Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Medicinal plants of India

When I receive a set of stamps or a souvenir sheet from any contact in the world, I like to spend some time to find out information about the issue and the subject. This is what I did this weekend for several stamps that I received recently. My partner in life starts to think I’m a bit crazy, spending hours browsing stamps catalogue and the Web to find information about stamps that do not even relate to my topics for collection.Here is a souvenir sheet that I got from one of the reader of my blog (Thank you again).

This souvenir sheet was issued on the 7th of April 2003. I was curious to learn more about these medicinal plants of India, and to find out what medical virtues they could have.
From left to right, the plants are :

- Commiphora wightii, commonly called Guggul or Guggulu (yes this is the common name ;-) ). This is a small tree that can be fond from northern Africa to central Asia, but that is most common in northern India. It is sought for its gummy resin. Guggul is known to help in curing epilepsy, ulcers, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis. But the main virtue of its gum is to influence the production of cholesterol in human.
- Bacopa monnieri (common name Brahmi) is used for ist leaves that have antioxidant properties. I also read that it has been used in the past to consecrate new born babies to open the gateway of intelligence.
- Enblica officinalis (Amla) is also know as Indian gooseberry. It fruits are edible, are full of Vitamin C. They are used fresh or dried to fight chronic lung problems. They are also known to be good for the heart.
- Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) is also called Indian ginseng. It increases health and longevity by normalizing physiological functions. It is used for its berries and roots. Fresh roots are boiled into milk before being used dried. Ashwagandha means horse’s smell because of the smell of its roots.

Medicinal plants on stamps is an interesting sub-category of flora on stamps. I wonder if some collectors are specialized in this area…

Monday, July 30, 2007

Puppet theatre

I have already written several times about my interest in joint stamp issues. This is the reason why I’m a member of the International Philatelic Society of Joint Stamp Issues Collectors. I’m also helping to maintain and update the IPS-JSPC website since now few months. So I’m always happy when I get mails franked with joint stamp issues. Here is an example that I have received few weeks ago from Indonesia. Look at this beautiful cover, with a very clean and nice cancel from Bandung.

The souvenir sheet has been issued on the 27th of September 2006 and belongs to a joint stamp issue between Indonesia and Slovakia, the subject of this common issue being puppet theatre. As both countries have issued stamps with the same design and at the same time, this issue is classified as a Twin issue.
The stamp located on the left of the cover pictures an Indonesian puppet called Semar, or also Sang Hyang Ismoyo. He personifies the fight between Good and Evil. His white face symbolises a teacher, with a pleasant and honest appearance, whose lessons can be happily followed by his pupils. His black body warns us against doing anything bad to achieve any personal goals.
The stamp on the right pictures Gasparko (Silly Billy) one of the most typical character of traditional puppet theatre in Slovakia. He finds his origin in the clown, born from the commedia dell’arte in the 14th century in Italy. He performs in almost every traditional puppet theatre representations, mostly as a houseman, often as a clown or a squire, later as a wanderer and tradesman. His wife is called Zabinka (little frog). For completeness, here is a scan of the Slovakian issue.

One interesting point to be noticed on the Indonesian souvenir sheet, is the small stars that you can see in the perforation of the stamps, at each corner. This star is not present on the Slovakian issue.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Again… the new seven world wonders

I have mentioned here and here the vote that took place recently to elect the new seven world wonders. As I said the results were announced on the 7th of July 2007. This announcement took place in Lisbon. To commemorate this event, the Portuguese post has issued a stamp and a souvenir sheet.

The souvenir sheet pictures all the candidates that were chosen for this election.
While browsing the new issues of Portugal, I found an other interesting new issue. To celebrate the fact that Portugal is now having the presidency of the European Union council a set of two stamps and a souvenir sheet have been issued. Here they are.

More than the stamps themselves, what I found interesting is the perforation. Note the hole in the form of a cross in the perforation of the stamps. I guess in this case this is more done for aesthetic reasons than for security.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dogs of Mongolia

Even if this is not the first one (see here), receiving a cover from Mongolia is something exceptional enough to me mentioned. And even more, when the cover is rather nice. So here is a scan of a cover I got few weeks ago through the CCCC.

The two stamps belong to a set issued in 1991 about dogs. This was quite easy to find in my Scott catalogue. I had more difficulties to identify the species of the dogs pictured on the stamps. As far as I could find out, I think the one on the left pictures a poodle and the one on the right a Yorkshire terrier. If there is any dog specialists reading my blog, may be he/she can correct me if I’m wrong.
Mongolia is a country from where I find it extremely difficult to get information about their stamps. And what is strange, is that all covers I got so far from this country were franked with rather old issues. I never got a cover bearing recent stamps. Did any of you have a different experience about this country ? May be I should write to the Union of Mongolian Philatelists, that is advertised on the blue hand stamp put on the cover, to get more information ? I’ll try and I’ll let you know.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

World stamp exhibition, St Petersburg 2007

Several days ago I have received this very nice cover from Russia, and everyday I forget to scan it so that I can put it here on my blog. Hopefully I thought about it yesterday evening, so here it is.

This is a cover sent by Alexander, the blogger of “Used covers”. Thank you very much Alexander for this great cover.
As you can see, the cover is franked with a full mini sheet of eight stamps and a label plus one definitive stamp. This mini sheet has been issued to celebrate the world stamp exhibition that was held in St Petersburg from the 19th until the 25th of June 2007. The stamp pictures the emblem of the exhibition. In the middle of the mini sheet, the label is a reproduction of the first Russian stamp. In 2007, Russia celebrates the 150th anniversary of the issue of its first postage stamp.
The nice postmark is the cancel of the exhibition. And I guess you have noticed, once again, this is an example of the “import” label that is stuck by French post on the stamps (without mentioning the green label put by the local post office, which is also stuck on the souvenir sheet). I agree that there was not so much room to put those labels, but they could have put them on the other side of the cover, as they did for another very nice cover that I’m going to show you in few days.
If you are interested, you can see some pictures of the exhibition on Alexader’s blog :
Used covers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cover from Belarus and a bit more…

The list of countries from where I got mails is increasing almost every month. I should really start building a list of countries from where I did not get any mail so far, it will be shorter. Few weeks/months ago I got this cover from Belarus.

As you see it is very simple, bearing only one stamp, but it is rather nice. And look at the very clean cancel from Minsk. The stamp has been issued on the 31st of March 2003 and pictures a house sparrow (Passer domesticus) as “the bird of the year”. The stamp pictures the emblem of the Birdlife organisation (an international organisation that works for the conservation of endangered bird species) in the lower left corner, and the emblem of the APB (Ahova ptushak Belarusi, the Belarusian branch of Birdlife) in the upper right corner. The stamp was issued in sheet of seven stamps with a label. Here is a picture of the full sheet, taken from the Belarusian post website.

If you look attentively to the stamps of the sheet you will see that the stamp located on the lower left corner of the sheet is different from the others. Here is a zoom on this stamp, with its neighbour.

As you see the stamp on the lower left corner does not bear the APB emblem. Is it a mistake or was it done on purpose ? What is strange is that in my Scott catalogue I found only one stamp mentioned, the one with the APB logo. The other one is not mentioned, whereas it is not a variety since it affects all sheets…

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bay of Somme

I'm still having a hard time at work, so I did not have time to prepare anything for my blog. Sorry for that. Hopefuly I'm gonna have a three days weekend. I'll go to see my sister, her husband and her two children. I will drive to a small seaside city called Le Crotoy, located in the bay of Somme, in the north west of France.

Here is a stamp issued by La Poste (the French post office) on the 15th of November 1998 that pictures the bay of Somme. A very nice place with large sand beaches. I hope the weather will be good... But before I still have a hard day of work in front of me. So see you next week on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Yesterday was a hard busy day and today will be the same. So not much time to think and write about stamps.
For today I just wanted to show you a set of stamps I received last week through a stamp exchange circuit.
This is a set of two stamps, printed se-tenant, issued by China in 1995 to celebrate diplomatic relationship with Thailand. I find these stamps really nice. I have a friend who’s starting a stamp collection about elephants, and I’m sure he will be thrilled to get those ones. I have myself thought about collecting elephants on stamps but I have already so many on going collections that I gave up. Better to help my friend in his own collection !
The only critic I have on these stamps is that I think that when two stamps are printed se-tenant with a continuing design, then there should be no white margins on the other sides. When you separate the two stamps, the design of each stamp then looks a bit strange with white margin only on three sides….

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The planets

On the 21st of May, the Irish post (An post) has issued a set of four stamps called “The planets”. The four stamps have been printed in band of two se-tenant. The design of those stamps is quite surprising, so I decided to show them to you. Here they are.

As you see the stamps are rather elongated. Each stamp pictures a half of the Earth and another planet. There is one stamp for Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Also the stamps picture a comparison between the size of the Earth and the size of the pictured planet. Impressive, how Earth is small compared to the four selected planets !The stamps have also been issued in the form of a souvenir sheet. Here it is.

When I saw this set I immediately wondered why only four planets are pictured (well five if you count the Earth). What about Mercury, Venus and Mars ? In fact the set is focusing on what is often called the Jovian planets, or more commonly the gas giants. A gas giant is a large planet that is not primarily composed of rock or solid matter. A gas giant may have a solid core, but the majority of its mass is composed of gaseous hydrogen and helium with also water, methane, ammonia and other hydrogen compounds.

The naming of the set is therefore a bit confusing. “The planets” should refer to the eight planets of our solar system, and not only to the four gas giants. Or may be An post will issue another set, next year, for the three remaining planets… I don’t know.
Following a sort of trend, An post has also issued a “De Luxe” booklet, that contains four panes of four stamps and several pages of interesting information in English and Irish. This is a very beautiful item, surely not very “postal”, but still a nice item. Here is the cover of the booklet.

Something surprised me on this cover. If you look at the illustration you see nine planets aligned from the Sun. I guess the last one, the one on the very far right is Pluto. But since 2006 Pluto is no more considered as a planet. Pluto is now considered as a dwarf planet as Eris and Ceres. So isn’t it a mistake to put it on the cover of the booklet together with the eight planets ? And if they wanted to include dwarf planets in the design, why not putting Eris (which is bigger than Pluto!) and Ceres ?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Indian national parks

I have recently received this cover from a contact in India who knows how much I like stamps on fauna.

The three stamps on the cover belong to a set of five stamps issued on the 31st of May 2007 to celebrate Indian national parks. Each stamps celebrate a different park. My friend also had the nice idea to send me the full mint stamp set. Here is a band of the five stamps printed se-tenant.

The parks that are celebrated with this set are, from top to bottom :
- Bandhavgarh national park
- Bandipur national park
- Kanziranga national park
- Mudumalai national park
- Periyar national park

The cancel on the cover is not very easy to see on the scan, but this is a cancel from a philatelic bureau. It has an elephant’s head in the middle.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The new seven world wonders (cont’d)

Before the weekend, let me give you some news about the challenge I started on Monday : to find the oldest stamp picturing each of the seven new world wonders.
I’m only half satisfied by the result I reached so far. As you will see I haven’t be successful to identify the oldest stamp for all of them.

Let’s start by the easiest : The Taj Mahal in IndiaThe earliest stamp I could identify picturing the Taj Mahal is a stamp from India issued in 1935 in a set commemorating the 25th anniversary of the reign of George V. Here is a picture of the stamp (sorry it is quite small).

Nice stamp I think. After this Taj Mahal has been pictured on stamps from various countries. I have already shown several in my blog.
Then the Great Wall in China. It has been pictured on a lot of stamps. The oldest one I could identify is a Chinese air mail stamp from 1921 and picturing a plane over the Great Wall. Here is a picture of it.

The Christ Redeemer appears for the first time on a stamp from Brazil I 1934, celebrating the visit of Eugenio Pacelli, who will become later the Pope Pius XII. Here is the stamp.

Machu Pichu and its ruins appears on an air mail stamp from Peru in 1972. I’m not completely sure this is the oldest, but I could not find others before. Here is the stamp.

Petra appears for the first time on a stamp from Jordan, in 1933. The stamp pictures one of the temple of Petra. I was not able to find a picture of the stamp, unfortunately. To illustrate this wonder, I selected a stamp from France, issued in 2005 to celebrate UNESCO world heritage. Here it is.

I was not able (yet) to identify the first stamp picturing the Coliseum of Rome. If somebody can help me I’ll be happy. I found several stamps picturing it, among them a French one, issued in 2002 in the European capitals series. Here it is.

And finally Chichén Itza, the pre-Columbian archaeological site built by the Maya civilization. It does not appear on so many stamps. The first one must be a stamp from Mexico issued in 1938 to commemorate the reconstruction of the edifice of Chichén Itza. I could see the stamp but I could not find a scan to put on this blog. There is another stamp also issued by Mexico in 1969 but again I could not get the picture.

So if you have info to complete or to correct mine, then you are welcome to send me a mail.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Postal card from India

I recently received a cover containing some stamps from India. In order to stiffen the envelope the sender had used a piece of cardboard, so that the stamps do not get bent during the transport. In fact this piece of cardboard is a postal stationery, a postal card that I found quite interesting. Here it is (the actual colour of the card is yellow, I do not know why it turned pinkish on the scan).
The other side of the card is blank, there is no picture or no illustration. The first thing I noticed was the ad near the franking : “Philately king of hobbies - Collect India Postage stamps – Contact nearest philatelic bureau”, reusing part of the famous “Philately king of hobbies and hobby of kings”. Now let’s have a closer look to the printed stamp. Here is a zoom.

I do not know if this is the design of an actual postage stamp, or if it exists only on this type of postcards. The stamp refers to “Rock cut Rathas Mahabalipuram”. I had no idea what it was, and thanks to the Internet (thank you Google !) I could find out more information. First of all Mahabalipuram is the name of an Indian city. In this city you can see the Rathas of Mahabalipuram, also called the “seven pagodas”. These are small replicas of actual temples that have been sculpted out of a monolithic rock (hence the “rock cut” reference on the stamp). The rathas are not very large, the biggest measuring 42 feet by 35 feet, and the tallest is 40 feet high. They are, in every details, exact reproduction of temples that would be built later. They were a sort of experiment before the construction of the actual temples. I saw some pictures and they are effectively very nice.

Funny to see how a small piece of cardboard used to stiffen an envelope made me travel through time and space, only using my computer and a search engine.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cover from China

Here is a cover I received few weeks ago from China. It was sent by George. Thanks a lot for this nice cover.

First of all, as you can see the cover has been stained a bit on the right side, probably by the rain. It is a pity that the very right stamp got stained also. Nevertheless, the cover looks quite good.

The three bird stamps belong to a definitive series. The one on the left side was issued in 2002 and the two others in 2006 (I think). I find them very attractive. From left to right the birds that are pictured are :
- Biddulph’s ground jay (Podoces biddulphi)
- Chinese Monal Pheasant (Lophophorus lhuysii)
- Taiwan yuhina (Yuhina brunneiceps)

The stamps on the right part of the cover are also definitive stamps, issued in 2002. The full set is about environmental protection. The two stamps here are picturing forest conservation (the green stamp) and conservation of ocean resources (the green and blue).
The postmark is very neat. It makes me jealous, when I see the way stamps are cancelled in France… What is interesting also is the cancel on the two stamps on the far left. It looks like a portion of a big double circle. I haven’t seen such cancel before…

Another thing to mention on the cover is the red T located on the bottom of the cover. The franking of the cover was not sufficient. I counted 5.80 RNB whereas it should have been franked with 6.00 RNB. It was done on purpose by George, to see how the cover would be treated by French post. I guess the 0.20 RNB missing explain the “20” on the upper part of the T, and I guess that the 400 indicate the tax that I should have paid to get the cover. I say “should have” because I did not pay any tax ! I just found it in my mail box. As for the cover from Hungary, it seems the tax sign was ignored by French post.

Anyway thank you again for this cover, George.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The new seven world wonders

You may have heard about this recent election that took place on the internet, asking everybody to vote for the “new” seven world wonders. I don’t know who was behind this initiative, that I found quite funny, even if not completely necessary. This election has triggered a lot of controversy, one example being Egypt that requested the big Pyramids of Giza to be removed from the candidate list, arguing that they are the only remaining original world wonder still existing so they could not be part of this new election. Anyway the vote has taken place and the results were announced on the 7th of July 2007 (07/07/07 a nice date for postmark on cover, isn’t it ?).

And the winners are :
- Chichén Itza in Mexico
- The Christ redeemer in Brazil
- The great wall in China
- The Machu Pichu in Peru
- Petra in Jordan
- The coliseum in Rome, Italy
- The Taj Mahal in India

I’m quite happy that the Taj Mahal is part of the list !
As a game I decided to try to find stamps picturing these seven new world wonders. Even more complex, when there are several stamps, to try to find the oldest one, picturing the place. The challenge is started, I’ll let you know about the results. If you want to help, you are welcome.

To illustrate this post I have chosen a stamp picturing the Taj Mahal

This set of stamp (and label) was issued on the 3rd of July 1992 to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of the Russian painter Vassily Vereshchagin (1842-1904). This is surely not the oldest stamp picturing the Taj Mahal, I’ll have to work a bit to find what is the oldest… Give me few days and I’ll come back on this subject.
And what about the original seven world wonders ? Anybody is able to provide the list ? And is there any stamp issue about them ?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Another cover from Hungary

I’m currently enjoying a day off. It’s good after the crazy activity of the previous weeks. I’ll have some time to sort out the covers and the stamps I received recently. For today’s post I have chosen a cover from Hungary that bears an impressive number of stamps : nine stamps, three on the recto and six on the verso. Here it is.

Some words about the stamps. Let’s start by the verso. There are two different stamps. The one with the red cross was issued on the 24th of November 2006 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Hungarian red cross. The other stamp belongs to a set of three definitive stamps issued on the 16th of March 2006. This is the 8th issue of the “Antique furniture” definitive series. This stamp pictures a pair of theatre seats from the Academy of Music and dating from 1900. The same design was used on another denomination issued in 2002 but using a different colour. Here is the stamp issued in 2002.

On the recto side, the stamp on the left second row was issued on the 1st of April 1978 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Communist Youth movement. The stamp pictures the profile of a young man and a young woman, and bears a surtax.
On the top left corner, the stamp belongs to a set of seven stamps issued on the 14th of January 1975 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965). This one pictures hospital supplies arriving by ship, and a portrait of Albert Schweitzer, the famous medical missionary.

The last stamp, on the right corner, is the one that I found the most interesting. This is a case of stamp on stamp. This stamp was issued on the 3rd of June 1975 to celebrate ARPHILA 75, an international philatelic exhibition that was held between the 6th and the 16th of June 1975. This stamp was issued in sheets of three together with a label showing the emblem of ARPHILA 75.
As you see the stamp pictures another stamp : a French stamp from 1964 that was issued to celebrate another philatelic exhibition : PHILATEC. Here is a scan of the original French stamp, that looks better than the reproduction on the Hungarian stamp.

This French stamp was issued se-tenant with a label picturing the emblem of the exhibition (as the Hungarian stamp). This stamp was sold 4F : 1F, the face value, plus 3F for the admission to PHILATEC.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fairy tales and a request for help

I recently received this set of six stamps from Bulgaria, picturing various fairy tales.

The stamps have been issued on the 17th of Arpil 1964 and they were sent to me because one of them (the one in the top right corner) contains a frog in the design. Fairy tales on stamps is a very good source for my frog stamps collections, because frogs are popular characters in fairy tales.
According to my Scott stamps catalogue the tales that are pictured on the stamps are (from left to right, top to bottom) :
1) The unborn maid
2) Grandfather’s glove
3) The big turnip
4) The wolf and the seven kids
5) Cunning peter
6) The wheat cakeI know quite well the number 4 (I read it hundreds of time when I was a little boy) and I think I know the number 3. But I have no information about the others, and mainly about the number 2 (Grandfather’s glove) which contains the frog in the design. So here comes the request for help : if any of you know anything about those tales, I would be very happy if you could drop me a mail.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Coins datés

Do you know what a “coin date” is ? This is a French expression which means literally dated corner (according to my “Stanley Gibbons - Philatelic Terms Illustrated” (a very useful book) it seems the French expression is also used in English). It applies to a corner bock of stamps that actually denote the date of the printing. This block may contain one or several stamps. They are often seen with block of four. Here is the only one I have and that I got very recently.

You have recognized the Marianne de Cocteau, my favourite “Marianne”. I already wrote about this definitive stamp. The printing date here is the 3rd of May 1965, as you can see on the right bottom corner.
There are some collectors who are specialized in the collection of “coins datés”. They try to find, for a specific stamp, all the possible printing dates. It means that they have to know exactly when the stamp has been actually printed. This must be a hard quest. I do not collect them myself, but I think this is an interesting variant. You may also find some errors (e.g. wrong printing date) or even some varieties. I have the feeling that I saw such dated corners only for French stamps and stamps from former French colonies. Does it mean this is a very “French” thing ? Do we have such “coin daté” in other countries ? I would be happy to hear from you if you have some info about this point.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How to spoil a cover ?

For today, I would like to tell you a story. While I was away for my professional trips in Timisoara, Shanghai and Stuttgart, I received a registered letter. As I was not at home, the postman left a note in my mailbox asking me to go to the post office to retrieve the letter. As I was travelling all over the world ;-) I asked a friend to get it for me. This is what he did. And then he called me to tell me that this was a registered cover from Bangladesh ! I was thrilled. I don’t receive mails from Bangladesh so often and even less registered mails. So I was eager to see it when I came back home. And then I was a bit disappointed ! Here is what I saw.

Don’t you think there was a better place to put the sticker than on top of the stamps ? What a pity. What a waste. I mean, someone takes care to select commemorative stamps to put on the cover, and then a postman spoils it by sticking a label on them. Is it to encourage people to stop using stamps ? Or what ?

Let’s speak about the stamps, anyway. On the left part of the cover, you see a band of three identical stamps. This is an issue of 1995 (exact date of issue is 28th of February 1995) to commemorate the National Diabetes Awareness Day. The stamps on the right corner are the two stamps issued on the 18th of September 2000 to celebrate the 2000 Summer Olympic Games of Sydney. Both stamps picture a shot putter : a woman for the 6t and a man for the 10t value. Here is a view of the 6t stamp which is hidden on the cover.

Then the last stamp was issued on the 7th of October 2003 to celebrate the 49th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. I guess the stamp pictures the parliament house, but I’m not completely sure.
Because of the label we don’t clearly see the postmark. It looks rectangular. I did not dare trying to remove the label because I’m sure it would destroy everything.

Now let’s have a word about the label. This was the first time I saw it. What is strange is that this is a French registering number (it finishes with FR). And what is strange is that there is no indication from the origin country (from Bangladesh) about a registering number. The only thing is the indication in the left top corner. So I’m puzzled. Why did the French post put this label on the cover ? Does anybody have an explanation ? I see that Eric, another blogger, had also the experience of this label :
http://timbredujura.blogspot.com/2007/05/courrier-de-la-republika-srpska-rs.html. And even last week I got a letter from Germany, bearing the same label… If somebody knows…

Monday, July 02, 2007

First day cover from Japan and the Taj Mahal

I haven’t much time today to write but I wanted to share with you a nice first day cover that I received recently from Japan. Here it is.

The stamp on the cover was issued on the 23rd of May 2007 to commemorate the year of exchange between India and Japan. As you see the main subject of the stamp is the Taj Mahal. I have already written how fascinated I am by this place, so I was very happy to get this cover. At one point in time I even thought about starting a collection of stamps picturing the Taj Mahal, but I’m not sure there are enough items for a proper collection.
As you see this is an “official” first day cover, but it has travelled through the postal service, which makes it more interesting for me (as I have already explained on this blog, I’m not so much interested by “mint” first day covers).