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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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.

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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Water on Mars (and all the other planets)

Australia 2015 Our Solar System Jupiter stamp

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).

Australia 2015 Our Solar System 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. Continue reading

Riding the sheep’s back… or is it a goat?

Once upon a time, the Lunar (or “Chinese”) New Year was just a thing that Asians did. Whitey went to Chinatown to watch the firecrackers and eat yum cha, but that was about it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the 21st Century.

Asia got richer, and China boomed. As the Chinese (and Indian) middle class grew, it reawakened the cobwebbed hobby of stamp collecting. It’s a very middle-class hobby, which appeals to people who are really, really into their country. And Chinese people are really, really into their country. Because if they’re not, they get sent to prison camp.

Then someone invented the Internet, and people stopped sending mail. Meanwhile, old people insisted on dying, game consoles turned children into zombies, and the supply of new stamp collectors to Western postal authorities stopped dead… just when their cash-strapped governments started demanding impossible profit margins.

Then Chinese stamps started to attract ridiculous figures at auction.

And that’s when the West decided it should issue Lunar New Year stamps.

Australia Post disguised its cash grab by suddenly remembering that there are lots of ethnically Chinese people on the Australian territory of Christmas Island (no, not in the immigration detention centre). Naturally, they deserved a stamp, and in 1994, they got one. Or two, actually. (And a mini-sheet if you want to go looking for it.)

Australia Christmas Island 1994 Year of the DogIn 1996, AP began a 12-year cycle in which all the Lunar New Year stamps complemented each other, often with colours of red and gold. I wasn’t too interested in these at first, but over the course of the zodiac, I must admit, they won me over with their riotous vibrancy and playful cocks. Continue reading

Happy (not quite) Valentine’s Day

Love2013Australia Post would never release Valentine’s Day stamps. That would be commercial and crass – something Australia Post would never stand for.

But it just so happens that most years, AP releases love-themed stamps just weeks before Valentine’s Day. How amazingly convenient!

I’m not sure when ‘Love’ became so Australian that it deserved to be featured on our stamps. Asylum seekers on Manus Island would surely think we were playing mind games if a Love stamp turned up on a letter delivered to them as they queued up in the sun to ask permission to apply for the tampon raffle or to not get beaten up by guards that week.

Love2014But of course, these stamps aren’t celebrating an Australian phenomenon; they’re celebrating a worldwide trend among postal administrations to encourage romantics to put some thought into the stamps that will adorn their love letters, while encouraging stamp collectors to put their hands in their pockets and give postal administrations more money. Collectors are used to this by now, but if the gimmick encourages any thoughtful written communication from Romeos and Juliets in this internet age, then it’s all right by me.

(Australia isn’t the only country in on this game. I’ve mentioned some other countries’ contributions in a separate post here.)

I might be the target demographic, but Australia’s Love stamps often leave me cold. I’m over the girly pinks and the constant barrage of roses. (Not in real life, of course. Keep ’em coming.)

They’re also highly susceptible to a scourge infesting modern stamp design, which is WRITING the THEME of the ISSUE in BIG TYPOGRAPHY so that you KNOW what it’s ABOUT.

Love2014b

Oh! The pink rose means LOVE! I get it now.

So it’s with great delight Continue reading