It’s getting steamy in here

Lots of collectors like trains on stamps. But there are trains on stamps, and then, to paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson’s character Neville Flynn from Snakes on a Plane: there are motherfucking trains on motherfucking stamps.

Have a look at these beauties marking the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad across the USA:

USA 2019 150th Anniversary of the Intercontinental Railroad stamp strip

There’s some cute design work going on. The Transcontinental Railroad was built across the United States from each direction, with the ceremonial meeting of the tracks taking place at Promontory Summit in Utah in May, 1869. The two engines depicted each hauled a trainload of dignitaries to the ceremony – Jupiter from the west, and No. 119 from the east. The so-called golden spike was then driven into the ground between them to ‘finish’ the railroad. This significant engineering feat cut the time it took to cross the nation from months down to about a week.

American pop culture gives us a certain depiction of an old steam engine: the bulbous chimney, the cattle-grid cowcatcher, a giant headlight, a colorful paint scheme and brass trim all over. It’s only when I see old American locomotives that I’m reminded that they actually looked like that! If the framing was a bit wider, you’d see a moustachio’d villain tying a damsel to the rails. It’s a shame they went for the golden spike in the middle stamp, instead of two runaway convicts pumping one of those see-saw handcars.

The stamps feature a beautiful gold foil layer that doesn’t come across in the image above. Luckily, here’s my friend Stacy with a demonstration! Thanks Stacy!

American heroes finally acknowledged

This anniversary has differed from the 100th anniversary in 1969 by overtly acknowledging the immigrant labor that was involved. From the USPS website:

A large immigrant labor force — including a majority of Chinese and Irish laborers — carried out most of the backbreaking and often dangerous work that made the achievement possible. The workforce, totaling more than 20,000 at its peak, also included immigrants from many nations — Germany, Italy, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland and others — as well as African-Americans and former Civil War soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies.

The public commemorations of the anniversary and the stamp issue have honored this immigrant workforce (and also noted the costs of the railroad borne by Native Americans). I kinda wish these workers could have been recognized in the stamps themselves. Americans could do with a reminder of how much their prosperity is due to the back-breaking efforts (and, too often, deaths) of immigrants. Especially the Chinese of the time, who were virtually labeled as sub-human by some of those in power. Not that it should remind you of anyone.

Fans of trains on stamps should keep watching the blog. There’s something exciting for you coming down the tracks.

Post office murals are off the wall

USA 2019 Post Office Murals Rockville MD stamp

While we’re in the States, a belated shoutout to USPS for the stamps released in April celebrating the tradition of post office murals.

Beginning with the Great Depression, the US Government commissioned artists to enliven public buildings with morale-boosting works depicting the “American Scene”. A bunch of those works graced the walls of post offices, and are still in situ today. I realize now that I must have seen a few when I was there a few years ago, without knowing the back-story.

Depicting five of these works, this attractive issue is a testament both to the times, and to the aesthetic benefits of getting your stamp proportions just right when depicting artwork.

USA 2019 Post Office Murals Piggott AR and Anadarko OK stampsThese things aren’t a competition, but for the record, my favorite, predictably, is the mural entitled Air Mail, painted by Daniel Rhodes at the Piggott Post Office in Arkansas. It’s got a plane, a postman, a pilot… but there’s something about that foreboding grey sky that I just love. It speaks to the historical determination on the part of postal staff to get the mail to where it needs to go, long before the days of overworked, underpaid sub-contractors leaving a card in your letterbox saying you weren’t home, instead of walking five extra steps to ring your bell and find out that you were.

USA 2019 Post Office Murals Florence CO and Deming NM stamps

Runner-up: Kenneth Miller Adams’ cubist–ish Mountains and Yucca, from Deming Post Office in New Mexico, just ahead of Kiowas Moving Camp from the Anadarko Post Office in Oklahoma.

Kiowas Moving Camp is one of 16 murals painted by Kiowa artists at Anadarko. If you’re passing through Oklahoma later this month, I read in the latest Linn’s Stamp News that these murals will be a feature of the program at the Oklahoma Philatelic Society‘s OKPEX 2019 stamp show, June 28-29. (Update your website, guys!)

I’m not done covering recent US issues. I look away for one moment (well, OK, I’ve struggled two watch for a few years now) and the USPS puts out a whole spate of goodies. But the next issue will get a whole entry to itself. Stay tuned…

Got an opinion on these issues? Drop a comment below! Share Punk’s posts on your socials! And meet me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

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

That ’70s Showstopper

Last year I went trippy over Jersey’s psychedelic issue celebrating 1960s Popular Culture.  Well, times change. To be precise, they change to the 1970s. That’s how time works. Welcome to Jersey’s 1970s Popular Culture issue!

One of these stamps featured in my recent post about the strange preponderance of fondue on stamps lately. (I’ll give you a hint: it’s the one with the people eating fondue on it.) The stamps follow the same six themes: fashion, food, language, events, music and leisure.

I was too young to take in the 1970s as the tail end of them happened around me, and I’ve gotta be honest, it’s never been a decade that held much retro appeal to me (outside their contribution to the ongoing development of David Bowie, of course). I mean, look at those flares! And that green. Ugh!

But I do love the riotous colours on the rollerskating stamp. (Not so sold on rollerskating itself, I have the X-rays of my shattered radius to prove it.)

Jersey 2019 1970s Popular Culture £1.12 Leisure (roller skating) stamp

And I’m sure there were probably bigger ‘events’ in the 1970s than the arrival of home video recording, but I reckon I can see what happened here: Jersey Post got to the 1970s and realised they really should have had a ‘technology’ stamp. Either that, or they took a look at the 1970s as a whole and concluded, as I did before them, that the 1970s were a bit shit. Still, those curved stripes… I can’t find an exact correlation, but they take me back to the kinds of animations I was watching as a kid during the era. Sesame Street’s Pinball Number Count, anyone? And again, those colours! I think my dad’s shirts of the era were made out of this video tape.

Jersey 2019 1970s Popular Culture 82p Events (home video recording) stamp

As with the previous sets in this series, the 1970s Popular Culture issue includes a scene depicting Street Life of the 1970s. Do not adjust your screen. It seems that life in Jersey in the seventies was very, er, pink.

Jersey 2019 1970s Popular Culture £2 Street Life miniature sheet

But of this set, how could this not be my favourite stamp? It doesn’t really say an awful lot about the Punk movement (I admit, another worthwhile contribution from the 1970s). It could symbolise angry seamstresses. Which leaves only one other possible option. It is clearly a tribute to the one other great moment of the 1970s: the birth of the Punk Philatelist. They even used the same queen that I use in my imagery! Thanks guys. And if you think this doozie isn’t going to show up on a regular basis in my social media, you’d be very wrong.

Jersey 2019 1970s Popular Culture 65p Music (punk) stamp

I’ve only just learned that this is merely the third of a 5-part series. (I totally missed the 1950s series.) Needless to say, as a child who became fully aware of the world on the cusp of the 80s and 90s, I am already VERY excited for the next two installments.

Can you dig this issue, or is it too heavy for you? Drop a comment below! Share this post on your socials! And meet me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram! x

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

 

 

Circuit books: WTF?

Circuit book and catalogueHello and welcome to the new occasional segment I just decided to launch! Here’s how it works: you ask ‘WTF?’ and then I explain a thing. Got that? Great.

So a few years back I joined a local philatelic society. A stamp club. I hadn’t been in a stamp club since primary school, and it’s not something I mention to my normal friends, because we all know how it sounds (except for people who join stamp clubs, many of whom do not realize how it sounds). I also joined the club’s circuit book list.

Stop right there! “Circuit books” – WTF? Continue reading

Fondue is big this year

Switzerland 2018 Fondue CHF1 fondue caquelonSo I look away for one moment and suddenly everyone is putting fondue on their stamps. And by ‘everyone’ I mean mostly Switzerland, but also Jersey.

Switzerland can be forgiven. Fondue as a mainstream dish is a surprisingly recent development in cuisine, but it’s theirs, and it’s a thing of national pride. Back in the 1930s, sitting around dipping stale bread into a pot of melted cheese must have been a fun way to pass a cold Alpine evening while discussing in four languages how the nearby rise of fascism left you feeling completely neutral. Continue reading

The 12 Stamps of Christmas

UPDATE! I’ve added a couple of reader’s nominations to the bottom of the list! Read on…

It’s the 12th day of Christmas. The Christmas tree withers in the corner, unwatered for days. The batteries on the toys have expired. The gurgling remnants of Christmas lunch are in a fight to the death with New Year’s resolutions. So it’s the perfect time for me to give you my 12 Stamps of Christmas! After all, I am your true love.

As mail revenues continue to plummet, for the postal administrations of Christendom, Christmas offers one last chance to hear the bells jingling on their cash registers. (Do you know how many Christmas cards I got in the mail this year? None. That’s a first. It might be that I’ve been crossed off multiple lists. But I choose to blame The Pace of Change.)

So which countries brought their festive philatelic A-game in 2018? These are my favourites of the stamps that crossed my radar. Continue reading

A new year, a new Punk. Get drinking.

France 1938 300th Anniversary of the Birth of Dom Pierre Pérignon - Traditional Costume of Champagne 1.75F stamp

It’s not very often I get meta about blogging this blog, but indulge me for one New Year’s Eve post.

A naughty little secret has been hiding in plain sight for a while now, alluded to in the ‘Punk Philatelist Manifesto’ page. If you haven’t spotted it, prepare to have your MIND BLOWN. Continue reading

Stamp of the day: sunnie side up!

Australia 2011 Living Australian Little Man's Business and This Is So Relaxing 60c se-tenant pairSometimes you can see a stamp dozens of times without fully appreciating its majesty. I suppose you could say the same of any artwork, or building, or person. And then, for some reason, you happen to notice it in a certain light, or at a certain magnification, or across a cosy bar eight vodka and tonics into a Friday night, and your breath can be taken away.

This happy little issue came out in 2011. They called it ‘Living Australian’. Look at those Australians, just going about their lives all Australian-y and shit.

Australia 2011 Living Australian Best Friends and Embrace Friendship 60c se-tenant pair

I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention at the time, and I’ve only vaguely clocked them since. But when I saw this one cross my desk on the weekend – and I mean I really saw it – it filled me with joy.

Australia 2011 Living Australian Cricket at the Gabba 60c stamp

At first glance, it’s entirely possible to miss what’s going on. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t fully taken it in until now. Continue reading

Shoutout to StampShow 2018

USA 2018 Dragons Orange Forever stampA big hello to any US (or visiting) readers attending this weekend’s Stampshow in Columbus, Ohio!

USA 2018 Dragons Green Forever stampI read in a news report that organizers (jointly the American Philatelic Society and the American Topical Society) are seeking to tap into more of the pop culture appeal of stamps at this exhibition. Sounds like a good idea to me. I appreciate the effort that old-school philatelists put into their exhibits on obscure paquebot markings or the plate proofs of Upper Biddlonia, but the hobby is evolving with the times. If that means that more fun begins to sneak into philatelic exhibitions in the form of stamp art or dragon mascots, then I’m all for it. Continue reading

Exploring Exploring Stamps

Exploring Exploring Stamps tnf

A day off work due to illness presents a perfect opportunity to binge-watch a series that you’ve been meaning to see for a long time. So it was that I recently popped a painkiller, snuggled into my bed, and reached for the comforting glow of my laptop.

Which series would see me through the day? A dystopian futuristic drama about women in sexual servitude? One of those quirky Aussie comedies with no jokes in it? A day-trip back to Westeros and Game of Thrones?

Oh no, my friends, I had bigger fish to fry. It was time to explore a YouTube series that had been on my radar for a long time. It was time to explore Exploring Stamps.

Exploring Stamps title board

Exploring Stamps debuted on YouTube at the end of 2016, comprising seasons that are 20 (short) episodes each in length, along with occasional specials. At the start of each regular episode, our host, Graham, plucks a stamp from a trove stashed in a big cardboard box, and uses it as a launching pad for a journey of discovery. Most often this involves the stamp’s history and subject matter, with a bit of philately-for-the-beginner along the way. But his tangents can delight and surprise. Continue reading