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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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 category 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

Hello and castles

Liechtenstein 2017 Europa 1.50f Gutenberg Castle stamp

Well, hello internet! Long time no see. Apologies to the regulars for my absence. Every now and then, in my day job, I get caught up on the kind of project that requires way too much commitment, and steals all of the little moments I normally use to jot down my philatelic fancies. And then, I took a holiday. Back now. Hi! Continue reading

Introducing tiresias1000: mint, unhinged

When I started this blog, I always intended to point readers to corners of the internet where crazy people are doing interesting philatelic things. I haven’t done much of it yet, but now one Instagram account has forced my hand.

If you know Instagram, skip two paragraphs. If not, and if you like design, or art, or stamps, you should investigate. This is not a How-To-Instagram post, but in brief: people go there, share pictures, and like and/or comment on each others’ pictures. That’s it.

The Instagram cliche is to post a restaurant meal, cocktail, bikini body or holiday snap to make your friends jealous. But lately I’ve been delighted to see an increasing number of philately-related users popping up. Some are so basic that they’re downright dull, but many are vibrant and fun, and some are nothing short of works of art.

You can decide for yourself which category my Instagram page belongs to, but for once I’m not here to talk about me. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you tiresias1000.

Mr Schqperia – ventriloquist. 'Say something mate' shouted the crowd. 'A gottle of geer' said the substandard entertainer. 'Yer lips are moving mate' screamed the restless mob. 'Ha ha ha' retorted the vegetarian stage act, 'what's your point?' 'Get off, your shit mate' replied the frantic assembly. 'Well your grammar and punctuation leaves something to be desired' came the testy reply from the lazy performer. Mr Schqperia's beard was twice as bad. He died with his hand inserted. 💀💀💀⚰⚰⚰#stamps #philately #pimpmystamp #mate #sayings #bottle #beer #entertainment #lips #moving #scream #mob #vegetarian #point #theshit #leave #desire #sharp #vegetarian #lazy #performer #beard #moustache #hairstyle #lifestyle #shoes #pose #portrait #art

A post shared by Tiresias (@tiresias1000) on

OK, this is going to take some explanation. Continue reading

How exhibitionism stripped me bare

Melbourne 2017 Stamp Exhibition entrance banner

If you’re the kind of reader who usually comes here for the pretty pictures and naughty words, be warned: I am hitting max geek with this one. Street cred be damned.

So a few weekends ago I popped into the Melbourne FIAP Stamp Exhibition, held in my hometown. It led to a rather unexpected journey of personal discovery that may affect the very blog you are reading. More on that later.

I can’t pretend a stamp exhibition is anything but exactly what it sounds like on the lid, but let me talk you through it so that if you ever accidentally find yourself at one, you won’t panic.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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