fredag 29. juni 2018

On the podium: Mongolia C37-45 (1973)

I have always liked this set of 9 air mail stamps from Mongolia, so I was pretty pleased when I had managed to get all the 9 stamps on the stamps on it. The Mongolian stamp office must have had a penchant for this particular shape - a square put on edge. I don't know if there is a special philatelic term for it. On the pages devoted to Mongolia in the Scott catalogue that shape certainly pops up very often.

This set is neither rare nor expensive. The designs are harmonious and clever: Filigree on each side corner, national emblems on top, and a generic posthorn around the denominations at the bottom. All the stamps in the middle are from different countries and seem to have been picked to illustrate postal communication in different forms, conveying letters by car, by horse, by hearse, by foot, by train, by rocket ... and of course by balloon and reindeer! The occasion for this issue was a meeting by COMECON - The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance - an organization of communist countries led by the USSR, The Soviet Union. That's why we only find stamps from the 'Eastern Bloc' represented, in addition to Cuba and Mongolia.

One of these Mongolian stamps is definitely worth a closer look. It is this one:

Not only is it a stamp showing another stamp showing a third stamp - which is rather rare and Russian dolls-y - it is also noteworthy because the main stamp on it, the brown and green Cuban 50c, doesn't even exist in this color combination. It is in fact a mix of the two stamps I have placed on each side of it. It must therefore be regarded as a pseudostamp. And a curiosity.

The reason was probably that the designer, when the 50c stamp was chosen for its theme (the first experiments with mail by rocket in 1939) found it hard to reproduce a mainly black stamp with a black frame, as the frame on all the other stamps on stamps in the set. Obviously, a black stamp without white borders and perforation will always be hard to distinguish against a black background. So he chose the brown 50c instead. But the silver rocket imposed on the brown one makes the writing on the green stamp in the middle impossible to read and destroys the connective meaning. So he took the most useful parts of each of the two 50c stamps and made up a new and non-existent one. My guess is that the decision to use such a difficult stamp to reproduce was taken by someone else, and that the designer just had to find his own solution. Anyway; every stamp has a story to tell. And some stamps are unfathomable.

On the podium: Doubt

I'm constantly debating with myself whether certain stamps are worthy of inclusion in my stamps on stamps collection or not. These two lovely sets from Great Britain are good examples. The first set is not stamps on stamps, but rather basic stamp designs on stamps, which is not the same thing. There are no signs of the actual stamps those heads are supposed to adorn. The second set is only new designs imposed on old.

I have many other doubtful stamps on stamps. For instance illustrations of stamp collecting with stamps that are so small and blurry that they can't be identified. Or simply reproduction of old stamps with only the denomination changed. I will come back to more such doubtful cases another time. Still, when they look as good as these, I find it quite appropriate to make some space for them here.

tirsdag 26. juni 2018

On the podium: Sheets vs. separate stamps

Fresh from a seller on Delcampe and fresh from my Epson Perfection V37 scanner, issued by Antigua & Barbuda in 2015. This double-country used to belong to an island chain in the Caribbean that in the olden days was called the Leeward Islands. That unity was dissolved in 1958. Antigua & Barbuda have many interesting issues of stamps on stamps that I will put on the podium later.

My main purpose today is to explain that I almost always prefer separate, single stamps to what is called souvenir sheets or miniature sheets (often abbreviated s/s or m/s). This example should show you why. In my opinion the stamps almost always look better separated. So I break up the sheets and tear out the stamps. Since these sheets are only made for collectors and sold to collectors, the stamps themselves may be worth next to nothing after separating them from the sheets they belong to. But since "I'm only in it for the beauty", I do that without regrets. Call me a stamp vandal! Vandalism for beauty!

In this case, "rare stamps" is the design topic on the sheets, so it's obvious that I can't expect to be able to include these stamps on the stamps in my collection. I haven't even tried. But a nice thing about sheets is that they often contain useful information, as the $10 does. If you look closely on the denomination on the two Canadian and the Belgian, they are crossed out with a printed slash stroke. I wondered why, but logic tells me that it can only have been done to prevent anyone presenting them as real stamps! A strange safeguard, but stranger things have happened. It may even be a rule imposed by UPU for stamps like these. 

I will probably present many stamps separated from sheets in later posts at this blog, but not always the sheets themselves, as I do here.

lørdag 23. juni 2018

On the podium: French Morocco C4 (1922)

French Morocco CB42 & C4

Joseph de la Nézière was a French painter and orientalist who lived from 1873 to 1944. Detailed information about his life is scarce, but I found some basic info here, even a small photograph. Nézière designed many beautiful stamps for the French Colonies.

On March 8, 1952, Morocco, under French rule, decided to honor Nézière with a stamp on stamp design based on his air mail stamps of 1922. March 8 was evidently a day the French at that time had declared to be their official "Stamp Day". (The annual international "Post Day", later called "Stamp Day", came later, initiated by the UPU - the Universal Postal Union - in 1969). The 1952 issue also marked the 30 years anniversary of the first air mail stamps from French Morocco. The 1922 issue can be hard to find. It belongs to a set of 11 different colors, all with the same "biplane over Casablanca" design.

On another website I found this beautiful poster by Nézière.

torsdag 21. juni 2018

On the podium: Mauritius 1 and 2 (1847)

Mauritius 225-228

Up on the podium with two of the world's rarest and most valuable stamps: the famous "Mauritius Blue" and its companion, the orange one penny "Post Office". Here they are beautifully placed in the center of a classic stamp on stamp design from the days of the British Empire, issued in 1947, marking the centenary of the original issues.

The first one, the red violet and orange 5 cent stamp, always had a special place of honour in my stamp collection as a young boy. In whatever album I placed it, it seemed to shine like a diamond compared to the ones beside it. I'm still in awe at the beauty of it. It could be that my interest in stamps on stamps can be traced back to that particular stamp. The three others lack a little of that wonderful bright lustre, but seen together, this set is really nice eye candy for me.

Since I collect these stamps on stamps mainly because I like their designs, I usually prefer mint or uncancelled stamps, but in this case I feel otherwise - the cancellation marks somehow seem appropriate and enhances their visual presence. They make me think: Could anyone stick stamps like these on envelopes without noticing their beauty?

I'm not a billionaire, so I would never be able to put my paws on Mauritius 1 and 2. But on Ebay I found a rather honest forger who sells forgeries of them with these words: "Want to fill those empty spaces in your stamp album, but don't want to pay the high price for the originals? Then buy this set of forgeries... I Believe they are the best forgeries on E-Bay..."

I couldn't resist that forthrightness, so I ordered them forthwith, and here they are:

Mauritius 1 and 2 (copies)

The story behind Mauritius 1 and 2 are so interesting, intricate and intriguing that it has been the subject of a non-fiction book by Helen Morgan, published in 2008. It would not be easy to summarize it here, but I found the book fascinating and well worth reading for all the stamp history it contains.

Find out more at Helen Morgan's research site

Views on her book can be found here:
Blue Mauritius at Amazon

onsdag 20. juni 2018

On the podium: Great Britain 1 (1840)

These stamps, issued by Mexico in 1940, are actually two sets combined: 5 stamps for regular mail, and 5 for air mail - so there are two versions of each value. In contrast to Bulgaria, who chose a national stamp for the centenary of the first postage stamp, Mexico did the right thing and they did it with gusto: 10 stamps depicting the British Penny Black of 1940. Never mind the colors, they don't tally with the first Queen Victorias, they are used just as visual signals to differentiate between the different values for the post office clerks and the stamp buyers, and for sheer beauty's sake. The hand-drawn font gives them a vague folk-art feeling. A nice set to see in any stamps on stamps collection.

Mexico 754-58 + C103-107

No other stamp has been honoured so many times on other stamps than the world's first postage stamp, Great Britian 1, nicknamed the Penny Black. It was black, sold for a penny and was issued in droves in 1840 and several years thereafter. Every stamp collector ought to have one, and I'm no exception. Mine should of course have had the C-H letter codes in the lower corner, to correspond with the one on the Mexican stamps, but alas... Those early Great Britain issues are not as rare as one could surmise. They can be found here, and the prices are sometimes affordable. I think that is the place where I bought mine.

1840 is quite a long time ago. In a book from 1962 by Gustav Schenk (a German) I found the following passage:

In 1845, five years after the epoch-making introduction of the postage stamp, this item of news appeared in a German illustrated magazine:

In England, which has a very insignificant yet regular postal service, the Post Office sells small square pieces of paper bearing the head of the Queen, and these are stuck on the letter to be franked. In this simple manner the postage due is paid. To prevent a label being used twice the Post Office cancels the little piece of paper on the letter received with a black cross. The Queen's head look very pretty and the English reveal their strange character by collecting these stamps.

So, stamp collecting was already a hobby worth mentioning only five years after the Penny Black issue!

On the podium: Bolivia 1a & Bolivia C82 (1867-68 + 1941)

Bolivia 274-80

This nice set of 7 values was issued by Bolivia in 1942. They all show the same two stamps: the 1st official Bolivian stamp (Bolivia 1), and an air mail stamp from 1941. Bolivia 1 shows a stylized Andean condor - the national symbol of Bolivia and several other South American countries. The air mail stamp shows a boat on Lake Titicaca with the shadow of an airplane on the water. It also gives us the information that Lake Titicaca is situated 3812 meters above sea level. The set was issued one year after the event it's supposed to illustrate - which was the first school philatelic exhibition in La Paz in October 1941. It's unknown why the particular green air mail stamp was chosen for a stamp on stamp issue, but the probable reason is that Lake Titicaca is a world famous tourist attraction and a national pride.

Bolivia 1a + Bolivia C82

In the Scott world catalogue of 2009 I find the information that there are 72 varieties of the 5 centavos Bolivia 1 stamp, and, I quote: "The plate of the 5c stamps was entirely reengraved 4 times and retouched at least 6 times." So the one I have is probably only one of the varieties, and also slightly damaged on one side margin. It could even be a forgery for all I know, as there seems to be many forgeries of these rather primitive early unperforated stamps around. But the back looks very old and yellowed by time, so I do believe it is authentic. If it's a forgery, then it has to be a very old forgery. As can be seen, the printing on the air mail stamp is seriously off-center, making it a nicely flawed companion to the damaged condor stamp.

Here is more info on the 1942 set and other stamps on stamps from Bolivia:
Bolivian stamps on stamps

tirsdag 19. juni 2018

On the podium: Bulgaria 1 (1879)

1940 was the centenary of the first postage stamp, and the postal authorities of many countries saw it as appropriate to celebrate the event with special stamp issues. In Bulgaria they chose not to depict the famous Penny Black from 1840, but rather their own first postage stamp, issued in 1879 (before that time Bulgaria was under Turkish rule). Still, it was a rather pretty and well-designed stamp with nice color combinations, so no wonder they used the opportunity to bring it up front. The heraldic lion design is called "the Lion of Bulgaria" and it was also used on many other early Bulgarian stamps. Very good info on those issues can be found here.
Bulgaria 1

And some exact data about the two commemoratives can be found here:
Bulgaria 358
Bulgaria 359

I always try to get hold of the stamps on the stamps, or, the stamps within the stamps, if you like. It is not always possible, of course, more like a dream within a dream. But in this case I was lucky. The Bulgaria 1 stamp was affordable on eBay.

As you can see from these other examples in my collection, Bulgaria 1 has been front page material quite often. And there are still at least three more that I don't have!