Tuesday, 27 September 2016

831. Dead Sheep.

  A couple of days ago I passed a very enjoyable evening in the audience of the play "Dead Sheep" by Jonathan Maitland which is now on tour having enjoyed a successful run in London. The play, often very funny, told of the relationship between the former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and Sir Geoffrey Howe, who served her loyally in senior governmental roles for many years but eventually was instrumental in bringing about her political downfall by delivering a devastating speech in The House of Commons after he had resigned from her government.
  While Margaret Thatcher has by now been depicted on numerous stamps, I can think of only one philatelic item which has featured Sir Geoffrey Howe and this was issued by the most surprising of countries - China. 
  Sir Geoffrey appears in a photograph on a postcard issued by the Chinese Post Office which commemorated the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong which led eventually to the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Sir Geoffrey can be seen standing behind Mrs. Thatcher and to the right of her.
  I don't suppose Howe will ever make an appearance on a Royal Mail stamp even though, as Chancellor of The Exchequor he played an enormous role in reshaping the British economy after the disastrous years of the 1970s and being to Thatcher what Brutus was to Caesar - in other words a highly significant modern historical figure. He was an outwardly quiet figure and famously it was said of him by a political opponent that being attacked by him was like being savaged by a dead sheep, hence the title of the play. Eventually, however, the dead sheep inflicted a fatal wound on the first British woman prime minister as recounted in the play. Important historical figures don't always get to be pictured on Royal Mail stamps unless they're footballers, popular musicians or children's television characters.

  Guyana Post will issue a sheetlet of 4 different stamp on 27 October 2016 to commemorate the Centenary of the discovery of bauxite in the country which was an important milestone in the country's economic history. Rating:- *****.

  News of fresh releases from the self-proclaimed "World's most respected philatelic agents", IGPC:-

  Ghana - 9 September 2016 - 30th anniversary of Voyager 2 - 1 sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet. Rating:- 0.

 Grenada - 9 September 2016 - 10th anniversary of New Horizons space probe - 1 sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet. Rating:- 0.

  16 September 2016 - Seabirds of the Caribbean region - 1 sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet containing 2 different stamps. Rating:- *.

  Grenada Carriacou And Petite Martinique - 9 September 2016 - Crabs and birds of the Caribbean region - 1 sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet containing 2 different stamps. Rating:- *.

  9 September 2016 - Flowers of Grenada Carriacou And Petite Martinique - 1 sheetlet of 6 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet containing 2 different stamps. Rating:- **.

  Guyana - 9 September 2016 - "Exploration of the exobiology of Mars" - 1 sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet. Rating:- 0.

  Leaving the depredations of IGPC behind us, we find that New Zealand Post has produced 2 new sets for the country's dependent territories. For the Niue Post Office there is a set of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet which commemorate Niue Language Week 2016. The issue will be released on 5 October 2016 and was designed by Jonathan Gray and lithographed by Collectables and Solutions Centre, Whanganui and perforated 13.5. Rating:- ***.

  There is also an issue on 5 October 2016 from the Tokelau postal service which commemorates Tokelau Language Week. This issue, again 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet, was designed by Richard Payne and lithographed by the Collectables and Solutions Centre and perforated 13.5. Rating:- ***.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

830. New Bird Surcharges From Malawi.

  Malawi Post announced the release of new surcharges on 2 of the 1988 birds definitive stamps, on 13 September 2016 - the values are K520 on 7t (Waller's red-winged starling) and K815 on 75t (Green barbet). Rating:- ***.

  Mauritius Post released a single stamp on 13 July 2016 to commemorate the commissioning of the new Dornier aircraft MPCG04 of the Maritime Air Squadron of the Mauritius Police Force. The stamp was designed by the Graphic Department (Mauritius Post Ltd.) and lithographed by Cartor and perforated 14. This is a good, modestly priced issue of totally local relevance. Rating:- ****.

  Jersey Post will commemorate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings by issuing "Jersey Arms" stamps from kiosk JE02 in Broad Street post office in St. Helier, dispensed from 14 October (the actual date of the anniversary) to 13 November 2016. The basic stamps will have the additional inscription, "The Battle of Hastings" and a graphic representation of a broadsword which is said to have been taken as a trophy during the battle in 1066. Rating:- ***.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

829. Interesting Mail From The Isle Of Man.

  It's hard to believe that the numerous stamps which are being released by various post offices, philatelic bureaux and philatelic agencies are ever actually intended to be used as postage stamps when even philatelic bureaux do not use their own stamps on mail they send out. And when they start using mailers from outside their own territory, eyebrows really need to be raised.

  Recently I received some interesting mail from the Isle Of Man Post Office Philatelic Bureau in the form of a cover with an imprinted version of the £1.69p value of the "Art of Roger Dean" set issued by the Isle Of Man P.O. on 19 August 2016. The cover is properly postmarked with a double-ringed cancellation "ISLE OF MAN POST OFFICE" but the date and accompanying slogan are impossible to read because of the large area of black incorporated in the stamp's design. The readable part of the slogan is "PLEASE INCLUDE THE/POSTC...(I presume that this is POSTCODE)/NOT......./AD......./W......". The only readable part of the date is "16".
  I can not understand why philatelic promotional material is sent out from the Philatelic Bureau itself in a cover which does not have a real postage stamp attached to it but instead the expense of producing special envelopes with facsimiles of a real stamp are produced and used. Imagine how delighted a stamp collector would be to receive a real postage stamp, properly franked, on a cover which has really travelled through the postal system from a philatelic bureau that hopes to sell the collector an unused complete set of the stamps.
  Actually, of course, the cover I received is very interesting and tells us a lot about the ridiculously excessive number of stamps that are being released by the Isle Of Man Post Office and other postal administrations and philatelic agencies. If even the Isle Of Man Philatelic Bureau does not use its own postage stamps then is there any real need for them at all other than as a collectable which is the point where stamps cease to be postage stamps, which collectors add to their stamp collections, and become expensive stickers which sticker collectors add to their collections?

  The Isle Of Man Post Office has, of course, been in dire financial straits for some time, even having to move out of its flagship post offices in Douglas and Ramsey to set up counters in nearby privately-owned supermarkets. This may be the reason behind another cover from the Isle Of Man Philatelic Bureau containing philatelic promotional material which I received a couple of days before the cover above and which originated, not in the Isle of Man, but in Winchester in England.
  The cover has the return address "PO Box 693, Winchester, SO23 3PP" and I presume that the Isle Of Man philatelic service found it cheaper to use an England-based address from which to send its communications within The United Kingdom than it was to employ people living in The Isle Of Man to carry out the work. Interesting. The letter entered the mail system, as judged by the postage paid indicia at the top right of the cover, through the whistl postal service.
 "whistl" started off delivering a postal service in The United Kingdom as part of the Dutch postal service TNTNV which was an express, mail delivery and logistics service with headquarters at Hoofddorp in The Netherlands. In August 2011 TNTNV was split into an express company and a mail   company.
  The new company PostNL subsequently owned TNT Post UK which was the biggest postal service operating in The United Kingdom after Royal Mail. The Dutch TNT Express company retained the rights to use the TNT brand and it was agreed that the mail services would be rebranded by 2015. In consequence TNT Post UK was renamed "whistl" towards the end of 2014. The chosen new name was explained by the statement that "whistl suggests the idea of happy people as the word is a natural reaction when people are happily going to work". In 2014 the rebranded whistl was responsible for less than 0.4% of the addressed mail market.
  This is the first time that I recall receiving mail from a non-British philatelic bureau which has been posted in Britain and it certainly makes one wonder about the state of The Isle Of Man Post Office if it can not even carry its own philatelic promotional literature.

  The philatelic literature revealed that the Isle Of Man Post Office is to release even more philatelic issues in the near future. The first item is a miniature sheet which commemorates the round the world flight of Solar Impulse which was powered by solar energy only. The item, costing £3, commemorates an achievement in which there was no Manx involvement at all that I can find - it was mainly a Swiss achievement (Switzerland's postal service has recently issued a stamp to commemorate Solar Impulse's flight)  - so this looks like yet another catchpenny issue with no relevance to The Isle Of Man.
Rating:- 0.

  Isle Of Man Post Office will then release 6 stamps, total face value £6.40p, on 20 October 2016 as its Christmas issue. The stamps, on the subject of Christmas Pantomimes, were designed from art by Christopher Biggins, a British actor known for playing pantomime dames and although the Gaiety Theatre in Douglas this year will be putting on "Robin Hood and His Merry Men" from 26 November 2016 to 8 January 2017 (is that Robin Hood's hat on the £1.86p value?) I really can't get excited about these stamps and, like the Solar Impulse sheet, I shall not be adding them to my collection. Rating:- *.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

828. Mystery Maldives Issue From The 1990s.

  A Canada-based dealer has sold recently on an Internet auction site a previously unknown set of 4 stamps which appears to have been issued by Maldives in 1995 or 1996. The set is made up of 2 of the stamps released on 30 December 1992 (SG1737 and 1738) which commemorated the SAARC Year of the Environment and the set of 2 stamps issued on 21 November 1990 (SG1426 and 1427) which commemorated the 5th SAARC Summit, all with a vertical overprint in black which reads "10th anniversary of SAARC". The overprint reads upwards on 2 of the stamps and downwards on the others.
  I have never seen the existence of these stamps reported anywhere before and I do take a lot of interest in Maldives stamps. These are fascinating and the question arises as to whether these items are genuine stamps or not. Despite our previous ignorance of their existence, I feel that they probably originate in the Maldives Post Office. It seems bizarre that anyone would fake such an issue given that the subject matter really is not a popular theme with wide appeal. 
  Unannounced stamps from Maldives have turned up before - in the mid-2000s, Nigel Haworth discovered and sold unannounced local surcharges which had probably been released around 2001 and these items are listed in the Stanley Gibbons Catalogue as numbers 3460a and 3460b and from time to time, despite being swamped by stuff produced by its philatelic agents, the Maldives Post Office issued stamps itself of local design and local relevance. So it would not be surprising that locally produced overprints, unannounced to the philatelic world, had been issued and that it had taken many years for them to surface.
  These items have a political relevance and it may be that they were prepared for distribution to SAARC politicians and important officials and may not have been put on sale at Maldives post offices and postal agencies.  
  The set received 7 bids in the internet auction and eventually reached a price of US$56. If I had noticed this lot earlier I think that I would have taken a punt on them and placed a bid myself.

  The Royal Gibraltar Post Office issued an interesting set of 5 stamps on 20 September 2016 to commemorate the award of World Heritage Site by UNESCO to the Gorham's Cave Complex. I particularly like the 80p stamp which depicts a very sympathetic picture of a Neanderthal man with a youngster - how different from portraits which have depicted Neanderthal people in the past. The issue was designed by Stephen Perera from photography by Stewart Finlayson and lithographed by BDT Internstional Security Printers. Rating:- ****.

  Canada Post issued 6 self-adhesive stamps from booklets and 1 gummed miniature sheet and 6 individual stamp miniature sheets (each contained in individual foil packs) on 23 September 2016 as part of its ongoing series which depicts ice hockey players. The issue which depicts forward players was designed by Avi Dunkelman and Joseph Gault (MIX Design Group). Rating:- ***.

  India Post issued a single stamp on 23 September 2016 to commemorate the Centenary of the Lady Hardinge Medical College, a women's medical college situated in New Delhi. This is obviously an important institution but the stamp is one of those incredibly dull issues depicting a fairly non-descript building which India Post is so adept at issuing. The stamp was designed by Smt. Nenu Gupta. Rating:- **.

  More on Maldives. In Blog 827 I outlined the latest Stamperija-produced philatelic items to be inscribed with the names of Commonwealth territories. But - shock! horror! - in addition to the stuff issued in the name of Mozambique and Sierra Leone, there's yet more of the stuff with 10 "sheetlets", each containing 4 different "stamps" and 10 accompanying " miniature sheets" being released with the name of Maldives printed on them. If anything they are even more artistically dire than anything we've seen before.
  The subjects depicted on these products are:- the 90th Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 260th Birth anniversary of Wolgand Amadeus Mozart, 75th anniversary of the death of Robert Baden-Powell, "Summer Games Rio De Janeiro 2016", 25th anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury (popular singer), 90th birth anniversary of the late Marilyn Monroe (US actress), 80th anniversary of the death of Louis Bleriot (aviator), 55th birth anniversary of Diana Princess Of Wales and 55th anniversary of the first manned space flight. 
  The "date of issue" is stated to have been 23 May 2016. Rating:- 0.