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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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

Retrogasm!

Australia 2016 Nostalgic Fruit Labels stamp set

Australia 2016 Nostalgic Fruit Labels stamp setHelloooo! 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.

Australia 2016 Nostalgic Fruit Labels $1 River's Pride stamp

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

You crazy diamonds

UK 2016 1st Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon (1973) Album Cover Stamp

UK 2016 Pink Floyd album cover stampsAs the header of my site attests, I love it when music, design and philately collide. And it’s happening again, thanks to the Royal Mail. Attention cool uncles and that boring guy who used to corner me at university house parties: Pink Floyd is being immortalised!

UK 2016 1st Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon (1973) Album Cover StampLast year marked the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s founding, though it feels like they’ve been around for a lot longer, since every David Gilmour guitar solo goes for 50 years in its own right. Royal Mail’s tribute issue clocks in at no less than 10 stamps, which, much like a prog rock album, is more than anyone asked for and a lot more than was probably necessary to get the job done. Continue reading

Queen: 1. Punk: 0.

Australia 2016 Queen's Birthday $2.75 Golden Wattle Diamond Brooch

Australia 2016 $1 Queen's Birthday stampHer Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, turned 90 on April 21st, but she’s stretching celebrations out all the way from April until June, because She’s The Queen So Suck It Plebs.

Last year I wrote about Australia’s tradition of marking Her Majesty’s birthday with a stamp issue. In that post, I may have inadvertently given readers the impression that I’m not a fan, with ambiguous phrases such as “pointless allegiance to Empire”, “another country’s monarch is irrelevant to a nation half a planet away in the 21st century”, and “reliably some of the dullest Australian stamp issues each year”.

Well, didn’t I have to swallow my republican tongue with this year’s issue. I didn’t mention it here when it was released, but I keep seeing it at the Post Office, and it is no less stunning for the delay.

Australia 2016 Queen's Birthday $2.75 Golden Wattle Diamond BroochIt’s all about this Australian Golden Wattle diamond brooch. Continue reading

Stamp of the Day: Sorrow

ZiggyI’m composing an official-first-blog-post-of-2016, but sadly it has been gazumped by the loss of a personal musical icon. Many words are being written today in tribute to David Bowie. Let me add a few of my own.

Today’s Stamp of the Day depicts the iconic cover of David Bowie’s album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.

It was part of Royal Mail’s 2010 Classic Album Covers issue, which combined two of my great loves, music and design, as well as philately, which I shall classify as a great like. If I called it a great love, I would sound like one of the dotty old men one bumps into at philatelic society meetings.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Being a stamp collector with a creative and intellectual streak made me odd among my peers in my teenage years. I persisted, quietly, because screw them.

David Bowie’s musical output speaks for itself. I speak for the many people who were once teenagers who felt like they came from another planet. Bowie showed us it was just fine to be a bit weird.

Incidentally, the building in the background of the Ziggy Stardust cover is a post office. First class indeed.

 

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

2015 UK Star Wars Yoda stamp

…mainstream pop culture themes were only seen on stamps of desperately poor countries who churned out worthless collector-bait. So it was that nations like the Central African Republic and St Vincent and the Grenadines were among the first in the galaxy to bring us Star Wars stamps. The C.A.R. artwork was, admittedly, beautifully evocative of the era, even if they appear to think Han Solo was played by Ted Danson.

1994 CAR Star Wars strip

Fun fact: St Vincent and the Grenadines is my second-favourite Caribbean band after Bob Marley and the Wailers. Continue reading

Pedal to the metal

Australia 2015 Bicycles 70c 1910 Ladies' safety bike

Australia 2015 Bicycle $1.85 1930s men's sprung-frame bike stampI’ve become a bit of a new issues service for Australia Post lately. I didn’t mean to. It’s just that AP has been in great form. Also, I’ve only written about the stuff I love, not the issues that have left me feeling meh. This is the opposite of what writing on the internet is meant to be. You’re meant to ignore good things, while ensuring that anyone in public life who has done wrong knows all about how personally you have taken offence and how much you hate them. (See: many other entries on this site.)

Australia 2015 Bicycles 70c 1888 penny farthing stampI really like this week’s Bicycles issue. It’s unusual for me to be moved by such stark designs, but that’s just the contradictory kind of gal I am and if you don’t like it, you’re going to have to deal. Continue reading