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.