United Kingdom: Commonwealth Games

Monday 8th August will be the last day of the 2022 Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham, England. The featured image is of a stamp from an issue commemorating the sixth running of the event, then referred to as the British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Cardiff, Wales in 1958. The Commonwealth Games is a multi-sport event held every four years among athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations – a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire – including Australia, Canada, India, Jamaica, Malaysia and New Zealand, all of which have hosted the games.

The first British Empire Games were held in 1930 in Hamilton, Canada, although an earlier event was held in London in 1911 known as the Inter-Empire Championships which is often cited as a precursor to the modern Commonwealth Games. Events scheduled to be held in Montreal, Canada in 1942 and Cardiff, Wales in 1946 were cancelled due to World War II. The event was then run successfully as the the British Empire Games to 1950, then as the British Empire and Commonwealth Games from to 1966 and the Commonwealth Games from 1974.

1958 Great Britain, British Empire & Commonwealth Games, 3d stamp
1958 Great Britain, British Empire & Commonwealth Games, 3d

The home nations of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) compete separately, as do all British Overseas Territories (Anguilla, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Saint Helena and Turks and Caicos Islands) and  Crown Dependencies such as Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Jersey. The most successful country at the Commonwealth Games is Australia with more than 2,400 medals, followed by England and Canada.

1958 Great Britain, British Empire & Commonwealth Games, 6d stamp
1958 Great Britain, British Empire & Commonwealth Games, 6d

The 1958 stamp issue comprised three stamps of denominations 3d (lilac), 6d (mauve) and 1s.3d (green) printed by Harrison & Sons Ltd. on paper with St. Edward’s Crown watermark. Each stamp includes an image of a dragon, the emblem of Wales and a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, the head of the Commonwealth.

2022 Commonwealth Games Birmingham, England stamps
2022 Commonwealth Games Birmingham, England

All of the countries that have hosted the Commonwealth games have released commemorative issues and in many cases, multiple issues. Other countries that have issued stamps commemorating the Commonwealth games include Anguilla, Ascension Island, British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Gambia, Guyana, Hong Kong, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nauru, Norfolk Island, Papua & New Guinea, St Helena, St Kitts, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Tristan da Cunha, Turks & Caicos Islands and Uganda. This year, the Royal Mail issued a set of stamps to commemorate the 22nd Commonwealth Games hosted in Birmingham, England. More than 500 athletes are taking place in the 2022 event across 72 teams including 54 countries and 18 territories. The next Commonwealth Games will be held in the State of Victoria, Australia.

To view postal issues of the Great Britain, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

France: Philately’s Golden Era

Last week I published a blog casting a spotlight on one of the stamp designs of the celebrated French engraver, Albert Decaris, that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Tour de France. The featured stamp is another Decaris design, this time commemorating Philatec, the International Stamp Exhibition held in Paris in 1964. The 1f stamp includes images of historical and contemporary methods of communication.

France 1963 Philatec Paris 1964 1st Issue stamp
France 1963 Philatec Paris 1964 1st Issue

Philatec was one of many International stamp exhibitions held during a period in which philately reached its height of popularity. Indeed, there were no fewer than three stamp issues released by the French postal service in the build up to Philatec Paris 1964. On 14th December 1963 a single stamp of 25c denomination was issued featuring the pastime. This was followed on 9th May 1964 with the release of four stamps of 25c and 30c denominations including illustrations of postal mechanisation and telecommunications as well as images of early ‘Blanc’ and ‘Mouchon’ stamp designs.

France 1964 Philatec Paris 1964 2nd Issue stamps
France 1964 Philatec Paris 1964 2nd Issue

The featured stamp was issued on 5th June 1964 to coincide with the start of the event that was held at Grand Palais and ran through to 21st June 1964. This was considered to be the major international philatelic event of the year, attracting thousands of collectors from all over the globe and even commanding significant print space in the worlds press including the New York Times. A post office branch had been installed at the event to sell special souvenir Philatec sheets of the 1f stamps. Each ticket holder to the event was entitled to one of the stamps including an adjacent portion bearing the event symbol. The cost of entrance was therefore a total of 4f (including the 3f ticket fee). Bizarrely, anyone wanting to buy a complete sheet of eight stamps had to also purchase the additional seven entrance tickets!

Entrance ticket to Philatec Paris 1964
Entrance ticket to Philatec Paris 1964

The Grand Palais, located at the Champs-Élysées in Paris, was constructed specifically to host large-scale artistic events. Its lofty glass domes raised fears amongst some collectors that the sunlight might bleach the philatelic collections. Officials were keen to point out that the glass had been treated to filter out ‘colour-destroying rays’. The Grand Palais was temporarily closed in March 2021 for significant renovation works and is scheduled to re-open in time for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games where it will host the Fencing and Taekwondo events.

France 1964 Philatec Paris 1964 First Day Cover
France 1964 Philatec Paris 1964 First Day Cover

To view postal issues of France, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

France: Tour de France

Like many who have an interest in cycling, this time of year is rather special. July is when the most prestigious of the Grand Tour cycling events takes place and arguably one of the worlds greatest annual sporting events – the Tour de France. Therefore, as a philatelist, the featured stamp has to be one of my favourites too!

The 12f stamp was issued in 1953 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Tour de France and features two cyclists, the one of the left in the typical attire of a 1903 competitor and the one on the right in the more modern attire of 1953. The map of France in the centre is overlaid with the Tour de France routes of 1903 and 1953 respectively, although this can be a little difficult to decipher.

The event was first held in 1903 as a publicity stunt for a newspaper, L’Auto, and has been held annually since then apart from breaks during the two World Wars (between 1915-1918 and 1940-1946). The first event was won by Maurice Garin, with many competitors dropping out after the first few stages arguing that it was far too punishing. It was questionable whether the event would even make it past it’s second anniversary. The 1904 was beset with claims of cheating, sabotage and even evidence that riders were beaten up by rival gangs of fans as they neared the top of the col de la République.

Today, the Tour de France is one of the three Grand Tour events which also includes the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. Each of the Grand Tour events comprise 21 stages. Whilst the format of the Tour de France has changed over time, the most coveted classification is the general classification awarded to the rider with the lowest cumulative time over all stages. The leader in this classification is awarded a yellow jersey – a throw-back to the original sponsor, L’Auto, that was printed on yellow paper.

The featured stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris who created more than 500 vignettes for various postal services, notably France and African colonies. Decaris is noted as one of the best French engravers of the 20th century and his designs are certainly memorable. Bizarrely, Decaris was himself an Olympian – he was the last person to ever win a Gold Medal for ‘Etching and Engraving’ at the 1948 Olympic Games held in London!

2022 France Le Tourmalet Stamp
2022 France Le Tourmalet

In 2003, France issued a colourful set of stamps to commemorate the centenary of the Tour de France. On 11th July this year, France issued a single stamp in honour of the Tourmalet, a pass in the Pyrenees which is one of the most popular climbs to feature in the Tour. Surprisingly, the Tour de France perhaps features more often on the stamps of neighbouring countries, most notably Andorra and Monaco.

To view postal issues of France, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Jamaica: Mail Packet Boats

The featured image is of the mail packet boat Thames which is one of four vessels that appear on stamps issued by Jamaica in April 1974 to commemorate those that frequented Jamaica and neighbouring British embassies, colonies and outposts in the 19th century. The issue was accompanied by a miniature sheet included a depiction of some of the routes, calling at ports across the Caribbean, Central America and the southern United States.

1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats miniature stamp sheet
1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats miniature sheet

The stamp issue comprises four stamps all printed on paper with the multiple ‘J’ and Pineapple watermark and perforated 13½ and 14½:

  • 5c Mary 1808-1815,  Perf 13½ & 14½
  • 10c Queensbury 1814-1827, Perf 14½
  • 15c Sheldrake 1829-1834, Perf 14½ 
  • 50c Thames 1842, Perf 13½
1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 5c stamp
1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 5c

The history of some of these vessels is difficult to trace and the names used on the stamps do not necessarily coincide directly with vessels that appear on the Lloyds List of Shipping. For example, Mary is believed to be the Princess Mary that was built in Dartmouth in 1805. She made regular voyages as a mail packet boat to the Caribbean including the Leeward Islands and Jamaica as well as Barbados, Martinique and Guadeloupe. She made a lengthy stop-over in Jamaica in 1816 for repair but was subsequently wrecked in a storm near Plymouth in 1817.

1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 10c stamp
1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 10c

Similarly, Queensbury is given in the Lloyds List as the Marchioness of Queensbury which made its maiden voyage in June 1814 from Falmouth, England to Lisbon. Thereafter, she made regular voyages as a mail packet boat to the Leeward Islands and Jamaica in the Caribbean, as well as New York, Mexico, Brazil, Spain and the Mediterranean.

1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 15c stamp
1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 15c

From 1823 mail services to the british colonies were serviced by Admiralty vessels under the Post Office Packet Service. That was certainly the case for HMS Sheldrake, a ‘Cherokee’ class brig-sloop built at Pembroke and launched in 1825. Like many of the packet service ships of this era, she was lightly armed and relied on speed for security. HMS Sheldrake was equipped with 10 guns, eight 18lb and two 6lb canon, and by 1827 was commissioned by the Post Office Packet Service, operating out of Falmouth.

In 1839, Queen Victoria granted a Royal Charter of Incorporation to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and in 1840, the Admiralty commissioned the company to provide a fleet of not fewer than fourteen steam ships for the purpose of carrying mail to the Caribbean – as a result the ships were known as the West Indies Mail Steamers. The West Indian Mail Service was established by the sailing of the first Royal Mail Steam Packet from Falmouth in 3 January 1842 – the Thames featured on the 50c stamp. She was a wooden-hulled paddle-wheeler as was capable of speeds up to 10.4 knots.

To view postal issues of Jamaica, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Thematics: Day of the Stamp

The ‘Day of the Stamp’ is typically a day of the year set aside by postal stamp-issuing authorities to publicise, and in some cases subsidise, philatelic events and exhibitions. The issues were popular in many European countries during the mid 20th Century including Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Netherlands, Italy and Hungary.

Germany 1943 Day of the Stamp
Germany 1943 Day of the Stamp
Germany 1944 Day of the Stamp
Germany 1944 Day of the Stamp

The Day of the Stamp is not to be confused with World Post Day that is celebrated each year on 9 October to commemorate the anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Postal Union in 1874 in Bern, Switzerland. ‘Day of the Stamp’ issues were first released in Germany inscribed with ‘TAG DER BRIEFMARKE’ between 1942 (featured image) and 1944 and others were subsequently issued at intervals by both East and West Germany. Stamps featuring a similar inscription were issued annually in Austria from December 1949. France issued a stamp bearing the caption ‘Journée du Timbre’ annually from 1948. This first issue featured the portrait of Etienne Arago who is credited with having introduced adhesive stamps to France in 1848.

France 1949 Day of the Stamp
France 1949 Day of the Stamp
Spain 1961 Day of the Stamp
Spain 1961 Day of the Stamp

In Spain and associated Colonies, stamps were inscribed ‘DIA DEL SELLO’ although many stamps were issued to raise funds for philatelic purposes with no inscription or obvious indication of purpose at all. Netherlands stamps issued for this purpose included the inscription ‘DAG VAN DEN POSTZEGEL’ and those for Italy, ‘GIORNATA DEI FRANCOBOLLI’. Hungarian Stamp Day issues bore the inscription ‘BELYEG-NAP’ and were typically issued in September each year.

Netherlands 1943 Day of the Stamp
Netherlands 1943 Day of the Stamp

With interest in philately dwindling, the practice has been become less common. However, ironically, the issues represent an interesting thematic domain for the stamp collector.

To view postal issues, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

St Lucia: Saint Lucy’s Day

The featured image is of a 50c postal stamp issued by St Lucia commemorating National Day, 13th December 1971. Beneath the ‘National Day’ banner is a coat of arms, but what is the significance of the female character whose image appears on the left of the stamp? The answer is associated with the naming of the Caribbean island itself.

St Lucia is one of only a few countries in the world named after a woman – in this case, the historical figure, Saint Lucy of Syracuse. Legend suggests that French sailors were shipwrecked on the island on 13 December, the feast day of Saint Lucy. Subsequently, the island was named in her honour.

Saint Lucy of Syracuse was a martyr who died during the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Romain Empire. According to tradition, Lucy was born of rich and noble parents about the year 283 AD. Lucy distributed a great part of her wealth among the poor which aggravated the Romain elite. When guards arrived to persecute her, they were unable to physically move her. Bundles of wood were heaped about her but would not burn. Finally, she met her death by sword, thrust into her throat. The image on the stamp is from a baroque period painting by the school of the Italian artist, Dolci Carlo (1616-1686) and depicts Saint Lucy of Syracuse with the wound to her throat clearly visible.

The Christian feast of day Saint Lucy is observed on 13 December and, as well as being celebrated in Scandinavia and Italy, is also commemorated as National Day in St Lucia. The 1971 issue included four stamps, all with identical design but each of different denomination (5c, 10c, 25c and 50c) and background colour to the coat of arms.

1971 St Lucia National Day 5c, 10c & 25c stamps
1971 St Lucia National Day 5c, 10c & 25c

The St Lucia coat of arms comprises a blue shield with a stool at the centre (of traditional African design), two Tudor Roses (symbolising England) and two Fleur de Lis (symbolising St Lucia). The shield is supported by two Saint Lucian parrots, a species found only in Saint Lucia. Beneath the shield is the national motto ‘The land, the people, the light’. Incidentally, Saint Lucy of Syracuse is also regarded as saint of light – Lucy sharing the same Latin root with the word for light, lux.

To view postal issues of the St Lucia, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

United Kingdom: Platinum Jubilee

This weekend, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II – a Platinum Jubilee. Stamps issued almost 70 years ago commemorate the coronation rather than the accession but comprise more than 100 stamps issued across 68 countries.

The accession of Queen Elizabeth II, aged 25, took place on 6 February 1952 following the death of her father, King George VI. In accordance with tradition, she was proclaimed queen by her privy and executive councils shortly following the Kings death but it was not until more than a year later that the coronation was held at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. Not surprisingly therefore, the first United Kingdom stamps following accession was not the commemorative coronation issue but the first definitive issue featuring the new monarch.

United Kingdom 1952 Wilding Definitive 1½d stamp
United Kingdom 1952 Wilding Definitive 1½d
United Kingdom 1952 Wilding Definitive 2½d stamp
United Kingdom 1952 Wilding Definitive 2½d

The first Queen Elizabeth II definitive issue was the ‘Wilding’, so named as the design featured the Dorothy Wilding photographic portrait of the Queen. The photographs were taken during a session held on 26 February 1952, just a matter of weeks after accession. The first stamps of the issue, denominations of 1½d and 2½d, were issued by 5 December 1952. Another 15 denominations would be released as part of this issue until 1954 although the design would be used for other definitive issues until 1967 when the design was replaced by that of Arnold Machin.

United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 4d stamp
United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 4d
United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 1s.3d stamp
United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 1s.3d
United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 1s.6d stamp
United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 1s.6d

The coronations commemorative issue appeared a day after the coronation on 3 June 1953. The issue comprises four stamps, all of different denominations and by different designers (although all except 1s.3d denomination feature the Dorothy Wilding portrait):

  • 2½d design by E. Fuller [Carmine-Red]
  • 4d design by M. Goaman [Ultramarine]
  • 1s.3d design by E. Dulac [Deep Yellow-Green]
  • 1s.6d design by M. Farrar-Bell [Deep Grey-Blue]

The stamps were printed by Harrison and Sons Ltd. on paper with the Tudor Crown watermark and perforated 15×14. The United Kingdom issue was accompanied by a further 102 stamps issued across 67 countries of the Commonwealth of Nations from Aden (South Arabian Federation) to Turks and Caicos Islands. In the majority of cases this was based on a common design, engraved and printed by De La Rue.

Aden 1953 Coronation 15c stamp
Aden 1953 Coronation 15c

To view postal issues of the United Kingdom, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Jamaica: Self Government

The featured image is of a stamp issued between 1945 and 1946 to commemorate the New Constitution and Self-Government of Jamaica. The issue is typical of many following World War II that introduced sweeping decolonisation. As for many British colonies in the Caribbean, this represented a step in the transition from a Crown Colony to a fully independent state.

Jamaica had originally been a colony of the Spanish Empire from 1509. During the Anglo-Spanish War (1654-1660), a large British military contingent landed at Kingston Harbour and took the island on 11 May 1655. Jamaica remained a British Crown Colony until 20 November 1944 when the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) led a government that enacted a new constitution and organised an Executive Council with a legislature chaired by the newly created position of Premier.

The New Constitution commemorative issue was released on 20 August 1945 and featured seven denominations (six designs):

  • 1½d Courthouse, Falmouth [Sepia]
  • 2d King Charles II and King George VI [Green]
  • 3d Institute of Jamaica [Ultramarine]
  • 4½d House of Assembly [Slate]
  • 2s Labour and Learning [Red-Brown]
  • 5s Scroll of New Constitution and Flag [Indigo]
  • 10s Institute of Jamaica [Green]

The King, George VI, remained Head of State and his portrait features on five of the designs. His portrait is missing from only the 2s Labour and Learning design – interestingly, it was the British West Indian labour unrest of 1934-39 that generated nationalist sentiment and set the country on the path to independence. Three of the designs feature buildings of national importance for self governance. Seemingly in an attempt to acknowledge some continuity of British influence, the design featuring King Charles II and King George VI (2d denomination) commemorates the 280 years between the First House of Assembly (during the reign of Charles II) and the New Constitution.

Following World War II, several constitutional amendments were introduced under the premiership of Norman Manley to speed up the process of decolonisation. These amendments facilitated greater self-governance and the establishment of a cabinet of ministers under a Prime Minister of Jamaica. Independence was granted on 6 August with the Queen as Head of State.

To view postal issues of Jamaica, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

France: 1946 Airmail Issue

France were early pioneers of aviation, powered flight and airmail services. It is therefore somewhat surprising that it was not until 1927, that France issued its first airmail stamps (Poste Aerienne). That inaugural issue featured two stamps of the noted Merson design, commemorating the first International Display of Aviation and Navigation hosted in Marseilles, and were overprinted with an image of the Blériot XI aircraft made famous by Louis Blériot in 1909 to make the first powered flight across the English Channel. This issue was following by others, including that of 1946 that is the subject of this post. 

The first recorded manned flight was launched in Paris in a hot air balloon built by the Montgolfier brothers on 21 November 1783. As early as 1870, France had established an airmail service using hot air balloons, referred to as ‘Ballon Monte’ (Manned Balloon). This became a critical line of communication during the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent Siege of Paris. Between 1970 and 1871, more than 60 balloons were constructed and launched from disused train stations such as Gare du Nord and Gare d’Orleans to convey mail, as well as escapees, from the besieged city.

1946 France 40f stamp featuring the Centaur
1946 France 40f featuring the Centaur
1946 France 50f stamp featuring Iris
1946 France 50f featuring Iris

France released many stamp issues in the early 1900’s reflecting the pioneering role they played in the evolution of powered flight. The airmail issue of 1930 was the first in France to feature an image of an aircraft in the design – in this case a Farman F.190, a utility aircraft built in France, flying above the church of Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseilles. By 1946 there had been numerous airmail and commemorative issues featuring powered flight including a single stamp was issued in 1934 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Blériot’s flight across the Channel.

1946 France 100f stamp featuring Jupiter
1946 France 100f featuring Jupiter

The 1946 airmail issue is notable for the designs, typical of the post-war French issues but stunning none the less. The issue was designed by the prolific illustrator and engraver, Pierre Glandon, whose name appears on each of the stamps. There were four stamps in the issue of denominations between 40f and 200f and all feature a image comprising Roman and Greek mythological characters and depictions of aircraft of the era:

  • 40f Centaur (creature said to have been born of the Cloud, Nephele) [Green]
  • 50f Iris (goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods) [Pink]
  • 100f Jupiter (god of the sky and lightning) [Blue]
  • 200f Apollo (god of the Sun, light and more) [Red, featured image]

To view postal issues of France, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Bermuda: Down at the Docks

Around the time of the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, pictorial stamp designs were introduced across the British Caribbean territories. Jamaica saw the introduction of the ‘Arms of Jamaica’ issue (1903) and the Bahamas ‘Queen’s Staircase’ issue (1901). This was a break from the traditional young portrait image of Queen Victoria that had graced many stamp issues to date; noting a few exceptions such as the ‘Llandovery Falls’ issue of Jamaica in 1900. Whilst not strictly speaking in the Caribbean, Bermuda followed suit with it’s iconic ‘Wet / Dry Dock’ pictorial issue which was first released in November 1902 and remained in circulation until 1910.

There is some debate as to whether the image is of a Wet or Dry Dock. The original badge, based on a seal approved by the Admiralty in 1817, clearly depicts a Wet Dock and it is this image that was used as the basis for the image on the stamp design by De La Rue. The design shows an empty dock in the foreground with three sailing ships in open water beyond. The scene alludes to the fact that the islands were a stopover base for the sailing ships of the period.

Bermuda 1903 Dry Dock Definitive 3d stamp
Bermuda 1903 Dry Dock Definitive 3d

Three denominated stamps were issued between 1902 and 1903 – ½d Black & Green (first issued December 1903), 1d Brown & Carmine (first issued November 1902) and 3d Magenta and Sage-Green (first issued September 1903). The issue was printing by typography on paper watermarked with Crown CA and perforated 14.

Bermuda 1908 Dry Dock Definitive ¼d stamp
Bermuda 1908 Dry Dock Definitive ¼d
Bermuda 1908 Dry Dock Definitive ½d stamp
Bermuda 1909 Dry Dock Definitive ½d

From 1906, the design was reused with four new denominations – ¼d Brown & Violet (first issued September 1908), 2d Grey & Orange (first issued October 1907), 2½d Brown & Ultramarine (first issued December 1906) and 4d Blue & Chocolate (1909, featured image) – and a watermark change to Multiple Crown CA. Subsequently, to comply with Universal Postal Union standards, the 1d was reissued in Red (1908), the ½d in Green (1909) and the 2½d in Blue (1910). The design was used for all the definitive stamps of Bermuda during the reign of Edward VII.

To view postal issues of Bermuda, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.