Fondue is big this year

Switzerland 2018 Fondue CHF1 fondue caquelonSo I look away for one moment and suddenly everyone is putting fondue on their stamps. And by ‘everyone’ I mean mostly Switzerland, but also Jersey.

Switzerland can be forgiven. Fondue as a mainstream dish is a surprisingly recent development in cuisine, but it’s theirs, and it’s a thing of national pride. Back in the 1930s, sitting around dipping stale bread into a pot of melted cheese must have been a fun way to pass a cold Alpine evening while discussing in four languages how the nearby rise of fascism left you feeling completely neutral.

Designed by Francisco Rojas, this December issue from Swiss Post celebrates fondue – not a history, as such, but just the mere existence of the dish. There’s a stamp with fondue on it, naturally, but also a stamp with cheese on it, or as I like to think of it, fondue-in-waiting. And as you can see, they’re both as big as a mountain, which is also how I like my cheese, so respect for that.

Switzerland 2018 Fondue CHF1 Cheese

You can also get this quite awesome miniature sheet featuring six of both stamps hovering above a giant fondue pot (or caqueron, as I’ve just learned a fondue pot is called. Must remember that next time I’m playing Scrabble). It even features a recipe for fondue in four languages. (Apparently it involves more than just melting cheese! Who’da thunk it?)

Switzerland 2018 Fondue CHF12 sheetlet

This is not even the first time the Swiss have put fondue on a stamp. A 2014 issue honoured Garfield. You know, the cartoon cat Garfield, famously remembered for his love of eating… um… fondue? OK then.Switzerland 2014 Garfield CHF1 Garfield eats fondue

Then there was the 2000 release celebrating ‘souvenirs’, and featuring a number of Swiss scenes depicted inside snow globes. Take a look inside this one, I bet you’ll never guess…

Switzerland 2000 souvenirs snowglobes CHF 0.20 fondue

If at this point you’re thinking of starting a topical stamp collection just on fondue, I can’t blame you, and it’s possible that this blog post will function as your complete catalogue. In which case it’s only fair to mention that fondue also popped up in one of what the Netherlands calls its ‘Decemberstamps’ in 2014. Apparently it’s something the Dutch like to do for Christmas – skewer some melted cheese and then sing Gouda King Wenceslaus. Thank you.

Netherlands 2014 December stamp fondue

So let’s turn to Jersey. Not content with taking out number 1 position in my recent 12 Stamps of Christmas countdown, it’s also jumping into the philatelic fondue pot. A year ago I mentioned Jersey’s far-out acid-inspired 1960s popular culture stamp issue. Well, there’s a 1970s follow-up now. I’ll save the detailed look for another post because it makes me happy for a whole other reason, but here’s the entry under ‘1970s food’:

Jersey 2019 1970s Popular Cultue 94p fondue

Credit where it’s due. That’s pretty ’70s.

This stamp resonates with me on a deeply personal level. Gathering dust in the back of a cupboard in my childhood home was a strange, orange-brown ceramic pot that sat on top of its own burner. It was never used; it had been a wedding gift to my parents, who were married in 1972. ’Nuff said. Many years later I came to realize that it was a fondue pot; this week I learned it was technically a caquelon. (Minimum 72 points if I land the C and N on triple word scores, plus 50 assuming I use all my letters.)

I do love this stamp. Those colours, those fashions… it looks like a cover on the kind of romance novel my Mum was reading in the 1970s while she was busy not using her caquelon. It looks like a bad date. That poor woman, patiently stirring her stale bread through her fondue, while her polo-necked companion smoothly slips his hand somewhere that’s probably not good and mansplains why Simon and Garfunkel aren’t getting back together anytime soon.

But let’s consider this stamp in the light of the Swiss issue just weeks beforehand. A cuisine that to Channel Islanders (and most of us in the English-speaking world) represents pure nostalgia, a laughable, long-burned-out fad – can you believe we used to sit around melting cheese in a pot and dipping bread into it? – remains a proud and vibrant part of a culture not even a thousand kilometres away.

How many other proud cultural customs have been embraced and then dispensed with elsewhere in the name of fashion? Centuries of tradition cheapened and discarded in favour of something equally old and yet temporarily more now. Futons, hula hoops, dreamcatchers, the Macarena… which cultural institution will be the next to be laughed off as a wacky, embarrassing fad? It’s time to take a stand against this mindless cultural appropriation.

I wonder if Mum still owns her caquelon.

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

The 12 Stamps of Christmas

UPDATE! I’ve added a couple of reader’s nominations to the bottom of the list! Read on…

It’s the 12th day of Christmas. The Christmas tree withers in the corner, unwatered for days. The batteries on the toys have expired. The gurgling remnants of Christmas lunch are in a fight to the death with New Year’s resolutions. So it’s the perfect time for me to give you my 12 Stamps of Christmas! After all, I am your true love.

As mail revenues continue to plummet, for the postal administrations of Christendom, Christmas offers one last chance to hear the bells jingling on their cash registers. (Do you know how many Christmas cards I got in the mail this year? None. That’s a first. It might be that I’ve been crossed off multiple lists. But I choose to blame The Pace of Change.)

So which countries brought their festive philatelic A-game in 2018? These are my favourites of the stamps that crossed my radar. Continue reading

Stamp of the day: sunnie side up!

Australia 2011 Living Australian Little Man's Business and This Is So Relaxing 60c se-tenant pairSometimes you can see a stamp dozens of times without fully appreciating its majesty. I suppose you could say the same of any artwork, or building, or person. And then, for some reason, you happen to notice it in a certain light, or at a certain magnification, or across a cosy bar eight vodka and tonics into a Friday night, and your breath can be taken away.

This happy little issue came out in 2011. They called it ‘Living Australian’. Look at those Australians, just going about their lives all Australian-y and shit.

Australia 2011 Living Australian Best Friends and Embrace Friendship 60c se-tenant pair

I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention at the time, and I’ve only vaguely clocked them since. But when I saw this one cross my desk on the weekend – and I mean I really saw it – it filled me with joy.

Australia 2011 Living Australian Cricket at the Gabba 60c stamp

At first glance, it’s entirely possible to miss what’s going on. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t fully taken it in until now. Continue reading

Shoutout to StampShow 2018

USA 2018 Dragons Orange Forever stampA big hello to any US (or visiting) readers attending this weekend’s Stampshow in Columbus, Ohio!

USA 2018 Dragons Green Forever stampI read in a news report that organizers (jointly the American Philatelic Society and the American Topical Society) are seeking to tap into more of the pop culture appeal of stamps at this exhibition. Sounds like a good idea to me. I appreciate the effort that old-school philatelists put into their exhibits on obscure paquebot markings or the plate proofs of Upper Biddlonia, but the hobby is evolving with the times. If that means that more fun begins to sneak into philatelic exhibitions in the form of stamp art or dragon mascots, then I’m all for it. Continue reading

Exploring Exploring Stamps

Exploring Exploring Stamps tnf

A day off work due to illness presents a perfect opportunity to binge-watch a series that you’ve been meaning to see for a long time. So it was that I recently popped a painkiller, snuggled into my bed, and reached for the comforting glow of my laptop.

Which series would see me through the day? A dystopian futuristic drama about women in sexual servitude? One of those quirky Aussie comedies with no jokes in it? A day-trip back to Westeros and Game of Thrones?

Oh no, my friends, I had bigger fish to fry. It was time to explore a YouTube series that had been on my radar for a long time. It was time to explore Exploring Stamps.

Exploring Stamps title board

Exploring Stamps debuted on YouTube at the end of 2016, comprising seasons that are 20 (short) episodes each in length, along with occasional specials. At the start of each regular episode, our host, Graham, plucks a stamp from a trove stashed in a big cardboard box, and uses it as a launching pad for a journey of discovery. Most often this involves the stamp’s history and subject matter, with a bit of philately-for-the-beginner along the way. But his tangents can delight and surprise. Continue reading

A big, BIG issue

Australia 2018 Silo Art $1 Brim Guido van Helten stamp
Brim, Victoria
Artist: Guido van Helten

One of my favourite Aussie issues of recent times was 2017’s Street Art – vibrant, modern, urban and startlingly different from the usual stamp fodder. Not surprisingly, those stunning works were a big hit on my Instagram page. They’re very like-able.

I’m a month late with this update but I still wanted to say how much I loved seeing Australia Post continue the theme with May’s Silo Art issue. Silo art is the rural equivalent of street art, except that it’s painted on grain silos, and it is, as a rule, fucking ENORMOUS. Continue reading

Jammin’ and jammin’ and jammin’, jam on

Clearly the ‘vintage commercial design’ thing must be making big bucks for Australia Post, because AP have gone back to the well, or in this case, the jam tin, once more. I’m not judging. I’ve made my love of the retro vein pretty clear in the past.

About a month ago (when I was a tad too busy to blog about it), Aussie Post released this lovely set featuring jam labels from ye olden days, depicting a diversity in development, location and the companies involved.

What arrests my attention in this set is the bold use of perspective. Those jam tins sit right fat in the viewer’s face, threatening to burst off the stamp and cover us in their delicious, fruity goodness. It’s a fantastic way to pay tribute to the colour and vibrancy of the original designers’ work.

Australia 2018 Vintage Jam Labels $1 Peacock's stampWhat’s your favourite? For mine, it’d a close-run thing between the Melray and the Peacock’s. I’d probably have to go with the Peacock’s, partly because I love apricot jam, but mainly because “Peacock’s”. For more details on the specifics of each label, you can hit up the Australia Post Collectables website.

Given recent form,  I can only assume Aussie Post is going to keep churning out vintage shit on its stamps. What do you reckon will be next? My money is on biscuit tins.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to the kitchen. For some reason I have a massive craving for toast.

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

Cold War propaganda stamp of the day

Poland 1973 30th Anniversary of Polish People's Army 1zl T-55 tank stampPolitics and human rights abuses aside, I love propaganda stamps. When I was very young, almost everything I knew of life behind the Iron Curtain came from my kiddie stamp collection. Countries like Poland, Romania and Hungary must have earned some sweet forex coin getting their stamps into the Western collector market. Eastern Europeans, I knew, were mad for Lenin, space, the Winter Olympics and military hardware.

This stamp isn’t the most propaganda-y of my propaganda collection, but it was always a fave (despite the damage at the bottom, marking this as a genuine Punk Philatelist artefact of the era).

I looked into it this week, and found that it was one of a 1973 set marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Polish People’s Army. That’s the kind of thing they called armies when the Soviets ruled the roost.

Look at that stamp again: it’s so action. It says more than “We have tanks.” It says “We have tanks and they are coming for YOU!”

Poland 1973 30th Anniversary of Polish People's Army 1zl MiG-21 D fighter stampThe issue also featured a plane, a ship, and a missile, all of which are also coming for YOU.

What makes them so dynamic? Sure, there are streaks of color representing the dust being kicked up, and the turbulence caused by the various aircraft, and there are the foamy breakers against the battleship’s hull.

The answer lies in one simple design feature: Continue reading

Love this retro Jersey

Jersey 2017 Popular Culture: The 1960s - moon landing, language, leisure stamps Jersey is one of those funny little islands in the English Channel that are closer to France, and part of the UK, but get to put out their own stamps.

Jersey 2017 Popular Culture: The 1960s 63p music stampInterestingly, this practice began during the Nazi occupation of those islands, when they were cut off from the mother country. This is just one of the reasons why nerds who are into postal history find them so delectable. (If you think you might be one of those nerds, you should check out the Channel Islands Specialists’ Society.)

I’m not one of those nerds, but I do like how these islands churn out pretty stamps, because, let’s face it, what else have they got going on? I mean apart from tax avoidance schemes.

Jersey 2017 Popular Culture: The 1960s 73p fashion stampRecently Jersey jumped on the retro stamp bandwagon with a 1960s Popular Culture issue.

I love the Hendrix-inspired psychedelic guitar player with his groovy vibes and his remarkable fused fingers on his strumming hand.

The models (or are they just ’60s housewives?) on the fashion stamp take me back to a childhood spent rifling through Grandma’s sewing pattern magazines.

And it eludes me why more stamp administrations don’t honour the cheese and pineapple stick on their postal stamps. Continue reading