It is clear that philately has not remained still in face of social and technological developments. The first pop-up stamp in the world, issued by the Netherlands in September 2012 was a good example. The stamp was issued for the children book's week, and uses a cardboard slider to do the trick. For stamp fans that means a way of engaging children in the philatelic world, as well as being an interesting reading incentive, as it can be combined with a book.
Further on modern stamps, some post offices seem to be trying to engage the population in its issues. One recent example is the Swiss Post, which is lauching this year (in March) the portrait of 111 Swiss, an issue to be called the "Faces of Switzerland" and is an attempt to merge traditional products with "the digital world" (source: www.post.ch/) , as people have the chance to upload their picture on the website.
When talking about modern stamps, however, I cannot leave out the Belgium chocolate-tasting stamp to be issued this year. Not only shall they taste like chocolate when licked, but shall have the sweet's aroma! Belgium will also still this year issue a stamp that glows in the dark for a road safety theme, and wishes to celebrate its Royal Metereological Institute's 100 years anniversary wish a stamp issue containing heat-sensitive ink (when touched, a pattern shall show itself on the background!). This news that I read on The Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk/), states philatelists are not showing such enthusiasm.
Well, I welcome innovation on stamps, especially as these may be incentives to younger people to taste the world of stamps (and in the Belgium issue the tasting may be quite literal). What do you think?
August 2015 addition to this post:
The "Faces of Switzerland" stamp in the picture bellow:
This is no recent news, but while sorting through some recent US and German issues (those electronic non-fun modern stamps – the nightmare for collectors) got me thinking about the HP printer which makes it possible to print postage at home. Now, e-commerce is old already, but stamp e-commerce gets me worried about the future of philately.
I have heard many voice ramble on about the decline in young collectors (especially in phylatelic meetings and exhibitions in Europe), many put the blame on the decline in use of postal stamps, being substituted more and more by the boring electronic versions that look like a bar code. I see a point here – a kid that gets a nice post card from abroad no longer sees the nice interesting colours, pictures on the stamp, thus not being able to raise interest on it. And yes, fewer and fewer receive post cards nowadays since e-mails are here to facilitate communications.
This trend might point out an obscure future for philatelists – when the traditional stamps as we know it become extinct. With that, another problem may arise, that new collectors cease to exist (since contact with stamps will be harder and today’s hobby can be seen as something museums will teach your next generation about). Yes, I am being very pessimistic and dramatic: but let’s agree I may have a point.
Early this month I went to visit a local philatelic dealer that was having its annual well-known auction. When I came into the auction room all heads turned, and most were probably wondering what I was doing there. I was most likely the only one under 50 and the only woman (I’m 26 as some of you may know). I enjoy being around and learning from experienced collectors, and age and gender do not really make a difference to me, but definitely gets me thinking: who will I see in this room in 30 or 40 years, when I reach their age?
I will talk in my next post about modern stamps, using innovative methods to try to get some attention around – using technology and social changes to philatelic advantage. Some post offices, like to Swiss, have very useful information on philately, and may even be quite user friendly. Still, going to the post office itself may be quite disappointing: local post offices not only lack stamp diversification but also do not sell philatelic products or even market them (but you shall find a great range of products, from light bulbs to children’s books). Brazilian post offices are no different and worse: the website can be quite confusing and demand a great deal of time to expose information.
The city of Basel (Switzerland), may be quite small. It had over 20 stamp dealers between the 1970s and the 1980s. Today, this number was reduced to 1. Stamp dealers have used the technology in their favor, reaching a broader range of customers worldwide with online sales. Still, this broader range does not seem to be enough.
I have read a lot about stamp investing (my last blog post discusses about it), but collecting itself rarely makes the papers – or even the corridors of the office… or the corridors of the post office even. Most people I know (my social group, family, work colleagues, etc) either think it’s boring to collect stamps or don’t get the point of it.
Maintaining philately alive will be a challenge in the future – of that I have no doubts. Not that I actually think it will be an extinct hobby any soon, but a bit more has to be done to keep it a popular one. The question is: what to do and how?
Some stamps are just classics, for many different reasons. I thought it would be interesting just to list some and make a short summary about my "top-ten" (you are also welcome to disagree with the choices!). Of course, I shall start with the most mythical,
1. the Penny Black - first issued in May, 1840, it was the world's first adhesive postal stamp and revolutionized postal history. Before the Penny Black, the postal duty was paid by the recipient, who could have chosen not to receive it, causing losses for the postal authorities. The Penny Black introduced pre-payment in the postal system at a time letters were folded and the stamp glued on the outside - what also contributed that many of these stamps survived today (who kept the letter, kept the stamp). So, contrary to what many believe, the Penny Black is not actually a rare, expensive stamp, although a perfect piece could be costly.
2. British Guiana 1c magenta - issued in 1856 by the British Guyana (today's Guyana), this stamp was created for local newspapers. Only one example is known to have survived, and its whereabouts are not surely known, although speculation says it may be in a bank's volt, where its last keeper left it before dying in prison.
3. Inverted Jenny - issued in 1918 by the USA the airplane in the centre of the design appears upside-down as a result of an error. Very rare, around a 100 examples can be found in the world today. This stamp was involved in the greatest trade known: Bill Gross, a great stamp collector, bought a unique block of 4 in 2005 just to trade them with a stamp dealer, Donald Sundman, for a USA 1c Z Grill. Mr. Gross became the first and only philatelist to complete a collection of the US 19th century stamps.
4. the Bull's Eye - Brazilian's first issue of 1943 made Brazil be the second country to issue stamps at a federal level (although local issues in Zurich and New York had already circulated after the Penny Black and before the Bull's Eye). I have already written an entire post about it, so I shall be brief. Being quite popular, its "Pack Strip" (a strip containing the 30, 60 and 90 values) was sold for over 1.2 million USD in a 1993 auction. They are considered quite seldom, since few survived today, although the exact number is hard to say.
5. Treskilling Yellow - the Swedish 1855 stamp variety is famous due to an error in printing. The original stamp was printed in a blue-green colour, and only one yellow example is known to exist today - possibly holding the world's record auction price for a stamp (around 2.5 million USD).
6. Mauritius "Post Office" - invitations to a ball in the governor's house were being prepared when the governor's wife had the idea of sending them with the first stamp of Mauritius in 1847. The first issues had the print 'Post Office" on them, being replaced by "Post Paid" the following year. 27 examples are known to exist today.
7. Benjamin Franklin Z Grill - issued by the US in 1868, the stamp contains indentions caused by a grill pressed on the paper. It is the rarest US stamp, with only 2 known examples, one of which owned by the New York Public Library.
8. Basel Dove - before Switzerland established its countrywide postal system (1849), the canton of Basel issued the Basel Dove in 1845, which is today very rare, although its exact numbers are unknown. It was the first stamp issued in three colours, and it has been widely forged (so beware if you encounter one around!).
9. Cape Triangular - Cape of Good Hope, a Portuguese colony where nowadays one may find Cape Town, in South Africa, introduced the world's first triangular stamps in 1853. The original shape may be due to stand out from that of the British, but also to symbolize a less expensive stamp to be used inland.
10. Scinde Dawk - in 1852 Sindh, an area located in today's Pakistan, replaced the old local system of postage paid by weight and the distance of addresses (where runners would deliver to) by a simple more inexpensive uniform rate for postage (where camels and horses replaced the runners). Like the Basel Dove, these were also widely forged.
Pictures taken in GLABRA 2013 (in Grarus, Switzerland). Exhibitor: Hans
Zweifel. "Die ersten Briefmarken der Welt von 1840—1849"
Today I was checking an old collection section I inherited and found a very interesting 'paper' which came with some purchased stamps in the1980s. The paper is from a philatelic store in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and is addressed to "learners of philately" (free translation from the Portuguese original shown bellow).
The paper sets some quite rigid "rules" for collectors, including "do not start a collection from the beginning, but rather from the year you are in backwards" and claiming to be "humiliating to exhibit stamps with incomplete series", therefore one "should only collect the years one may complete".
The final 'tip' is that one "should exhibit stamps always when those series and years are completed, including the rare [stamps]".
Well, I was born in the 1980s and haven't experienced philately at that time, but I'm quite convinced it has 'evolved' or 'popularized' since then. Most collectors are not able to afford rare issues, and collecting according to what one can and has access to, can make the collection flow easier and cheaper.
Also, I am a believer that stamp collecting is a hobby (of course, I am not talking about those who are in the stamps business or entering the world of stamps as investors), and as such, should be a relaxing activity: meaning one should collect what maximizes his/her pleasure!
Well, opening the blog while talking about ground rules seemed appropriate.Does stamp collecting have rules or does that apply for philatelists only? And do these have so rigid rules?
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