Friday, September 28, 2007

Prefecture stamps

I’m always happy when I get a cover form Japan. All the ones I have received so far were clean with a very neat postmark. Another thing is that, even if they came from various expeditors, they were almost all franked with prefecture stamps. Prefecture stamps are stamps sold locally to a prefecture but that can be used in the whole country. The last cover I got is not different.

The stamp on the left is a definitive stamp. It belongs to a series about fauna and flora started in 1992. This specific stamp was issued on the 28th of November 1997. Thank to Eric, I discovered this website about prefecture stamps from Japan. This helped me to confirm that the two other stamps are prefecture stamps (this can bee seen from the shape of the kanji used to write the country name). I also could find out that these stamps are from the prefecture of Yamanashi. They have been issued on the 2nd of July 2001. The one in the middle pictures horses and the Mt Yatsugatake highlands. The one of the right pictures Oshino-hakkai ponds. Just for the pleasure, here is the full set.

Again, you can see on the cover that the postmark is extremely clear and not spoiling the stamps as I could see, too often, on cover from several western Europe countries (including France !).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cover from Iran

Before showing you the cover, let me give you some background information about the way I got it. I am a member of the International Philatelic Society of Joint Stamp Issues Collectors (and I’m also helping maintaining the web site, by the way). This association, that gathers collectors of Joint Stamps Issues, publishes a very interesting journal, four times a year. This journal is sent by email and/or by snail mail to the members. The association has members all over the world. In order to reduce the cost of printing the journal and shipping it, an experience has been made since the last issue : the printing an the shipment is managed by one of the member located in Iran. The cost is drastically reduced, and all members have the pleasure to get a very nice cover from Iran, franked with a big number of large stamps. Here is the last one I got.

(click on the picture to zoom)
As you see the cover has been slightly damaged during the transport, and some of the stamps have been stained a little bit. Let’s start by the stamps of the top row, from left to right.

The first one is a part of a set of two stamps issued on the 15th of April 2003. This is a joint issue between China and Iran. The stamp on the cover pictures the Mosque of Isfahan in Iran, which was built in 1621. The second stamp of the set (not on the cover) pictures the Bell Tower of Xi’an in China, that was built in 1384. Here it is.

This joint issue between China and Iran qualifies as a Twin issue because both countries have issued the stamps at the same time and using the same design.

The second and third stamps of the top row are a joint issue between Iran and Brazil. The stamps issued on the 15th of December 2002 celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations between both countries. The stamps picture Iranian and Brazilian ceramics. Once again, this is a Twin issue, since the Brazilian stamps have the same design and have been issued at the same date.

The large vertical stamp located on the left side of the second row has been issued on the 26th of November 2006 to celebrate the 27th anniversary of the foundation of BASIJ, a volunteer based paramilitary force.
The one located on its right was issued on the 4th if January 2006 to celebrate the Wheat self-sufficiency.

The two identical stamps are part of the definitive series from Iran, picturing butterflies. This one was issued in 2006 and pictures a white tiger (Danaus melanippus). I have already mentioned this series
in a previous article.

And finally the last very large stamp was issued on the 20th of September 2006 to celebrate the 3rd meeting of the ECO postal administration (ECO meaning Economic Cooperation Organization). On the stamp are pictured the flags of the participating countries : Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Songbirds of Venda

I belong to several stamps exchange circuits, which gives me the opportunity to receive stamps from all over the world. I have recently received this set of stamps that I wanted to share with you.
(click on the picture to zoom)
This is a set issued by Venda on the 10th of January 1985 and picturing songbirds of this area. Venda is an enclave located in South Africa. On the 1st of February 1979 it was declared as a self governing entity. On the 13th of September 1979, its independence was pronounced. At this time, Venda started to issue its own stamps, until the 24th of April 1994, where it was re-absorbed by South Africa.
The stamps of the set picture the following species :
- 11c : Heuglin’s robin (Cossypha heuglini euronota)
- 25c : Black-collared barbet (Lubius torquatus torquatus)
- 30c : Black-headed oriole (Oriolus larvatus larvatus)
- 50c : Kunichane thrush (Turdus libonyanus libonyanus)
These are birds species that can be found in this area of Africa. But what I found interesting in these stamps is the musical stave that you can find below the bird. I’m not really a musician, so I’m not able to decipher them, but I guess each stave represents the song of each bird. I think this is a nice idea ! This is the first (and I think the only one) time that I see the song of a bird, represented on a stamp.

Another thing to be noticed on those stamps is the margin. As you see, each stamp is attached to the border of the sheet, where you can find the head of an elephant. This symbol is extracted from Venda’s coat of arms that you can see below. I wonder if all stamps of the top row of the sheet do have an elephant head on the margin, or if there is one per sheet (as a printer mark) and I was lucky enough to get the four stamps with it… Does anybody know

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Too much work....

Just a short note to tell you that I'm back from Edinburgh (I love Edinburgh) but I have such a huge amount of work to do that I could not prepare a proper update for my blog. Sorry for that. It should be better tomorrow. See you then.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Covers from Spain

I have recently received two nice covers from Spain. The first one is very colourful, as you can see.

The small stamp belongs to a set that I have already illustrated in my blog (click HERE to read the associated article). The colourful souvenir sheet has been issued on the 7th of April 2007, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Madrid Movement (La Movida Madrileña). The Madrid Movement was a socio-cultural movement that took place in Madrid, during the first ten years after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975. It represented a new emerging Spanish cultural identity. Andy Warhol and his Factory movement have had a great influence in the main characters of the Movida. A lot of artists in all domains have been issued from this movement. The most famous one (at least for me) is the cineaste Pedro Almodovar. As far as I could find out, the text which is reproduced on the souvenir sheet (that I could not translate because I do not speak Spanish, unfortunately) is extracted from the edict of Enrique Tierno Galván, the mayor of Madrid at that time. But I could not find much information on the background illustration.
The postmark of the cover is also interesting : it bears a slogan that I understand as “For security use Fax and Burofax). A very clean postmark that does not actually cancel the stamps , by the way (it’s quite understandable, seeing the position of the stamps).

The second cover that I received is coming from Angel (thanks a lot).

The stamps of the cover have been issued on the 4th of July 2007 as an homage to the humanitarian and peace tasks carried out by the Spanish army all around the world. The stamp is devoted to the Armed Forces in Peace Missions, which act under the control of the UN. The stamp pictures the shoulders of uniformed soldiers. We can also see the famous blue cask, which is the symbol of these peace forces. And the earth glob symbolizes the fact that those forces may operate every where in the world.

(I’m having (once again) a three days weekend because of the Rugby World cup. I’m travelling to Edinburg to see New Zealand versus Scotland on Sunday. I’ll me back on my blog on Tuesday only. See you then.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Postcrossing postcard from Estonia

Few months ago, I have discovered the joy of Postcrossing. Postcrossing is a project that helps to get postcards from all over the world. There is no admission fee, the only condition to get a postcard is to send one ! Which is rather fair. The positive thing is that there is a huge number of members, giving you the opportunity to get cards form a high variety of countries. The less positive thing is that you can not influence the choice of the country from where you’ll get the card. This is the system that decides for you.I was already able to get some very nice postcards from Iceland, Estonia, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Hungary. Today I have chosen to show you the one I got from Estonia. First here is the card.

The card pictures a view of Tartu, which is the second largest city of Estonia. It is sometimes considered as a cultural hub, in contrast with Tallinn, the political and financial capital. The two small photos embedded in the card picture the town hall, built in 1789, and the Angel’s bridge, built in the 19th century and renovated in 1913. The local tradition says that when you cross this bridge you should hold your breath and make a wish ! Now let’s have a look to the other side of the card.

The stamp used on the postcard has been issued on the 25th of October 2000. It is a part of a set of two stamps about Lake Peipsi. This lake, located one the border between Estonia and Russia is the fourth largest lake in Europe. This lake is the habitat of 37 different species of fish. The stamp of the card pictures two of these species : the smelt (Osmerus eperlanus spirinchus) and the European lake whitefish (Coregonus albula). Both stamps have been issued se tenant, together with a label. Here is the full set.

The second stamp pictures two other species of fish : the pike perch (Stizostedion lucioperka) and the lavaret (Coregonus lavaretus manaenoides). The label pictures a map of the lake and the coats of arms of Estonia and Russia. In fact this issue was a joint issue between Russia and Estonia. On its side, Russia has issued the following strip of stamps.

As you see, the design is exactly the same. The only difference being the size of the stamps (the Russian ones are larger) and the order of the stamp in the strip.
As those stamps were issued at the same time and with the same design they qualify as twin issue.
The other cards that I got so far through Postcrossing gave me as much pleasure as this one, trying to get info about the place they picture and about the stamp(s) they bear. A very nice experience.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Super heroes

I haven’t shown many covers from the USA here on my blog. Very often, when I get a letter from this country, it is somehow spoiled by “dirty” postmarks. For once, I got a rather nice one from Manchester, Michigan, so I decided to share it with you.

The two large stamps belong to a set of twenty stamps issued on the 26th of July 2007 and illustrating Marvel Super Heroes. This issue has been highly discussed among USA stamps collectors : some being very found of it, some others wondering if this was really worth issuing stamps about Marvel comics books… As I was an avid reader of comics when I was a kid, I am more in the first category. In this stamp set, ten super heroes are pictured individually on one stamp each, and a second stamp pictures a cover of a comics book featuring the associated super hero. The two stamps on the cover are dedicated to Elektra, may be not the most famous one. Elektra is the daughter of a Greek ambassador who gets killed by terrorists. Elektra, who has studied martial arts when she was young, decides to avenge her father and spends her time fighting sometimes against the Bad and sometimes against the Good. She is linked to another famous hero who’s name is Daredevil (the blind avenger) with whom she shared a romance.

The two small stamps of the cover are issued from a definitive series started few years ago and picturing objects of daily life. The stamp on the right was issued in on the 31st of May 2005 and pictures an American toleware. The one on the left has been issued on the 16th of March 2007 and pictures a silver coffeepot. I rather like these stamps and also the other stamps of the series, they are quite simple and well designed.
The postmark of the cover is also interesting : a large double circle cancelling the four stamps at the same time. It is much clearer in reality than on the scan.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


To answer the question I got from some of you : yes, I’m currently in Toulouse to see the match that will oppose the French rugby team to the Namibian team, this evening. This is the second match of the French team, in the 2007 rugby world cup. France has lost the first one, against Argentina, putting them in a difficult situation : if they finish at the second place of their group they will meet New Zealand in quarter final ! This will be tough. But first they have to win all their matches now, and when I see how they played against Argentina I’m a bit worried.
I thought it was rather natural to speak about stamps from Namibia today. I have received recently, through a stamp exchange circuit, this souvenir sheet.

This full set was issued on the 22nd of March 2007 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Etosha National Park. This park is one of Southern Africa's finest and most important Game Reserves. It was declared a National Park in 1907. It covers an area of 22270 square km and it is the home of a lot of animal species : 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, only one species of fish. Etosha, meaning "Great White Place", is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park. The pan was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up. The pan now is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds.
A legend about the formation of the Etosha Pan tells of how a village was attacked and everyone but the women slaughtered. One woman was so upset about the death of her family she cried until her tears formed a massive lake. When the lake dried up nothing was left apart from a huge white pan.
The souvenir sheet pictures a rather impressive number of animals. I’m not going to list them all. Interestingly you can see that not all stamps do have the same size on the sheet.
Three other stamps have been issued together with this souvenir sheet, illustrating the three main missions of the park : tourism, research and conservation. Here are those three stamps, coming from the
Namibian philatelic service website.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Chistmas 2007

Yes you read it well, the title of this post is Christmas 2007. It sounds a bit strange to speak about Christmas whereas we are just slowly reaching the end of the summer (for the north hemisphere) ? I agree. But here is the story I want to tell you.

Last week I have received a mail from the Stamp Centre of New Zealand Post (I have subscribed to their newsletter after buying few stamps from their web site) announcing the issue of a set of Christmas stamps ! I thought I had fallen into a time hole, because speaking about Christmas early in September sounded a bit strange for me. What was even funnier is that in the mail, they say that “with Christmas just around the corner” (sic) we should hurry to buy the set of stamps. Wahoo. Christmas is around the corner and we are at the beginning of September ! May be I should think of writing my letter to Santa Claus already ;-)I decided anyway to have a look to this set of stamps, and I was quite pleased by what I saw. Here is a picture of the set of five stamps.

They will be issued on the 3rd of October (a bit more reasonable for Xmas than early in September, but still really early…). The design of the stamps is the result of contest organized among children. 17000 children have participated to this contest, which subject was to draw the symbols of Christmas. Five winners have been selected to issue the final stamps. As you see the result is rather colourful and attractive. Sometimes the link between the stamp design and Christmas is not straightforward (e.g. the beach cricket on $2.00 stamp), but I think this makes them even more interesting. Interesting to see how Christmas is seen through the eyes of the youngest. It reminded me my own youth and what Christmas was for me at this time… so far away ;-)

I rather like the idea of asking children to design stamps, when the subject is appropriate.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cover from Lithuania

I think this is the first time I show on my blog a cover from Lithuania. This is not the first time I get some mail from this country, but this is the first time I get such a nice and clean one.

Some words about the stamps. The one on the right belongs to a series about famous people. In this series, started around 1993 I think, three stamps are issued each year. The one on the cover was issued on the 11th of February 2006 and pictures Adolfas Sapoka (1906-1961) a Lithuanian historian.
The stamp on the left belong to another series about Lithuanian churches. This one was issued on the 3rd of September 2005 and pictures the Vilnius Evangelical Lutheran Church that was founded in 1555.
The postmark from Pakruojis is very clean, even if a little bit heavy. A rather simple but nice cover at the end.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

First day cover from China

I have recently received this nice cover from my Chinese philatelic penpal and I wanted to share it with you.

As you see this is a first day cover of a souvenir sheet issued on the 28th of July. The souvenir sheet has been issued to celebrate the 6th congress of all China philatelic federation. This congress has been held in Beijing on the 28th and 29th if July. The stamp of the souvenir sheet pictures a bronze plate of the Western Xia dynasty (1038-1227) which was used for the transmission of the emperor’s orders. I did not really find out how those plates were used, and I was not able to find the translation of the Chinese text written on the souvenir sheet. If somebody can help, this will be very nice.

3D effect on stamp : the stamp from Italy

(I’m back in the blogosphere after few days of black out due to a severe crash of my PC. For some times I was cut from the world and could not update my blog, but it seems I could fix the problem. Let’s see how long it lasts..)

In a previous article I mentioned the first stamp with a 3D effect issued by Italy in 1956. One of my readers was kind enough to send me a scan of this stamp (Thanks a lot !). Here it is.

As for the souvenir sheet from Argentina, you need special glasses to enjoy the 3D effect. I do not know if this stamps from Italy was sold, at this time, together with the glasses or not…

Friday, September 07, 2007

Frog on a souvenir sheet from Czech Republic

I have already mentioned several times how much I was impressed by the quality of stamps issued by the Czech Republic. Few days ago, I got an email from Lenka, telling me about the coming issue of a souvenir sheet picturing a frog in the border. Her mail contained a link to the website of the Czech post where I could get this picture.

Sorry the picture is a bit small, I could not yet find a bigger one. The souvenir sheet has been issued on the 5th of September. It pictures an impressive amount of flowers and animals that can be found in the “White Carpathian mountains and orchid meadows UNESCO biosphere reservation”. The White Carpathian were declared a protected landscape area in 1980 and in 1996 they became a biosphere reservation of the UNESCO. They are the highest mountains in the south-west margin of the whole Carpathian system (175 - 970 m above s. l.). The whole area, and more particularly its southern part, has for centuries been cultivated by men. Typical of the local farms are the stylish buildings encircled with little fields and meadows. These include mainly the orchid meadows with orchid and other precious and endangered species of plants.
The souvenir sheet contains four stamps and four labels. There are so many animals and plants pictured on the sheet that I’m not going to give you the complete list. Let’s just mention the one pictured on the stamps (from lowest to highest face value) :

- Ophrys holosericea : which is an orchid belonging to a group referred as the Bee orchids because the shape of their flowers looks like the furry body of bumble bees.
- Colias myrmidon, a butterfly and Anacamptis pyramidalis, an orchid whose flowers have a pyramidal shape
- Ophrys apifera : another orchid from the bee orchids group
- Coracias garrulous, a bird commonly known as the European roller and Gymnadenia densiflora another orchid type

I could not find out (yet) what frog species is pictured on the left bottom corner. But this nice souvenir sheet really gives a good idea of the high variety of the fauna and flora of this area.Thank you again Lenka for the information.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Wooden stamps

Life is full of coincidences. Yesterday I have written about the 3D effect on the stamp from Argentina. When going back home, after a hard day work, while stuck in the traffic jam (holidays are over…) I was reading one of the last issue of Linn’s Stamp news (don’t worry, I do not read while I’m driving… In fact I do not drive at all. I travel by bus, therefore mixing the pleasure of the public transport and the traffic jams ;-) ). One of the article of Linn’s speaks about the Argentinean issue. In the same article, they speak about another stamp that has just been issued by Italy : a stamp on wood. This automatically reminded me the first time I saw a wooden stamp. This was in 2004, on the booth of the Swiss Post in a philatelic fair. I think this was the first time a wooden stamp was issued. I remember how fascinated I was by this stamp made of wood. In case you never saw it, here is a picture of it.

The stamp is actually made of fir, and is 0,7 mm thick. The design is impressive by its simplicity. I know, I know, some of you will tell me this is a gadget. And they are probably right. But I still find it very beautiful. I do not know if it was used very often on mail. At least it was used by me, because I took this opportunity to send some covers to some friends franked with this stamp. I was stupid enough to forget to send one to myself :-( So the only example I have on cover is on a mint FDC. This has not the same taste…
So you can imagine that when I read about this wooden stamp from Italy, I immediately wanted to see it. So when at home I searched on the web and I found it. Here it is.

It has been issued on the 2nd of July 2007. It pictures the façade of the Basilica of San Vincenzo in Galliano, Cantù, a church dating from the Early Middle Ages, consecrated in 1007. The stamp is self-adhesive and printed on a wooden sheet measuring 0.3 mm in thickness. The wood selected for this stamp is birch.

I was a bit disappointed because I think that the result is not so good. Or may be the stamp looks much better than on the scan.

Do you know any other wooden stamps ?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

3D special effect on souvenir sheet

Regularly a postal administration issues a stamp featuring a very innovative design or using special effect that makes the stamp different from the others.
A recent example of this is the souvenir sheet issued by Argentina on the 28th of July.The sheet features the Campo del Cielo meteorites. Those meteorites are known to have fallen on Earth 4000 to 6000 years ago. The stamp of the souvenir sheet pictures El Charco, a fragment of meteorite weighing 37 tons ! This fragment (with such a size, can we still call it a fragment ?) was discovered in 1980.

The particularity of the stamp and the stamp sheet is that they appear blurry when watched with a naked eye. But when the stamp is viewed with 3-D glasses, it produces a 3-D effect ! Those special 3-D glasses, having one plastic blue lens and one plastic red lens, are sold together with the sheet, as shown in the picture below.

(I remember that when I was a kid I tried to watch a 3-D movie on TV using similar glasses. The problem is that it works well when you have well balanced eyes, which is not my case. My right eye is much much stronger than the other one. The result was that I saw the whole movie in blue !)

A question popped up to my mind : if you franked a cover with such a stamp, should you include the glasses in the letter, so that the receiver can enjoy the stamp ? Otherwise he will be disappointed to receive a letter with such a blurry stamp ;-)))

This is not the first stamp that is issued using this special effect. A pair of stamps issued by Italy in 1956 to commemorate the admission of Italy into the United Nations, used the same techniques. Unfortunately I could not find any decent scan of those stamps so I can not show them to you.

I’m thinking about writing an article about innovative stamp design. I’m trying to gather some interesting example of stamps that are different by their shape, the material used for their fabrication or by the special effect they include. If you have any interesting information about that I would be happy to hear from you.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Rugby world cup

Next Friday is the kick off of the Rugby World Cup that will be held in France. The first match will be France versus Argentina. On top of Argentina, France is in the same group than Ireland, Georgia and Namibia, so we have a good chance to be in quarter final (there are twenty countries in four groups, and the first two nations in each group after the first round will be in quarter finals). As you know I’m a big rugby fan, so the excitement is growing every day a bit more. I have tickets to attend to twelve different matches, including both semi finals and the final. This will make be very busy in the coming weeks !
The good surprise of this world cup is the participation of Portugal. For the first time since the first rugby world cup (held in 1987), the Portuguese national team has been qualified. I must admit that I did not even know that there was a Rugby team in Portugal : for me Portugal was much more focused on football. So this was a nice surprise to see that, after beating twice Uruguay during the qualification phase, Portugal could reach the Rugby World cup, where they will be in the group of New Zealand, Scotland, Italy and Romania. Portugal has almost no chance to be in quarter finals, with such a group, but I think this is already a very great achievement for the Portuguese team to be there. In tribute to the team, the Portuguese post has issued on the 22nd of August a souvenir sheet. Here is a picture of the sheet (taken from Portuguese post website), together with the cover of the presentation pack.

As you see, the souvenir sheet pictures a photography from a rugby game. On the left bottom side you case see the emblem of CTT (the Portuguese post), and on the right side the emblem of the 2007 Rugby world cup.

The nickname of the Portuguese team is Os Lobos (the wolves), and they wear a red jersey with a green collar (we can see a part of it on the souvenir sheet and on the presentation pack). As I said this is their first participation to a rugby world cup. Most of the players are amateur, which contrasts with the other big teams where all players are now professional. Portugal rugby federation counts only 4300 members !
Several other countries have issued (or will issue) stamps for this rugby world cup, and I’ll try to add them all to my rugby stamps collection. But the number of stamps and souvenir sheets issued for such even is far less than for a Soccer World cup ! A proof that rugby is not so well spread over the world compared to football !