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.

Classic Toys

It turns out this was one of ten stamps released by the UK’s Royal Mail in August 2017 to lionize that nation’s Classic Toys. The featured toys vary in vintage but skew old – even the ones I fondly recall were hand-me-downs from an earlier generation. I suspect they didn’t all travel abroad (you mean nothing to me, ‘Merrythought Bear’. You’re cuddleable though, in a lamearse teddy bear Halloween costume kind of way).

The sumptuous photography and in-period designs instantly transport you to a relatively recent bygone age . According to a glimpse behind the scenes in Design Week,  designers Interabang sourced original versions of the toys, and in many cases used the contemporaneous packaging as inspiration for the stamp design. It shows.

(Interabang were also behind the Royal Mail’s Star Wars stamps, featured on this blog in 2015, and very recently updated with a Droids and Aliens issue.)

A blast in the past

Stickle Bricks, it turned out, weren’t the only delight awaiting me. Spirograph was another early influence in my life. (A little too early, to be honest. As any fellow kiddie Spirograph user would understand, it took me a few years to master the skill of keeping the pens in the tiny holes and keeping the cog wheels tracking around each other. My beautiful geometric designs were regularly scarred with lightning bolts of rainbow-colored failure, as my young mouth searched for swear words I had yet to learn.)

There’s a subtle touch that I love on this stamp: the tiny flecks of white on the blue background. Perhaps from a photo of the original box, perhaps added later, but in either case, how beautifully they evoke the cardboard boxiness of the era, the colours slowly wearing as they scrape against the Twister and Connect 4 boxes in the cupboard.

Fuzzy-felt is in there too, stoking vague memories of 1980s kindergarten. And that Sindy doll looks suspiciously familiar, though we were never acquainted by name.

But the best was yet to come. Ahem:

UK 2017 Classic Toys 1st Spacehopper stamp

THEY PUT A SPACEHOPPER ON A STAMP!

A GROWN-UP ACTUAL COUNTRY PUT A FUCKING SPACEHOPPER ON A STAMP!

Regular readers would have seen me delight in the Royal Mail’s willingness to embrace pop culture in the past. This specific stamp tops the lot.

Nuts and bolts

Did you know the face on a Spacehopper is meant to be that of a kangaroo? Even as an Australian, I never realised that. It makes perfect sense, of course – in Australia, we make children practice on Spacehoopers before they are given a licence to ride a full-size kangaroo.

UK 2017 Classic Toys 1st Meccano stampI learned a few other things from exploring this issue. I didn’t know Frank ‘my Dad’s old model railway’ Hornby was the same guy who invented Meccano almosty twenty years prior. And Meccano has retained the spacing between its perforations and the 5/32 thread on its nuts and bolts throughout its history, so modern sets can be used in conjunction with kits released over a hundred years ago. This is a remarkable commitment to the product, and one that would be more widely appreciated if kids hadn’t all switched to Lego by the 1970s.

So it’s a massive Respect from me for this issue. Congrats to Interabang for the design, John Ross for the beautiful photography, and children from around the world without whom these toys would never have become the classics they are. Well done, me.

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Rhodonites are a girl’s new best friend

Australia 2017 Rare Beauties $1 Rhodonite and $1 Golden Sapphire stamps

Smacking my lips at this issue from Australia Post. Rare Beauties, they’re calling them. They’re all gemstones from the collection of the Australian Museum in Sydney, and what a stunning tribute to the lapidary’s art they are.

The golden sapphire and pink diamond are used in jewellery. The fluorite and rhodonite aren’t, but that’s OK, you can still buy them for me. I simply adore that rich red in the rhodonite.

Australia 2017 Rare Beauties $2 Fluorite stampThe photography of the stones is stunning to start with, but the ‘shadow’ across the geometric background adds a 3-D feel that really makes them pop right out of the stamp.

Y’know what I like about this set the most? The simplicity. When stamp issuers start eyeing off gemstones, for some reason there’s a compulsion to show them in the context of the geological environment in which they are found, or in fugly uncut form (everything is fugly when uncut, amiright ladies), or in the context of an end product like jewellery or industrial product. But there’s no fucking about with this issue. You want gemstones? Fine. Here are some fat fucking gemstones. Straya!

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Bowie’s latest release

UK 2017 David Bowie album stamps

UK 2017 David Bowie 1ST Aladdin Sane stamp

Well this is the most exciting thing to happen this year since I accidentally swiped right on Tinder and he turned out to be a match, a babe, and leaving for overseas two days later.

The UK is releasing a set of David Bowie stamps today!

David has been on a UK stamp before, as part of a Classic Album Covers release in 2010. (You can also spot a wild Bowie issue hiding in this post about tortoise stamps from Namibia. Yes, you read right.)

Now Royal Mail is releasing this fabulous set of six iconic Bowie album covers, plus four photos from live tours combined in a stamp sheet.

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London’s burning

UK 2016 Great Fire of London stamp setHere’s a stamp issue I just have to share with you before 2016 becomes too tiny in the rear view mirror. It was undoubtedly my favourite release out of any that caught my eye last year. And you don’t have to be a stamp nerd to love it, though it’ll help if you are a history buff, comic book geek, or pyromaniac. Continue reading

Australia’s best (and worst) of 2016

Australia 2016 Jewel Beetles $1 Stigmodera gratiosa stamp

…In which I attempt to cover a year of review and bitching in one fell swoop.

Each year, Australia Post holds its annual survey in which stamp collectors can vote for their favourite – and least favourite – issue. This used to be an exercise on paper, with a few variations on a simple ‘What was your favourite?’ ‘What was your least favourite?’ type arrangement, with prize giveaways for random winners. Now it’s gone all high-tech, with a detailed SurveyMonkey page, in which all issues must be ranked in order from 1 to 32.

Australia Posts's Survey Monkey Stamp Poll 2016

On the upside, I enjoyed the OCD-triggering task of putting every single issue in its rightful place. On the downside, no prize giveaways. I guess AP has to pay for its CEO’s $4.8 million pay packet somehow.

I could swear I saw the final results somewhere, but I can’t seem to Google it anywhere, and the survey I’ve linked to above still seems to be open. Surely I’m not so lame that I dreamed it? I saw it in such detail! Maybe I was shown the running tallies when I finished the survey? Anyway, this isn’t your problem. The important thing is that I am going to tell you which were the best stamps and which were the worst, as judged by my own brain, so survey results don’t matter. Why Australia? Because I live there, silly.

In no particular order (and with each issue’s title linking to the extremely commendable Australia Post Collectables blog site for more info), Australia’s unquestionably best issues were: Continue reading

Lost in the System

Well, look who’s come crawling back to her sorry blog! Sorry, punksters, I’ve had a ridiculously busy year in both my top-secret work life and my even more mysterious private life. But it’s time to down tools and return to what I love. I’ve informed Mr Trump that the militia uniform designs would simply have to wait. He still hasn’t paid me for the preliminary design work, anyway, but he assures me the cheque is in the mail.

Given that it feels like I’ve been lost in outer space lately, it seems appropriate to return with one of the many doozies of new issues from 2016 that I missed while I was gone. Regular readers would know I’m mad for a pretty space stamp, and didn’t the USPS fire my rockets in May with its gorgeous Views of our Planets release?

usa-2016-views-of-our-planets-minisheet

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Retrogasm!

Australia 2016 Nostalgic Fruit Labels stamp set

Australia 2016 Nostalgic Fruit Labels stamp setHelloooo! Sorry it’s been a while since my last post. I’m going to make up for my stony silence with loads of pretty pictures, inspired by Australia’s Nostalgic Fruit Label stamps, over which I’ve been soiling myself since their release in June.

They celebrate the paper labels that used to be slapped onto the wooden fruit crates in the olden days before Styrofoam boxes.

What I love about these stamps is that they retain the microscopic details of the original labels. I wonder how many of the three people still using stamps will take a moment to appreciate the artist’s work seen, for example, on this River’s Pride label, and take in the fenceposts, the orchard and the veining on the half-peeled orange.

Australia 2016 Nostalgic Fruit Labels $1 River's Pride stamp

If you, like me, are a little fascinated by oldey-timey culture, it’s not out of the question that something would appeal to you about both these designs and also ye olde schoole world of stamp collecting. You may have been given the impression that it involves a lot of old stamps with kings and queens and presidents on them that cost a lot of money. Well, I have good news. There are no rules. We collect whatever the fuck we want. And one could do worse than start with collecting vintage graphic designs on stamps, because it’s so hot right now. Continue reading

You crazy diamonds

UK 2016 1st Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon (1973) Album Cover Stamp

UK 2016 Pink Floyd album cover stampsAs the header of my site attests, I love it when music, design and philately collide. And it’s happening again, thanks to the Royal Mail. Attention cool uncles and that boring guy who used to corner me at university house parties: Pink Floyd is being immortalised!

UK 2016 1st Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon (1973) Album Cover StampLast year marked the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s founding, though it feels like they’ve been around for a lot longer, since every David Gilmour guitar solo goes for 50 years in its own right. Royal Mail’s tribute issue clocks in at no less than 10 stamps, which, much like a prog rock album, is more than anyone asked for and a lot more than was probably necessary to get the job done. Continue reading