Friday, May 23, 2014

French association astonished by 'Origin of the World' stamp buzz

 No such things as bad publicity or only the Finnish can do it.

Late January 2014, a philatelic association of Besançon succeeded to reach French regional, then French national and finally some French speaking countries media with an unissued personalised stamp.

The Philatelic and Cartophile Society of Besançon (SPCB) wanted to mark the opening of a summer exhibition at the Courbet Museum in Ornans by ordering to La Poste a personalised stamp reproducing The Origin of the World by Gustave Courbet. The provocative 1866 painting will be lent to Ornans by the Musée d'Orsay.

The Montimbramoi service refused (with little surprise I thought then) to print something that may shock children. During a meeting in the winter, the Society's members discussed the matter and a solution.

And here the craziness began...

You understand now that the SPCB is active to promote philately and its actions: a local newspaper reported late January this meeting... and then, the buzz began up to conservative newspaper Le Figaro on January 31th. February 10th, on the SPCB website, the webmaster tried to explain the role in the media of what was a small affair after all. This article is largely published in the June issue of Timbres magazine.

This article in Timbres and a May 21st article on the blog present the final personalised stamp: a picture of a bronze statue by Pierre Duc, Gustave Courbet painting 'The Origin of the World' - with the problem slighty reduced in size - with a background made of another Courbet's artwork.

Buzzed but provocative, the Society is surfing on its celebrity: proposing two souvenir postcards with the two proposal artworks, an optional cinderella cancellation of 'The Origin', La Poste will only propose an ordered Courbet effigy datestamp. Finally, the SPCB president hopes that some of the journalists he was forced to meet may come back for other philatelic happenings in Franche-Comté.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

French catastrophe vs British smartness

The bar code is this multifunctional tool created alongside computering and automation during the second half of the twentieth century: sort the mail by address, quickly find the price of a miniature sheet , etc.

But in France, this has created graphical disasters. Little ones: barcode printed inside a blank rectangular in a minisheet corner, but the French philatelic service's President advocated last year they are too thin for the postal counter optic readers. Great ones: put in a blank rectangular ornated with something connected to the stamp topic, thus destroying the topic... Mrs President told that the Belgian Post hadn't find a solution either.

Because the solution was accross the Channel of course, like how to avoid a double strike on a philatelic cancelled item:
Royal Mail placed your item in a plastic bag with all first class necessities, but some may wonder if the commemorative enveloppe can be considered having travelled through the postal system.

Concerning bar code and minisheet, stamp dealer Ian Billings delivered on Tuesday May 15th Royal Mail's explanation. Because Post Office needs bar code for its commercial and accounting, Royal Mail was obliged to add it.

It began with Buckingham Palace interiors minisheet, issued April 15th, and continued with the Greater Post Office Film Unit of May 13th (some movies can be ordered on dvd to The British Postal Museum & Archives).

Instead to force the bar code into the sheet, the philatelic service adds it on the edge, as a white band that can be easily remove thank to a light serration.

Billings and his readers saw too that this margin can only be find on minisheets purchased at the Post Office, and not on those ordered to Royal Mail Tallents House shop. It is explained that the margin is systematically cut off at deliver by Royal Mail employeed "because it is not intended to be part of the collectable product".

A very good idea... but are there not two types of the same minisheet now? What if a new debate without end begin: "Should I collect one with and one without margin?" "Can I buy two at Post Office and cut one myself or is it legit only if a Royal Mail cut off?" and worse if Stanley Gibbons begins to quote the difference.

We will know if this British innovation find the French philatelic pond in June at the next French Associations' Congress and the next interview of the new philatelic service president.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

French moustache fails at Eurovision - Wasn't a Finish one!

Last night, in Copenhagen, Denmark, the French band Twin Twin failed to reach three points and let go the last position of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, while Austrian show/wo/man Conchita Wurst catched the enthousiasm of the juries and publics of the whole Europe (but Belarus, Romania, Poland and San Marino).

It's sad for the Frogs because it was a year TV channel France 3 decided to go back to a public voting, mitigated by a jury ; a year when the French song would be moving all over the place.

Was it the song in French? Was it because some large parts of the continent are not ready to acknowledgeskin color is not important?

The three stamp minisheet to be issued in September 2014 at the new Finnish postal museum in Tampere (Itella Posti).
Perhaps the French broadcaster should have taken the Finnish line about moustache: On April 13th, Itella Posti, the Finnish postal operator, announced a commemorative issue for Tom of Finland, a Finnish illustrator specialised in muscular SM males. That explains the stamps: the master dressed as a military, the naked slave and a pair of buttocks.

Official excuse: the inaugural exhibition of the new postal museum in Tampere will be the correspondence of Tom of Finland, starting September 6th, 2014.

Unofficially? Check Google News with / tom of finland stamps / : every news agency in the world know these stamps are going to be issued in four months, time enough to prepare a trip to Tampere, and thus a lot of people will enter a postal museum!!!

Had France 3 and its public chosen a Tom of Finlandesque band...

Thursday, May 08, 2014

'Arabesques', a music festival in Montpellier

The seventh edition of Arabesques in May 2012 was promoted by a booklet illustrated with pictures of musicians, singers and postage stamps.

This music festival is officially named "Meetings of the Arts of the Arabic World" (Rencontres des arts du monde arabe). It is organised by the association Uni'Sons in the park owned by the Departmental Council of Hérault at the Château d'O, a folie in Montpellier.

This 2012 booklet was distributed to promote the festival. It counted forty four square pages, fifteen centimeters wide. There were presented concerts, exhibitions, movies, etc.

Cover of the 2012 Arabesques program.
Inside, the six first double pages about the major night concerts are illustrated with an abundance of pictures and stamps.
Example of "The Three Magnificients" concert of Friday May 25.
Visas from passports, stamps both postal and fiscal cancelled with red or violet inks, on background made of maps of Southern Asia or Spain.

Watch the upper visa from the Iraq Embassy in London. Down and left is a postage stamp from Pakistan marked by a custom stamp explaining this state's rules of entry in English and a rectangular mark of a police station in Barcelona. On the right hand page two cancelled postage stamps from Pakistan:  a fifty paisa and a four anna service stamp.

On these concert pages, all these signs summarize the origins and migrations of the artists. Here Iraqi oud player Naseer Shamma, Pakistani sitarist Ashraf Sharif Khan and Spanish guitarist Niño Josele.

For the 26 of May concert, not illustrated here, the organisers chose the first day cancellation of Tlemcen used for the Fiftieth Anniversary of Emigration Day stamp of Algeria. It illustrated an evening of cabaret music by artists who immigrated in France.

Emir Albelkader.

Other happenings are presented more classically like the exhibition and educated discussion about Emir Abdelkader, both a resistant to French invasion and respected by French military at the time. The black and white reproduction of one of the stamps issued in his honor in Algeria (with the color, it could be either the return of his remains in 1965 or the anniversary of his birth in 1968).

If you miss stamps on your snail mail, don't forget places where the little sticky pieces of paper recalls origins, travels, histories and cultures...

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Hitler and his philatelic royalties

In an article in Die Zeit, on September 26th, 2013, German historian Volker Ullrich recalled how Adolf Hitler was "the greatest actor in Europe", as the title of the French magazine Books' translation said in February 2014.

At the moment the first volume of his biography of Hitler was published (Die Jahre des Aufstieg 1889-1939), Ullrich explained seven aspects of the Führer's double personality.

Philately is concerned by the seven and last topic, "The multimillionair ascetic", and I hope some researcher found or will find testimonies and archives still available despite the voluntary destructions in the last weeks of the Third Reich.

Sobriety and frugality was the public image, lure of money and a taste for luxury was the reality. With the last new Mercedes cars being offered at once by the builder, voluntary contributions from the biggest German industries given on a private account and the author's rights on Mein Kampf, a 1930s bestseller, Hitler could easily and loudly renounce his chancellor's income in January 1933, to get it back quietly the year after.

In 1937, because postage stamps bore his face, he could be paid "many dozen of millions [of Marks]" as royalties! Ullrich precised that the check was brought each year to Hitler himself by the Minister of Posts Wilhelm Ohnesorge - whose name is ironic too: no worries...

Friday, May 02, 2014

Postcrossing hobby to be stamped by Guernsey Post

Nearly nine year anniversary of Postcrossing will be marked by a stamp by Guernsey Post, on May 28th, 2014.
Created with fun by Bridget Yabsley, it will help the Guernsey Postcrossers to send international postcard from the Channel Island.

Remember: the Postcrossing website helps you find one-postcard penpals: you send them a postcard and consequently you become the next on the list of another fellow Postcrosser.

Forums on the website will help you find long term penpals, round-robin exchanges with people in countries you seldom see the stamps.

Happy Postcrossing!

How can a amateur correspondence website, a little less than 500'000 users in more than 200 countries and autonomous territories, can have its commemorative postage stamps, and not a personalised one?

Thank to lobbying by users, four postal operators have issued stamps:
- PostNL in the Netherlands for two stamps (one for Europe, one Worldwide mail) in 2011,
- Belpochta in Belarus for one stamp [a dictatorship encouraging freedom of correspondence!] in January 2014 ("N" value is for international postcard),
- and now Guernsey Post in May.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mao president of the U.S. in 'Le Monde'

Exactly one year ago, French newspaper Le Monde reformed its weekly economic and business supplements into a daily eight page delivered with its printed edition (noon in the major cities, on the printed date everywhere else). The act conforms with Le Figaro's traditional pink pages.

Advertisment announcing the event (Le Monde of April 30th, 2013).
 Advertising company Publicis Conseil proposed a campaign with a striking portrait of Chinese leader Máo Zédōng into a one dollar banknote instead of George Washington, the first President of the United States.

Motto was "Because the economy is changing the world, Le Monde's changing too", playing with the French meaning of "monde/world", and the fashion of thinking the emerging capacities of the Peopl's Republic of China on our capitalist and market economy, including the U.S. debts.

Or is it an uchronic banknote of the world as would be if? What's the anglo-saxon literaries called alternate history.

New French translation of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, published in 2012.
Uchronic or alternate historic banknotes can be find on book covers or sometimes described in the novel.

Here is an example on the 2012 cover of the new translation in French of Philip K. Dick's masterpiece The Man in the High Castle. Adolf Hitler on a one hundred U.S. dollar banknote... or, in fact, of the Pacific States of America...

The story tells how characters react after reading an alternate history novel inside an alternate history universe: after World War 2, the Axis powers occupied each one coast of the United States and let live a puppet State in the Rocky Mountains.

As no one really knows what is happening (or fears to know) in the Nazi America or even in Africa, troubled business and geopolitical relations take place in San Francisco, capital city of the Pacific States, where Japanese are struggling between cultural identity evolutions with the Americans and difficult diplomacy with the imperialist Nazis.

In this context, an author, at peace in the Rockies, published a book that imagine a world where the war ended differently... and is not our History, and written with the help of the I Ching, a Chinese book containing a system of divination.

Yes, more mind storming than a commercial for an economic newspaper.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Forget stamps and coins, collect touristic tokens

Today, Tuesday April 29th, 2014, French regional newspaper Midi Libre presented the euphory of collectors for a new issue of only five thousands pieces... A new discreet issue of special stamps? Golden coins?

No, metallic token for the tenth anniversary of the Millau Viaduct, on the A75 highway. Viaduc Exclusive Diffusion, the company that exploits the rights of the Viaduct's image (created for Eiffage by Norman Forster and al.), ordered them to France's main producer, Monnaie de Paris.

Created in the Ninth Century, Monnaie de Paris is the French official mint. It produced quadrizillions coins before the current euro coins.

It even printed the first postage stamps of France figuring Cérès from 1849 to 1876 and Napoléon III series during the Second Empire, thank to innovative entrepreneur Anatole Hulot and engravers Jacques-Jean Barre and his sons, Désiré-Albert and Auguste. Tired of Hulot's monopoly and delays, not mentioning the clashes between Hulot and Désiré-Albert, the French postal administration gave the stamp printing contract to a Banque de France's printing plant in 1875. Bought by the Posts in 1880, it gave birth to the Atelier des timbres-poste in 1895, currently Phil@poste Boulazac in Dordogne.

Back to Paris Mint, the 2000s were difficult for the Public Enterprise with Industrial and Commercial Purposes (ÉPIC in French acronym) based in the historic and prestigious Hôtel in Paris, rent to companies for their great occasions, and in a plant in Pessac, in Bordeaux suburbs.

Since 2007, current President-Director Christopher Beaux succeeded to transform the old office into a profitable company: producing high quality French proof and uncirculated euro coin packs, commemorative silver and gold euro coins valid in France up to five thousands euro!!!... and a lot of tokens.

Surf through Paris Mint website: official decorations, baccalauréat tokens for happy former high school students, wedding tokens and any kind from comics to art.

For touristic entrepreneurs, the Mint can provide touristic tokens, jetons événementiels, that you can buy at two or three euros in machines near or inside famous places of France.

Eurphory... I hope these collectors will be happy for a long time and won't seek to sell their collections as a whole in ten or so years. Post Second World War new stamp collectors already know the consequences of such an easy-to-get collection.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A postal video game from Britain

On 6th of March 2014 Merge Games has been distributing Post Master, a new video game by Excalibur Publishing, a British company specialised in the creation of simulation games. The game is available on dvd-rom or on Steam platform.

The goal: to be the manager of a postal network in a growing city, fix the rates, hire post(wo)men, buy vehicles, open new offices, etc.

In its bi-monthly edition of March 15th, French ironic magazine Canard PC published a critic of Post Master. The player-critic, Guy Moquette, imagined at first he could have done what postal operators have done to all of us at least once: "close the last desk at 4 pm on the dot and show a contemptuous smile to clients queuing for two hours", "give the order to postmen to take only prefilled notice of missed delivery" and not the correspondent heavy packages to save gas, and so on.

His satisfaction was short: to a seasoned gamer like him, the proposed postal simulation was not very audacious, quite simple to manage.

To a philatelist, a stamp collector, an amateur of postal mechanics, discover every secret and possibility of such a game would take more time.

The downloadable version is priced at ten pounds sterling by the distributor. At your own risk or at your satisfaction to do better than Royal Mail and La Poste.

Since the French version of this article, video tests of Post Master were published on youTube:
- example 1 ;
- example 2.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Missing phosphor bands should be scarse these days

A French webmaster, specialist of phosphor bands on French stamps, get the lucky right to visit Phil@poste Boulazac. He discovered at the French philatelic service's printing plant, near Périgueux in Dordogne, why there have been less and less stamps with missing phosphor bands these past months.

His written summary on Les News du Phospho was posted on his blog Wednesday 9th and the commented pictures of the TD6 press yesterday Thursday April 17th. An ultra violet lamp has been added at the end of the printing press to check if the one or two bars on each side of the stamp illustration are still printed (ink in the tank) and on the right places (not 0 or 3 bars on the same priority stamp).

He noted that this new tool is part of an improvement in order to get a stronger ISO standard of quality for the plant. Important indeed because if Phil@poste Boulazac has a monopoly in France, it is in competition everywhere else. The retirement of the faulty TD215 press helped a lot too.

It stopped what was an old joke among phosphor band collectors: complete sheets of stamps missing or with ill centered bands reaching post offices and ordering clients, or even rejected sheets that illegally succeeded to exit the security plant and being sold on the French philatelic market.

In addition to his regularly updated blog, you can check this French specialist's website over here, with a side in English. Note that phosphor bands can be found on Marianne definitive stamps, but also on self adhesive illustrated or gummed commemorative stamps of France.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Apologies and coming backs: Hitler on cups and stock photography in philately

Because workaholism can be a strong disease and philately not the sole purpose of my leisure times, my philatelic blogs are slow for sometimes now, and the translation into English of the articles in French stopped three and a half years ago.

Let's get back on tracks.

- - - -

All new issued stamp collectors know, with more or less pleasure, that stock photography has become the main sources of illustration for philatelic services and newspapers alike all around the world. In France, even some engraved stamps are inspired by stock pictures...

There are sometimes accidents or adaptations with reality: Dominique Stéphan in 2008 discovered, with publication in Timbres magazine, that the Paris Summit for the Mediterranean stamp put the sea very near an olive tree standing near the Pont du Gard.

[Political digression: the Summit was a wish of President tSarkozy to create an European Union/Mediterranean countries Union that is now a ghost secretary sitting in Barcelona, at the Royal Palace of Pedralbes (enjoy the gardens and museums there). And one of the worst 14 of July France has known: dictators enjoying our National Celebrations...]

It's by a more than a thousand floral cups made in the People's Republic of China that a house decorating shop in Bielefeld, Germany, gained free publicity on April 10th, 2014.

In the background of the flowers, light aged envelopes are evoking old memories... of Third Reich Führer stamps and svastika cancellations... The lot is no more on sale of course.

In official philately like in in-house decoration, we ought to come back to Made by an artist and forget the easy way of cut/paste and cut/engrave stock finds. Stock photography is a good tool, but to start an intellectual research, not the end of it.

For a recent example of a good picture creating a striking set of stamp and labels, see Gibraltar Post's hommage to a former governor.