John Winchester  |  Dec 22, 2010  |  0 comments

Did rubber tapping techniques really undergo radical change between 1935 and 1938? Today more than 70% of natural rubber comes from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

But in 1935 the British colony of Ceylon was a very important producer, and it was keen to reflect this in its pictorial definitive series of 1935-36.

Four of the 11 values were recess-printed by De La Rue, and the other seven by Bradbury Wilkinson.

John Winchester  |  Dec 21, 2010  |  0 comments

1899 Zanzibar 2r depicting Sultan Hamoud bin Mohammed, from the second series recess-printed but with a second colour added by letterpress The British Empire was always alert to developments in Zanzibar in the 19th century, because of its strategic importance for trade along the east coast of Africa.

Imperial influence was clear from the fact that an Indian post office was opened there in 1868, and the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty of 1890 formally established a British protectorate over the island.

Initially Indian and later British East African stamps overprinted with the word ‘Zanzibar’ were used.

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.

John Winchester  |  Dec 13, 2010  |  0 comments

The Turks & Caicos 2s and 3s Stamps depicting the seal of a colony seemed to be a favourite recommendation of Colonial Secretaries in the late 19th century.

Instructions to the Crown Agents frequently urged the use of a single design with a central device to convey the badge.

Precisely this approach was suggested for the first combined issue of the Turks & Caicos Islands in 1900, and the result was something of a classic in conveying the economic raison d’être of one of the least heralded corners of the Empire.

Julia Lee  |  Dec 02, 2010  |  0 comments

The Christmas stamps for 2010, to be released on November 2, feature ‘claymation’ duo Wallace & Gromit, stars of the Aardman Animations’ Oscar-winning films A Grand Day Out, A Close Shave and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Royal Mail’s design team worked closely with Nick Park, the creator of characters, and Aardman to create five exclusive scenes featuring the duo, for the set of seven self-adhesive stamps.

Park drew the scenes, and refined them to work to best effect in the two definitive formats, before each was constructed with models, props and background sets created especially for the issue.

Julia Lee  |  Dec 02, 2010  |  0 comments

The Royal Mail issue for this year’s Europa theme, which is children’s books, honours one of Britain’s most popular pieces of literature for the young and young at heart, the Winnie-the-Pooh series by A A Milne.

Released on October 12, it comprises a total of 10 stamp designs, all reproducing E H Shepard’s original illustrations for Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), Now We Are Six (1927) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928).

The six sheet stamps show Pooh with one of his animal friends, while the four stamps in the miniature sheet focus on his relationship with Christopher Robin.

Julia Lee  |  Dec 02, 2010  |  0 comments

Gerry Anderson’s very popular 'supermarination' television programmes from the 1960s are saluted by Royal Mail’s first stamp issue of 2011, to be issued on January 11.

FAB: The Genius Of Gerry Anderson marks the 50th anniversary of six ground-breaking series, which began with Supercar in 1961.

Fittingly, the issue also features the first ‘moving’ pictures on British stamps, by virtue of lenticular images incorporated into a miniature sheet devoted to the best-loved show of all, Thunderbirds.

Julia Lee  |  Dec 01, 2010  |  0 comments

The Ionian Islands’ only set of stamps, issued in 1859, comprised the undenominated (½d) orange, (1d) blue and (2d) carmine Today, the Ionian Islands are a magnet for tourism, inspired by films such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

But in the 19th century, this small archipelago off the west coast of Greece was thought of mainly as a strategic base for a naval fleet.

The islands had been passed from the Venetians to the French, to the Turks, to the Russians and back to the French again, before they were made a British protectorate in 1815.

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.