Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This week in Shanghai

I'm currently in Shanghai for the whole week. And I forgot to bring with me any material to update my blog :-( Sorry there won't be any update this week... See you next week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pre-personalized stamps

A lot of postal administrations all over the world now propose personalized stamps : stamp attached to a label that can be personalized on demand from the customer. Several countries also issue what I call pre-personalized stamps, meaning personalized stamps for which the label has been already personalized by the postal administration itself. A lot of people consider that this is only another way for them to get money from stamp collectors and that those types of stamps are really not needed. Of course I agree with this, since the pre-personalized stamps are always sold at a higher price than their face value.

Today I would like to share with you such an item. I received it from a contact in China. It was probably issued in 2005, the year of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of HC.Andersen, the very famous fairy tales writer.

The stamp itself is a “phoenix” special usage stamp issued for the first time on the 1st of November 2004. The attached labels picture illustration of various fairy tales from Andersen :
- The little mermaid
- Thumbelina
- The emperor’s new clothes
- The little match-seller
- And probably The ugly duckling

You understand why my contact sent it to me ? Because of the frog pictured on the label illustrating Thumbelina !

This raises a question to my mind : is such pre-personalized item accepted in a topical collection ? I would rather answer no, because the subject is not pictured on the stamp itself, but on a label. On the other hand the sheet is issued like that by a postal administration, and does not correspond to the request of one single customer.
What is you opinion ?

And one additional question : is there any catalogue of such pre-personalized stamps ? I did not find any so far…

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cats and dogs souvenir sheets from Ukraine

For today I have selected a cover that I received from Ukraine. This is again an example of something that would not be possible from France. But first let me show you the cover.

The cover is franked with a full souvenir sheet that was issued on the 16th of May 2008 picturing six different types of cats. I love cats but I’m not able to identify each species of cat that is pictured on this souvenir sheet.
As you see, this cover is originally a FDC, postmarked on the 16th of May 2008 with a nice pictorial cancel, but then posted beginning of October (see the blue cancel). This is what is not possible in France, you can not send via the postal service a FDC that is already cancelled ! I wonder how this is possible, by the way. How the postal administration makes the difference between this and a double usage of the same stamps ?
This is not the first time I show such case on my blog, I could not find back the exact post but I’m pretty sure I already wrote about such an item in the past. Is this possible in you own country ? I would be happy to hear from you on this subject.

Coming back to the souvenir sheet, I must admit that when I saw it, I immediately thought that this is an example of stamps that are issued to please topical collectors and do not really answer to a postal need. This is a very interesting item for cat stamps collectors. This is why I’m happy to see them used on a cover that has gone through the postal service, at least they have served for the purpose for which they have been issued !
The sheet is nice, nevertheless. I like the line of coloured paws on the left top corner of the sheet, used as a “traffic light” indicator, the indicator to make sure no colour is missing. Another interesting fact on this souvenir sheet is that I you put under UV light you see that :

Look at the cats paws that appear as a security measure. Cute isn’t it ?

On the same day, the postal administration of Ukraine issued a second souvenir sheet dedicated to dogs this time. The sender of the cover has included a copy of this dog sheet, so here it is.

Again, under UV light it gives this picture.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Registered cover from South Africa

The cover that I want to show you today is a registered cover from South Africa. It does not come directly from a stamp collector through a cover circuit, but it is the cover used by an Ebay seller to send me an item I won. I’m always pleased when Ebay sellers take the care to send the items in a nice cover. As you will see, this one is stamped with a rather impressive number of stamps : eleven in total !

As you see the cover is a pre-stamped envelope for domestic mail, on which the sender has added stamps to cover the price of international mail and the price of the registration. The registration label (with the bar code) is actually on the reverse of the cover and therefore can not be seen on the scan.

Now to speak about the stamps I would like to start by the band of three, located of the bottom of the cover. This stamp is a part of a set of two, issued on the 15th of December 1980 to celebrate the centennial of the triumvirate government, the provisory government of the Transvaal during the first Boer war, which has led to the independence of this area from the British domination. The second stamp of the set pictures the Paardekraal monument built in 1891 to commemorate the funding of the government, but the stamp on the cover pictures the three men that were part of the triumvirate government in 1880 :

- Petrus Jacobus Joubert, also known as Piet Joubert (1834-1900). Left an orphan at an early age, Joubert became a successful farmer in Transvaal and started a political career. During the first British annexation of the Transvaal he took a leading part in creating and directing the agitation which led to the war of 1880-1881. He took part to the triumvirate government, but later failed to be elected as president of the Transvaal. During the second Boer war, he died from peritonitis. Piet Joubert is a direct descendant of Pierre Joubert who arrived at the Cape in 1688 from France. The Joubert name has retained its original spelling and is a common name among Afrikaans population.
- Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger, better known as Paul Kruger (1825-1904), sometimes referred as Oom Paul (Afrikaans Uncle Paul). After his participation to the triumvirate government he succeeded to be elected as president of Transvaal, beating Joubert.
- Marthinus Wessel Pretorius (1819-1901) who has given his name to the famous city of Pretoria

The other stamps of the cover belong all to the set of definitive stamps issued on the 15th of November 2000. This very colourful set contains stamps picturing flowers, butterflies, fishes and birds. The cover contains all the stamps picturing flowers. These are flowers that can be found in South Africa :

Botterblom (Gazania krebsiana) :This sun-loving, fast growing flower occurs in a variety of bright warm colours mainly in the red, orange and yellow range. It is hardy and drought resistant, which makes it a popular garden flower. The botterblom occurs naturally in the Karoo, Namaqualand, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and the northern regions of the country, as well as in Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana.

Blue marguerite (Felicia amelloides) : This delightful indigenous flower, also known as the blue daisy or bush felicia, bears sky-blue daisy-like flowers with prominent yellow centres. They are happy in almost any setting and the name felicia is aptly derived from the Latin word "felix" meaning "happy". They occur naturally and abundantly from Namaqualand to Caledon in the Northern and Western

Karoo violet (Aptosimum procumbens) : A densely tufted perennial found mainly in dry areas, especially the Karoo and Namaqualand. The plant is an excellent ground cover and because it is so well-adapted to dry conditions, the deep blue flowers often adorn the bare veld during periods of drought.

Tree pelargonium (Pelargonium cucullatum : This attractive indigenous pelargonium with its brightly coloured pinkish-purple flowers, is well-suited to coastal gardens. They occur naturally along the south-western Cape coast, from Gordon's Bay in the west to Gans Bay in the east, with a few isolated populations on the Cape Peninsula

Black-eyed Suzy (or Susan) (Thunbergia alata) : Described as a "cheerful, happy-go-lucky indigenous climber", the Black-eyed Suzy with its small bright flowers and distinctive black "eye", is a very popular garden flower. They occur naturally in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Swaziland.

And the bird pictured on the last stamps is a White-fronted bee-eater (Merops bullockoides), which belongs to the family of bee-eaters, so called because they eat bees ;-) and other animals. They have the particularity to hit the bees against a hard surface to remove the sting before eating the insect !

One last word about the cancels that I find very nice. Neat and clean, and quite unusual with this rectangular shape !

Friday, November 14, 2008

A special post for Gael !

Gael is a former colleague of mine (and a friend also !). She has moved to the United States of America some years ago together with her husband and her three kids. Because of the distance and a busy life on both sides, we have somehow lost contact. Recently I was trying to find a way to get back in contact with her when I received a cover from the USA, containing a nice frog card. This was Gael, who wrote me after finding me on the Internet through my blog ! I promised to her that I would show the cover and the card, so today is the day. A post specially dedicated to Gael.
The two stamps located on the top of the cover are part to a set of five stamps, issued on the 3rd of October 2008. This set is the second part of a series started in 2005 and entitled “America on the Move”. The stamps of the 2005 set pictured sporty cars from the 50’s and the one of 2008 is dedicated to luxurious cars from the 50’s.

The cars pictured on the stamps of the cover are (from left to right) a 1957 Lincoln Premiere and a 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk. The three other stamps of the set picture respectively a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, a 1957 Pontiac Safari and a 1957 Chrysler 300C.
This set of stamps has also been sold in the form of pane of 20 stamps (USPS seems to appreciate this type of large panes of stamps !). Here is a picture of such a pane.

The third stamp of the cover is also a recent issue. It was issued on the 8th of September 2008 to celebrate the rich musical heritage of the United States of America. The stamp features a bold, graphic design by the artist and Latin jazz fan Michael Bartalos of San Francisco, California. The design conveys the multicultural aspects of the music, its percussive and improvisational nature, and its rhythmic complexity.
As I said, the cover included a very nice frog card that I would also like to share with you.

Nice, isn’t it ?

Thank you again Gael for this card. I was very happy to get news from you !

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Eric on stamp

It seems that these days are a time for discovery for me ! Discovery of new items that fit into my stamps collections ! After the stamp issued by USA and picturing Eric Sevareid, after the stamps issued by Slovenia and picturing frogs, here comes a new stamp issued by French Polynesia and picturing Eric de Bisschop.
The stamp has been issued on the 29th of August 2008 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Eric de Bisschop and the end of the “Tahiti Nui” expedition.

Eric de Bisschop was born in France in 1891. He died on the atoll of Rakahanga, in Cook Islands in 1958. He was a famous navigator, known for his transoceanic travels and his research on the population of Pacific islands.

After several adventurous expeditions in China he finally moved to French Polynesia. Inspired by the adventure of Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon Tiki, Eric de Bisschop built a boat called the Tahiti-Nui. At the end of 1956, almost ten years after Thor Heyerdhal, he leaves Papeete to go to Chile. Unfortunately the boat is highly damaged during the trip and has to be abandoned before the completion of the expedition. In 1958, Eric de Bisschop tries again. He builds a new boat, called the Tahiti-Nui II and tries to go from Peru to Polynesia. Again an accident puts an end to the expedition, and this time Eric de Bisschop is killed during the wreck.

A stamp has been issued already in 1988 by French Polynesia to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his death.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Frogs on new issue from Slovenia

Yesterday was a bank holiday in France, the commemoration of the armistice of the WW I. The weather was rather nice in Paris so I took this opportunity to spend the whole day out, without time to write on my blog, sorry for that.

I’m always thrilled when I discover new stamp issues that picture my favourite topic : frogs. During the weekend I discovered, almost by accident, a new issue from Slovenia that will fit very well into my collection. This is a set of three stamps and one souvenir sheet issued on the 29th of September 2008 picturing endangered fauna and focusing on amphibians and reptiles. Two stamps actually picture a frog.

Here is the first one.
It pictures an Italian agile frog (Rana latastei), also called sometimes Lataste’s frog. This frog species can be found in Italy, Switzerland, Croatia and Slovenia. This is one of the four species of brown frogs that can be found in Slovenia together with the Common Frog (Rana temporaria), the Moor Frog (Rana arvalis) and the Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina).
As far as I know this is the first stamp which is issued picturing this specific species of frog.
The second stamp pictures a Fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina).

The fire-bellied toad takes its name from the brightly coloured red pattern on the ventral region. It is used as a warning to predator. This type of toad can be found in Europe and Asia. It has already been pictured on stamps on several occasions, such as this stamp from Poland (part of a set issued in 1963) and this stamp from Turkey (part of set issued in 1990).

The fire-bellied toad is very similar to another toad of the same family, the yellow bellied toad (Bombina varietaga), that can also be found in Slovenia and that differs mainly by the colour of the belly.

The last stamp of the set issued by Slovenia pictured another amphibian, the Italian crested newt (Triturus carnifex), which is one of the largest newt in Europe.

And finally the souvenir sheet belonging to the same set contains on stamp and pictures a snake, the four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata), so called because of the four lines that you can see all along its body, that lives mainly in south-eastern Europe and Asia.

I don’t resist also to the pleasure to show you the First Day Cover with its frog cancel !

Monday, November 10, 2008

FDC of the 9th of May 1966 !

I would like to start this post by a big THANK YOU to Andrzej. He sent me recently a nice cover, and this cover contained a gift, a FDC postmarked on the 9th of May 1966, the day of my birth ! You know that I collect stamps issued in 1966 and I am looking for such items since years. And now I get one ! Thanks again Andrzej for this very nice surprise.

Let me show you the FDC.
The stamp was issued on the 9th of May 1966 to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the victory against fascism, on the 9th of May 1945. The stamp pictures a peace dove and a war memorial. A stamp has also been issued in 1965, 1974, 1975 and 1980 to commemorate the 20th, 29th, 30th and 35th anniversaries. The design of those stamps always include a peace dove (sorry, I could not find a scan of these stamps).

I am very happy and proud to add this item to my 1966 stamps collection !

Now let see the cover that Andrzej used to send me the FDC.

The two horizontal stamps are part of a set of four stamps dedicated to extreme sports and issued on the 15th of April 2005. The one of the left pictures parachute jumping and thee other one pictures the bungee jumping. The two other stamps of the set pictures the rock-climbing and rafting. This set has been printed in the form of small sheets of eight stamps each. Here is a picture of such a sheet.

I must admit that extreme sports are not my favourite. I would be much too scared to do any of these activities !

The last stamp of the cover is very nice. It is a part of a set of four stamps issued on the 26th of June 1996 and dedicated to Polish Kings and Queens. The stamp pictures a portrait of Jadwiga (1374-1399) who was Queen of Poland from 1384 until her death. She has been canonized in 1997 as Saint Hedwig (Jadwiga) and she has become the patron saint of the Queens ! She is said to have accomplished several miracles during her life (this is a condition to become a saint), the two best known being named “Jadwiga’s cross” and “Jadwiga’s foot” :
- Jadwiga often prayed before a large black crucifix hanging in the north aisle of Wawel Cathedral. During one of these prayers, the Christ on the cross is said to have spoken to her. The crucifix, "Saint Jadwiga's cross", is still there, with her relics beneath it.
- According to another legend, Jadwiga took a piece of jewelry from her foot and gave it to a poor stonemason who had begged for her help. When the queen left, he noticed her footprint in the plaster floor of his workplace, even though the plaster had already hardened before her visit. The supposed footprint, known as "Jadwiga's foot", can still be seen in one of Kraków's churches.

The portrait has been realized by Jan Matejko (1838-1893) a polish painter who is known for his important gallery of portraits of Kings and Queens.

Here is a picture of the full set that I think is very nice.

The other kings pictured on the stamps are Wladyslaw II Jagiello, Wladyslaw III Warnenczyk and Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk.

Just to be complete you see that on the left corner of the cover there is a hand stamp which commemorates the 30th anniversary of the election of John Paul II as a pope. The mark pictures the coat of arms of John Paul II, the Marian cross. Here is a colour picture of those arms.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Switzerland through the eyes of foreign artists

A lot of French stamp collectors complain that the French post issues too many stamps whose subject are not really typical of France. They consider, and I have a tendency to agree with them, that postage stamps should be some sort of ambassadors of our country and culture in all other countries of the world. And from what I see in various English and American philatelic publications, it seems that French people are not the only one to complain about those stamps issues that are not really related to the culture of their country. Of course I don't even mention the countries that issue thousands of stamps per year without any link to local culture !

In this respect, I think the idea of the Swiss post to ask foreign artists to design stamps picturing how the country is seen through their eyes is a very good idea.

If I'm asked what is typical of Switzerland, I would answer : Swiss cheese, Chocolate, clock and Swiss knife. On the 4th of September 2008 the Swiss post has issued four stamps picturing exactly those four subjects!

The Emmental, the very well known Swiss cheese, made from cows' milk, with its very characteristic holes :

The chocolate:

The clock :

And finally the Swiss knife :

These stamps were designed by a young Italian artist Laura Mangiavacchi. I think the design of these stamps is very simple, very nice and therefore very efficient !
“Switzerland through the eyes of foreign artists” is in fact a series started in 2006 and that will end in 2009. The very first part of this series was issued on the 9th of May 2006 (the day of my 40th birthday ;-) ). The four stamps was designed by a French artist, Patrice Killofer who decided to represent Switzerland through another typical symbol : cows in the meadows. The four stamps picture a cow through the four seasons and are rather funny. Here is a picture of the stamps.

In 2007 the approach was a bit different. The selected country swas Great Britain, and the Swiss post has selected four English writers who have taken, at one point in time, their inspiration in Switzerland. Here is a picture of the stamps.

The selected artists are :
- Mary Shelley who took inspiration in Switzerland for her very famous “Frankenstein”
- Arthur Conan Doyle who located the plot of “The Final problem” (a story of Sherlock Holmes) in Switzerland
- William Wordsworth, an English poet who was fascinated by the Alps
- Lord Byron who celebrated the Lake Leman in “The prisoner of Chillon”
The four stamps pictures a black and white photography. I personally think that the black text mentioning the name of the artists, the title of his/her work, the date and the name of the place pictured on the stamp is a bit hard to read sometimes...
I wonder which country will be selected next year for the final set of the series, and what approach will be chosen this time !

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Frogs carousel (2)

Some times ago I have shown you a postal card send by Lenka and picturing a frog carousel. My post was raising several questions and Lenka was kind enough to send me the answers. I decided to share them with you.

First of all the translation of the words on the picture side of the postcard is the following :

"You can certainly find most frogs on the turtle races. Fathers of little frog children made a carousel for them there. But the carousel is still not turning around. One father is convincing the others that to make the carousel moving the right way they have to push the counter direction. What do you think? Is he right?"

I also asked about the blue postmarks. Here are some explanation. The one in the right bottom corner which says "LET HORKOVZDUSNEHO BALONU ODLOZEN" means "A hot-air balloon ascent postponed". The second circle postmark means: "Hot-air balloon OK 5006 * Stamped on board". The officials have probably decided to put the note about the postponing of the ascent because of the black postmark, where you can read "Transported by the balloon 12. 9. 2008".

Lenka also added one scaring information about the stamp exhibition held in Prague. The left part of the exhibition hall (this hall was actually quite old, built at the end of the 19th century) has burned down in the middle of the October month. In this part of the palace the Blue Mauritius stamp was exhibited during the venue!

Thank you Lenka for all these details !

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

American journalists

As a background activity I continue to collect stamps picturing famous people named Eric. Last week, browsing a philatelic newspaper, I was glad to find a new addition for my collection. It is part of a set of five stamps issued by USPS (USA postal service) on the 22nd of April 2008 to honour five distinguished journalists.

One of the stamps is dedicated to Eric Sevareid.

Eric Sevareid (1912-1992) was a journalist for CBS news from 1939 to 1977. Born in North Dakota, he was of Norwegian ancestry and preserved a strong bond with Norway throughout his life. During Wold War II he was one of the first to report on the fall of France in 1940. After the war he continued his career in the written press and then on television, where he felt less at ease, as he considered himself as a writer first. He put an end to his career at CBS in 1977. He died from a stomach cancer in 1992. All along his career he has received various awards among which the Peabody Award (three times) and the Emmy Award (two times).

The other stamps are dedicated to Marth Gellhorn, George Polk, John Hersey and Ruben Salazar.

Monday, November 03, 2008

White cane safety day…

Well I’m back to this blog ! I hope that I’m back on track and that I’ll be able to update it regularly again. The good news is that during the two weeks of silence I have received interesting covers and stamps that I will be able to share with you !

But let’s start by a post that I had prepared already and that I did not find the time to complete and to publish. It is about this cover I got from Croatia. Thank you very much
Dragan for this nice cover ! An interesting mixture of stamps and a very neat postmark from Rijeka.
The first stamp located on the left side is a part of a set of three stamps issued on the 5th if June 2002 and dedicated to the Croatian flora. Here is a picture of the full set.
The stamps picture various type of oaks, the one on the cover picturing a Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur), also known as the common oak or the English oak. The two others picture a Sessile oak (Quercus petraea) and a Holly oak (Quercus ilex). It is interesting to see the differences of shape between the three types of oaks as far as of the leaves and acorns are concerned. Also, less visible on the scan because it is rather light, the stamps picture the silhouette of the trees that varies a bit from one species to another.

The next stamp (clockwise) was issued on the 5th of December 2007 to celebrate the new year. The design of the stamp is a child’s drawing picturing an angel surrounded by snowflakes and stars.

The next stamp (still clockwise) was issued on the 15th of October 2006 to commemorate the white cane safety day. The stamp pictures stylized image of a visually impaired person with the white cane. This is not visible on the scan but the inscription White Cane Safety Day is written in Braille.
James Biggs from Bristol declared that he was the one who had invented the white cane in 1921 after he had lost his sight subject to an unfortunate accident. As he had to adapt to his environment, and as he felt increasingly threatened by the growing invasion of motor vehicles round his house, he painted his walking stick white so that the drivers could easily take notice of him. Yet, ten more years had to pass before the white cane established its presence in society. In 1931 in France and Great Britain the plan for the movement of blind persons who were carrying the white cane was promoted. Even the BBC joined this project and recommended in its radio broadcasts that blind persons should carry white canes which would consequently be recognized on the world level as a symbol for the marking of blind and visually impaired people. The introduction of the white cane in North America has been attributed to the Lion’s Club International organization that in 1931 started with the implementation of the national programme for the promotion of the usage of the white cane for the blind.
The first regulation about the white cane was taken in December 1930 and originated from the federal state of Illinois. It enabled the protection of blind pedestrians and gave them the right of priority when they carried the white cane. In the early sixties, an increasing number of state organizations and institutions for rehabilitation and help for the blind and visually impaired persons in the United States of America induced Congress to proclaim October 15 the White Cane Safety Day in all the 50 federal states of the USA. In 1964, USA president Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed October 15 the White Cane Safety Day. Marking October 15 every year shows regard for the achievements of the blind and visually impaired Americans and at the same time acknowledges the importance of the white cane for the ever greater independence of this part of the population. Celebration of the White Cane Safety Day on the 15th October was adopted in Croatia in 1996.

I must admit that I had prepared this post to be published on the 15th of October, in order to mark this important event. But as I said, I failed to finish it in time !

The last stamp belongs to a set of nine stamps issued on the 17th of August 1998 and dedicated to Croatian ships. It pictures a “bracera”, a coastal cargo sailing-vessel that is the most characteristic merchant boat along the Croatian coast of the Adriatic, with sails and oars ad driving-gear, 12 to 17 metres in length, and the carrying capacity of 70 tons.
It is considered that the name of the boat is etymologically connected with the name of the island Brač.
In order to be complete, let me show you the full set of stamps.

Don't hesitate to visit Dragan's website which contains very interesting information !