...

I would say that my favourite Catelin work, so far, is another miniature sheet, issued only late last year, depicting the organ of the church of Saint-Jacques in Lunéville. The stamps are gorgeous, the colours work so well, the background is perfect, too, and even the barcode has been sort of incorporated into the design and doesn't stand out. And, of course, again, the whole sheet, both stamps and background, is engraved. A pure feast for the eyes!

See yous later

Want to participate in our ongoing stamp engravers forum thread? Well, then, you're more than welcome. Have a look here!

January 04, 2013

Machin varieties

It may have received its share of negative feedback, but one thing I'll say for the Stanley Gibbons Volume 4 of their Great Britain catalogue: it deals with constant varieties on Machin stamps and that's something you don't always see in other catalogues. And I for one am glad they do because I have just received a nice lot of GB Machin booklets with flaws from Roy who runs the Machin Mania weblog, which you will find here. By the way, we here at Stamp Magazine have a Machin forum thread too, so why not have a look here and ask any questions or add any info you like!

But back to my booklets. It concerns the booklet that was issued in October 1979, with the cover promoting the London 1980 show.

The pane consists of two 1p stamps, an 8p stamp and a postcode label. The stamps are printed by Harrisons on fluorescent coated paper with PVAD gum and have a centre phosphor band, with the band on the 8p being short at the bottom.

My outdated version of the Volume 4 catalogue lists six constant varieties, and I was pleased to find three of those in my lot. The first one is the 'Large Flaw on Neck' variety, on position R1/1.

The second variety is one of those which seem to add something to the design, rather than just being a spot or a scratch or whatever. These usually end up with appropriate or even funny names, and so does this one for it is called the 'Beard Flaw', to be found on position R2/2. And it looks mightily impressive!

Not all flaws appear on the 1p stamp, of course. I also have a booklet pane with a flaw on the 8p, consisting of a repair of the background to the right of the Queen's neckline.

And among the panes was even one with a constant variety which hasn't been catalogued (yet), showing a dark spot above the eye.

I like these varieties. They make a booklet collection so much more interesting, and the great thing is, these being booklets which, I presume, were readily used by the general public, you may well have these varieties in among your hundredes of used 1p and 8p Machins. Better start checking them now!

See yous later

PS: You have a couple of more days to vote in our 'Best GB stamp of 2012' poll. It closes on January 11, so get voting!