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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It’s a gas gas gas!

Australia 2015 70c Signs Of The Times Skipping Girl Vinegar

Hello readers! No, I’m not dead. As my laborious day-job contract draws to a close, I’ll pick up where I left off and get back to slagging off stamps and stamp collectors. Only, I can’t right now, because some of Australia Post’s current and soon-to-come issues have me absolutely purring…

Take this Signs of the Times issue that lit me right up on September 1.

Australia 2015 Signs of the Times set

Aussie Post has touched me in the special spot with this tribute to the art of commercial neon. Not only do I love neon art – especially retro-style – but when I was a child, the long drive home from my grandparents’ house was often briefly illuminated by a swing past Melbourne’s Skipping Girl Vinegar sign. I still love catching sight of her jumping her rope, this much-loved icon adored by all despite the fact that she’s a monstrous zombie child with glowing alien eyes and vinegar for blood. Continue reading

Vintage-loving hipsters can eat my shorts

VintageAirmailCase

Have you seen that scene in The Simpsons where the family discovers that Bart has a stamp collection? I can’t find the video online, so here’s the scene as found on Wikiquote.

The Simpsons stamp collection quote(If you can find a link to an embeddable video, Punk will love you forever.)

This is what it’s like hanging out with certain of my uber-cool hipster friends. In their hands, the hobby that brings me friends around the world, money on the side and virtual immunity from dementia becomes fodder for mockery.

Yet when my friends aren’t working in their made-up jobs for startups that will collapse next week, they’re all about Vintage. They shave their armpits using heritage methods Continue reading