Watch a rich person pay $85,000 for something a rat peed on

Australia KGV rusted cliché

Take my moneyI love a good auction. Whether it’s watching my dream home being fought over by people who can actually afford to buy it, or watching Beryl make five pounds for her Edwardian comb on Bargain Hunt, it’s supply and demand at their purest. It’s especially fun when you’re the vendor. Which eBay seller doesn’t love it when a surprise bidding war breaks out over a stash of old Nancy Drew novels?

There’s a doozie of an auction at Mossgreen Auctions in Melbourne this Friday, and while I’m not the vendor, at least no one has to pretend to be excited about Beryl’s comb.

Australia lost one of its greatest philatelists this year when Arthur Gray passed away in May. From the accounts of those who knew him, it seems that when Arthur decided to collect something, he had both the foresight to choose the best pieces – often before their rarity was recognised – and pockets deep enough to make sure he got them.

Arthur’s magnificent collection of ‘Kangaroo and Map’ stamps (the first issued under the new ‘Australia’ brand after Federation) was auctioned in New York in 2007. It made $5,584,000 US (over 7 million AUD). But don’t let me stop you pasting cloth samples into your scrapbook, I’m sure YOUR hobby will pay off someday too.

In recent years, Kangaroo prices bounded out of range for many collectors (downturn? What downturn?), so Australia’s second stamp issue, the ‘King George V’ (KGV) series, already a collector favourite, became even more popular. But Arthur had been quietly forming an amazing collection of KGVs long before they came into fashion. His KGV collection goes under the hammer on Friday, and lots of people will be very excited.
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The Queen isn’t dead. Long live the Queen!

Australia 2015 Queen's Birthday minisheet

Due to general busy-ness I’ve missed a few Australian releases of late. But I thought Aussie Post did a decent job of the Centenary of the Anzac landing, amid the appalling jingoism currently en vogue down under. No doubt they’ll release some hideous and overpriced Anzac-themed ‘Impressions’ products at year’s end, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Then we’ll blow it up behind us so the Germans won’t get us. Continue reading

USA portraits – and the best stamp they never released

Punk Philatelist Johnny Cash Flips The Bird stamp

Credit where it’s due. How well does the United States Postal Service do portrait stamps?

It’s got a head start, being in America and all. With its entrepreneurial spirit, vibrant cultural scene, and comprehensive disenfranchisement of minorities, the USA is never short of an innovator, an envelope-pusher or a trailblazer to honour on a stamp.

USA 2015 Maya Angelou stampTake the Maya Angelou stamp that’s out on April 7. No frills, just elegance and eloquence. A dignified tribute. I was gobsmacked to read that the image is that of a painting (!) – an oil-on-canvas number by Ross Rossin that resides in the National Portrait Gallery. Look at that face, and imagine the stories it could tell. Continue reading

80s Stamp of the Day

UK1986RoyallWeddingPrinceAndrewSarahFerguson12pYou’d think I’d be watching the Oscars glamour today, wouldn’t you? But no. I came across this blast from the past on the weekend, and I CAN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF THE HAIR!

Nor the shoulder pads. Nor the open-necked shirt with the collars under the lemon pullover. Nor the tres eighties grey curtains in the background.

And what colour shall we make the banner at the bottom? How about a dark puce? Delightful! Pour me a wine cooler, and with a tip of the hat to the Oscars, let us remember that joyous night in 1986 when Prince Andrew made his way tentatively down the red carpet.

Then let us leave the party before his dodgy mate invites his suspiciously young friends.

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

You Can Own A Little Piece Of The Creepy Multimillionaire Who Steve Carell Got An Academy Award Nomination For Playing

Lately, Steve Carell has been creeping out moviegoers with his portrayal of John E. Du Pont in the film Foxcatcher. Academy voters even gave him a Best Actor nomination, hoping it would make him go away and stop haunting their nightmares.

John E. Du Pont was an heir to the fortune of the American chemical company. Foxcatcher traces his obsession with the sport of wrestling, which so saw him go so far as to build a live-in training facility for some of the USA’s top wrestlers.

Steve Carell as John E. Du Pont in Foxcatcher“Do you mean to tell me you haven’t RSS’d the Punk Philatelist?”

I don’t want to spoil the film’s twists, so let’s just say yada yada yada things didn’t quite work out and Du Pont died in 2010. I won’t even tell you where he died. It would give too much away.

1c 1856 British Guiana black on magentaYou may not know that Du Pont’s death was met with barely concealed boners among serious stamp collectors, because Continue reading

Australia Day legends look Cross



January 26 is Australia Day. (For foreign readers, Australia has no Independence or Revolution or Treaty in its history, so we just named our national day after ourselves.)

Australia Post began marking Australia Day in 1978, usually with a theme of settlement, Aboriginal culture, art, or patriotic symbols. They were generally attractive designs, even if some of the early ones reek of imperialism. A superb run of supersized stamps in 1994-7 depicted modern Australian art, and 1982 must surely feature the first appearance of the hijab on an Australian stamp.

1982 Australia DayThe Australia Day stamps will make an interesting blog one day, but for now, let us simply love how much these ‘flag’ designs reflect their era.

1978 Australia Day

1978: For we are young and free

1981 Australia Day1981: Woooooo, it’s the 80s! Check it out! 3D!

1987 Australia Day

1987: Stand back everyone, here comes THE FUTURE

1991 Australia Day1991: Oh. The future’s a bit dull. Quick, someone invent grunge

The Legends are born

The final official ‘Australia Day’ release in 1997 coincided with the first annual Australian Legends issue, in which AP honours Australians who have achieved things. It broke a long-standing rule that the British royals were the only identifiable living persons depicted on Australian stamps. It’s a risk putting a living person on a stamp, because one never knows how they might yet disgrace themselves. Luckily, notable Australians never turn out to be pedophiles.

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My header: stamps that rock, and what graphic designers did to fashion designers

The header of this blog comprises two images that I felt were thematically and philosophically apt.

The colourful stamps in the background come from Australia’s 2006 ‘Rock Posters’ release, showcasing the talents of Australian designers as demonstrated in posters for various festivals, tours and gigs. I loved this issue. It was a kick in the balls compared to our usual diet of cute furry animals and dreary royals. Nice to see Australia Post acknowledge the possible existence of Australians who might not be as obsessed with sport and wildflowers as it seems to think most of its market is.

Australia, 2006, Australian Rock Posters(Nerd note: if you’re wondering where I got these stamps in a se-tenant sheet format as seen in my background, I made it myself. It doesn’t exist.)

The image I’m using as my avatar is that of a stamp released by the UK in 2012 as part of a Great British Fashion issue. This particular stamp features a harlequin dress designed by Vivienne Westwood in 1993 – not exactly punk in itself, but the Dame was instrumental in popularising punk fashion back when it was a thing, working with Malcolm McLaren to outfit the Sex Pistols and all that. Her ethos of using shock to stick a spoke in the system might be something to which this blog can aspire. Here’s the full set:

UK 2012 Great British FashionWhat a coincidence, Punk is wearing that little black Alexander McQueen number at her desk as she types.

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