New Issues 2019: May

One new issue this month and probably the “show-piece” issue of the year.

“Great Irish Songs” seems like a good theme. The issue is actually a four-stamp set. There are a lot of great Irish songs. Indeed it would make a great annual issue for the next decade and still people might say “Why wasn’t this song included? ”

Most people, not just in countries who host the Irish diaspora in Scotland, England, Canada, Australia, Argentina, United States, New Zealand, Wales etc would have no problem a few Irish songs.

“Danny Boy” for example.

Or you might think in Rugby World Cup year, “The Fields of Athenry”, “Irelands Call”. Or “Black Velvet Band”, “The Town I loved So Well”, “Molly Malone”, Mountains of Mourne”, “The Galway Shawl”, “Mary of Dungloe”, “The Rose of Tralee”, “Flight of Earls”, “The Parting Glass”…and you might be reading this and think “Why wasn’t this song included?”

At the beginning of April, the details were announced and my perception is that it was as much about honouring singers as songs.

It is hard to disagree with the inclusion of “Danny Boy” (John McCormack) and “Raglan Road” (Luke Kelly). But “Dreams” (The Cranberries) and “With Or Without You” (U2) are unknown to me.

Three things. I am an old guy of 67 and there was no music after about 1974. Second thing, I had no real reason to think that “Great Irish Songs” means songs that are traditional or older. Third thing, Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer with the Cranberries died just last year and appropriate to honour her.

Maybe a fourth thing. Commercialism. The two traditional songs had a printing of just 94,000 each. The Cranberries had a print run of 150,000 and U2 had a print run of 250,000.

A philatelic “product” was also produced.

Music1

The four stamps and the product  “cover”  are shown above. The product cost 15 Euros. Designed as a 45rpm (7 inch) record sleeve, it contained the four stamps in the set, shown as records.

Music2

“Raglan Road” is shown above.

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New Issues 2019: Date Uncertain

It seems odd to say that a new stamp was issued and not to be certain of the date. In due course a stamp catalogue will be precise.

These two stamps were originally as issued as commemorative stamps earlier in the year and now re-issued as “Stamps on a Roll” (SOAR). SOAR stamps are issued by post office clerks in every post office.

They are effectively Definitive stamps and the current series of these stamps was supposed to be “Ireland in 100 Objects” based on a selection by journalist Fintan O’Toole.

Eight stamps were issued in January 2017, January 2018 and January 2019. So far so good. But in August last year eight stamps, previously issued as commemoratives in 2017 and 2018 were added to the SOAR stamps.

Two of these eight designs have now been withdrawn and replaced by new SOAR stamps originally issued as commemoratives early this year.

As yet, the Philatelic Bureau are not selling this pair and I presume there will be further such examples in 2019. So for the moment , they are only available at post office counters.

The two new designs are the First Dáil (issued as a commemorative in January) and Organ Donation (issued as a commemorative in March). They are the first and first and third stamps on this SOAR strip.

10cents2

The unfortunate aspect is that there is no prior notification.

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New Issues 2019: April

At the point where I am drafting a post on New Issues for May 2019, I see that I have not posted about New Issues in April.

Just one issue in the annual Europa series. These are issues by European nations on a common theme. The theme for 2019 is “Native Birds”. So two stamps issued. The “N” (national mail) stamp features the Roseate Tern and the “W” (worldwide mail) stamp features the Golden Plover.

NIBirdsNIBirds2

A miniature sheet was also issued.

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A Re-Born Stamp Collector…10th March 2012

In a post, two days ago, I wrote how at the end of 2000, I stopped collecting stamps.

I don’t know if I intended to take a few years break (as the expense was problematic to a family man) or if I saw the end of the 20th century as a natural time to draw a line.

I concentrated on collecting and painting plastic toy soldiers and I spent a lot of time on the Internet. Increasingly I believe the Internet has evolved. Effectively I have been online for twenty one years and it divides into two decades…the decade of AOL/Yahoo/Myspace/Live Journal and a second decade of “Social Media”  Blogging/ Facebook/Twitter. I am aware of maybe a new age of Instagram but I am too old to care.

I prefer the hate-free zone of the first decade to the hate-filled zone of the second decade.

So probably around 2009 or 2010, I was already missing being a Stamp Collector. But in early 2012, I told my older son that the introduction page of the first Ireland Stamp Album signed on 31st October 1970 and later dedications to my wife (1982) and my older son (1983). Someday this collection will belong to him and it seemed right and fitting that I should resume.

It was of course easier being retired and having sons of 28 and 26 (already married and away from home).

So on 10th March 2012, I went into Waterstones bookstore in Belfast and asked about Gibbons “Ireland” Catalogue. Interestingly there was an edition just published. I ordered it and it was delivered to me 14th March 2012….not cheap at £15.95.

CatalougeIRL A catalogue is really a glorified price list but Gibbons, Scott, Yvert have taken on near Biblical significance. You choose your version…King James, Catholic, whatever. Back in 1970, I was guided by Gibbons. If a stamp is not listed in Gibbons then it doesn’t exist. If it is listed in Gibbons, then it is a “must have”.

As at 31st December 2000, Gibbons listed 1,382 Irish stamps….plus varieties.

As at September 2011, the most recent issue in the above catalogue, Gibbons listed 2,090 stamps…plus varieties.

In other words, merely to catch up, I needed 1,416 stamps (ie mint and used). Added to maybe forty stamps on my “wants list”, this would be a daunting task.

Two main sources here. The Irish Post Office Philatelic Service hold Year Packs for five years so that was a major source and at face value.

But the Year Packs are not totally complete…eg miniature sheets and varieties are not included.

So the second source was Dealers and around 85% of the stamps I needed (2001 to 2005 and later miniature sheets and varieties) were obtained thru Declan O’Kelly at Cathedral Stamps in Dublin. Everyone needs a reliable dealer.

It was frustrating at times. I still had to keep pace with New Issues. I set myself a target of five years (my 65th birthday in May 2017) to catch up on everything from 2001 to date. I also had to buy albums and accessories. So I was pleasantly surprised that I caught up a few months ahead of schedule.

In fairness, after over-issuing stamps in the later years of the 20th century, An Post adopted a more reasonable approach. But as I noted in my previous post, there are disturbing signs that An Post is returning to the bad old days.

For myself, I have changed a little. I collect what I want and I am not influenced by the tyranny of the Catalogue defining what I do.

I am maybe as obsessive as ever. But only in relation to Ireland. Re-discovering the “world” has been beneficial.

Ireland is an Obsession that drives me insane. The World is a child-like enthusiasm that keeps me sane.

Somehow, I am ………balanced.

The really good thing at May 2019 is that I only have to keep up with New Issues. In terms of a “wants list”, there are just 26 stamps. Two are early Irish coils and one is (maybe surprisingly) a variety from the 1990s. They are the targets for 2019.

This would leave 23 “overprints” all mint and used “Seahorses”.  Of course this puts me into territory where a stamp does not cost the price of a packet of cigarettes or a pint of beer. This is different…the price of a new suit…or a new dress…or a new bathroom. It means I think twice and shop around.

But it also makes me think that “Seahorses”, overprinted British stamps are not in the fullest sense Irish.

Target dates……well its variable. For 31st October 2020 (the fiftieth anniversary of collecting Ireland as a speciality), Id like to have all the “Irish” stamps.

And other dates…10th May 2022 (my 70th birthday) and 10th May 2027 (my 75th birthday).

But maybe…the nature of being a collector is that completion is an aspiration. Maybe we are not supposed to be “complete”.

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I Stopped Collecting Stamps in 2001

On 9th May, some new stamps were issued on the theme “Great Irish Songs”. It will be the only issue this month but I will be sticking to my custom of writing about “New Issues” after the month has ended.

Although this is an excellent theme, I had the uncomfortable feeling that it was back to the future in many ways. The over-issue of stamps and the exploitation of collectors striving for completion is a constant source of annoyance to collectors.

This hobby of ours works best when the three elements…post office, dealer and collector have mutual respect. There are signs in 2018 and 2019 that An Post, (Ireland’s Post Office) is crossing the line and exploiting collectors.

It has happened before at the time of the Millennium 1999/2000.

The Millennium was of course a big event. I like many who got the Internet (it was AOL) found myself drifting away from Stamp Collecting.

There is always a balance. It seemed acceptable that An Post issued stamps on about eight occasions in a year, maybe issued a booklet once a year and a miniature sheet once a year.

But in 1999/2000 An Post “jumped the shark”. It was never really the same again.

Yesterday,  10th May was my 67th birthday…celebrated with chocolate cake with my wife, two sons, two daughters-in-law and my four surviving grandchildren. I am a retired old guy living in this house with my wife and 18 year old cat.

Every collector has a budget. But who was I on 10th May 1999? Well I had just turned 47 and had a wife (same one!) and sons (15 and 13). As I don’t smoke or drink alcohol, I have always justified Stamp Collecting as my only vice. In so far as a new set of stamps costs the same as a pack of cigarettes or that a stamp from my wants list (maybe 50 stamps) generally cost the same as a pint of beer, then my family did not suffer…the budget for food, electricity, childrens clothes and the rest was not affected.

But in 1999, An Post issued a set of fifteen stamps …The Team of the Millennium. In itself it was a good idea, honouring the fifteen players reckoned to be the best Gaelic Football players of the 20th century. A neat touch was that they were shown on the sheet as a line-out….goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and forwards. So far so good.

Millennium1

I bought two sheets. One sheet I retained as “mint” and the second sheet was broken up and posted to myself so that I had a set of “used” stamps.

The scan above is actually a third sheet…a special “souvenir”. It is sheet #990 of a “limited edition of 1000 sheets. The stamps in this sheet are actually imperforate. They were never intended to be used in mail.

The hype and the speculation was that the limited edition sheet would rise in value. In fact it was never catalogued by the important stamp dealers like Stanley Gibbons.

The Team of the Millennium saga did not end there. An Post produced the same fifteen stamps in self adhesive form in four booklets. So of course the obsessive person that I am bought two of each booklet (to have the stamps mint and used).

But the Millennium was not just about Sport.

From January to December 2000, An Post issued thirty six stamps (six issues of six stamps) and of course this means I had to buy two of each (mint and used). Difficult for me because my entire budget was being spent (over-spent!) on New Issues and I could make no progress on the “wants list”.

A second Team of the Millennium issue (the GAA sport of Hurling) was issued during 2000. Same format. Fifteen players lined up…goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and forwards. So of course, I bought two sheets. (for mint and used). This time, I did not buy the imperforate sheet (it would never be catalogued so in collector terms it was not really legitimate.

But I did buy two each of the five (yes five!) self-adhesive booklets that were issued so that I would have the stamps in mint and used condition.

Millennium2

The nine (four Gaelic Football and five Hurling) booklets are shown above.

By now I had already made up my mind that the year 2000 would be my last year as a Stamp Collector. In part, the Internet had already established itself as a new hobby. Maybe Stamp Collecting itself was a 20th century “thing”. And maybe a natural line could be drawn. But mostly, An Post had killed the goose that laid the “golden egg”.

So…yesterday’s issue “Great Songs” was maybe a return to the bad old days of 1999/2000. “Products” such as the “special” Papal Visit souvenir and “Elf on the Shelf” in 2018 seem to show that An Post will select one or two issues to be sold as a “product”.

Sad.

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178 Countries

A new country….Uzbekistan.

Uzbek

I am pleased to get this one.

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Canada & Australia

So yesterday I attended the Spring Stamp & Postcard Show in Belfast.

StNick

The same venue hosts a general Collectors Fair on the first Saturday of every month so the two big annual Belfast shows in April and October are attended by the usual dealers, supplemented by two or three who only attend the big events.

This weekend the Irish Philatelic Circle (I was a member in the 1980s and about two years ago I joined for one year only) is holding its annual meeting in Belfast. The AGM alternates between an Irish venue and an English venue so there was a sprinkling of “southern” and “English” accents yesterday.

I concentrated on the “twice a year” dealers. After all next Saturday I will be back at the monthly show.

It was always unlikely that I would pick up any commercial mail from countries to add to the 177 that I already have but I did spend £12 on sixteen covers that were better than some I already have. And I picked up about ten freebie covers which were being given away as a “thank you” for merely attending.

I also spent £2 on twenty very common postcards.

But I spent £10 on these stamps, mostly from Canada and Australia. Not exactly a bargain. I made the rookie mistake of being attracted by bright colours.

MISC

I have written before about how much I enjoy the “recognition factor” in stamps. So when I started collecting stamps in about 1961, Canadian actors Raymond Burr and Lorne Greene were already on my television set as Perry Mason (later Ironside) and Ben Cartwright (later Griff). The four Canadian singers are interesting. Like most men of my age, I have albums by Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. And I have singles by Anne Murray (including “Can I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life” – the second waltz at our wedding in 1982) and Paul Anka “Youre Having My Baby” from you guessed it… 1983.

Still on nostalgia, the first car my wife owned was a Volkswagen Beetle. It was before I met her. And she wants a Beetle to be her last car. So we have this running joke where I say “I bought you a VW Beetle” which turns out to be a model car…or twelve in a calendar or a fridge magnet…….and now a stamp from Greece.

And I couldn’t resist the black cat on the Jersey stamp. After all we have a black cat (Keano) who will be 18 years old in the summer.

Turning to Australia…I think I already have Kylie Minogue and Olivia Newton John. But again back in 1961, Scobie Breasley was on TV in race meetings in England. And of course I have read Thomas Keneally and NOT read Colleen McCullough.

I like these stamps which are effectively showcasing Canadian and Australian talent at domestic and national level.

Yet I think it runs deeper than this. There is something that Canada and Ireland certainly have in common. We are too close to a bigger neighbour (USA and England) not to be influenced by it and too far away (yes I know Canada has a land border) to be fully integrated.

Certainly with Ireland, we suffered an inferiority complex. I don’t know if Canada felt that (Anthony, please feel free to comment here) but I think Canada and Ireland have grown up and become more assertive.

Australia….well clearly it is at the other end of the world from the old Mother Country. No land border. But again on the 1961 theme….a lot of character actors on British TV were Aussies….Ray Barrett, Charles Tingwall, Reg Lye, Bill Kerr, John Bluthal, Ed Devereaux and Vincent Ball. I think many had served with Australian forces in England during the Second World War. Later there would be Liza Goddard and in music The Seekers and Olivia Newton John. And writers like Germaine Greer and Clive James and jockeys like Scobie Breasley and Bill Williamson.

The interesting thing is that many of these folks went back to Australia. Of the 1960s folks I think only Vincent Ball is still alive but I daresay that some will feature in “Australian Legends”.

Has Ireland changed since 1961? Yes. We are a diverse, modern, multi-ethnic nation. And in any index of decency, democracy, freedom….we are right up there with the Nordic countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand.

But what has this got to do with Stamp Collecting? Well the issuing of stamps is not just about the “centenary” of THIS  or the “bicentenary” of THAT. It is also about the date of issue…where we are now.

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