Monday, September 29, 2008

Two African legends

(Fist of all I would to tell you how sorry I am not to have been able to update my blog in the last two weeks. Because of work and other preoccupation my life has been a bit hectic these last days, and I could hardly think about stamps. Let’s hope everything is back to normal…).

This post would have its place in my series about frog in folk tales pictured in stamps ! Today I would like to tell you about African legends that are illustrated on stamps which contain a frog in their design.

The first one comes from South Africa and is entitled : “When lions could fly”. First of all let me show you the stamp.
It is a part of a set of ten stamps about South African folk tales and legends issued on the 1st of July 2007. The ten stamps have been issued in the form of a small sheet.
The stamp pictures the lion, the frog and the crows that are the characters of this interesting legend.

“It is said that in the very old times, the Lion used to fly, and at that time nothing could resist him. He was very strict on the fact that the bones of what he caught should not be broken into pieces. To ensure this, he asked a pair of White Crows to watch the bones, leaving them behind at cave whilst he went hunting.
But one day the Great Frog came there, broke the bones in pieces, and said, "Why can men and animals live no longer?". And he added these words, "When Lion comes, tell him that I live at yonder pool; if he wishes to see me, he must come there."
Lion, lying in wait for game, wanted to fly up, but found he could not fly anymore. He got angry, realizing that something was wrong at his cave. He returned home. When he arrived, he asked, "What have you done that I cannot fly?"
The White Crows answered "Some one came here, broke the bones into pieces, and said, 'If he want me, he may look for me at yonder pool!"'
Lion arrived at the pool while the Great Frog was sitting at the water's edge, and he tried to creep stealthily upon him. When he was about to get hold of him, Frog said, "Ho!" and, diving, went to the other side of the pool, and sat there. Lion pursued him; but as he could not catch him he returned home.
From that day, it is said, Lion walked on his feet, and also began to creep upon game.”

The second legend is pictured on a stamp from Zimbabwe and is called : “How Hippopotamus lost his hairs”.

This stamp was issued on the 24th of July 2001 in a set of six stamps. The stamps have also been issued as a se-tenant band.

The legend tells about Nyati, an Hippopotamus who had long hairs and who was always angry. He frightened all the other animals and he was always violent with them. The only one who would talk to him was the fire, who visited him once a year. Every year the fire would come to see Nyati and would ask him to let him enter in his house to share a cup of tea. And each time, Nyati would refuse. But one day, Nyati accepted, and the fire entered in his house, burning everything including the hairs of the Hippopotamus. Nyati rushed into a lake to cool down his burns. Since that day Hippopotamus have no hair and they spend their time in water !
The stamp pictures the scene when the Hippopotamus gets burned, with all the other animals (including a frog) fleeing from the fire !

I like stamps that picture local legends or folktales, even if they don’t include frogs ;-) and this is always very interesting to search for information about those legends. If you have some interesting ones to share with me I would be happy to hear from you?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back from China

I’m back from Shanghai. I had a safe but very busy trip. So busy that, as you could see, I was not able to update my blog ! The post about New Zealand was written in the plane, but once in Shanghai I could not find any time to write more. I did not even find the time to visit a post office to buy stamps or to send covers to some of you :-(

In order to stay in the mood, I selected a cover from China to share with you. As you will see this cover commemorates a recent event : the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Let’s start by the cancel : the cover was postmarked on the 8th of August 2008, the day of the opening ceremony of the 29th Olympic games. My friends has produced for this purpose a very nice hand made cover !

The stamp located on the right top corner was issued on this same day. This the stamp issued by Chinese post to commemorate the opening ceremony. The stamp design reminds the bird nest, the very nice stadium where was held the opening ceremony. In the centre of the stamp you can see a drawing picturing a smiling sun and some mountains. If you have seen the opening ceremony I’m sure you remember this drawing : it was prepared during the ceremony and was completed when all the athletes walked on it, after having walked in a sort of colored ink, during the presentation parade. I wonder if this drawing has any special meaning ? Anybody knows ?
This stamp has been issued in the form of souvenir sheets.

The stamp located on the left of this first stamp is a part of a definitive series that I already mentioned in my blog. This specific stamp was issued on the 1st of February 2002 and pictured two Taiwan blue magpies. The Taiwan blue magpie (Urocissa caerulea) also called Formosan blue magpie or long-tailed mountain lady, is a member from the Crow family endemic to China that has been chosen as Taiwan’s national bird.

The last stamp on the cover if a part of a set of two stamps issued on the 5th of January 2001 to commemorate the new Chinese year and more precise the year of the Snake. The red character on the stamp is the Chinese character for snake.

Monday, September 15, 2008

New Zealand, from A to Z

On the 6th of August 2008, New Zealand has issued a souvenir sheet containing not less than 26 stamps. Why 26 ? Because this is an “A to Z” of New Zealand, one stamp for each letter of the alphabet, and each showing something uniquely New Zealand. Here is the full souvenir sheet.

Why am I interested in those stamps ? Because some of them are linked to rugby and therefore will fall into my collection of rugby stamps.

Three stamps have a direct link with my favorite sport. The first one is the stamp with the letter H. H is for Haka. Haka is the generic name of Maori traditional dances which are widely known because the All blacks, the international rugby union team of New Zealand, performs a haka prior to all international matches. Even if this is a dance, the haka looks very virile and sometimes violent. Its first objective is to show the strength of the New Zealand team and to impress (frighten ?) the opposite team, in order to influence the victory. Over the year the All blacks have performed several types of haka, but the most widely known is for sure the “Ka Mate”. This is the one that is illustrated on the H stamp, with its lyrics written inside the H letter.
The Ka Mate tells the story of an ancient chief, Te Rauparaha, and celebrates his escape from death. It is therefore interpreted as a celebration of life over death.
In 2005, the All blacks have introduced a new haka, entitled “Kapa o Pango”, which is used for exceptional occasions and has triggered a small scandale. Effectively it ends with a drawing of the thumb down the throat, that was interpreted as a “throat-slitting” action directed at the opposite team. Since 2007, this very criticized gesture has been removed from the Kapa o Pango.
I have had the chance to attend to several games played by the All blacks and I must admit that the haka is always a very impressive moment. Sometimes the opposite team tries to find a way to answer back to the haka. For me the best answer was the one from the French team (of course ;-) ) during the quarter final of last Rugby World Cup : just at the beginning of the haka the French players have dropped their jackets, reveling blue, white and red tee shirts and therefore figuring the French flag ! This is a moment I will never forget (not to speak about the improbable victory of France against the All black ).

The second stamp which is related to rugby is the L for “Log o’ wood” the common name of the Ranfurly Shield, which is the most prestigious trophy in New Zealand’s domestic rugby union competition.

The stamp pictures the shield itself, which initially was made for soccer competition and which was modified to picture a rugby scene instead of a soccer goal !

The third stamp that has a direct link to rugby is the one picturing the P, for Pinetree. As suggested by the rugby ball, here the Pinetree which is mentioned is the nickname of Colin Meads a very famous rugby player born in 1936 who played 133 times for the All blacks from 1957 until 1971. He was nicknamed Pinetree by his fellow players because of his impressive physical assets.

Just to be complete, I should mention two other stamps that have a less direct link to rugby. The R stamp pictures Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) a New Zealand physicist who is considered as the father of the nuclear physics and who was a very successful rugby player in his youth.

And the D stamp, pictures “the Dog”, a character from Footrot Flats, a very famous comic strip written by cartoonist Murray Ball who was also a rugby player in his youth.

Rugby is very present in his comics, since Wal, the hero, is a rugby union player, not a very good one, who dreams to play one day for the All Blacks !

Thank you Dominique from
Les timbrés du rugby for this information !

Sunday, September 14, 2008

On the road to Shanghai

Just a short note to tell you that I'm on my way to Shanghai. I will be there from Monday to Thursday. I hope I'll be able to update my blog from there...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Joint stamp issue between Germany and Switzerland

On the 4th of September 2008 German and Swiss posts have emitted a joint stamp issue sharing the same design and picturing an old bridge over the Rhine river.

With a length of 200 meters, this bridge is the longest covered wooden bridge in Europe. It connects the German town of Bad Säckingen with the Swiss canton of Aargau. Existence of a wooden bridge in this area can be tracked back to the 13th century. This first construction and many subsequent ones were destroyed because of disasters or wars. Today's bridge construction emerged 200 years ago and is used since then as a frontier between Germany and Switzerland. Since 1979 it is reserved exclusively to cyclists and pedestrians.

Here are two maximum cards bearing the stamps and the associated first day cancels.

Thank you very much to Kalpana for this very nice surprise and gift !

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Filmed in Ireland

On the 8th of July 2008 Irish post (An post) has issued a set of four stamps that will please people who collect stamps related to Cinema. I found these stamps rather original so I decided to share them with you.

The set of stamps celebrates films that have recently been produced in Ireland, and that have met success even out of the country. The particularity of those stamps is that they are designed to look like a film strip !

The first stamp pictures 'Cré na Cille' (the English title being Graveyard Clay), a film directed by Robert Quinn in 2007. Filmed in Irish language, it tells the story of a deceased woman who continues her feud with her sister beyond the grave !

The second one pictures Kings, a film directed by Tom Collins featuring both Irish and English languages. It is based on Jimmy Murphy's play 'The Kings of the Kilburn Road' and tells a story of young Irish men in the mid-70s. The men leave Connemara for London and are reunited 30 years later for a friend's funeral. The film stars Colm Meaney who is pictured on the stamp.

'Garage' is pictured on the third stamp. This film was directed in 2007 by Lenny Abrahamson. The film shows a lonely petrol station worker's attempts to engage with the world around him

The last stamp pictures 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley'. The film spans the Irish War of Independence and Irish Civil War, with a story of two brothers and their involvement in the conflicts that shaped the Irish nation. Made by the famous British director Ken Loach in 2006 this film was awarded the Palme D'Or at that year's Cannes Film Festival.

The four stamps are also gathered on a souvenir sheet.

And as often, as too often I should say, Irish post has also issued a prestige booklet for the occasion. Here is the font cover of the booklet.

The booklet design is themed on a visit to the local cinema. The show begins on the front cover outside the cinema, and leads the reader through buying the ticket and popcorn, settling in to watch the featured films and ends on the rear cover, with the rolling credits. The booklet contains information about cinema industry in Ireland. It also includes four panes containing each of them the four stamps. What is funny is that each pane contains the stamps in a different order, making them all different !

Despite the fact that the booklet is very well done, I’m still not convinced of the postal need of such items !

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bulgarian cover

If you read me regularly you have notices that I did not update my blog so much last week. I had a very busy week. I hope this one will be better and will let me more time to deal with stamps ;-)

Today I would like to share with you a cover coming from Bulgaria. This is only the second cover I got from this country. Here it is.

The stamp located on the right has been issued on the 21st of July 2008 and pictures three golden jackals (Canis aureus). (It is a pity that the left bottom corner of the stamp was slightly damaged during the transport. The stamp was not very well stuck on the cover and the corner got torn…)
he golden jackal is the largest of the jackals and the only species that can be found out of Africa. This stamp belongs to a souvenir sheet containing two stamps illustrating the diversity of the fauna and flora of the natural park of Strandzha. Here is the full souvenir sheet.

The latest and the largest of Bulgaria's many national parks, Strandzha is located in the southeast of Bulgaria bordering on the Black Sea, and is famous for its oak and beech forests. The climate allows 50 % of Bulgaria's flora to nourish here, and the park's rivers are home to a wide range of fish, including stickleback and eels. Many interesting bird species can be seen in the park among them the lesser-spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina) that is pictured on the second stamp. Not far from the Strandzha Park is the Ropotamo Reserve that was celebrated by another souvenir sheet last year.

The following stamp (going from right to left) belongs to a set of four stamps issued on the 27th of April 2007 and dedicated to the History of Bulgarian Air Force. Here is the full set of stamps.

I’m not too much into planes, and even less into military planes, so I can’t say much about the planes pictured on those stamps.

The last stamp is a part of a set of five definitive stamps issued on the 15th of November 1999. Here is the full set.

The stamps picture items of the Thracian gold treasure of Panagurishte. The Panagurishte treasure consists of nine utensils made of solid gold. Some utensils are horn-shape, one having the shape of the front part of a goat’s body (this is the one pictured on the stamp of the cover). The treasure is dated to the last 3-4 decades of the 4th century B.C and marks the period during which Thracians inhabited the Balkan area. If you want to see pictures of the complete treasure, just click here.

Note also the rather clean cancels on the cover. They seem a bit heavy but this is only an effect of the contrast of the scan. In reality the cancels appear much lighter.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Joint Stamp Issues

Just a short post for today, in the middle of this crazy week, to tell you that I finally found the time to finish the move of the website I’m managing for joint stamp issues. It is now available at :
A Yahoo mailing list is also created, just check the bottom of the home page if you want to subscribe.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Frogs, frogs, frogs...

Today I would like to share with you the findings I made last weekend related to my frog stamp collection.

The first one is a new issue from Moldova, a souvenir sheet issued on the 19th of August 2008 picturing endangered plants.

As you can see, the souvenir sheet contains a label, on the left bottom corner, that pictures a small frog !
The souvenir sheet contains three stamps that picture various species of plants :
- 1 L. : Maianthemum bifolium, commonly known as the false lily of the valley
- 3 L.: Hepatica nobilis (this scientific name is the old one, it is now called Anemone hepatica) : commonly known as the liverwort. This is a medicinal plant that was used by medieval herbalists to treat liver diseases
- 5 L. : Nymphaea alba : commonly known as the Nenuphar, or the European white water Lilly

I made this finding by visiting the very interesting site dedicated to
Former Soviet Union New issues.

My second finding is a souvenir sheet from Indonesia, issued in 1999. So this is not a new issue but I must confess that, up to now, I hadn’t detected that there was a frog on this souvenir sheet. Here it is.

The subject of this issue is pets. I let you see all the animals that are pictured on this sheet, and in case you did not see it, the frog is on the bottom margin of the souvenir sheet.
Two new additions to my already large frog stamps collection…

Monday, September 01, 2008

Bulls-eye cancellation

I have already complained several times, in this blog, about the low quality of modern cancellation. It seems that in more and more countries this is difficult to get a clean postmark on a postage stamp. You can read complains of stamp collectors in philatelic newspapers.

On the other hand, we have to agree on what is a clean postmark. It seems that the expectation in this domain are not really the same for everybody. For some people, a “good” postmark should be cancelling a stamp just a bit, in one corner, in order to show that the stamp is used, but preserving, as much as possible, the design of the stamp.
For some others, a good cancellation should be a circle hand stamp applied just in the middle of a stamp, making sure that the complete circle of the cancel is within the stamp surface. This is what we call a bulls-eye cancellation. The advantage of such cancellation is that even when the stamp is removed from the cover, you can still clearly read the cancel and see where and when the stamp was used.
I have read somewhere that such cancellations are quite famous in Germany. I have the feeling that this is also the case in some of the Nordic countries. Here is a cover I got from Sweden which shows a very nice illustration of this principle.

As you can see, both stamps are cancelled in the same way by a round hand stamp applied just in the middle. I must confess that I did not receive the cover exactly in this state : on the cover a small green note was stuck (a sort of “post it”) with some words in Swedish. This note was covering the top of the cover, where the stamps were put. I do not know if this note was asking for a clean postmark to the postal clerk (in this case the request was successfully granted) or if the purpose of the note was only to protect the stamps during the transport and to avoid that they get damaged or spoiled.

Let’s talk a bit about the stamps. The stamp on the left side is a part of a set of eight stamps issued on the 30th of September 2006 picturing children’s TV classics in Sweden. I must admit that I did not find any information about the program that is illustrated on this specific stamp.

The second stamp belongs to a set of six stamps issued on the 20th of August 1998 and picturing pastries. The stamp pictures a Gustav Adolf cake, named after Gustav II Adolf, who was king of Sweden from 1611 to 1632. There is a Swedish Holiday on November 6th in his honor. This special pastry, often covered
with a chocolate profile of the king, is eaten to celebrate the occasion as well as other pastries, cakes and cookies baked on that day.

As life is full of coincidence, I did not receive this cover from Sweden alone, but I got a second one, on the same day, but coming from another person. Again, the cover was partially covered with the green note I mentioned above. And again the cover shows very clean postmarks. Here it is.

The stamp located on the right is part of a set of stamps about Swedish fashion that I already mentioned in this blog. Just on the left of this stamp, you can see a coil stamp that belongs to a set of four stamps picturing regional houses. This stamp pictures a log cabin.
The other coil stamps are part of a set of four stamps picturing Swedish trees. Two species of trees are pictured : a birch (Betula pendula, on the two se-tenant stamps), sometimes called weeping birch, and a juniper (Junipera communis).

For people interested in bulls-eye cancellation I have found a club dedicated to this sort of collection :
The Bulls eye Cancel Collectors Club.