Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Observers Book of Postage Stamps

A few weeks ago this marvellous little pocket-sized book turned up in my mailbox - a delightful bit of postal love from my dear friend, the wonderful Ms Flamingo Rover. The Observers Book of Postage Stamps, its introduction tells us, is not meant primarily for the collector, "but rather for everyone who would accept stamp design as one of the minor arts." Hey! Minor? Well, ok then. That places me... and I am guessing you, my dear readers, clearly in this book's primary demographic. Stamp design: Hoorah!

The book starts with this handy chart of world history as it relates to the development of communications and postage stamps. So in handy table format we find that the Crimean War was raging in 1854-56; telegraphy was demonstrated by Morse in 1844; and the first perforated stamps were issued in 1850. Cool.

The contents of this book are fascinating and varied, and it covers everything from the genesis of stamp design (the story of the infamous penny black), to the principle of lithography (which involves the mutual repulsion of oil and water).

It contains a brief overview of stamps from all over the world, and I love what it has to say about Australian stamp issues in the 19th century which were "a depressing procession of Queen's portraits, many of them quite unrecognisable, in increasingly hideous frames with coarse lettering. The colony of Victoria was the worst offender." Coarse lettering! How hideous. And Victoria, my home state doing me proud. The author doesn't get nicer and comments on "ghastly multi-coloured stickers" produced by New South Wales in 1897 and while congratulating the Colony for producing one of the earliest commemorative issues, puts the boot in by noting that it may have been one of the earliest, but it was also one of the ugliest! Brilliant.

On contemplating Australian stamp design at the dawn of the twentieth century the author states:
"Ugliness begets ugliness, and with such a dreadful half-century to look back on, stamp designers for the Australian Commonwealth could hardly have been expected to create sudden masterpieces". Oh dear. Apparently we got better as the twentieth century wore on though. Phew! I have some of my own thoughts on ugly stamp design of the 21st century... but I will save that for another time.

Thanks for the book Sandy - I love it! xx

Sunday, 23 September 2012

It's a long way to the top, if you wanna rock'n'roll *

Music features this week on Sunday Stamps, so I thought I would go a bit rock'n'roll on you all. In 2006 Australia issued the above stamps that pictured iconic posters from rock gigs. I think the posters make good stamps, as the images are bold, eye-catching and colourful. I am not sure if many of the festivals or bands would necessarily be recognisable to audiences beyond Australia - with the exception of the poster for the Rolling Stones tour.

Midnight Oil are a legendary Australian band - who had some international success, and had a massive hit with the song "Beds are Burning." To remind you all about the song, I have included the video below. It was taken during the 2009 Sound Relief concert - not a gig immortalised in the above stamp release, but an amazing gig that I happened to attend, which was in aid of bush-fire victims.

The little mini-sheet of rock posters belongs on the page of my stamp album with other rock music related stamps (and some bug stamps that kind of fit colour-wise).

The other music stamps on my album page include these ones from 2001 (but I only have five of the eight stamps in the series):

The 2001 issue celebrates legendary songs, and the artists include Kylie Minogue, INXS, silverchair, Yothu Yindi and (puke) Savage Garden. Midnight Oil's song 'Power and the Passion' also features in this series, but  it is one of the stamps I don't yet have.

Australia Post also paid homage to local Rock'n'Roll in a 1998 issue, which featured Johnny O'Keefe, Daddy Cool and, as pictured above, the legendary AC/DC and Skyhooks. And I wanted to finish off with the ACCA DACCA stamp, so I could conclude this post with the very apt declaration:
It's a long way to the top... if you wanna rock'n'roll.
I heart acca-dacca. It's true. People who know me might be surprised by that. But seriously, how can you go past them?

Bagpipes: Tick.
Angus Young in his school uniform: Tick.
AC/DC on the back of truck driving through Melbourne: Tick.
My Sunday was just totally made, with that little dose of AC/DC. Hope you enjoyed it too, Sunday Stampers. :)


* With apologies to Bon Scott for appropriating his legendary rock'n'roll adage to the title of this week's post on a nerdy stamp blog. Sorry about that.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Island Airmail: Sunday Stamps

This Sunday I heart post comes to you direct from my Dad's study. I am home visiting  my parents, and also my sister who has just flown back to Australia after living in Sweden for the past couple of years. (Welcome home Elspeth!). So for this week's Sunday Stamps, I decided to flick through my Dad's collection of First Day Covers from when he was a boy, to find something suitable for the theme of 'the post'. Any regular readers of this blog would know that I am particularly fond of 'post' and choose to define it broadly.

Although I did not find any stamps with post boxes or stamps on them - I did find two covers celebrating airmail. The one above is from Western Samoa (which has now dropped the 'Western' from its name and is officially the Independent State of Samoa).

Also within Dad's collection I found another contemporaneous cover celebrating airmail from Papua and New Guinea, also issued in July 1970.

The stamps are very nice, with the planes flying over volcanoes (after my recent trip to Indonesia I am most definitely into volcanoes: almost to the point of starting a second blog called "I heart volcanoes"). But the other thing I like about the PNG cover is the stylised image of Australia and Papua and New Guinea linked by the plane. Pretty cool. 

I am seriously starting to wonder why I loved just plain old stamps all these years, when I could have been loving first day covers, which are stamps with the added bonus of designs on envelopes and fancy postmarks. Who knows why I was so slow to catch on, but the important thing is now my passion for post has enlarged to definitely include FDCs. And when airmail and volcanoes are involved, it is just the icing on top!

For other post related blogs this weekend, check out Viridian's Sunday Stamps through the button above. Happy Sunday!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Adventures in Indonesia

Hello friends, followers and strangers in cyberspace! Lovely to be back online and touching base with the blogosphere. I have just returned to Melbourne after a very fun, jam-packed and delicious two-week sojourn to Indonesia. I was hanging out in Java mostly, but I also managed to spend a couple of days on Bali, embracing my inner bogan.

And whilst I indulged in a LOT of lounging by poolsides, I also managed to climb a couple of volcanoes, hit some hot springs and visit many exquisite temples. I jumped aboard an overnight train, a couple of ferries, hitched rides in minibuses, and I even once caught an ojek - a motorcycle taxi. It was a very grand adventure.

Yep, I had fun.

And I of course found some time for post. First off, in my hunt for post, I went to the Bandung post office. When I buy stamps overseas for my postcards, I always get a few extra for my stamp album. However, I was a very lazy tourist who didn't have much (ok, any) Indonesian (I learnt how to say 'thank-you': terima kasih)- so I walked up to the counter with a smile and asked in English for some stamps to go on postcards to send to Australia, and if it wasn't too much trouble, it would be great if they could be beautiful, because I collect stamps. Terima kasih! (insert big smile here).

The post office lady  looked at me somewhat blankly, but then retreated out the back, and came back with her supervisor, and a whole bunch of these stamps:

She apologised and said that she was sorry, they only had this one design for stamp collectors! I was thrilled! What a great stamp! So I bought several for my postcards, and kept one as a souvenir. Perfecto. Thankyou wonderful post office lady.

But later that day, I hit the post jackpot, when I stumbled upon this little store:

Inside, there was all sorts of trash and treasure... and amongst everything, there were all these vintage first day covers pinned up for sale. Oh yeah: pay dirt!

So, in this little store in Bandung, which I had just stumbled upon while wandering around the city by myself for the day, I managed to find some great post souvenirs to take home and add to my collection. 

The one above is my favourite because it ticks all the right boxes. It:
             a) includes maps with stamps on them,
             b) is postmarked Bandung, the city where I was staying, and
             c) is commemorating a solar eclipse, which makes it just generally COOL. 

And this one not only  includes a map stamp... it is a map stamp with an airmail envelope. Double cool. I actually really like the designs of all these stamps. Here is a closer look:
And again with the Bandung postmark. 

I was pretty thrilled with my haul of FDC postal goodies. But then, once I started asking the guys behind the counter about the covers, they then bought out all these stamp albums for me to look at. Unfortunately I couldn't just buy the stamps I wanted, I had to buy the whole album. So I did. Anyhow, these are a couple of the best stamps from the album I bought:

Yep - stamps celebrating Homo erectus. Wicked.
As you might be able to tell from the scans, some of the stamps were individually wrapped in plastic. That too made me happy (such a careful action, to wrap a stamp so delicately!).

The album is pretty cool... so watch this space. It warrants a blog post all to itself, so at some stage I will scan the album and share it.

Anyhow, in short, my Indonesian holiday was wonderful. And I am excited to have some post to remind me of such a fun trip. And just to be a bit self-indulgent and rub it in, I will sign off with a few little holiday snaps: