Sunday, June 27, 2010

Postage stamps of Mount Athos

Mount Athos is a mountain on the peninsula of the same name in Macedonia calledAgion Oros in Greek (meaning Holy Mountain in English). Politically known in Greeceas the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain, this is the home of twentyEastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within thesovereignty of the Hellenic republic.Mount Athos is only accessible by boat and the daily number of visitors is restricted.Only males are allowed entrance into Mount Athos and only males over the ageof 18 who are members of the Eastern Orthodox Church are allowed to live there!
Since 2008, the Hellenic Postal Service issues stamps for postal use only at the twopost offices of Mount Athos. The first set of five stamps was issued on the 16th ofMay 2008 and was followed by several others in 2008 and 2009.On the 11th of May of this year, the first set of 2010 has been issued depicting thefauna and flora of the area.Why do I speak about this? Because one of the stamp falls perfectly into mycollecting interests, as you will see.
The first stamp pictures the Mount Atho’s pansy (Viola athois) a species of wildflower endemic to Mount Athos.
The second stamp pictures a Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) a small tree withattractive pink flowers.

The third stamps pictures a Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) an evergreen shrub thatgives edible fruits which are used in some areas to make raki and other alcoholicdrinks.

The fourth one is the one that drew my attention: it pictures a European Tree frog(Hyla arborea), one of my favorite frog and probably the one which is the mostpictured on stamps.

The fifth stamp picture a tree heath (Erica arborea) a species of small trees. OnMount Athos its root is used to make spoons, letter openers and other small craftitems.

I personally have some doubts about the real postal needs for stamps issuedspecifically for Mount Athos. There is indeed a debate around this topic amongHellenic philatelists. But since those stamps are recognize by UPU then they can beincluded in my collection!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A new cover from Dominican Republic

This has been a long time since last time I shared a cover with you... I have been so busy these last months that I have rarelly found the time to update this blog. But things should improve now and I will try to come back to a rythm of several updates per week. Let's cross the fingers...
For today I have selected a cover I received some times ago from Dominicam Republic. This is only the second time I get mail from this country and I found it quite nice.
The cover is franked with a block of four stamps issued in December 2009. This is the Christmas series and it is illustrated with drawing from children. A drawing competition was organized among children around the subject of Christmas and the winners have seen their drawings published on the stamps. A nice idea.
Not much to say about the stamps but I would like also to underline the postmark. A (unusual) red rectangle. I say unusual because postmarks are traditionnaly black or blue. I don't know if this one is a standard one or not.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Frogs on 2010 Europa stamps

When I learned that the subject of Europa stamps for 2010 would be Children’s books I was very happy because it could be a good occasion to get new stamps picturing frogs. Indeed, in my mind Children’s books are linked to fairy tales and frogs are very present in very tales. Now that I have seen a lot of the stamps that have been issued I’m a bit disappointed since there are not so much that I can use in my frog stamps collection. In fact I found out two stamps only.
The first one is part of the set issued by Sweden. Swedish postal administration has issued two stamps in the Europa series on the 28th of January 2010. Both stamps are sold in a se-tenant pair.
The stamp on the left side pictures an illustration from Elsa Beskow (1874-1953) who was a Swedish author and illustrator. The illustration is from her book “Children of the forest” published in 1910. This book tells the story of small characters, like elves, who live in the forest. The stamp pictures a school scene and if you look closely you will see two small frogs that listen to the teacher !
The other stamp pictures “Maja’s alphabet” an illustration from Lena Anderson (born in 1939) a Swedish illustrator.

The second issue that I found is a bit less obvious. It is part of the stamps issued by Finland on the 4th of May 2010.
Again, there are two se-tenant stamps. On the left one, fictional characters get out of an open book. On the right one, children are reading a book. If you look closely to the book they read and if you rotate the stamp of 180° you will see that the book pictures what seems to be a frog. Here is a close up for a better view.

This is a frog isn’t it?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bulls eyes cancelation (II)

Here is a letter from Japan that I received recently and that I wanted to share with you.

The cover is franked with four square stamps belonging to a set of six stamps issued on the 6th of May 2010 and picturing Hello Kitty.

And here is the booklet with the complete set.

Hello Kitty is a worldwide known fictional character created by the Japanese company Sanrio. It is a white female cat wearing a red bow. She first appeared in Japan in 1974 and was introduced in the USA in 1976. She is now famous all over the world among your girls and can be found on all sort of products. Even on postage stamps now!

The reason why I wanted to share this cover with you is not really the stamps (except if you are a big fan of Hello Kitty!). The main reason is the cancellation. This is a very good example of nice bulls eyes cancellation. I already wrote a post on this subject some times ago. But this cover is really impressive with the four square stamps canceled neatly with a very well centered postmark. In these times when it gets more and more difficult to get clean postmark in a lot of countries this cover really impressed me! I guess the sender is a very good friend of the postal clerk who cancelled the letter, otherwise I do not understand how he could get such a nice result!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

2010 the international year of biodiversity

2010 has been chosen by the United Nations to be the year of biodiversity. At this occasion, a lot of actions have been launched all over the world to celebrate the biodiversity and to encourage the protection of the fauna and flora. If you are interested to know more about this event, click on the logo below.
For the pleasure of stamp collectors specialized in fauna and flora stamps, this initiative is celebrated by some postal administrations through issue of stamps or souvenir sheets. This is the case of South Africa that has issued on the 3rd of March 2010 a sheet containing four colorful stamps celebrating the biodiversity of the country.

The stamps picture various animals (and one tree) that can be found in South Africa. Clockwise the species that are represented are:

- Giant African Mantis (Sphodromantis viridis) a species of praying mantis which is sometimes kept as a pet (!) and Devil fire fish (Pterois miles) also known as the common lionfish

- Black Rhinoceros (Dicero bicornis) that is not black but actually grey or brown. The name was chosen to differentiate it from the White Rhinoceros.

- Common Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) and Argus Reed Frog (Hyperolius argus)

- Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus) and African Baobab (Adansonia digitata)

As you understood I bought this sheet because of the frog! The Argus Reed Frog is also called the African Reed Frog and is one of the five species of frogs in which males and females do not share the same color. The males are usually green and the females are reddish, therefore we can guess the stamp pictures a female.

Here is also the official FDC with a nice postmark picturing a chameleon.

If you know any other stamps issued for this international year of biodiversity I would be happy to hear from you.