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Adrian Keppel  |  Sep 19, 2012  |  0 comments

La Semeuse (the Sower) is a definitive series that is now inextricably bound up with French philately.

But it had a faltering start, to say the least.

When it was introduced, in 1903, it was said to be France’s peaceable answer to the more militant Germania definitives of Germany.

Adrian Keppel  |  Sep 19, 2012  |  0 comments

France's 'Mouchon' 10c carmine, type I, of 1900 Louis-Eugène Mouchon was a prolific designer and engraver whose work can be seen on many stamp issues, not just from his native France but from countries across Europe and as far afield as Iran and Ethiopia.

Just one, a French definitive design of December 1900, is generally known by his name.

But it cannot really be said to be his moment of glory, as it was widely criticised, even during his lifetime.

Adrian Keppel  |  Apr 26, 2012  |  0 comments

Italian definitives in the first half of the 20th century were not known for their consistency of design.

The first three decades had seen various values added piecemeal to at least three different blueprints, and even the Imperiale and Democratica series of the 1930s and 1940s still comprised numerous different types.

Things had improved with the Provincial Occupations (or Italy at Work) series in 1950, which was recognisable as a cohesive collection rather than a motley range of designs, even if its large format made it awkward for everyday use.

John Winchester  |  Mar 16, 2012  |  0 comments

The night of Palm Sunday 1942 was cold and cloudless in the German city of Lübeck.

Moonlight reflecting on the waters of the port greatly assisted the task of 234 Wellington and Stirling bombers as they dropped more than 2,500 incendiary bombs.

Nearly one-fifth of the city’s buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged, none more celebrated than the 14th-century Marienkirche.

John Winchester  |  Mar 16, 2012  |  0 comments

Sarah Bernhardt was the most famous actress of her day.

She dominated the stage of the Comédie Française from the 1870s, became a heroine of the early silent films and is honoured with a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Her adoring fans nicknamed her ‘The Divine Sarah’.

Julia Lee  |  Mar 08, 2012  |  0 comments

Switzerland had first introduced Landscapes definitives in 1934, focusing on its famously spectacular scenery of mountain peaks and passes, gorges, waterfalls and lakes.

But in 1949 a completely new set was released, with a rather different take on the subject.

The set of 12 had ‘technology in the landscape’ as its overriding theme, and therefore majored on industrial design, with images of railway viaducts, man-made reservoirs, ports, power stations, survey marks and even electricity pylons.

Adrian Keppel  |  Jul 05, 2011  |  0 comments

Monaco’s Prince Rainier III is best remembered around the world as the monarch who married the beautiful film star Grace Kelly.

But A keen collector himself, Rainier once called stamps ‘the best ambassador of a country’, and as soon he became the Sovereign Prince of Monaco he began promoting its philately.

In the year of his accession, 1950, he founded the Monaco Postal Museum and filled it with the collections of his predecessors, Prince Albert I and Prince Louis II.

Adrian Keppel  |  Jul 05, 2011  |  0 comments

There aren’t too many countries that can boast definitive sets that have run for over a century, but Denmark can.

Its ‘Wavy Lines’ series was first issued in 1905, and is still going strong today! The design, by Julius Terchilsen, includes symbols from the Danish Coat of Arms, along with three waves intended to represent the three straits that connect the North Sea and the Baltic Sea: the Storebælt (Great Belt), Lillebælt (Little Belt) and Øresund.

There are three essential groups of these iconic stamps to collect.

Adrian Keppel  |  Jul 05, 2011  |  0 comments

It is not only Germany’s older definitive sets that have found favour with collectors worldwide.

Some modern issues are just as popular, not least for their attractive designs and fine printing.

One such is the Famous Women series, introduced in 1986 and still in use as recently as 2005.

Adrian Keppel  |  Jan 21, 2011  |  0 comments

The 5c rose-red was the workhorse of the Netherlands’ 1899-1923 Fur Collar definitive series, prepaying the inland postcard rate for a period of about 20 years When a new series of definitives was needed by the Netherlands on the accession of Queen Wilhelmina in 1898, no Dutch artist managed to come up with a satisfactory portrait for the medium values.

So the French stamp designer Louis Mouchon, who had already done a lot of work for the printers, Enschedé, was invited to take up the challenge.

Partly as a result of this decision, the issue went far from smoothly.

John Winchester  |  Jan 17, 2011  |  0 comments

In 1935 France laid down the first of four new Richelieu-class ‘super-dreadnought’ battleships, the most powerful it had ever built, in response to heightened international tension.

By January 1939, when the third vessel was commissioned, war had become a serious possibility and the mood of the nation was in need of a lift.

This was to be achieved in two ways.

Adrian Keppel  |  Jan 07, 2011  |  0 comments

If you thought the Machin series was the ultimate in terms of the number of varieties there are to collect, you might need to think again.

Its myriad perforation types make the 1906 Landscapes definitive series of Bosnia & Herzegovina a serious rival.

Moreover, the stamps are stunners, at the time of their issue heralded by many as the most beautiful stamps in the world.

Adrian Keppel  |  Dec 21, 2010  |  0 comments

In September 1890, when the use of Austrian postage stamps was extended to include postal orders and parcels, new values became necessary.

This no doubt encouraged a decision to replace the existing ‘Double Eagle’ stamps, in use since 1883, with a new definitive set depicting Emperor Franz Josef I.

This classic ‘Emperor’s Head’ series would remain in use for almost two decades, leaving plenty of varieties for collectors to study.

Adrian Keppel  |  Dec 14, 2010  |  0 comments

Of the many definitive sets issued during the 25-year reign of Belgium’s King Albert I, one stands out – not for its longevity (around three years) or its complexity (14 values, with few varieties), but because of its symbolism.

Since acceding to the throne in 1909, Albert had become very popular.

He worked for justice and unity within his country, which was threatening to fall apart due to its linguistic divide, and was the first Belgian monarch to take the coronation oath in both French and Flemish.

Adrian Keppel  |  Dec 01, 2010  |  0 comments

Albania 1913 25q blue, depicting the national hero Gjergji Kastrioti, better known as 'Skanderbeg' The 10q value with '7 Mars’ and ‘1467 Rroftë Mbreti 1914' handstamped overprints, issued to celebrate the arrival of Wilhelm of Wied in 1914 It was not until the early 20th century that an independent Albania emerged from the crumbling Ottoman Empire of Turkey, which had dominated the Balkans for centuries.

The new country comprised thousands of tribes who were very suspicious of each other, but the hunger for self-determination was the glue that held them together – that, and the support of powerful allies.

When Serbia and Greece threatened to divide the territory between them during the First Balkan War of 1912-13, Europe’s great powers instead brokered the creation of a buffer state of ethnic Albanians, to be ruled over by an appointed monarch, the German prince Wilhelm of Wied.