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

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. Continue reading

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

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.

Help me spread my sweet, sweet love… share this post on your socials! Meet me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram! Follow this blog! And I always love to read your thoughts in the comments. x

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

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

10 postage stamps that will whisk you back to your childhood

UK 2017 Classic Toys 1st Stickle Bricks stamp(…Or someone’s childhood. Someone British.)

Ever been suddenly reminded of something that was once an everyday part of your life, but somewhere along the way, it wasn’t anymore, and you think, ‘I haven’t thought of that in YEARS!’?

For me, it was last Tuesday, when this stamp crossed my radar. First reaction: “STICKLE BRICKS!” These joyfully-colored, spiky, plastic building blocks were a regular feature of the bedroom floor in my childhood home. But indeed, I hadn’t thought of them in years.

Second reaction: “I didn’t know they were called Stickle Bricks. How about that.”

And then came the question. What the fuck are Stickle Bricks doing on a postage stamp? I had to know more. Continue reading

Souvenirs, novelties, party tricks…

India 2017 100R scented coffee stamp(And yay to you if you know which film lent me that headline.)

I’m excited today, and not because I’ve been snorting lines of this coffee-scented stamp from India. It’s a big day. I’m launching a new tag on this blog.

I get very easily excited.

As the use of snail mail for letter post continues to fall off a cliff, postal authorities around the world look more and more to stamp collectors to fluff up their bottom line.  Thus opens a new and technologically marvellous chapter in an old book: that of the novelty stamp. Continue reading