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

New Zealand wins the Battle of Rock

We’ve seen rock legends on stamps.

USA 1993 Legends of American Music Elvis Presly 29c stamp

We’ve seen classic rock album covers.

UK 2010 Classic Album Covers The Clash London Calling 1st stamp

You might have spotted some Classic Rock Posters at this very website.

Australia, 2006, Australian Rock Posters

Ireland’s Great Irish Songs issue from earlier this year had its share of rockers.

Canada wants you to know that it rocks.

Sweden doesn’t rock. It Roxette.

And then… there’s New Zealand.

Here’s New Zealand bringing us its Rock Legends.

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

New Zealand has worms

New Zealand 2016 Native Glowworms miniature sheet

Missed a few great releases during my time away from the blog, but wanted to give this one a mention. Back in March, New Zealand released an issue on native glowworms. And fittingly… these stamps GLOW IN THE DARK!

New Zealand 2016 Native Glowworms miniature sheet

Oh wait. You can’t see them glowing, can you? That’s always been the obstacle faced when advertising stamps with this gimmick.

Fear not! Continue reading

Why Canada gets my maples all syrupy

I poked some fun at Canada in my last blog, but really, I do love the Australians of the North, and as we all know, the best love comes from a very personal place down under.

I’ve only just heard that on February 15th this year, Canada celebrated the 50th anniversary of its beautiful flag. Congratulations, eh!

And what a way to celebrate – this enormous $5 flag stamp, in minisheet, made of actual fabric!

2015 Canada 50th Anniversary of the Canadian Flag minisheet2015 Canada 50th Anniversary of the Canadian Flag domestic stampWhat a beauty. I’m declaring it my Stamp of the Day. Continue reading

What’s long, sticky, and displays a large pair of balls?

Here’s a late-night quickie for you. As I was researching a fabulous forthcoming entry, I stumbled across this USPS release from last month and was so knocked out by the design, I had to share it with you at once.

Wilt Chamberlin is the first (!) NBA star to be featured on a US postage stamp. Can’t say I know much about the man or his career, but I have learned he was 7’1″ tall. That’s 215.9cm to the rest of us. (Hi America! Join us in the 21st Century sometime. It’s lovely, everyone speaks English, and everything is divisible by ten.)

So how does one depict such a literal and metaphorical giant on a stamp?

Like this:

Wilt Chamberlain was a very tall man Was that as good for you as it was for me?

Continue reading