Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Polish first day covers

I have already mentioned here, in this blog, that I’m not so much interested in mint FDC. What I mean by mint FDC, is unaddressed FDC that have never been through the postal service. Nevertheless I received few days ago a set of five Polish mint first day cover that I found rather interesting. I selected two of them to share with you.Here is the first one (as usual click on the picture to have a better view).

I was attracted by the nice first day cancel, and I immediately wondered what the stamp was about and what was the statue pictured on it. After some research I found the following. The stamp was issued on the 1st of July 2002. This stamp is a part of a series about Polish cities and is dedicated to the city of Plock.
Plock is a city located in the centre of Poland. Its history is very linked to the creation of the Polish state. The stamp pictures one of the most important monument of the town : the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral. The construction of the cathedral started after 1129, until is was consecrated in 1144. Destroyed by a fire, it was reconstructed in the years 1530. Near the cathedral there is a museum, the Diocesan museum, where one can see a collection of paintings, sculptures and priceless collections of sacred art. Among them can be found the reliquary of Saint Sigismund which is the statue pictured on the stamp. This reliquary takes the form of a bust.
Sigismund was a king of the Burgundians between 516 and 524, year of his death. In 517, his son opposed him and Sigismund had him strangled. Overcome with remorse, Sigismund retreated to a monastery. In 523 he led the Burgundians against the invading Franks of Childebert I, Clotaire I and Theodebert I. But he finally was captured by Clotaire and put to death. He then was honoured by the Burgundians as a martyr and was canonized. In the 14th century, Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, transferred Sigismund’s relics to Prague. Saint Sigismund became the saint patron of Czech Republic but is also the saint patron of Plock, the Polish city commemorated on this cover.
Interesting to see how much you can learn by just looking for some information about one stamp on a first day cover.

The second cover I selected is completely different. Here it is.

The stamp was issued on the 9th of October 2007 to celebrate the World Post Day. The stamp pictures a heap of cancels from various countries to illustrate the cooperation between all the postal administrations to allow the transfer of mail from one country to another. I found this idea rather interesting !

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First cover from Venezuela

After the Easter long weekend, I have only time for a quick post. I’m glad to show you the first cover I got from Venezuela.

As you see the cover is stamped with four large stamps. They belong to a set of ten stamps issued in 2006 in the form of a stamp sheet. I did not find the exact date of issue and I could not find a scan of the full sheet to show you the six other stamps, sorry for that. The subject of this issue is the Metro of Caracas.
The Metro of Caracas has opened in 1983. It is run by the Compañía Anónima Metro de Caracas, a governmental company. Until last year it contained three lines (Line 1,2 and 3) but line 4 has been officially inaugurated in 2007. The large red M printed on each stamp is the emblem the Metro. From left to right, the stamps picture the following.
- The tunnel of the Line 4, the newest line opened in 2007
- The station Caño Amarillo, located on line 1
- The station Plaza Venezuela which is a connection between line 1, 3 and 4
- The trains at the parking of the station Propatria, the starting point of line 1
The postmark, not very easy to see on the scan, is very interesting. It is oval and rather large.
I must admit that I did not know anything about stamps issued by Venezuela and I had quite a tough time to gather the few information I give you here. The website of Venezuelan post does not give any information about stamps, as far as I could see, and Venezuela does not seem to be involved in the WNS system...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Creation of the universe

I recently received a set of four stamps which, by a pure coincidence, happened to fall into my topic for collection : frogs on stamps. So I was rather happy about this. This set of four stamps has been issued by the Republic of China on the 6th of February 1993 and illustrates Chinese legends about the creation of the universe and of mankind.
The first stamp of the set pictures Pan Gu creating the universe.

According to the legend, Pan Gu was the first living being. He emerged from an egg resulting of the coalescence of the initial chaos during 18000 years. Pan Gu is usually pictured as a primitive hairy giant. Separating the Yin and from the Yang, he created the Earth and the Sky. To keep them apart, he stood between them and pushed the sky up, during another period of 18000 years. This is what is pictured on the stamp. Note the frog, in the yellow circle. I interpreted this frog as a symbol of the moon (also the Yin) and the bird as a symbol of the sun (the Yang). But I’m not very sure of this interpretation. The second stamp illustrated the second part of the legend.

After having separated the Earth and the Sky for 18000 years, Pan Gu was laid to rest. During this time he transmitted himself into the whole world : his breath became the wind, his voice the thunder, his body became the mountains, his blood became the rivers, his sweat become the rain and the fleas on his fur became the animals ! Again we see the frog in the yellow circle, and the bird in the red one.
The two other stamps illustrate another legendary character : Nu Wa. Various roles are allocated to her, she is present in several legends. She is usually represented as a woman with a snake body. In the third stamp of the set, she is presented in her role of “creator”.

She is known to have created human beings from yellow clay (reminds me something… ;-) ). This is what is pictured on the stamp. This time only the frog is present and not anymore in a yellow circle. I wonder what is the symbol here ?

The last stamp pictures Nu Wa in another role : she is also known to be in charge of mending the sky (the Wall of Heaven) with smelted stones.

In all civilisations there are legends about the creation of the universe and mankind, and I think they are really fascinating. What is also interesting is that some of them do share common points. A thing to think about…

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Joint issues, letter from Iran

I’m writing this post from Romania, where I’m using a rather slow Internet connection, therefore I hope I’ll be able to publish it…

I have already written in this blog that I’m a member of
International Philatelic Society of Joint Stamp Issues Collectors. Well, I should say I was, because the activity of this society has been stopped, for various external reasons (you can read a letter announcing the end of the society on the website). This society is going to be replaced by a “virtual” one, organised around a mailing list. I am also working (whenever I have time) on a reshuffling of the website. Stay tuned, if you are interested by joint issues.The cover I have selected for today is a letter from Iran, which was used to send the last edition of the quarterly publication of the society, as I explained in a previous post. Here it is.

The stamps picturing butterflies are part of a definitive series that I already mentioned in the previous post.
The 100 Rials stamp has been issued in the 14th of July 2003, and pictures butterfly from the Zygaena genus.
The 2000 Rials stamp was issued on the 6th of January 2000 and pictures a Lemon butterfly (Papilio demoleus, even though it is written Papilio demolus on the stamp !). This butterfly gets its name from its host plants which are usually citrus species such as the lime.
The 4100 Rials stamp pictures the same type of butterfly (and this time the scientific name is correctly spelled). This stamp was issued on the 18th of April 2005.
The last one, the 4400 Rials was issued on the 15th of March 2005 and pictures a White tiger (Danaus melanippus).
This definitive series is really interesting for people who collect butterflies on stamps, and I know that this is a very popular topic among topical collectors.

The two stamps picturing flowers belong to a set of four stamps issued on the 11th of March 1991. This set belong to a series started in 1987, picturing flowers, and commemorating the new year festival. The two flowers that are pictured on the cover are both of the iris type : Iris spuria (sometimes referred as the blue iris) and Iris lycotis. Just for the record, the two other stamps of the set picture the Iris demawendica and the Iris meda.

The last two stamps, located on the top of the cover are part of a joint issue between Iran and Spain. The theme of this issue was gardens. Both countries have issued two stamps, using the same design, as you will see below. This issue qualifies as a Concerted issue because both countries did not issue the stamps at the same time. Iran issued the set on the 17th of December 2005 and Spain issued the stamps on the 15th of October 2005.
The first garden that is illustrated on this set is the Shahzadeh Garden. It is a Persian garden located near Mahan in the Kerman province. The name, Shahzadeh Garden means the Prince’s garden. The garden has a rectangular shape and a wall around it. It consists of an entrance structure and gate at the lower end and a two-floor residential structure at the upper end. It is ornamented with water fountains that are engined by the natural incline of the land. The garden was built for Abdolhamid Mirza Naserodolleh and its construction was left unfinished due to his death in early 1890s. Here are both stamps picturing this garden.
The second garden is the one of the palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso. This baroque palace that was built for Philip V of Spain contains gardens built in the French manner and sculptural fountains. The construction of the palace and the gardens started in 1721 on request from Philip V, because he wanted to build a palace modelled on Versailles, the famous palace built by his grand father, Louis XIV, king of France. Like Versailles, this place started as a retreat from the court but became the centre of the royal government. The fountains located in the garden picture themes from the classical mythology, including Greek deities, allegories and scenes from myths. The original waterworks are still in order. They rely purely on gravity. Like Versailles, this palace and associated gardens are now a popular tourist attraction.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My method ?

I'm back from China. This trip was as short as it was busy. I could not find much time to write on my blog. On top of this accessing to blogger from China is not very easy. You can't do it using a standard internet connection. I had to use a VPN. Next monday I'll go to Romania. I'll spend four days in Timisoara for my work.

I was asked in a recent comment what method I use to identify the stamps of the covers I receive and how I gather information about them. I thought that it could be a good idea to share this with you.

First of all, I am the lucky owner of the full 2007 Scott catalog on CD-Rom. Thanks to them, I can easily identify stamps issued before end of 2006 (or 2005 for some countries). The fact that I have the CD-Rom version helps me : I can use the seach facility. The catalog will give me the date of issue and some information about the subject of the stamps. Then I use the internet, starting with a search on Google, to learn more about the subject and to find some interesting background information.

For more recent issues (stamps issued in 2007 or 2008) I use other sources. First I check the WNS web site. There you can find information about recent stamp issues, you may even get a good picture of the stamps. The problem is that not all countries participate to the WNS system (for instance I could not find the Netherlands), and some countries are very late to provide information about new issues.

In case I do not find the stamps I'm looking for in this site, I try to check the website of the postal administration of the concerned country. FOr this I use a very good resource : Post Office Pages which gather an impressive number of links towards postal administrations of the whole world. The level of information you can find on the websites of postal administration is very different from one country to another. Some postal administrations do not provide any philatelic information, some others just give the date of issues of stamps, and some others give a lot of information on their stamps, sometimes even in several languages ! The language can be an obstacle : in this case I use Google linguistic tools.

If some of you need any help to identify a stamp or to gather background information about it, then don't hesitate to contact me. I'll be more than happy to help you, if I can.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brazilian beaches

I’m writing this (quick) post from my hotel room in Shanghai using an internet connection which is not very stable. I hope I will be able to reach the end of this article. The jet lag has definitely won and I feel really sleepy.

For today I have selected a cover that I received from Brazil through a cover exchange circuit.

The three se-tenant stamps have been issued on the 15th of June 2001 and pictures famous Brazilian beaches. The beaches that are pictured are, from left to right :
- The
Jericoacoara beach, that has been considered by the Washington Post one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world ! it is the best spot in Brazil for windsurfers, where the wind season starts in August and goes until December
- Ponta Negra beach
- Rosa beach
I have never been to Brazil, so I never had the chance to experience those beaches !

The stamp located on the far right was issued on the 23rd of November 2001 for Christmas. It pictures a very traditional Christmas scene : the Magi (the three wise men) visiting Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus.

The last stamp was issued on the 31st of May 2001 to commemorate the World tobacco free day. This special day, also known as the World No Tobacco day, is an event created by the World Health Organization in 1988 and which is held every year on the 31st of May. This is the occasion for several countries to organize manifestations promoting the reduction of the consumption of tobacco. I don’t know if 2001 corresponds to the year when Brazil joined this event, or why a stamp was issued this specific year (I did not find any other stamp from Brazil on the same subject) ?

One last other thing : I have activated the moderation of the comments on my blog in order to avoid SPAM and abusive comments. It is a pity because it will delay the publication of the comments you may let, but I think this is safer this way. Thanks Cees for the tip.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Japanese cover

Usually when I get a cover, it is franked with recent stamps, issued in the last two or three years. I recently got this cover from Japan, which bears rather old stamps, since they have all be issued in around 1970. Here is the cover.

Let’s speak about the stamps, from left to right.
The first one has been issued on the 5th of December 1968. This is a 1969 New Year stamp, picturing a carved toy cock. It is a part of an annual series of stamps, issued at the end of each year for the new year celebration and picturing a traditional toy. I could not really find when this series started and when it ended. I also read that those stamps were offered, in the form of a sheet of four, to the winner of the National New Year Lottery !
The second stamp has been issued on the 15th of June 1970. It is a part of a set of three stamps issued for EXPO’70, the international expo that was held in Osaka between the 15th of March and the 13th of September 1970. EXPO’70 was the first word’s fair held in Japan, and its theme was “Progress and Harmony for Mankind”. It gathered 70 countries. Among the curiosities that you could see at this exhibition, there was a moon rock brought back to earth by Apollo 11 ! Also a time capsule was sealed at this occasion, with the plan to be opened 5000 years later, in 6970 ! Two other sets of stamps have been issued for this exhibition : one in 1969 and another in 1970. You can find
here a picture of all these stamps.
The last two stamps have been issued on the 20th of April 1979. They picture “standing beauties” of the middle of the Edo period. The Edo period is the early modern period of Japan, running from 1603 until 1868. Those stamps have been issued for the philatelic week. Every year, since 1948 (as far as I could find out), Japan issues a set of stamps for the philatelic week, picturing traditional Japanese artwork.

At the beginning I was quite surprised to get this cover in 2008 franked with old stamps. But finally this was a very good idea, it gave me the opportunity to have a look to stamps issued by Japan at this period !
The week is ending. Next week I should be (once again) in China, in Shanghai. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to update my blog during my trip.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

You know what ? I'm happy

I guess you recognize this quote, don’t you ? Yes this is the famous quote from Droopy who is the subject of a cover I just received from Eric. Thank you very much Eric.

Last weekend, was held the annual stamp feast (La fête du timbre) held by French post. As each time, this stamp feast is the occasion for the French post to issue a set of stamps, usually targeted towards the youngsters. Last year, the subject was Harry Potter. This year, the French postal administration has chosen Tex Avery and his cartoon characters as the heroes of the feast.

The set of stamps issued at this occasion contains three stamps, that you can see on the cover, as a band of three se tenant. The one in the middle pictures the famous Droopy, also known as Droopy Poodle, a very famous dog created by Tex Avery (1908-1980). The first appearance of Droopy was in 1943 in a cartoon entitled “Dumb-hounded”. At this time he was not yet called Droopy. He got this name on the 1949 in the cartoon “Senor Droopy”. He is characterized by a rather slow motion, an incredible strength (compared to his small size) and a very monotone voice. The last time he appeared in a cartoon from Tex Avery, it was in 1958.

The two other stamps picture other characters from Tex Avery, that sometimes appeared in the same cartoons than Droopy. On the right this is Red, the sexy version of Red Hot Riding Hood. Tex Avery has transformed the little girl of the fairy tale into a very hot and sexy cabaret singer. On the left, the stamp pictures a wolf (he does not have any special name, he is sometimes simply called Wolf). He is a big fan of Red : his reaction when he first sees her in a cartoon is always impressive : his eyes get out of their orbits, his tongue falls on the floor.. I guess you saw that already!
This issue also contains a souvenir sheet, that you can see on the left part of the cover. Here is a close up of the souvenir sheet.

This souvenir sheet has a particularity. The stamp contains a blue bubble which is printed with a special ink that is sensible to the heat. Below the blue bubble it is written “Frottez ici” (Rub here). If you rub the bubble with your finger, the ink will react and you will see the famous quote of Droopy (You know what ? I’m happy”) appear in white letters. And as we are in France and as the law makes it mandatory to translate everything, the French translation also appears in white letters (Vous savez quoi ? je suis heureux). This is not the first stamp using this specific technique, I have already shown such stamps in my blog. But this is the first one issued by France.

I let you admire the very nice cancel. This cancel picturing Droopy was used in all the cities participating to the stamp feast. Here it is the one from Lyon.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What will the weather be tomorrow ?

Weather forecasting is not an exact science. Even if weather forecasting services are using more and more powerful computers to run their scientific models, there will always be time when smooth changes of weather can hardly be predicted. I know a bit about that because when I was younger, much younger (20 years ago), I did my military service in the French weather forecast service Meteo France. I was writing some computer software for the French navy.

[Interestingly this has something to do with the fact that I collect frog stamps ! Let me tell you the story. When I finished my service, my colleagues offered me a set of four plastic frogs as a farewell gift (frogs are often seen as a symbol of weather forecast, but I’ll come back on that later). They were really cute and around me, my friends started to offer me any sort of frog shaped objects. Each time one of them would travel somewhere, he or she would bring me back a frog made of plastic, wood, stone, whatever. Even myself I participated to this game : I remember visiting all the shops of Sienna to find an alabaster frog ! My collection became quickly too big and I decided to stop. But when I decided to come back to stamp collection, ten years ago, and when I decided to have a topical approach, I naturally chose frog and toad on stamps as my main topic. I did not expect that ten years later I would be in front of a collection of more than 500 stamps !… But let’s come back to the main subject of this post].

Since ancient times, observation of the behaviour of some animals (and more precisely observation of any changes in the behaviour of some animals) has been used by some as a tool for weather forecasting. Of course it does not allow long term weather forecasting, but it may help to know if it is going to rain in the coming hours or not. At least this is a common belief that can be found sometimes illustrated in folk songs. What is the link with philately ? Well, this is exactly the subject of a set of stamps issued by Finland on the 27th of February 2008. The set contains five self-adhesive stamps that are sold in a booklet. Here is a picture of the five stamps and the verso of the booklet.
From top to bottom the stamps picture the following animals :
- a fish : according to the documentation given by the Finish post : if the fin of the perch is spotted then the summer weather will be rainy. If the fin is glossy an stands up, the summer sun will stay in the sky.
- a sheep : fair weather is coming when the sheep stand around lazily. Rainy weather will soon come if the sheep in the pasture are gambolling
- a frog : still according to Finish post, a frog hops onto dry land when rain clouds appear in the sky. Dry weather comes when the frog makes long hops.There are some other versions regarding the ability of frog to announce rainy weather : if the frogs croak during the day, then it will rain. According to another belief, if you put a frog in a jar with a small ladder, the frog will climb to the ladder if the rain is coming. The frog will stay at the bottom of the jar, if the weather is dry. The frog is very often used a symbol of weather forecasting.
- a swallow : the twittering of the swallows start the summer with fair weather clouds. When the swallow soars high in the sky, good weather rushes everywhere.
- a snail : if a snail crawls along the ground with its horns drawn in, soon the rain will come. But with its horns out, the dry weather is coming !

Here is a picture of the FDC of this set of stamps, with a cute postmark picturing a snail.

Finish post also issued a set of maximum cards. Here is the card with the frog (of course ;-) ).
And the cards with the other animals.
On top of these philatelic products, Finish post has issued a set of postcards illustrating the same animals but with explanation (in three different languages) about the belief attached to each animal. Here is the one with the frog, and below a picture of the full set of cards.

As you can see this is a nice addition to my frog stamps collection. This is the first time I think that a stamp issue links the frog with the weather forecast. So this is a very interesting issue for me. Thanks again to Kalpana would drew my attention to this issue.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

All you need is… love

I didn't have much time today to prepare something, but I’m glad to show you my first cover received from Norway. Up to now I did not have any opportunity to receive neither a letter nor a postcard from this country. And for this first cover, this is even a FDC !

As you see the subject of the stamps is LOVE. This set of stamps, issued on the 8th of February, was intended to be used on mail for the Valentine’s day. Valentine’s day is, after Christmas, the second event for sending a greeting card ! The 14th of February has become a letter-writing day all over the world, so the Norway post had the idea to merge this Valentine issue with the EUROPA issue, whose theme is letter writing.
On the Norway post website, associated to these stamps, you can read a legend about the origin of Valentine’s day :

According to legend, St. Valentine was thrown into prison and condemned to death in 270 AD because he would not deny his God. While he was in prison, he gave lessons to the jailer’s blind daughter, Julia, and taught her about God. One day while Valentine and Julia were praying together, a light appeared in the cell. “I can see, I can see!” Julia cried, while Valentine fell to his knees and thanked God. Before he was executed, Valentine wrote a letter to Julia declaring his love for her. On the day after his execution, 14 February, Julia planted an almond tree on Valentine’s grave.

But it seems this is only one legend among a lot of others and the actual origin of the Valentine’s day is not really known.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Frog stamp from Austria

Since the beginning of the year, already three postal administrations have issued stamps picturing a frog : Ireland, Finland and Austria. Today I’d like to speak about the stamp issued by Austria, that I received from Kalpana (Thank you VERY much for your sending. Don’t hesitate to tell me what you would like to get in exchange). I was not informed about this issue, so the letter from Kalpana was a big and very good surprise !So here is the self-adhesive stamp issued on the 25th of February by Austrian post.

It pictures a European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) a very common frog in Europe and also Asia. This frog species has been pictured several times on stamps. You can see some of them on the related page of my website. To be noted : this is the first stamp issued by Austria picturing an identifiable frog.
This stamp was issued together with another one, picturing a kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) a waterside bird that eats mainly fishes, as shown on the stamp !

The face value of the stamps (0.65 euro) corresponds to the rate of a standard mail from Austria to European countries. Those stamps have been issued in a sort of booklet, with a not-so-traditional presentation : a sheet containing five frog stamps and five kingfisher stamps with a hole so that the sheet can be hung on a sort of display unit. I do not know if it means that these stamps are available in other places than post offices, such as supermarkets ?Here is a picture of the full sheet.

The back side of the sheet contains information about the two animals pictured on the stamps (in German, of course).

Kalpana was kind enough to send me also a FDC for both issues. Here they are. Look at them they are very very nice.