Monday, 3 October 2011

Commonwealth stamp news: Rwanda, South Sudan and elsewhere.

The most exciting piece of Commonwealth stamp news is that the latest member of the group of Commonwealth nations has issued its first new stamps since 2003 when 4 stamps were released on the subject of AIDS. Sometime during 2011, Rwanda has issued a set of 4 stamps on the subject of Rwandan culture and another 4 featuring gorillas which are the centre piece of tourism in the country. Many bogus stamps have been produced in the last few years on all sorts of bizarre subjects and I have recently found another website which mentions the issue of 6 stamps to commemorate the 5oth anniversary of the first manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin - these stamps look bogus to me as well. The two real stamp issues represent the first stamps issued by Rwanda since it joined The Commonwealth and so are of great interest.
  South Sudan gained its independence, after many years of struggle, in July 2011 and issued three stamps to commemorate this event on 18 July 2011. I have not yet seen these being offered either on the internet or by any dealer, but they are clearly of great interest and more so to general Commonwealth collectors since, one imagines, the new country will be admitted to membership of the organisation at the CHOGM, the meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government, which will be held in Perth, Australia in November 2011. Only three stamps have been produced so far, with designs featuring the former leader of the South Sudan liberation movement, the country's flag and its coat of arms.
  New Zealand Post, meanwhile, has started a new line of stamp issues - local stamps - which are produced in booklets; so far a 10 x 50c booklet and a 6 x $1.80 booklet have been produced for Kaikoura on the east coast of South Island and a 10 x 60c booklet depicting Te Papa. The booklets are very similar to those produced by Universal Post in New Zealand and Great Britain, which contain stamps which have international postal validity for use on postcards. The New Zealand Post stamps are produced with the tourist market in mind and do not seem to have received any mention in the philatelic press that I have seen here in England and so may be overlooked by many collectors. New Zealand Post insist on calling them "labels" rather than "stamps" even though they are produced to prepay postage which in my way of thinking fully qualifies them to be called "postage stamps", much more so than most of the rubbish produced by some philatelic agencies which produce sticky-backed bits of paper with certain countries' names printed on them but which are unlikely ever to see usage on mail sent in or from those countries. I strongly recommend obtaining these local issues produced by New Zealand Post as I suspect that they be the start of "The Next Big Thing".
  Malawi seems to have returned to making its stamps available to the philatelic public if only by selling them directly from the Philatelic Bureau in Malawi - I have not yet seen any of their most recent issues being offered for sale by international dealers. So, we have finally been able to obtain the 2007 and 2010 SAPOA miniature sheets as well all the values of the Protect Wildlife butterflies set. They also produced a set of 4 Christmas stamps last year and 2 stamps and a miniature sheet commemorating the country's links with The European Union. 
  The Cook Islands, whose issues were taken over by a new philatelic agency last year, have gone mad philatelically and by recommencing issues inscribed "Aitutaki" and "Penrhyn" as well as introducing issues inscribed "Rarotonga", managed to issue 174 stamps and 22 miniature sheets between 14 September 2010 and 25 July 2011. Not bad going! Particularly lavish were the celebrations of the Royal engagement and subsequent wedding which resulted in a total of 39 stamps and 16 miniature sheets. The set for the wedding itself which was simply inscribed "Cook Islands" was particularly odious featuring, as it did, some very unconvincing portraits of the royal couple. Let's say the portraits did not do them any favours. Equally obnoxious are the miniature sheets and sheetlets which have been released which feature peonies and are related to a Chinese stamp exhibition and which have very high face values. Let us hope that the new philatelic agency can curb its apparent greed now that it has had a year of money-making opportunities with The Cook Islands.
  On the subject of face values, Brunei has released a miniature sheet to commemorate the Sultan's 65th birthday with the eye-watering face value of ....$65. I guess you have to be The Sultan Of Brunei to be able to afford it.
  Champion over-issuer of The Commonwealth in the past two or three years is undoubtedly Mozambique whose post office allowed a total of 1,236 stamps and 107 miniature sheets to be produced in its name during 2010 alone. Gibbons have not updated their catalogue listing for the country since 2004 - I should think that the editor could consign 99% of what has been produced straight to the Appendix. In fact, if I was him, I'd review everything from 1998 onwards because he has given full catalogue status to a whole pile of rubbish produced between that year and 2004. Go on, be a man, be radical, be decisive, and withdraw any credibility that presence in the catalogue bestows on these items. You know it makes sense.

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