Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Letter From 1842 Brought To Life

A Property Dispute Involving an Earl, an Admiral and a Mystery Claimant

This entire (meaning a folded letter-sheet) was sent in April 1842 from solicitor James Burn of Edinburgh to solicitors Russel & Aitken of Falkirk.

The address reads Messrs Russel & Aitken, Writers, Falkirk. “Writers” is an abbreviation for “Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet”, a private society of Scottish solicitors formed in 1594 that still exists. The abbreviation “WS” can be seen after solicitor’s names in the letter, and members of the Society still use the letters today.

The stamp is SG8, 1d red-brown imperforate, issued in late 1841. It is cancelled with an Edinburgh Maltese Cross (this stamp was illustrated in my Marcophily blog)

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The German South Polar Expedition of 1911

Brave Men in a Very Small Boat

In early May 1911, the bark "Deutschland" set sail from Bremerhaven en route to Antarctica.

The goal of the second German South Polar Expedition was to map the continent via an overland route from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea, and confirm that it was one piece of land.

The leader, and organiser, of the expedition was Wilhelm Filchner (1877-1957) who, at the age of 34, had already been involved in expeditions to Russia, Central Asia and Tibet.

Wilhelm Filchner
By any measure, the expedition was a failure. After visiting South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, they were beset by pack ice for nine months. The only real success of the expedition was disproving the existence of South Greenland, which had been included in maps since 1823.

During their visit to Grytviken in South Georgia, the crew were busy posting postcards home.

Although many cards have been on the market in recent years, and have achieved five-figure sums, this may be the ultimate postcard from the expedition.

The picture side, showing the "Deutschland", is autographed by ten members of the expedition. A total of thirty-five crew and scientists were on board. 

Monday, 28 May 2012

Specialised Catalogues

Every Home Should Have One (at least!)

My primary collecting area is the King George V period, so my preferred catalogue is the Stanley Gibbons British Empire & Commonwealth 1840-1970 catalogue. Widely respected, and considered the best resource for Commonwealth issues, the SG is, however, not the only catalogue required if you want to delve even further into a particular country or period.

This is not news, but it did come into focus for me when browsing The Gibbons Stamp Monthly archive on CD (available at . The archive includes every article from the Gibbons Monthly Journal, Gibbons Stamp Weekly and Gibbons Stamp Monthly from 1890 to 2009, and it’s a mind-boggling resource that I heartily recommend.

My favourite column in the archive is “Under the Magnifying Glass”, where reader-submitted errors and varieties are scrutinised and discussed. What I noticed was that many varieties, including naked-eye varieties, are identified with sheet positions, confirmed as constant, yet they have never seen the light of day in the catalogue.

This intrigues me, but I assume that the catalogue would need to become a multi-volume tome if all of the accepted, recognised varieties were to be included.

So how do you become aware of what other varieties exist that should sit side-by-side with the SG-listed varieties in your collection? There’s really only one answer. Specialised catalogues, especially those issued in the relevant country, should be your next port of call.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Marcophily - The Study of Postmarks - Part 1

Sometimes, You Don't Notice The Stamp!

The hobby of collecting postmarks is known as Marcophily. It's a fascinating area, with specialist areas within the hobby. Avid postmark collectors are quite willing and able to look past deficiencies in the quality of the stamp if the postmark is scarce enough!
Postage stamps were introduced in 1840, and the first postmarks were designed to obliterate the stamp to ensure that it couldn't be re-used. The first postmark in wide use was this one, a Maltese Cross. Many different types exist, and this one can be identified as an Edinburgh Maltese Cross

Postal History - A 1943 Cover Tells It's Story

The Reason That I Love Postal History

The term "Postal History" was coined by the great Robson Lowe:

"Postal history is the study of postal systems and how they operate and, or, the study of postage stamps and covers and associated material illustrating historical episodes of postal systems"

That's quite a mouthful, that can be abbreviated to "what can this cover tell me?"

There is a belief that Postal History relates to very old material. I'd like to show that a relatively common cover from WWII can tell a fascinating story of it's travels and it's times

This is the cover. 

Saturday, 26 May 2012

GB Wattses Underprints - New Discovery?

Protective underprints, the printing of a company name on the reverse of the stamps, were used to prevent theft in the same manner as perfins.

Although predominantly a Victorian fad, two firms used underprints in Great Britain from 1904 to 1915.  The underprints were done over the gum, so excessive soaking of used stamps obliterates the underprint. Accordingly, they are scarce.

S&J Watts, a drapery firm from Manchester, used an underprint on the stamps of both King Edward VII and King George V. These underprints are listed in the Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Specialised Catalogue Volume 2.

Whilst soaking a batch of KGV on paper, I found these, somewhat poor, KGV definitives

Ready to consign them to the seconds bin, I turned them over and saw this

The Internet and Philately - Part 1

If you became involved in philately before the advent of the internet (and I guess that's most of us), the reinvention of our hobby is comparable to the change from gas-lamps to electricity.

The accessibility of information, the ability to view and purchase millions of stamps without leaving your home and the development of online "stamp clubs" (better known as forums), has lead to a sea-change in how we enjoy our hobby.

Forums are a subject dear to my heart. Having never been a member of a stamp club, apart from a couple of visits to a suburban club in Melbourne when I was a young teenager, I was delighted to "meet" so many like-minded people when I joined my first forum in 2007.

Like most things in life, I spread myself thinly for a while, and joined more online communities than my time could deal with, meaning I became overwhelmed with information that actually stopped me from my collecting!

GB Victorian Perfin - Can You Help?

I recently came across these two GB SG71 ½d vermilions, which were obviously a separated pair.

They are perfinned with the word "INVENTION" in an arc similar to the perforated Specimens. 

Can anyone assist with identification of this perfin? Was it a test (if so, they were postally used), or was there a business with this unusual name?

The GB Perfin Society website hasn't shed any light on this one, so any help would be greatly appreciated!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Are You On Twitter?

If you are, why not follow me @globalphilately and I'll reciprocate!

A Fantastic Idea For All Collectors

I was put onto this fantastic album the other day, and had to buy one.

It's a Single Stamp Gazetteer Album. It's really easy, all you need to do is to collect one stamp from every stamp issuing country/entity. 

Easy? Not really, as it includes all the "dead" ones as well. Whilst it may be easy to collect the current countries (under 200) there are spaces for 612 stamps in this album! When was the last time a stamp from Romagna (Italian state, with one issue in 1859), Tete (Portuguese African colony with issues from 1913-14) or Ile Rouad (French Mandate in Syria issued in 1916) turned up in your spares?

This is, perhaps, a lifelong quest that may get expensive. Do you choose a "pretty" stamp from each one (or the prettiest they ever issued!), or the oldest, or something representative that makes you think of the source?

Here's a sample page. A short bio, a map and space for a single stamp. "Live" countries are headed in black, "dead" in grey

This is the type of thing that will invigorate flagging philatelists and act as a learning tool for any child or group. If I had my way, it would be a compulsory part of the Social Science curriculum!

I have NO affiliation with the publishers of this fantastic album, Terranova Publishing, other than being their customer.

Visit their website and check it out. US$65 + postage, or bid for one one Ebay

Highly recommended

1935 Silver Jubilee Omnibus Issue

The stamps and postal history of King George V (1910-1936) are my major areas of interest. The classic designs have never been matched in my view.

The 1935 Silver Jubilee series, and the numerous varieties to be found, are my favourite issues and a particular focus of study.

A total of 44 colonies subscribed to this issue, (creating the first Empire/Commonwealth Omnibus issue) with all except Newfoundland printing in two colours with a central vignette.

Three printers were employed for the task, Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co, De la Rue & Co and Waterlow & Sons. The stamps were recess-printed, and although a common design was used, the varieties are particular to the relevant printer's plates


Welcome to the Global Philately blog. Although my preference is for British Empire and Commonwealth stamps and postal history, I hope that the blog can touch on philately worldwide.

I may not blog daily, or even weekly, but I hope that what I do blog is interesting and informative!