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.

Australia 2011 Mythical Creatures $1.20 Dragon stampAnd dragon mascots it is at Stampshow 2018. The USPS has released a set of colourful stamps celebrating the mythology of dragons. I’m not aware of the USA ever having had actual dragons, but nor is the USA the first country to put dragons on its stamps. My homeland, Australia, released a whole set of Mythical Creatures in 2011, none of which actually exist. Normally I get a bit shitty when stamp issues aren’t relevant to a nation, but Mythical Creatures was that year’s annual release designed specifically to appeal to kids, so on that basis, I’ll allow it. (The UK recently put a dragon on a stamp too, but at least it was commemorating the UK-based Game of Thrones TV series, so it almost passes muster.)

USA 2018 Dragons Purple Forever stampI was overjoyed to read that Stampshow’s mascot is the superbly named Perf, the Magic Dragon. I’m gunna go ahead and assume that’s a pun on the song Puff, the Magic Dragon, and I’d like to say: excellent work, whoever came up with that. Does everybody here realise that Puff’s best friend was Little Jackie Paper? How very appropriate for a stamp show attempting to appeal to the young while also catering to the old, who are really into things like perfs and papers.

USA 2018 Dragons Black Forever stamp

I’ve previously written about stamp shows. If you’re off to Stampshow this weekend, I’d love to hear what you thought, in comments either on this post or that old one. Especially if you were a first timer. Did Perf the Magic Dragon fire up a passion for  philately in you?

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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

Lost in the System

Well, look who’s come crawling back to her sorry blog! Sorry, punksters, I’ve had a ridiculously busy year in both my top-secret work life and my even more mysterious private life. But it’s time to down tools and return to what I love. I’ve informed Mr Trump that the militia uniform designs would simply have to wait. He still hasn’t paid me for the preliminary design work, anyway, but he assures me the cheque is in the mail.

Given that it feels like I’ve been lost in outer space lately, it seems appropriate to return with one of the many doozies of new issues from 2016 that I missed while I was gone. Regular readers would know I’m mad for a pretty space stamp, and didn’t the USPS fire my rockets in May with its gorgeous Views of our Planets release?

usa-2016-views-of-our-planets-minisheet

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

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

USA portraits – and the best stamp they never released

Punk Philatelist Johnny Cash Flips The Bird stamp

Credit where it’s due. How well does the United States Postal Service do portrait stamps?

It’s got a head start, being in America and all. With its entrepreneurial spirit, vibrant cultural scene, and comprehensive disenfranchisement of minorities, the USA is never short of an innovator, an envelope-pusher or a trailblazer to honour on a stamp.

USA 2015 Maya Angelou stampTake the Maya Angelou stamp that’s out on April 7. No frills, just elegance and eloquence. A dignified tribute. I was gobsmacked to read that the image is that of a painting (!) – an oil-on-canvas number by Ross Rossin that resides in the National Portrait Gallery. Look at that face, and imagine the stories it could tell. Continue reading

Holy geekgasm, Batman! Nerds collide!

USA 2014 Batman BatsignalThis probably won’t be news to my American friends (so many of you now! Hi!), but when this ginormous collision of nerd cultures occurred last year, I didn’t even exist.

Postal administrations worldwide are short of a dollar, so they’re replacing worthy topics with themes they hope will appeal to the masses beyond their base of stamp-collector suckers. This can lead to horrendous results, like the use of stamps to report sports results. But sometimes, it totally works.

The US Postal Service reported a $2 billion loss in the quarter to June last year, so come October, they sent up the Batsignal. Happy 75th Anniversary, Batman!

USA 2014 Batman Sheet Continue reading

Riding the sheep’s back… or is it a goat?

Once upon a time, the Lunar (or “Chinese”) New Year was just a thing that Asians did. Whitey went to Chinatown to watch the firecrackers and eat yum cha, but that was about it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the 21st Century.

Asia got richer, and China boomed. As the Chinese (and Indian) middle class grew, it reawakened the cobwebbed hobby of stamp collecting. It’s a very middle-class hobby, which appeals to people who are really, really into their country. And Chinese people are really, really into their country. Because if they’re not, they get sent to prison camp.

Then someone invented the Internet, and people stopped sending mail. Meanwhile, old people insisted on dying, game consoles turned children into zombies, and the supply of new stamp collectors to Western postal authorities stopped dead… just when their cash-strapped governments started demanding impossible profit margins.

Then Chinese stamps started to attract ridiculous figures at auction.

And that’s when the West decided it should issue Lunar New Year stamps.

Australia Post disguised its cash grab by suddenly remembering that there are lots of ethnically Chinese people on the Australian territory of Christmas Island (no, not in the immigration detention centre). Naturally, they deserved a stamp, and in 1994, they got one. Or two, actually. (And a mini-sheet if you want to go looking for it.)

Australia Christmas Island 1994 Year of the DogIn 1996, AP began a 12-year cycle in which all the Lunar New Year stamps complemented each other, often with colours of red and gold. I wasn’t too interested in these at first, but over the course of the zodiac, I must admit, they won me over with their riotous vibrancy and playful cocks. Continue reading