Oh my stars!

Portugal 2019 Christmas €3.50 nativity LED stamp

Hello readers! Just a note to kick 2019 out the door and let you know that I’m still alive. I’ve had a busy few months, but sadly zero to do with philately. I was stuck in one of those chained-to-the-screen, too-much-work-and-not-enough-time, OH GOD WHEN WILL IT END kind of freelance jobs on which late capitalism thrives. My free time was then spent working out which dirty dishes can go into the washing machine with the clothes while I make a flying visit to my family so that I still remember everyone’s name come Christmas time.

So the blog’s been a bit quiet, sorry about that. There are a few posts in the works, but I haven’t managed to finish anything to a publishable standard! My apologies to a couple of individuals that I’ve been in touch with over the last few months, who have probably given up on wondering if I’ll ever post that piece I assured them I was working on. But I’m now unshackled from the helldesk, so you should hear more from me in coming months.

Thank you all for your ongoing support. It’s wonderful to read your comments or see the pieces shared here on WordPress or on other social media. Although it’s been around a few years, this blog is still in a discovery phase – I enjoy waking up to find I’ve had 76 hits from Norway, breaking down into one per article. That tells me that someone has found the blog and is enjoying it enough to scroll through the back-catalogue.

Even in my busiest times, I’m still chatty on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And when this blog goes quiet, don’t forget that there are plenty of other sites to poke through. Look for my Read more! list, which appears next to this article if you’re on a desktop. (On a smartphone or tablet, you’ll find it by scrolling to the bottom, but first you’ll have to scroll through all the other autoloading articles. I think I just realised that those 76 hits from Norway may have been someone desperately looking for a different blog to read.)

The most EXCITING development of the last few days is that I’ve booked my flight to attend the London 2020 International Stamp Exhibition in May! I hope it presents the chance to meet some of my British and European friends in person. I mention the Brits separately, of course, because by then, they will no longer be ‘European’. Some sort of minor administrative adjustment apparently.

To take us out this year: a couple of festive additions to this site’s catalogue of novelty stamps. Portugal’s Christmas issues included the miniature sheet seen at the top of this article, featuring a traditional nativity scene. A less traditional inclusion is the light-emitting diode (LED) embedded in the star, activated by a smartphone using near-field communication technology. Apparently it illuminates the whole scene; I watched the video, and I gotta admit, I’m struggling to see much going on beside a blinking star. Maybe it looks better in person:

Meanwhile, Austria embedded a crystal on top of a Christmas tree. Austria likes to chuck Swarovskis on its stamps. This one evokes the spirit of those frugal, crafty-type people who use old CDs as Christmas decorations and because it’s Christmas, visitors have to smile and pretend it doesn’t look hideous.

Austria 2019 €2.70 Christmas tree with crystal ornament stamp

These high-tech Christmas stars triggered a memory from long ago, when lots of my friends were travelling abroad. It was a world where — it’s hard to imagine — social media was yet to exist. Email was around, but it had not yet entirely killed the art of letter writing.

Back then, I had encountered the work of a local artist who illustrated envelopes by incorporating the stamp design into the surrounding scene. So I thought, why not give it a go? I reached for the pencils, and a friend who was living in the UK soon received my own Christmas masterpiece. And if you’re thinking, ‘Sorry Punk, but I’m only interested in historical anecdotes if they are accompanied by a scan of a poorly-focused, poorly-lit photograph from twenty years ago’, then do I have news for you!

Punk Philatelist Christmas 1996 illustrated cover

It’s cartoonish, but that’s as good as you’ll get from me. The Star of this show is the Diamond stamp from Australia’s 1996 ‘Pearls and Diamonds’ issue, which features an impressive, big-arse hologram. And thanks to the Australian territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, we have a couple of quarantined alpacas standing in for the stable animals. Somewhat anachronistic in 0th-century Bethlehem, sure, but at least I didn’t have to chuck a kangaroo in there. And just for good measure, the navy blue Australia Post Air Mail cachet, with its Southern Cross, adds a few background stars into the night sky.

Cocos (Keeling) Islands 1996 Quarantine Station 50c llamas stamp and Australia 1996 $1.20 Diamond hologram stamp

Here’s how those stamps look when they’re not in a blurry collage (don’t be confused, I made the diamond one bigger). Apart from being almost perfect for a nativity scene, in philatelic terms they were contemporaneous, and made up the correct postal rate of the era. I wonder what the commercial cover aficionados would make of it these days. I reckon that at auction, this could now sell for as many as a dozen dollars.

Looking now on that effort, I am filled with wonder. Not so much at the philately, nor the magic of Christmas. No, I mainly wonder: how did I ever have the time?

See you in 2020! x

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© Philatelic product images remain the copyright of issuing postal administrations and successor authorities

9 thoughts on “Oh my stars!

      1. I hope you are safe from these fires. Looks horrific. some folks from our village (actually from two different families) are spending five and three weeks in southern suburbs of Sydney.

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  1. Why are you going across the planet to attend a big-time, high-end stamp show in the UK? The real hobby is on the web now just like you are. The few old-fashioned stamp shows that carry on are where exhibitors pay stupid prices to rip-off dealers who contribute to the catalogs that establish the manipulated prices in the first place. One sees only old people at stamp shows for good reason.

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    1. This is one of my favourite comments ever. Love the passion! Disagree with the sentiment though. Rich old men can chase their overpriced classics to their heart’s content, but perusing the exhibits at any stamp show can reveal the collections that can be formed in obscure, fascinating (or not) corners of the hobby, often for next to nothing. I’m not an exhibitor myself (yet) but I’ve had no trouble picking up bargains at exhibitions for my own collection. That’s one of the main reasons I go! If the price is a rip-off, I don’t pay. It’s true that traditional collecting needs to find a way to connect with the army of online philatelists, but just as I scorn old fuddy duddies who might sneer at the internet, I also think the culture of traditional philately ought to be appreciated more by us cheeky online upstarts. Some people like to exhibit on Instagram, some like to exhibit behind panes of glass. The rule of ‘each to their own’ is the beauty of philately. Plus, one thing the internet CAN’T do is place an actual artifact right before your very eyes, which is a real negative if you’re the kind of person who gets their jollies from seeing pieces of historic stationery. (I am one of those people.)

      (PS: am I crossing the planet just to attend a stamp exhibition or does it just happen to coincide with a holiday I was taking anyway? Take a guess…)

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      1. Your post made it sound like you were swaggering to London just for the big show-off. So good to know you are not completely daft and may have friends to visit in the UK etc. I’m not passionate. I’m basically jaded. I’ve exhibited in years past and learned right away my pages were more important than my stamps and covers since the latter content was not of substantial monetary value. The judging rules are buggered but soon there will not be enough judges to go around and so the difficulty will be resolved. There are alternatives as you say. By the way, as an ex-pat, may I suggest you not wear that pixie skirt in your picture on here when you are in civilisation next May. You might get on alright looking like that in Australia, but you will be laughed out of the hall in the UK. And not because anybody recognises you!

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