This week, everyone’s excited about water being found on Mars. But at the House of Punk, water has been covering the surface of Mars for at least a week now, thanks to the tears of joy I’ve been crying over Australia Post’s latest stamp issue, entitled Our Solar System. Cynicism be damned, just look at these gorgeous stamps and tell me they don’t make you similarly teary. As with real planets, they’re best viewed in the night sky (or in this case, in their minisheet).
You can, of course, buy many of these stamps separately, but if you’re spending $4.90 or more on parcel postage this week, and you let them slap a boring docket on that parcel instead of insisting on this beautiful minisheet, then YOU SHOULD BE SHOT AND I MEAN THAT LITERALLY I AM QUITE PREPARED TO PULL THE TRIGGER. If you’re not familiar with minisheets, I assure you, you’re totes allowed to buy them from the collector shelves at the Post Office and use all the stamps separately on your mail (or two of the 35-cent ones). Much more fun (and more environmentally friendly, I suspect) than a peel’n’stick booklet.
All our favourite Solar System planets are there, with Pluto even photobombing Neptune to keep the old-timers happy. Jupiter’s and Saturn’s stamps are extra large, as befits them. The detail is stunning, the colours divine. I unabashedly adore them, right down to the retro 80s futurism in the font.
They are so pretty, I’m even prepared to overlook the usual ridiculous array of “collectible” variations dreamed up by Australia Post’s marketing department. A sheet of fifty 35-cent stamps? Who would buy that to use on 25 letters? No one. It’s contrived philatelic nonsense. So is the prestige medallion cover with a spinning Solar System medallion, but clearly I am a lone spaceman there… they’ve sold out.
The reason this issue looks like a school project is that it’s AP’s annual Stamp Collecting Month. The Hubble Space Telescope, which can see the beginning of time, would struggle to spot a modern-day junior stamp collector down here on Earth. Undaunted, Australia Post releases one issue each year specifically designed to appeal to children in the hope of finding just one kid, any kid, brave and weird enough to carry this great hobby into the future.
Stamp Collecting Month releases are usually easy to spot, with their
vomity colourful designs and non-traditional themes. Animals are big (with dinosaurs a regular feature). I quite liked 2014’s Things That Sting issue, eventually. I have patriotic reservations about the inclusion of the non-native European Wasp, but if it stopped one dumbass kid trying to pat one then I suppose it’s a good thing.
Fusty old collectors are often heard complaining that Stamp Collecting Month issues feature subjects that lack noteworthiness, or Australianness. I consider this on a case-by-case basis. When foreign animals like tigers and pandas were seen on Australian stamps, I sided with AP’s argument that Australian zoos were playing a role in the conservation of those animals. However, I stood alongside the grumpy old people and their zimmer frames in 2011, when Australia Post gave up trying to find real animals, and just made stuff up with its Mythical Creatures issue.
Yes, a whole (beautifully illustrated) issue dedicated not only to animals that have never been seen in Australia, but to animals that have never been seen anywhere, ever. They’re not even from our own mythology! I retrospectively demand a bunyip or a drop-bear. (Actually, bunyips have been seen on Australian stamps. Drop-bears are yet to make it.) And it’s bad enough for PR when we put tiger snakes and stingrays on our stamps. Do we need the world thinking we have big bloody dragons?
You could mount a similar case against this year’s issue – while it’s undoubtedly a real thing, what has the Solar System ever done for Australia specifically? But apart from the fact that Australia totally produces professional space nerds, space is always likely to capture kids’ imaginations. These stamps could even be incorporated into the classroom if teachers are keen (and they should be – AP puts out resources for them).
But why bother? Kids these days are glued to their PSPs and haven’t even noticed the sky goes dark at night. The good news, is, we don’t need them. The joy of this issue is that, for once, a Stamp Collecting Month release doesn’t make my eyes hurt. These stamps are absolutely gorgeous to behold, even if you’re a grown-up. (Especially the big stamps. Mmmm, I like big stamps.)
Find them. Buy them. Put them on your mail. My universal congratulations to Australia Post and designer Jo Muré. I only hope she didn’t design any of the previous issues that I just slagged off.
In the meantime, if you want to criticise recent stamp issues for their lack of relevance to Australia or the depiction of creatures rarely seen in our land, I suggest you start here.
© Philatelic product images remain the copyright of issuing postal administrations and successor authorities