Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Potter stamps in Britain

This postage might not get letters delivered faster, but Britain’s Royal Mail predicts fans will find its series of Harry Potter stamps magical.
The Post Office will issue a series of seven stamps on July 17 depicting the covers of each of J.K Rowling’s books about the boy wizard.
Millions of the stamps will be issued just before the series’ final volume, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, goes on sale July 21. The commemorative stamps are part of the Post Office’s tradition of celebrating “social themes and important occasions central to our way of life”, said a Royal Mail spokeswoman. Rowling’s fantasy series has sold more than 325 million copies worldwide.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Where the hobby has an artistic stamp

From stamps that smell of roses and sandalwood to those with the head of the calm Buddha, to that containing the image of RM. Alagappa Chettiar, the Puducherry Head Post Office’s Philately Bureau is a place where stamp collectors will rejoice. The bureau has good collection of stamps in its own albums and also sends newly released stamps to its 837 philately account-hollers of whom 167 are quite new.

“They have joined us after our exhibition of stamps held in November and more children are evincing interest in joining as members since they get stamps or covers worth Rs.200, which is the initial amount that they have to pay to become members. There is no membership fee as such,” V. Santhanaraman, Senior Superintendent of Post Offices told The Hindu.

Recently a meeting of members of the Philately Bureau was held and 100 of them turned up. They exchanged contacts so that they could exchange stamps and information. The post office plans to organize such meetings once in three months. The bureau has been in existence since the 1990s and sends stamps in singles or sheets or in fours or first-day covers or topical stamps and also info sheet if opted for by the member.

“Stamp collection is done only in the initial stages. After a few days, the collectors try to exchange stamps and get stamps that are needed for the specific topic that they are interested in. At this stage only vendors and exhibitions keep stamp collectors interested. People also get stamps from used foreign letters”, added Mr. Santhanaraman. Himself a stamp collector in the past, his daughters now collect stamps.

“We also go to schools regularly and ask them to start philately clubs for the children. We take our application forms to schools and also conduct regular workshops in schools on how to collect and preserve stamps,” said R.P. Balaji, Public Relations Inspector.

Anyone can become a member of philately bureau here on any working day between 10 am and 5 pm or can contact Mr. Balaji on +91 413 – 2336532 or +91 9443577115.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Thematic or Topical Philately

In contrast to Traditional Philately, which is based on geographical entitles such as stamps of a particular put together stamps on a specific theme, topic or subject. Thus, while a missing stamp of a particular series of a specific period or country may be a matter of concern to a traditional philatelist who wishes to complete the set, the thematic philatelist would only took for thematic relevance of stamps, irrespective of its other contexts. The variety in themes that philatelists have presented through stamps has been delightfully fascinating. Any philatelic material can be collected related to a theme which in addition to postage stamps includes the varieties of postal stationary, aero philatelic cachets, postmarks and maximum cards.

Significantly enough, postal administrations have adopted issuing policies that have actively encouraged thematics as a venture specially for the youth class, for whom it constitutes a veritable mine of information and education. This calls for the combined ingenuity of the postal administration, the printer, the philatelists and the subject-matter experts. In fact, there is hardly any subject of general interest that does not have a good set of stamps on it, but thematic philatelists come up with the most unique and novel ideas in relating a philatelic item to a chosen theme. these relationships involve classifications of themes taken from a broader subject of choice , their further sub-classifications and its sub-classifications. Sri Vishnu S. Saksena, for instance, has devoted an entire book on the theme of India’s freedom movement, entitled: “India’s Freedom Struggle Through India Postage Stamps.”

Thus thematic philatelists would like single, prominent themes to be pictured forcefully on stamps rather than multiple themes or commemorative set of stamps.

Indian stamps are very rich in thematic variety, specially on the freedom movement and its personalities, great men and women of various walks of life, Indian art and culture, flora and fauna. Nevertheless, there is a need to bring out many more stamps on areas of scientific discoveries and inventions, technological developments and medical advances that have taken place the world over and specially in India. These stamps will be extraordinary rich in their education value to the youth and children.

Postal Stationery

When the Penny Black was released in May 1840, there were only two philatelic items worth collecting:
• The postage stamp just released, and
• The postal stationery wrapper, the Mulready

Ever since then, the range of collections have incredibly diversified and we have now a separate class of collection called Postal Stationery. Though the number of philatelists specializing in Postal Stationery is relatively small, nonetheless, the presentation lends a special attractiveness to philatelic exhibitions because of its rarity and also because these items being larger in size have to be artistically or thematically presented.

Postal Stationery collections cover all postal items with a postage stamp on them or which bear in some manner or other, impressions for pre-payment of postage for use of the postal services (and not merely the pre-payment of stationery charge).

It includes items bearing postage prepayment indications even if the value is not mentioned, called Non-value Indicator or NVI items. Items of private stationery whether stamped or printed (STPO of PTPO), but conforming to the postal regulations of the countries area also included as Postal Stationery. Many items where no pre-payment of postage is involved, such as Money Order forms, Acknowledgement Cards, ‘On Postal Service’ mail, internal mail of the Armed Forces or the Railways etc. and items bearing symbols of prepayment but where postage is actual paid later, are not included.

Generally speaking, Postal Stationery includes illustrated or plain types of postcards, envelopes, registered envelopes, aerogrammes, letter cards, parcel bags and also postal forms of various kinds. Article 3 pf SREV even includes wrappers or newspaper bands. All classes of mail are included such as those sent by surface post or by air, inland or foreign, by registration, by special deliveries, inland and foreign telegraphs. Postal receipts issued by post offices for various postal transactions or for fees charged or other documents such as Postal Orders etc. can also be included and are collected by philatelists to represent their variety or history or some speciality about them.

Many postal administrations today include Postal Stationery items in their issuing programmes, specially since philately is not limited just to postage stamps and since philatelists attend to bring out novel thematic correlations between stationery items and stamps in their presentations. For instance, the LA POSTE or the Belgium Post brings out splendid designs on their postcards, and also attractive tourist cards of higher values to be sold at tourist resorts.

Postal History

To a philatelist, the “postal history” of a nation – the development of its postal services – is as important as its political history, if not more. Postal History consists of collections of stamps that delineate, not the political history of a nation, but the history of its Post Office.

The history and development of the postal services, postal rates, postal markings, mail carriers and their lines and stages, postmen’s uniforms and such other items as seen in used or mint stamps. For the ardent student of philately, India provides perhaps the richest and most varied wealth of materials for Postal History.

Postal History exhibits are arranged in a way as, to show the history and development of the chosen aspect of the postal services. Consequently, FDCs are not normally included in a Postal History presentation unless they have been used in course of transmission by post. But Postal History may also contain such items as prints or maps or brochures or news items and cuttings or extracts from books and other material, provided they are relevant to the main subject or relevant to the concerned postal administration. Many philatelists believe that Postal History is really a sub-set of Traditional Philately. However, a Postal History presentation is a very difficult one, usually made by senior philatelists specializing in this area. I have once seen the history of Railway Mail Service of India being exhibited side by side with the history of the Indian Railways by an enthusiastic philatelist, in which among other items, the date-stamps and postage-due stamps impressed by RMS Sorting Sections on letters posted to these Sections by the public at various railway stations, had been presented starting right from the beginnings of the RMS in India.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Traditional Philately

This is the basis of all philately and what we all generally mean by stamp collection as a hobby. All stamps relating to a particular country or a region or a postal administration issued, say, over a particular period or certain philatelic items issued during that period come under this category.

Postage stamps, miniature sheets, FDCs, varieties in cancellations and postmarks, postal stationery of various types and other philatelic products, all are included in this category, but presented historically.

Archival items such as artist’s drawings, essays, proofs, printer’s specimens and other rare items, can also form a part of this category. Some stamps are of immense value. The world’s most valuable stamp is the famous British Guiana one-cent magenta stamp with Demerara postmark dated 4-4-1856 as there is only one copy available of this stamp. It sold for $ 935, 000 at a New York auction in 1980.

Philately- Its Classes of Collections

We shall now go over to the growing classes of philately. Under article 5 of the GREX Regulations, the FIP approved competitive classes (for FIP exhibitions) are ten in number:

Traditional Philately, Postal History, Postal Stationery, Aerophilately, Thematic Philately, Maximaphily, Philatelic Literature, Youth Philately, Revenue and Astrophilately

Any other exhibit of special philatelic interest can also be included and this can constitute, what one might call, a 11th class or a class on its own.

The SREV provides regulations for the evaluation of exhibits of each approved class and provides for constituting a special jury for the 11th class. The non-competitive or invitee classes include the Court of Honour or exhibits of exceptional significance, the Official Class (exhibits from postal authorities, postal museums, postage stamp printers and postage stamp designers and engravers), the Jury Class and other non-competitive classes consisting of exhibits of special interest.

Philately- Its Educational Value

As a primer on philately, I shall first analyse the various classes of collections that philatelists internationally recognize, and subsequently, highlight the inestimable educational value of philately a hobby among children and the youth.

Fortunately, in comparison to many other hobbies and pursuits, philately is internationally well organized. The International Federation of Philately (the FIP), which was set up in 1926 at Zurich, aims to promote philately and philatelic exhibitions, friendly relations amongst peoples and also between philately traders and postal administrations. It is recognized by the Universal Postal Union as the official representative of philately. It’s regulations adopted since the Finlandia – ’88 exhibition provides a uniform basis for collecting, exhibiting and evaluating philatelic exhibits, and are contained in three documents:

* GREX or the General Regulations of FIP for Exhibitions,
* GREV or the General Regulations of the FIP for the evaluations of exhibits under the competition –class and the
* SREV or the Special Regulations of the FIP for the evaluations of competitive exhibits.
These rules are for conducting exhibitions held under the auspices of FIP at the international level, but other national level exhibitions endeavour to follow FIP regulations to the maximum extent possible for the sake of uniformity. The FIP also started an FIP – internet Competition in 1999 to adjudge the best website put up on philately.

The Universal Postal Union developed a ‘Philatelic Code of Ethics’ in its Beijing Congress of August, 1999 (Recommendation C70) which gives details for issuing policies and other matters related to philately, to be followed by the postal administrations of the member nations of the UPU. This code is being implemented by the World Association for the Development of Philately (WADP) – an independent body that works under the aegis of the UPU and its member postal administrations.

The WADP coordinates between the UPU and the four major philatelic associations of the world – one for Europe (Federation of European Philatelic and Associations), one for the Americas (Federation of Inter-American Federations) and one for Asia (Federation of Inter-Asian philately or FIAP) and the FIP.

Since dealers are an integral part of the philatelic industry, the constituent members of the WADP are the FIP, the International Federation of Stamp Dealers Associations (IFSD), the International Association of Philatelic Journalists (AIJP) and the International Publishers of Postage Stamp Catalogues, Stamp Albums and Philatelic Publications Association (ASCAT).

The Philatelic Congress of India (PCI) is the Indian body affiliated to FIP and FIAP.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Outlook for Future In Philately

The saga of Indian Philately – both pre-Independence and post-Independence – has been a fascinating and romantic one. Generations of collectors have grown up savouring the joys, thrills and challenges the hobby has to offer and many have carried their abiding interest in Philately to adulthood and old age. The same cannot be said of the present generation. What with various distractions in the present-day world – TV and Cable, Computers, Internet and Video games, sports and highly competitive academic pursuits, the youth of today have less inclination to pursue a serious hobby like philately. In fact, many of the senior collectors even find it difficult to bequeath their precious and painstakingly nurtured collection to their young ones. Thus the outlook for future is uncertain.

One way to regain the lost ground is to promote Philately through websites and Internet. Video games related to philatelic themes need to be devised and put on popular websites to attract the younger generation. Many educative and intellectual games and exercises with stamps can be designed to stir the imagination and ignite the minds of children. Only time will tell what the future of the hobby will be with all such efforts put in to promote it.

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