Friday, May 28, 2010

Canada Post CEO to be New Head of Royal Mail

Moya Greene, CEO of Canada Post, will be the new head of Britain's Royal Mail it was announced yesterday.  Ms. Greene has led Canada Post since May, 2005.  During her tenure they have experienced five consecutive years of profitability - even in this era of declining use of traditional  mail services.

For complete details see this BBC story:

Royal Mail names Moya Greene as new chief executive

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Visit to the SDAG Spring 2010 Stamp Show

This past Saturday I was able to attend the Stamp Dealers Association of Georgia Spring stamp show.  I was joined by my 11 year old son for his first visit to a stamp show.  I love shows.  I buy a lot of stamps on line these days but there's nothing like sitting at a dealer's booth, looking through his stock real time, examining the items of interest and choosing what you need right there on the spot.  There were 15 dealers at this show offering items for every collecting area and budget.  I had my Classic Era Canada want list with me this time and was able to find several things that I both needed and could afford (not always an easy trick!). 

From Tony Roozen of Stamps Unlimited I found some great Canada & Commonwealth sets at reasonable prices, among them these:

Tony was very helpful and he also maintains a full-service stamp store in downtown Atlanta.  I've not yet been there but plan to visit him in the near future.  I was also able to fill some holes in my Classic Canada used collection at Stamp-tique.  Glenn & Rowena Hanle were so nice and had an amazing selection of Canadian stamps that I greatly enjoyed looking through - though many were out of my league price-wise!

Besides filling some of those holes in your want list, another advantage of a show is the accumulated collecting knowledge at one's fingertips.  Take a few minutes and talk to the dealers - many of whom have decades of experience  stamp collecting.  I spent a very enjoyable 20 minutes talking to a gentleman named Roy Mooney.  Now in his 80's Roy spent many years documenting the thousands of FDC cancellations associated with the 7-1-71 transition from the old Post Office Department to the USPS.  These cancellations were done using a stamp issued for the occasion (Scott #1396) and a specially designed cache sent to all US post offices at the time:

I'd never heard of this collecting area or this particular postal history event.  Only because I attended the show was I able to have my collecting knowledge expanded by Roy's patient and thorough explanation of this important event.

If you're interested in learning more about this, Roy has compiled his research into a book called "The 7-1-71 Affair" which lists all known post offices in the US issuing these FDC's and the corresponding value of an FDC from that office.  It can be purchased directly from Roy Mooney - just e-mail him at letting him know of your interest.

Despite the prominence of the internet among stamp collectors and dealers today, there's still a place for a good old-fashioned stamp show and I'm glad I am able to get to one occasionally.  Its an invaluable supplement to my mostly solitary collecting experience.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Canadian BABN Experimental Printings (1968 - 1970)


For a short time from 1968 to 1970 there was an experimental printing done by BABN which included commemorative stamps Scott #482, 483, 484 & 490. During this time these stamps were issued with a perforation of 10. Most commemoratives of this era are perf. 12 stamps.

Many of these BABN experimental stamps have one or more straight edges as if they were booklet stamps (they were not). If one finds an example of these experimental printings which have sound perforations on all four sides it generally sells at a premium over those with one or more straight edges.

Below are three examples I've found of Scott #490, the "Curling" commemorative, showing  perforations on all four sides, straight edge on one side and straight edge at the top.

A collection of these stamps can be formed which includes an example of each possible configuration.  The stamps occur with not only with a single straight edge but with two straight edges as well.  The 2010 Unitrade Catalog explains the reason for this difference:

Panes produced with inscriptions (philatelic stock) will have one side of the pane without selvedge (i.e. a straight edged stamp); panes produced without inscriptions (field stock) will have a straight edge on three sides of the pane (p. 170)

Therefore, for each stamp there exists a fully perforated example, four different single straight edge examples, one for each side, and the potential for examples with two straight edges one from each of these positions in the pane: UL, UR, LL, LR - depending on which side of the pane had selvedge.

If you have any experience collecting these BABN experimentals I'd love to hear from you!  Leave a comment and let me know how you've collected these.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Canada Post Issues Stamps Featuring Wildlife Photography Contest Winners

May has been a busy month for Canada Post new issues.  On May 4, the issue commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Navy was released.  Then, on May 13, the beautiful Marine Wildlife joint issue with Sweden.  Now, on May 22 five new designs featuring wildlife photography will be released. These are issued in honor of the 80th anniversaries of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Canadian Geographic. As with the previous issues, they will be available in booklet form:

As well as as a souvenir sheet:

The images on the stamps are contest-winning photographs submitted by readers of Canadian Geographic.  In 2009, Canadian Geographic, in partnership with the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, invited Canadians to compete in five categories for their second Wildlife Photography of the Year contest. The winning pictures, chosen from more than 6,400 entries, were published in the magazine’s annual Wildlife issue; included in a traveling exhibition organized by the Museum of Nature; and featured on this set of five stamps.

To purchase these stamps for your collection, visit the Canada Post website.  Free shipping is available for customers in the United States. 

The full news release on this issue with additional details, including the names of the winning photographers can be seen here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Canadian Stamp Dealers' Association Encourages Young Collectors

The Canadian Stamp Dealers' Association recently announced a youth collecting initiative to promote the hobby to the next generation.  In connection with this, they've created a simple album called "My First Album".  The album is organized topically and offers stamp collecting tips on each page.

For more information see the current issue of Canadian Stamp News or contact the CSDA.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Victoria 12 Pence Issue - One of Canada's Rarest Stamps

The 12 pence (Scott #3) stamp is very similar in design to the 6 pence (Scott #2) denomination but bears the portrait of Queen Victoria rather than Prince Albert. This portrait,  used to adorn many early British Colonial stamps, was adapted from a full length painting by Alfred Edward Chalon. The painting was commissioned by the Queen for her mother, the Duchess of Kent, as a souvenir of Queen Victoria's first visit to the House of Lords and shows her in her robes of state.

The denomination of the stamp requires a few words of explanation.  One Shilling being equal to 12 pence, it would appear to be more natural for the stamp to be a shilling issue. However, there were a number of shillings of different values in circulation in Canada at the time. If the stamp had been lettered ‘One Shilling’, the Post Office would possibly have had to sell it for 6½ pence, 7½ pence, 10 pence or 12 pence, depending on where in Canada it was being used.  To avoid this confusion, it was decided to denominate the stamp in pence.

The 12 pence stamp was issued on June 14th, 1851. It was produced on laid paper without perforations.   It was withdrawn from use (along with all other pence issues) on July 1st, 1859, when decimal currency was introduced.

Needless to say, the 12 pence value is a very rare stamp. Even if the full supply of 51,000 stamps, received in the first and only consignment from the manufacturer on May 4th, 1851, been issued, it would have been a rare variety, but as a matter of fact, the greater portion of the consignment was destroyed and only 1,510 were actually issued. An interesting article published in the Metropolitan Philatelist in 1902 shows the supply issued to the various post offices:

No. Stamps
June 14th, 1851,Hamilton,300
Oct. 17th, 1851,Chippewa,100
Nov. 13th, 1851,Thorold,20
Nov. 25th, 1851,Toronto,200
Mar. 8th, 1852,Montreal,200
Sept. 14th, 1852,Ingersoll,100
Apr. 5th, 1853,Ottawa (then known as Bytown),100
Oct. 20th, 1853,Sherbrooke,15
Jan. 13th, 1854,Smith's Falls,50
Jan. 20th, 1854,Ottawa,100
Feb. 8th, 1854,L'Islet,15
Feb. 27th, 1854,Ingersoll,20
Mar. 22nd, 1854,Sault S. Marie,25
May 15th, 1854,Port. du Fort,15
Oct. 21st, 1854,Rowan Mills,50
Oct. 26th, 1854,Melbourne,50
Oct. 27th, 1854,Montreal,100
Dec. 4th, 1854,Smith's Falls,50

Total stamps,1,510

The space for the 12 pence Victoria issue is one of those destined to remain forever empty in the albums of most collectors.  Current Unitrade value for even just a VG used copy is $35,000.  When the "Loch" collection sold in 1999, a very fine unused no-gum example (as seen here) fetched $74,000.  However, there is another way to fill this space.  Its still not cheap by most collectors' standards (mine included!) but is much less expensive than owning one of the 1,510 copies issued for postage.  The answer is plate proofs.  These were produced on India paper and are marked "Specimen" either vertically or diagonally in either red or green ink.   The most recent Vance Auctions sale listed one of these (Scott #3Pi) with an estimate of $2,500 - still not small change but at least not the equivalent of purchasing a luxury automobile!

Whether or not you ever fill the space for Scott #3 in your Canada album, knowing the story of this interesting stamp will add to your collecting pleasure and who knows, maybe one day you'll run across one of these rarities in a musty old album at a garage sale - stranger things have happened!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stamps of the St. Lawrence Seaway Opening

The St. Lawrence Seaway is a series of canals that make it possible for Ocean-going ships to make their way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes as far as Lake Superior.

The canal was formally opened in 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight Eisenhower who cruised up the canal on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

There are four postage stamps associated with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The first of these was the stamp issued by Canada to honor the royal visit of Queen Elizabeth II for the opening of the canal. This stamp, one of Canada's most beautiful in my opinion, was based on the famous portrait of the queen by Pietro Annigoni. This is Scott #386:

The second and third were the first joint issue of the United States and Canada and were designed to commemorate the opening of the canal itself. These stamps, designed by Arnold Copeland, Ervine Metzl, William H. Buckley and Gerald Trottier, feature the Canadian Maple Leaf and the United States Eagle within interlocking rings superimposed over the Great Lakes.  First day of issue was June 26, 1959 at Massena, NY, USA and Ottowa, ON, Canada.  The US stamp is Scott #1131 and the Canadian stamp Scott #387:

However, the most famous stamp associated with the St. Lawrence Seaway opening is also one of the world's most famous invert errors, Scott #387a which catalogs for approximately $8,000. Only about 400 of these are known to have been produced:

A complete treatment of these issues with emphasis on the story surrounding this famous error can be found in "The 1959 St. Lawrence Seaway Joint Issue and its Invert" by Charles J.G. Verge published in 2009 on the 50th anniversary of the issue.

(A second USA / Canada joint issue was produced in 1984 for the 25th Anniversary of the opening of the canal (Scott # 2091 &  1015 respectively). However, this issue had similar rather than identical designs - unlike the 1959 issues.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Newest Canada Post Stamps Celebrate Marine Life in Joint Issue with Sweden

On May 15, 2010 Canada Post released the newest items in its 2010 stamp program - a joint issue with Sweden celebrating marine life.  The stamps, designed by Swedish stamp designer Martin Mörck, feature the Sea Otter and the Harbour Porpoise.  Mörck describes his design this way: 
“My idea was to join the two animals without showing their natural surroundings. I tried to capture the animals on the same level, somewhere both in front of and behind the water, under water, and at the surface of the water, which is their shared element.”
The stamps are available both as a booklet of eight and a souvenir sheet of two.  An interesting feature of these stamps is that the booklet pane is gummed - the first gummed pane produced by Canada Post since 2004.  Collectors can purchase the new stamps directly from post offices throughout Canada and from Canada Post's on line shop, which offers free shipping for customers in the United States.

The Swedish issue of the stamps comes as a se-tenant block of four and a collector's sheet.  These can also be purchased on line from Posten the Swedish Postal authority.

For detailed information on this exciting new joint issue, including stamp specifications and security features, check out this publication from Canada Post.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Royal Mail Marks the Accession of King George V

May 6 is "National Stamp Day" in the United Kingdom, marking the anniversary of the world's first postage stamp - the penny black.  This year, it was also the 100th anniversary of the accession of King George V to the throne.

To mark this anniversary, the Royal Mail has issued a new miniature sheet:

For complete information on this new issue, including how to purchase one for your collection, see this article at the British Postal Museum & Archive.

Monday, May 10, 2010

There's an App For That


If you're at all familiar with the world of the iPhone, iPod Touch or the new iPad, you know how many different "apps" there are for these products.   There are so many in fact that the commercial assures us "there's an app for that" no matter what your interests are.

However, is that true for stamp collectors?  I decided recently to see what was available for stamp collectors through the iTunes store.  I found two applications.  One is a stamp collecting dictionary called "Stamp Collecting Terminology" which sells for $0.99 and the other, a virtual catalog called "stampDatabase" which is free.  What I really wanted was the ability to have a stamp catalog at my fingertips at stamp shows or the office or other places where I'd like to be able to reference the value of a stamp but would not have access to my catalogs.   Given that, I downloaded "stampDatabase". 

What I found right away is that the "bones" of the application is all that is free.  If you want to flesh out those bones with an actual catalog, you have to pay $5.99 for each one you want.   Still, $5.99 for a good stamp catalog is not bad so I paid to download the Canada catalog (there's one available for the USA as well). 

First the positive.  The catalog provides nice images of the stamps as well as values listed by condition.  Here are a couple of screen shots for Canada Scott #56:

On the down side, locating a specific stamp is not as easy as it should be in my opinion.  When opening the app you have the ability to choose from a menu like this:

However, if you want to find a specific stamp within a range, the only option you have, other than scrolling through until you find it, is to put the catalog number in the search field at the top.  In the case of Scott #56, this returns not only #56 but #560, 561, etc.

Not a huge deal but it would be neater it seems if there were a way to go to a specific stamp directly.    The biggest drawback for me, however, is the stamp values.  For Canada, there do not seem to be any values populated for Airmail, Postage Due, or any of the other BOB stamps.  There's not even a value in all cases for the regular issues.  For the values that are there, I've not been able to determine their source.  The information provided by the developer on iTunes or at their website doesn't tell you the source and I've not been able to match their values to any of the catalogs I reference for Canada, at least for the few stamps I've checked.  The values don't seem to correspond to Scott (2008), Unitrade (2010) or Brookman (2007). 

As I mentioned, this is a big drawback.  The whole purpose in having a portable catalog it seems is to be able to check a stamp when away from home to see its value.  For example if I'm looking at purchasing a stamp at a show.  If I can't rely on the values in the application, all I really have is a reference guide which marries images to Scott numbers.  Though this may be helpful in some cases ("What is Canada Scott #400?")  I don't see much practical use for it.

All in all, I'm glad I only spent $5.99 for this tool.  What experience do you have with stamp collecting technology?  What have you used that works or doesn't work?  What would you like to see that doesn't currently exist?

I welcome your thoughts!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Amazing Sinking...Monument?

Canada Scott #247 has an interesting variation that one does not often see discussed but that is very easy to come across when multiples of the stamp are available for examination.  This stamp, part of a set of three issued for the Royal Visit (Scott #246-248) in 1939 were the first Canadian stamps produced with two separate engraved plates.  One plate was used for the color portions of the stamps and another for the black and white portions.

In the case of Scott #247, the black and white portion is the National War Memorial monument.  Because of the use of the two separate plates, the monument is not placed excatly the same in every printing.  As a result, stamps range from showing all the steps at the bottom of the monument to only one step.

In the examples below, the first stamp shows the full number of stairs.  The next stamp has only three stairs showing, the third stamp only two and the final stamp shows only one step.  When placed side by side, it appears the monument is sinking.

This being an inexpensive stamp to purchase, it's very easy for the collector to assemble a set showing all the different monument heights. Have you had any experience with this or other stamps with similar variations? I'd love to hear about it!

For additional information on the postal history associated with the Canadian Royal Visit of 1939, see this article by John Burnett of the British North America Philatelic Society:

Covers Commemorated the Royal Visit of 1939 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What's In Store for Canada Collectors in 2011?

The Canada Post recently released a short video highlighting their 2011 stamp program.  Looks like some great things to look forward to in the coming year!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is Stamp Collecting Becoming Cool?

Don Schilling over at The Stamp Collecting Round-Up comments on an interesting article in Britain's Independent about a resurgence of interest in stamp collecting.

You can read the entire article here.

Let's hope they're right. I'd love to see this great hobby spread to a new generation of collectors!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Newest Canada Post Issues Honor 100th Anniversary of Canadian Navy

On May 4, 2010, the Canada post will release two new issues honoring the Canadian Navy on its 100th anniversary.  These issues will be sold as a booklet of ten and a souvenir sheet (both pictured below).  The Canada Post will unveil the new stamps on Monday, May 3 during a ceremony at the Canadian War Museum

 The stamps, designed by Andrew Perro, are intended to depict the Canadian Navy's past and present.  Perro describes them this way:

"The two stamps were designed as separate artworks, but they appear as one canvas. They share the same painterly sky, marine life and open sea environments. The two ships, though of a different age, appear as part of the same fleet. One of Canada's first warships, the HMCS Niobe, sails alongside a modern frigate, the HMCS Halifax - a feature that speaks to the passage of time, capturing the magnitude of this major centennial milestone." 

Speaking of the contribution stamps can play in a commemoration of this kind, Canadian  Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, Chief of the Maritime Staff said: “A stamp tells a story and will create a public awareness of the role that the Canadian Navy has played both in war and in peace over the past 100 years. These stamps will be visible reminders that the country is served by men and women of the naval service who safeguard Canada and her values.”

I'm excited to see these new stamps take their place among the many interesting and beautiful stamps of the Canada Post 2010 stamp program.

More information on the Canadian Navy and the many celebrations taking place during 2010 for its 100th anniversary, may be found here.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

The 1926 Canadian "Admiral" Provisional Issues

On July 1, 1926 something happened in Canada that we know nothing about in recent years - postal rates actually went down!  The rate for a one ounce letter within Canada dropped from three cents to two cents and the corresponding rate to the United Kingdom and the rest of the British Empire dropped from four cents to three.

Unfortunately, according to George Marler in The Admiral Issue of Canada, the Post Office had 130 million THREE CENTS carmine Admiral stamps (Scott #109) in stock, enough to last 25 years if they were only to be used to pay the new rate to the UK and British Empire!
To deal with this situation it was decided to surcharge the THREE CENTS Admiral with a two cent rate so that the stamps could be used for the new domestic rate.

Two different surcharges were used, a one line version (Scott #139) shown on the left and a two line version (Scott #140) shown on the right:

Much sought after by collectors of Admirals as well as Classic Era Canadian stamps, these now catalog for $85.00 and $42.50 respectively in MNH condition.