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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! x
Hello 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. Circuit books (also known as club books) are an endearing remnant of real ye-oldey-timey stamp collecting. They’re scrapbooks full of stamps and other philatelic material for sale, generally owned by small-time collectors. This is how eBay worked before the internet.
Vendors with lots of time on their hands compile sheets full of stuff they want to sell, annotated by how much they want. Those sheets are compiled into books. Those books are passed around from club to club, and from member to member. Let me take you through my latest delivery, complete with images. (The pics are wonky because of the curves of the pages. The bad lighting is totally my fault.)
An honesty system prevails: you get the books, you take the stuff you want, you pass the books onto the next member on the list, and you send the money to the coordinator of the circuit books. The cash finds its way back to the seller of the stamps, usually with a commission taken by the clubs facilitating the arrangement. (Their commercial siblings, ‘approval books’, are compiled by dealers to send to clients, and they pretty much work the same way.)
Circuit books have some charming differences to buying online. There are no menus, so you don’t know what lies in wait as you turn each page. If you’re thinking of buying an item, you’re looking at the item, not at a scan or a description.
And, best of all, circuit books can be cheap AF. Only an idiot would go to all the hassle of affixing unwanted material into a circuit book sheet and then ask a price for it that makes it impossible to shift.
If there’s one big drawback, it’s that stamp hinges are still very much in vogue in this world. Some compilers will (thankfully) go to the trouble of sticking in stamp panes for stamps to sit in, but you can safely assume (at least in my neck of the woods) that much of the used material, and a good deal of the mint, will come with this remnant of the olden days attached.
To be honest, when I signed up for the circuit books, I didn’t think I’d have much use for them. I already have a cupboard full of shit I need to offload. And what I AM still buying, doesn’t show up much in circuit books.
At first, that held true. There was lots of trawling through pages of low-value definitives, or worthless wallpaper stamps from the third world. Who could have known that Tanzania was so into the Winter Olympics?
But someone, somewhere, collects that. And anyway, you can also regularly feast your eyes on spectacular issues that wouldn’t normally cross your path. This one celebrating the 3rd anniversary of Ghana’s independence really caught my eye, with its joyful designs and vivid (for 1960) colours.
I turned another page, and this 1990 Papua New Guinea Gogodala dance mask set took my breath away. So gorgeous I nearly took up PNG collecting on the spot. (I’ve done a great job of washing out the colours.)
I do have one fun little side-collection that scores regular hits in these circuit books: the Holiday Collection. Stamps depicting locations I’ve been to. You know postcards, right? Like that, but on stamps. Not just from countries I’ve been to – that’s too easy. The rule is, I must have beheld the depicted landscape, edifice or artifact with my very eyes.
And what do we have here? A 1971 Singapore 50c ASEAN Tourism stamp depicting the Marina Bay waterfront! (I said that like I knew that stamp existed. But I didn’t. Not until I turned the page and immediately recognized the scene. It’s changed a bit since 1971. Way more skyscrapers.) That’s what’s fun about this collection. Suddenly I’m back there, on a humid Singapore night, surveying the colonialist majesty of the Fullerton as I chow down on a chicken rice at Gluttons Bay. Mmmmm, chicken rice.
Page turn, and we’re in the UK. I love modern British stamps and I’ll own them all one day, but not by buying them one-by-one from circuit books. I’ll buy some dead guy’s whole collection at a thrift shop for five bucks when I’m the only stamp collector left alive. In the meantime, circuit books give me a chance to window-shop. Hang on… nearly missed this. In the middle there. Is that… an ancient fire engine?
A while back, I just decided that I like stamps with fire engines on them. It’s not an official thematic collection, that would be too much effort. It’s just… I have a page of fire engine stamps, OK? Get off my back.
It took a few minutes of wrestling with adhesive tape while not destroying the whole page, but I’ve earned my reward. All bundled up together, it’s the 1974 Bicentenary of Fire Prevention issue. Let that be a lesson to you, circuit book vendors… too much efficiency with your display, and you might miss a sale. At least put the most eye-catching stamp at the front of the bunch.
Post script: the same set showed up a few pages later, all four stamps laid out and easily seen. Same price. Phew!
There’s a third reason I sometimes yank something out of these circuit books: the lure of tiny profit, when I find something that I reckon I could get more for. These books are compiled by amateurs, selling stuff they’re not interested in rather than the stuff they know, so there’s always a chance of discovering a sweet nugget for a good price. The dream thousand-dollar rarity hasn’t shown up yet. But a misidentified variety, or an aerogram that was stuck into the book at a ten-year-old catalogue price of $20, which might be worth $70 by the time it gets around to me… yarrr, even if I get $30 for it, there be ten bucks for Punk to spend on fire truck stamps. Woohoo!
So it turns out my initial skepticism was wrong. I DO find things I want in circuit books… because – and here’s the twist – when I signed up to the list, I didn’t actually have a Holiday Collection or a thing for fire engines. They were inspired by the regular practice of leafing through these books and being reminded of the simple pleasure of exploring the world through stamps. It’s a childlike thing to write, but it’s also a childlike thing to experience, and it’s something I’d forgotten in my pursuit of grown-up philatelic goals.
When a new batch of circuit books turns up at the doorstep, it can be challenge to put to one side the life of an average, flustered member of the full-time 21st century workforce and find the couple of hours it will take me to get through them, but I always make it happen. On a cosy, rainy afternoon, pass me a circuit book and a few catalogues, pour me a glass of something nice and let me settle in for my semi-regular dose of zen.
If you secretly want to know more about philately, it’s OK, you can follow this page and no one will ever know. Or say hello on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! And leave your thoughts and questions below! x
Jersey is one of those funny little islands in the English Channel that are closer to France, and part of the UK, but get to put out their own stamps.
Interestingly, this practice began during the Nazi occupation of those islands, when they were cut off from the mother country. This is just one of the reasons why nerds who are into postal history find them so delectable. (If you think you might be one of those nerds, you should check out the Channel Islands Specialists’ Society.)
I’m not one of those nerds, but I do like how these islands churn out pretty stamps, because, let’s face it, what else have they got going on? I mean apart from tax avoidance schemes.
Happy New Year, readers! Hoping your year is as bloody awesome as the pun in my headline.
2018 has kicked off with the news that on January 23, the UK’s Royal Mail is releasing no less than 15 stamps commemorating “the significant British contribution” to the production of the TV series Game of Thrones.
Here’s the Royal Mail’s justification for jumping on the GoT band-dragon:
The Game of Thrones production involves a very significant British contribution. Principal filming of the series is at Titanic Studios in Belfast, at the Linen Hill Film Studio in Banbridge and on location elsewhere in Northern Ireland, with additional filming in Scotland and European locations including Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco and Spain.
Additionally, the acclaimed cast is predominantly British and Irish, and British expertise is to the fore in many areas of the production, including award-winning costume design and prosthetic special effects.
And here’s what they might as well have written:
Game of Thrones is huge and we are out to make a shipload of coin.
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. Continue reading →
Here’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 →
Helloooo! Sorry it’s been a while since my last post. I’m going to make up for my stony silence with loads of pretty pictures, inspired by Australia’s Nostalgic Fruit Label stamps, over which I’ve been soiling myself since their release in June.
They celebrate the paper labels that used to be slapped onto the wooden fruit crates in the olden days before Styrofoam boxes.
What I love about these stamps is that they retain the microscopic details of the original labels. I wonder how many of the three people still using stamps will take a moment to appreciate the artist’s work seen, for example, on this River’s Pride label, and take in the fenceposts, the orchard and the veining on the half-peeled orange.
If you, like me, are a little fascinated by oldey-timey culture, it’s not out of the question that something would appeal to you about both these designs and also ye olde schoole world of stamp collecting. You may have been given the impression that it involves a lot of old stamps with kings and queens and presidents on them that cost a lot of money. Well, I have good news. There are no rules. We collect whatever the fuck we want. And one could do worse than start with collecting vintage graphic designs on stamps, because it’s so hot right now. Continue reading →