Printer is gumming: UK issues Game of Thrones stamps

UK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Iron Throne stampHappy 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.

UK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Daenerys Targaryen stampUK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Cersei Lannister stampUK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Tyrion Lannister stampUK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Jon Snow stamp

Masters of Coin

Regular readers would know I’m a fan of pop culture on stamps, and no one does it with more class than the UK. I’ve gushed over releases on Star Wars, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Classic Toys and the Great Fire of London narrated in comic-book style.

I’m also a long-time fan of Game of Thrones, at least since last year when I binged on the series so I could re-engage with people I hadn’t spoken to for five years, because all they would talk about was Game of Thrones, which was tedious, but my only other option was to spend the party talking to people whose only conversation point was how proud they are that they’re not into Game of Thrones, which is even more tedious. Long story short: big fan, now.

UK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Tywin Lannister stampUK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Arya Stark stampUK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Jaime Lannister stampUK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Eddard Stark

British stamps do, of course, have a long tradition of depicting royals who are into bonking their own relatives, but… I dunno. It’s one thing to honour a long-time, culturally significant national contribution to pop culture like Star Wars, or Dr Who as the Royal Mail did in 2013. But immortalising a more recent TV series on your nation’s stamps before the show has even finished? That crosses a line even for me. It reeks of opportunistic money-grubbing. If Game of Thrones gets stamps, why not One Direction? 1D also involved a very significant British contribution, with a cast predominantly British and Irish. (In case you’re wondering: this is a negative analogy for the purpose of rhetoric. This is not me calling for an issue of stamps commemorating One Direction.)

And as with any stamp release susceptible to ongoing events, it’s fraught with danger. What if the final season sucks? What if one of the featured actors turns out to be a ped or gets buried under the #metoo avalanche? Your stamp will look like a First Class turnip.

None of this is to say that Game of Thrones isn’t worthy. It’s a magnificent production of extraordinary worldwide popularity. It’s just… why not wait until the finale, give it maybe ten years, and then see if it has reached the pantheon of stampworthy cultural touchstones?

UK 2018 Game of Thrones stamp sheet

Littlewhinger

I have one other problem with this issue. It features ten characters central to Game of Thrones (plus a sheetlet depicting dragons, direwolves, giants, White Walkers, the Night King and the Iron Throne)… and yet NO LORD PETYR BAELISH? What an OUTRAGE!

Olenna Tyrell gets a stamp for spending most of the show sitting around gossiping – and OK, fair enough, she does [spoiler redacted] – but they fail to run with the one character responsible for [a whole bunch of stuff that I won’t reveal]? I demand that smirking salt’n’pepper bad boy in my stamp album, thank you very much Royal Mail.

UK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Olenna Tyrell stampDon’t get me wrong, Olenna kicks arse and Diana Rigg is a legend, but come on, there are already 15 stamps in the series. Maximise that sweet profit and chuck in Littlefinger along with, say, Joffrey, Varis, and – well, I could say Bran or Margaery, but personally a girl would name Jaqen H’ghar. It’d sure make a girl buy a few more stamps. It’d be brilliant to see Brienne of Tarth and Yara Greyjoy too, and Caitlin Stark is suspiciously missing, and… OK, I’m starting realise how tricky this job must have been.

Happily, I CAN report that the designs are as sumptuous as the TV show itself, even if they do have Kit Harington in one of his I-couldn’t-possibly-put-more-clothes-on moments. I particularly love the use of a unique dominant-but-muted shade for each character, treating the eye to an intoxicating journey across the spectrum when viewed as a group.

So, just like when I watch the show, I’m going to put all my moral, political and personal beefs aside, and just soak in the pretty pictures. You win, Royal Mail.

UK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Sansa Stark stampFor more on the issue and to find out who any of these people are, head to the Royal Mail shop.

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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. 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

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