Monday, November 30, 2009

The Stories Behind The Stamps Are Important

India's Hindu reports, "While we all may know that stamps are a repositories of information, veteran philatelist Sita Bhateja will tell you that the Indian stamps released after Independence alone carry enough information to fill 10 volumes."

Citing one such case in the article by reporter Hemant GaiRola, Bhateja (shown above) describes coming across a postal cover, which had cut marks made by a blade. Intrigued, she traced its history and discovered that the letter had passed through a region which was then affected by plague, and all the letters were cut and smoked to kill germs to prevent spread of infection.

According to Bhateja, "...preparing exhibits require people to carefully think and decide which stamp to include and why." She gave the example of a man who had exhibited 'some very ordinary postcards' in a contest but had won it because of the extraordinary information he had dug out about them and had woven it all around a common theme.

To read the entire article click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Design It! Giving Voice to America

The National Postal Museum is offering a curriculum guide and lessons for use in the 4th to 5th grade classroom which focus on the history of stamps, the rules for selecting a subject, how to design a stamp, and apply artistic skills in designing their own stamp.

Titled Design It! Giving Voice to America, the lessons include...

What is a Stamp?
Reviews the history of stamps and answers the question: Why are there pictures on stamps?

Selecting a Subject
Identifies the 12 selection criteria that the US Postal Service uses to decide what images go on stamps.

Designing a Stamp
Reviews the techniques and skills that stamp designers use to incorporate big messages into tiny works of art.

Stamp Design Assessment Activity
Students pick a subject and design a stamp!

The lessons also include supporting materials for teachers and fun activities and worksheets for students. The hands-on curriculum helps students to understand the importance of stamps in their own nation and gives them the skills to communicate those messages through a visual medium.

Learn more about Design It! Giving Voice to America, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Telegraph Stamps

Rick Miller writes in a Linn's Refresher Course column, "Some people see the philatelic world as broadly divided into two camps: postage stamp collectors and revenue stamp collectors. There is a third category of stamps that often seems to get less respect than Rodney Dangerfield: telegraph stamps."

According to Rick, "The source of this lack of respect, or even acknowledgement, is hard to comprehend, because telegraph stamps have much more in common with postage stamps than revenue stamps do. Notwithstanding, revenue stamps have much greater esteem in the hobby than the lowly telegraph stamp."

He goes on to say, "Telegraph stamps are service fee stamps that prepay or show payment or exemption from payment for delivery of a telegraphic message. They are first cousins of postage stamps, which prepay a very similar service: delivery of a message through the postal system. The difference between telegraph and postage stamps is the medium of delivery."

Shown above, he world's first hexagonal stamp, a Belgian 1-franc green King Leopold I telegraph stamp, Hiscocks Belgium No. I.1.

To read Rick's entire column, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Friday, November 27, 2009

First Open Air Post Office

In the early 1900s, St. Petersburg, Florida Postmaster Roy Hanna envisioned a new kind of post office - one that was open on all sides which would allow customers to access their post office boxes at any hour.

His vision became reality in 1917, when St. Petersburg opened the nation's first outdoor post office.

"The design of the post office was inspired by one of the icons of the early Italian Renaissance in Florence, the Ospedale degli Innocenti (1424) by Filipp Brunellschi and contains many ornaments of terra cotta based on Renaissance designs," according to a write-up that appears on the website.

In 1969, the south wall and south one-third of the east wall were enclosed to allow for indoor service counters, air conditioning, heating and additional postal boxes.

In 1975, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To see more Post Offices on post cards, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

In 2001, the U.S. issued a Thankgiving stamp that was designed by artist Margaret Cusack of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Margaret (shown here) is an illustrator, graphic designer and folk artist – all in one.

Her work is best described as “Realism created with stitchery and fabric.” It is rich with color, texture, and detail, made with machine applique and hand embroidery. Since 1972, she has created architectural-scale hangings, soft sculpture, portraits, and props. Her stitched artwork has illustrated greeting cards, decorative plates, ads, posters, magazines, billboards, and most recently, postage stamps – all in fabric.

To see more of Margaret's handiwork, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Many Uses of Stamps

While surfing around I came across an old article about the many uses of a postage stamp that appeared on Malasyia's Star Online website back in 2006.

It leads with, "A postage stamp began as a small piece of paper, carrying a monetary value on it to acts as a prepaid factor for postal services rendered.
Over a period of time, the original function of a contract between the customer and post office has been diverted to other functions with additional roles, usually acting for government transactions, eg. to seal agreements, contracts, property sales, rental, money lending, etc."

Some other purposes the anonymous author came up with...
  • Brand image of the postal administration

  • Celebrating images of the country

  • Promotional images of the postal services

  • Government marketing tools

  • Imaged paper ambassadors, representing the country of origin

  • Souvenirs for tourists.
Can you think of some other purposes that weren't covered? Things like covering your bedroom wall, as Christmas gifts and using for craft projects like the one shown above.

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Philatelically Correct Wine

Need an idea for an affordable wine to go with holiday dinners? Then stock up on some philatelically correct Contrada!

Produced by the Michael Pozzan Winery, which is located in the Russian River Valley in Northern California, Contrada has a 400L Italian stamp (SC# 1424) on its label.

I recently purchased a couple bottles for around $15.00 each at my local BevMo and served them up at my stamp club's annual Holiday Philatelic Pizza Party last night. Both the Chardonnay and Cabernet are exceptional values and taste great.

The Russian River Valley produces award-winning Chardonnay and pinot noir wines in addition to other wine varietals, and is home to many small and several large commercial wineries.

The word 'Contrada' is a generic name given to various types of Italian city subdivisions.

To find a local distributor near you, click here.

Contrada can also be purchased through the Napa Wine Company and shipped to selected states. For more information, call 1.800.848.9630 or email them at
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Monday, November 23, 2009

The 800-Pound Stamp Prank

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Harvey recalls that a giant 1-cent concrete stamp, featuring Thomas Jefferson, was placed in the parking lot of the postal service's Terminal Annex in downtown L.A. as a prank back in 1979.

In the LA Then and Now column which appeared over the weekend, Steve pens, "The inefficiency and high rates of the U.S. Postal Service led La Crescenta artist Mike Wallace to create a giant 1-cent concrete stamp, complete with a visage of Thomas Jefferson, in 1979. He delivered it to the parking lot of the postal service's Terminal Annex in downtown L.A."

He goes on the write, "Wallace, who had originally constructed the postal designation as an art project at Cal State Northridge, marveled at how he and his confederates were able to deposit it so easily."

Wallace is quoted as saying, ""We were wearing hard hats and fluorescent vests so we would look official. I even had a clipboard."

According to Steve, "Wallace offered to take back the 800-pound stamp if no criminal or towing charges were assessed. The authorities agreed, apparently relieved to get it off their hands."

To read more about the caper, click here.

For more on Jefferson and the stamp pictured above, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Philately Goes Online

The Times of India reports,"From being a quaint hobby nurtured by being friends with the postman, asking relatives and pen pals to send stamps from abroad or by simply buying them from postal bureaus, philately has mostly gone online. Earlier, philatelic research involved many trips to museums, subscribing to stamp magazines and catalogues and a great deal of letter writing. But the internet has changed the way philatelists and collectors of postal paraphernalia go about pursuing their passion. In the process, it has attracted many young collectors."

Reporter Shreya Roy Chowdhury writes, "Even casual collectors like 27-year-old Ganesh Bhausaheb Potphode have become serious philatelists courtesy the net. Potphode, who lives in Saudi Arabia started off simply collecting all kinds of stamps when he was in high school. Once he started using the net, philately went from being just a hobby to becoming an all-consuming pursuit. Potphode has undertaken some serious cramming to learn philatelic terms, gathered information on specific stamps and started a blog dedicated to his collection.

Chowdhury goes on to say, "A keen stamp collector for about 50 years and editor of Stanley Gibbons catalogues and magazines, Hugh Jeffries too feels the internet can never replace the pleasure of talking directly to fellow stamp collectors or making purchases across a counter. He believes that ferreting out information published in books that have long been out of print and journals dating back several centuries and exploring museums and specialist libraries, are far more enriching than checking online catalogues."

Shown above a 1997 stamp from Palau showing Donald Duck and his nephews doing some research on the Internet - all of whom are no doubt stamp collectors.

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Good Day Mail

Lisa Myers Bulmash and her long-time friend Tally Oliveau think of their mail as "eye candy" according to an article that appears on Washington state's Edmonds Beacon website.

Reporter Pat Ratliff pens, "Part of the artistic mail swaps between the friends appears in a new book, Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler.

Lisa (shown above) is quoted as saying, “The idea was to just talk about our lives through art, with one rule: Tally and I had to send each other one postcard per month. We’ve known each other since we were in the third grade, and we both make collage art."

According to a write-up on, "What is a good mail day? A good mail day is a day when, instead of just bills, catalogs, and advertisements, your postal carrier delivers artful, beautiful, personal mail from friends and acquaintances all over the world. Mail art is a collaborative art form with a long and fascinating history populated by famous artists as well as everyday practitioners. The term “mail art” refers to pieces of art sent through the mail rather than displayed or sold in traditional venues. Mail artists often use inexpensive and recycled materials including postcards, collage, rubber stamps, and photocopied images. Mail art is a truly international activity and a fun way to connect with people in every corner of the globe. Readers will learn to create decorated and illustrated envelopes, faux postage and artistamps, find penpals, make a mail art kit, and much more!"

To read the entire article, click here.

For more information on the postal art of Lisa Myers Bulwash, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Friday, November 20, 2009

Post Office Drops Popular Santa Program

The Associated Press reports, "The U.S. Postal Service is dropping a popular national program begun in 1954 in the small Alaska town of North Pole, where volunteers open and respond to thousands of letters addressed to Santa each year. Replies come with North Pole postmarks."

According to the report by AP reporter Rachel D'Oro, "Last year, a postal worker in Maryland recognized an Operation Santa volunteer there as a registered sex offender. The postal worker interceded before the individual could answer a child's letter, but the Postal Service viewed the episode as a big enough scare to tighten rules in such programs nationwide."

USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan is quoted in the piece as saying the agency now prohibits volunteers from having access to children's family names and addresses.

According to Brennan, "The Postal Service instead redacts the last name and addresses on each letter and replaces the addresses with codes that match computerized addresses known only to the post office — and leaves it up to individual post offices if they want to go through the time-consuming effort to shield the information."

Apparently dealing with the tighter restrictions is not feasible in Alaska.

However, the good news is kids around the world can still send letters to Santa Claus. The Postal Service still runs the giant Operation Santa Program in which children around the world can have their letters to Santa answered, and the restrictions do not affect private organizations running their own letter efforts.

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Remembering the Mail Carrier

Associated Press personal finance writer Candice Choi writes, "This holiday season, a leaner budget might clarify which people truly make a difference in your life. The challenge will be figuring out how much to tip them."

She reports," Mail carriers... can only take non-cash gifts valued at $20 or less. That could include a gift card, but not personal checks in any amount. Alcohol isn't allowed either, even if it's worth less than $20."

Candice goes on to say, "If cash tips aren't in the budgetary stars, you can still give small gifts that don't cost a lot. Baked goods, jams and candles are the perennial crowd pleasers. But use your knowledge about the person to be creative."

She recommends, "If you feel you can't afford a tip or gift, thank you notes can still make a difference."

Shown above, Letter carrier Ron Henry delivers mail while wearing a Santa hat in Bowling Green, Ky in a 2007 AP file photo,

To read the entire article, click here.

Click here to see a Consumer Reports study on what holiday tips people gave to whom last year.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Unusual Pet Mail

Larry T. Nix, publisher of the Library History Buff Blog, sends along a list of the Top 10 Unusual Mail Deliveries and Events.

Among them are Pony Express, Missile Mail, Child Post, Rural Free Delivery and other well-known types of mail deliveries.

However, there is one I had not heard of before.

It concerns the postmaster in Orlando, Florida who in December, 1954, received a pet chameleon and the following letter:
Dear Sir:

I am sending my chameleon because I live in Fostoria, Ohio and it is too cold for him here. Will you please let him loose?

Sincerely yours,

David __________

P.S. Could you let me know if he arrives there OK? Thank you very much. I am so worried about him.
On December 7, 1954, David received the following response:
Dear David,

I received your chameleon yesterday and he was immediately released on the post office grounds. Best wishes for a merry Christmas!


L.A. Bryant, Jr.
To read the entire list, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Printing Postage Stamps

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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Gift Idea

Now's a great time to pick up a copy of Janet Klug's Guide To Stamp Collecting. is selling the $19.95 book for as little as $1.49 in used (but like new) condition. There are several "new" copies selling for under $3.00.

Harper Collins writes on their website, "Whether you’ve always wanted to start a stamp collection or already have the beginnings of one, this is the definitive guide to becoming a smart and savvy stamp collector, with information on everything from the history of stamps to surprising celebrity philatelists to the best way to remove stamps from envelopes."

The book also has information on:
  • Finding and identifying stamps

  • Caring for and exhibiting your collection

  • Understanding collecting terms

  • Verifying authenticity

  • Using internet resources
Janet is a past president of the American Philatelic Society, chairman of the Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum's Council of Philatelist's New Initiatives , and a fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society in London. She writes stamp collecting columns in various philatelic publications, including Linn's and Scott Stamp Monthly.

For more books about philately, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Design Errors

According to the website, "An 'error' in philately usually refers something that has gone wrong in the production of a stamp: the wrong or missing colors, misperforations, inversions, and things like that. Such errors are relatively rare and therefore stamps with such errors are expensive. However, there is another kind of error that is neither so rare nor so expensive. It is the design error. In the case of map stamps they include incorrect coordinates, mistakes in spelling, incorrect geography, political and historical errors, and other similar matters."

For example, shown above is a stamp was issued by Mexico in 1964 to commemorate the Chamizal Treaty negotiated in 1963, and to honor the U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, who had negotiated the treaty. The error is that President Lopez Mateos of Mexico, who was much shorter than President Kennedy, is pictured as being the same height.

To view an indexed listing of other design errors, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Your Mailbox Could Turn You Into a Victim of Identity Theft

NBC4 Los Angeles reports, "The U.S. Postal Service says more than 2,000 people were arrested last year for stealing from mailboxes. But most crooks who do this are never caught and prosecuted."

In an article that appears on its website titled "Is Your Mail Actually Safe in Your Mailbox?," it suggests your mailbox could turn you into a victim of identity theft.

Reporter Joel Grover pens,"It happened to Paulette Light of Los Angeles, who always left her bills sticking out of her home mailbox, for her mailman to pickup and take to the post office. But she stopped doing that last month, when she was looking at her checking account online, and noticed two strange checks written on her account."

"Police believe someone stole her paid bills from her mailbox, then duplicated her checks on a computer, complete with her account number, and her signature, and then started writing checks from her account," according to Joel.

Click here to read the entire article.

To learn more about how your mailbox could turn you into a victim of identity theft, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Friday, November 13, 2009

U.S. To Issue Boy Scout Stamp Next Summer

The U.S. Postal Service will be honoring 100 years of scouting with a stamp set for release next summer.

According to a USPS press release, "The new stamp design was unveiled Thursday during an event at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. The design, created by illustrator Craig Frazier of Mill Valley, CA, depicts the spirit and outdoor adventure of scouting through a backpacking scout and a large silhouette of a scout surveying the landscape."

It goes on to say, "In conjunction with the Celebrate Scouting announcement and Veteran’s Day observances, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced it will begin a nationwide effort to support U.S. Armed Forces personnel serving overseas and veterans by sending letters and care packages using the Priority Mail Flat Rate Box through the Postal Service. Local DC-area scouts mailed letters and shared news about the scouting stamp from the museum this morning. The letter writing campaign continues the BSA’s longstanding tradition of service and performing 'a good turn' daily."

The new Celebrate Scouting stamps will go on sale nationwide and will be dedicated in July 2010 at the Boy Scout Jamboree at Ft. A.P. Hill, VA.

To read the entire press release, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Roundup Selected as Stamp Spotlight Blog on

The Stamp Collecting Roundup has been selected as the Stamp Spotlight Blog of the month by

What is

According to the site's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), " is the place to 'trakk' the best individual bloggers on the web by topic. We don’t follow news feeds, and generic search results for a topic like those other sites. Every one of our blogs has been reviewed and included individually to ensure they meet our quality standards. In addition, to add a bit of flavor to our topic pages we like to follow interesting related flickr groups and YouTube videos. All in all trakkrz topics are a wonderful place to get informed about the latest on a specific topic."

What inspired

"We were tired of all the blog following sites that include any and every blogger out their regardless of quality. We wanted to build a community where visitors could come and see the latest from popular bloggers on a particular topic, get to know the bloggers themselves, and be able to comment on and highlight the best that these bloggers have to offer."

Click here to go to the homepage.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Holiday Mail for Heroes

While today is a Federal holiday, it is business as usual for our service personnel.

Frank McDade writes the Roundup to ask readers to send holiday cards with messages of thanks and cheer to service members, veterans and their families. Frank is part of the 2009 “Holiday Mail for Heroes” campaign with the Red Cross.

The campaign, which is sponsored in part by Pitney Bowes, runs through Monday, December 7.

Take time today to thank the troops, veterans of all wars and their families by sending a holiday card to

Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

For information about what types of cards can be sent, how cards should be addressed, and further information regarding how you can get involved, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

World's First Multimedia Stamp reports, "A new series of stamps entitled 'The Tang Dynasty's Three Hundred Poems' is stirring up a wave of excitement in a market that has remained pretty quiet for almost two decades."

According to an article by report Chu Daye,"Some say that this new stamp collection is nothing short of a milestone in China's postal history, surpassing the importance of the famed Dragon Stamp of the Qing Dynasty or the Monkey Stamp of the 1980s, no less."

Daye writes, "The product behind all this frenzy is the world's first multimedia stamp, containing within it enough information to recite famous poems from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD)."

"Touching the stamps with a special pen-shaped device, called the aigo pen, allows a chip in the pen to recite some of the greatest poems from the Tang Dynasty, including work by Li Bai, Du Fu and Bai Juyi. Receiving a letter in the post will never be the same again," he says.

A product of Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology, China's leading producer of electronic consumer goods, the aigo storyteller pen is a unique gadget that combines an infrared recognition system, mass data storage and an MP3 player.

Shown above, Yao Wei, CEO of Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology, with aigo pens

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Monday, November 09, 2009

Book on Simon Taxis Receives Major Italian Philatelic Journalist Award

Italy's Philatelic Journalists Guild has awarded the book Simon Taxis and the Posts of the State of Milan During the Renaissance by Giorgio Migliavacca and Tarcisio Bottani the prestigious "Fulvio Apollonio Prize" for the best postal history book published in 2008 according to a report on the BVI News website.

Last August the book won a gold medal in Pittsburgh at the APS Stampshow.

According to the article, Dr. Migliavacca is quoted as saying, "Italy has her own Rowland Hill: he is Simon Taxis the creator of an unprecedented postal speed that remained unchallenged until the advent of the train over 300 hundred years later. Simon Taxis was instrumental in modernizing the European posts in the 1500s and making them accessible for the first time to the general public. In turn this led to the creation of a state monopoly of the postal service."

Dr. Migliavacca is the president of the British Virgin Islands Philatelic Society. His book was published last year by the by the Taxis Museum at Cornello, Bergamo, Italy.

Shown above, Professor Tarcisio Bottani (left) and Dr. Giorgio Migliavacca receiving the Apollonio Prize from the President of the Philatelic Journalists Guild, Mr. Danilo Bogoni (far right)

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Saddam Stamps Skyrocket in Iraq

Stamp prices showing Saddam Hussein are rising sharply in Iraq according to a report by Sammy Ketz of American Free Press (AFP).

Kamal Kamel, who runs a stall selling stamps in the Bab al-Muazzam district where the Iraqi Philatelic and Numismatic Society meets is quoted in the piece as saying, "Before 2003, the country was closed in on itself and we were cut off from the international market. But now business is going well. American and British collectors snap up stamps with Saddam on them."

He goes on to say, "Unlike us, they couldn't get enough of him -- they could not buy the stamps, because of the embargo," referring to UN sanctions on trade with Iraq introduced after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

"A series showing Saddam Hussein which was worth 200 dinars sells today for 5,000 dinars (4.3 dollars). My monthly revenues have passed from 200 to 1,500 dollars. Prices really have risen," according to Kamel.

Shown above, a 1986 Iraqi stamp showing Saddam Hussein in military uniform.

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Why Benny Hill Was Bumped from British Stamps

UK's Daily Mail reports documents reveal comic Benny Hill was dumped from a set of Royal Mail stamps because of concerns about his "saucy" style.

According to the paper, "Slapstick, burlesque and double entendre were always his hallmark. Some critics accused the show of sexism but Hill maintained that the female characters kept their dignity while the men chasing them were portrayed as buffoons."

The article went on to say, "Royal Mail deemed that his jokes were in direct opposition to the company's policies on harassment in the work place."

A set of six stamps were issued in September 2005 to commemorate 50 years of ITV. They honored six British television programs which were made famous on ITV. These included Emmerdale, Rising Damp, The Avengers, Morse, The South Bank Show and Who Wants to be A Millionaire?

The Benny Hill Show which ran from 1955 to 1989 and was aired on the BBC and Thames Television in the UK and broadcast in more than 140 countries was not selected to be featured on the set.

Hill died in 1992.

Shown above, Hill in a skit involving Royal Mail wearing a "postie's" uniform.

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Friday, November 06, 2009

Terre Haute "Postman" Wagon Model

The National Postal Museum's "Object of the Month" is the Terre Haute "Postman" Wagon Model.

According to a write-up that appeared in the museum's electronic newsletter, The Postmark,"The Postman" is one of five quarter-sized specimen rural delivery wagons built for the Post Office Department by the Terre Haute Carriage and Wagon Company in the late nineteenth century."

The Department used these wagons to help drum up Congressional support for a Rural Free Delivery (RFD) service.

This fully operational working model, "the Postman," has the sliding doors and windows of the finished product. The four-wheeled wagon was designed to be used with either one or two horses, was equipped with sliding doors and "storm proof" windows, built-in drawers for holding postal supplies and pigeonholes for mail. The wagons, made from hickory and ash with poplar panels, were hand painted.

To learn more, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Columnist Learns About Stamps, Collecting and the Crimescope CS-16

Connie Cousins, a columnist for Pennsylvania's Centre Daily Times, writes about the U.S. Classics 2009 stamp show that was held last weekend at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, PA.

As a non-collector Connie pens, "I was able to browse the displays, the vendor tables, the West Virginia post office and general store on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, the rare stamps and the many collections of 19th century U.S. stamps that were part of the show."

Besides many examples of unstamped and stamped letters from the 1840s, an Inverted Jenny and a 1c Z-Grill were also on display. In addition, the society's Crimescope CS-16 was mentioned.

She writes, "The society building also houses a Crimescope CS-16, much like ones the FBI uses to help spot fraud and illegal use of stamps and to validate a rare find."

According to Ken Lawrence, "In the spring of 1997, the American Philatelic Expertizing Service (APEX) acquired state‑of‑the‑art forensic equipment, of the type used by scientists of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to evaluate evidence in criminal investigations, as a tool to enhance the APS Expert Committee's ability to detect altered and counterfeited stamps and covers, and to determine whether or not questioned material is genuine and in its original state."

Shown above, the Crimescope CS-16 and associated equipment used to expertize stamps at the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation.

To read the entire column, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Be Careful When Investing in Russian Stamps

Reporter Vladimir Kozlov writes in the Moscow News, "In times of economic uncertainty, people look for unconventional investment vehicles. Investment in postage stamps can bring you a return of 15 to 20 percent a year, but you have to be careful, as philately involves many subtleties."

"It's difficult for an ordinary person with little or no knowledge of philately to understand all the nuances and see if a stamp is really worth the price listed in a catalogue. A stamp could look the same but be made of different paper, or it could have an adhesive layer of a different type or a different kind of perforation, and that could have a large impact on its value," according to Sergei Yevtushenko, executive director of the Russian Union of Philatelists.

Alexei Zubov, head of the Gelos auction house's antique book and philately department points out in the article,"Philately involves a huge amount of information, and there are no pundits that would know all kinds of stamps equally well. You should try to find experts on exactly the same type of period you are looking at."

Zubov says those planning to make their first investment in Russian postage stamps should look at those issued before the 1950s or, more preferably, before 1917.

Yevtushenko disagrees.

He believes, "There is no point looking at a particular period. Stamps have been issued in huge quantities, and even not every stamp from the first batch that went into circulation in Russia in 1858 is valuable. On the other hand, even a recently issued stamp could become valuable if it is unique in any way, if for instance, it differs from the entire batch. Also, to be valuable, a stamp should be in pristine condition."

Shown above, a 2008 stamp-on-stamp commemorative marking the 150th anniversary of the first Russian postage stamp.

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Beauty in Biology has an interesting article about the recent Kelp Forest miniature sheet and how it was designed.

USPS Art Director Ethel Kessler is quoted as saying the design of the Kelp Forest stamps is no miniscule accomplishment. She calls stamp artist John D. Dawson a “miracle worker,” both with these stamps and with all other ecosystems featured in the Nature of America series.

According to the piece, "PhotoAssist, the Postal Service’s research firm, first compiled a list of nearly 50 species found in Pacific’s kelp forests. Then it supplied photos of the underwater-dwelling creatures for Dawson to use as reference. Dr. Steve Lonhart of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary also acted as a consultant, ensuring that the pane would be not only beautiful but also biologically accurate."

Dawson says he gathered all these photographs and sorted through them to create a first sketch (shown here). He then narrowed down the number of species still further.

After several rounds of sketches and revisions, the final art — which is twice the size of the pane — took Dawson about six months to complete. The sheet offers a unique point of view: both above and below surface level, which had been done only once in an aquatic scene before (Pacific Coast Rain Forest, 2000 according to the article.

To read the entire article and see some other sketches, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Monday, November 02, 2009

China Stamp Fetches Record Price

The American Free Press website reports a stamp that was pulled from circulation the day it was issued because it failed to show Taiwan as part of China fetched a record price at auction in Hong Kong on Sunday.

The rare 1968 stamp was picked up by an unidentified Asian buyer, who paid 3.68 million Hong Kong dollars (475,000 US dollars), a record for a Chinese stamp.

Designer Wang Wei Sheng, who watched the hammer fall, told AFP he had feared he would be punished for his mistake. While China was colored red, Wan had left Taiwan uncoloured, a blunder that sparked a recall of the stamps just half a day after their release.

"For a long time I was really worried that I would be jailed," he said. "Officials told me that it was a really big mistake, but in the end nothing happened."

Taiwan split from China in 1949 at the end of a civil war and has been ruled separately since, but Beijing still considers the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification.

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Postal Workers Retire With 100 Years Combined Service reports two Ottawa, Ill. postal workers, Ronald Kotecki and Keith Rorem, started working at the local post office on the same day, Sept. 28, 1959, and retired together yesterday.

In an article by Steve Stout, the two men shared memories of their 50 years of service and talked about the changes they've witnessed.

"When we started the pay was only $2 an hour," Rorem,74, began. "And, somehow, we all made a living and survived."

Kotecki, 68, laughed and said stamps only cost four cents each in 1959 and that he truly feels, adding in inflation factors, they are even a better deal today at 44 cents each.

Stout writes, "... both men agreed the single biggest change during their long tenure was the slow elimination of mail trains which, at one time, crisscrossed the county in a constant race to make depot deliveries. Postal crews sorted mail in rocking railcars on the move."

Rorem is quoted as saying, "We used to have up to six trains a day, which workers used to toss out big pouches of mail at the depot as they came through Ottawa and then we had to attach outgoing pouches to special arms, which trains could grab without slowing down." He recalled certain rail mishaps when bags weren't caught by the speeding trains and they were run over.

"There was mail up and down the tracks we had to pick up," he told Stout.

Shown above, Keith Rorem sorts mail at the Ottawa Post Office.

To read the entire article, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM