Friday, June 30, 2017

Two French academics study world wars on stamps

Late 2016 two French historians of Rennes, Alain Croix and Didier Guyvarc'h, published a study on the depiction of both world wars on stamps since 1914: Timbres en guerre. Les mémoires des deux conflits mondiaux [Stamps at war. The memories of both world conflicts].

In their introduction and their methodological first chapter, they explained how little historians had used postage stamps to study how governments, postal administrations, and even collectors considering the commercial trend of issues, have commemorated the Great War and World War 2.

Both author are stamp collectors but it's refreshing to read the current issuance policies in simple words and these policies be considered on how they impact war commemorative stamps: to sell collectibles to collectors and no more to sell a postage proof.
The book cover:  (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2016).

Chapters 2 to 4 told the chronological stories of the stamps issued. The stamps from 1914 to 1945 are divided in 3 parts: the time of apprenticeship during the Great War ; the stamps illustrating the past war... or the dreaded war (to come?) after 1918 ; and finally how stamps became fully part of the propaganda machines.

Chapter 3 expands on what the countries and posts wished their national and international public to remember of the two wars during the Cold War. Chapter 4 starting 1989 describes the evolution between pedagogy (the "memory duty" / devoir de mémoire in French) facing misuse of history and stamps in some countries and on some topics.

Chapters 5 and 6 are topical synthesis. Croix and Guyvarc'h summarize the common element and main evolution of their subject, highlighting further some countries and problems of stamp illustrations evoked in the chronological chapters.

I try to summarize some of them, that may inspire philatelists in their collection.
Mais, et Hiroshima et Nagasaki ? Pas aux États-Unis pour l'émission du cinquantenaire de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Peut-être aux Marshall... (via
All issuing countries are evoked, at least by groups. Post-independence African countries haven't been interested in these topics. Contrary to Marshall Islands, an associated state of the U.S.. The Marshall issue are one of many commercial opportunities to sell to thematical collectors, but Croix and Guywarc'h compare its issues to the United States Postal Service's. Politically what could the USPS put on its stamps when facing the U.S. politicians, veterans' associations and the public's modesty?
The Weapons of Victory, a long-lived stamp series in Russia. Here the 2009 example.
Eastern European issuing policies were diverse and explain how divided was the Communist Block after the death of Stalin in 1953. The German Democratic Republic illustrated as many Nazi German massacres as possible whereas West Germany's first stamp on WW2 was 1955 to rememorate the exodus of Germans from East European countries. Poland insisted on the population's heroism and martyrdom, trying subtely to distance the country from the Soviet Union. The latter have been insisting on the October Revolution (1917) and the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), putting even weaponry and medals on stamps.

The authors consider the genocide of the Jew to be ill-illustrated since 1945. A first criticism is common to many topic: a stamp can be about this tragedy but the reader of the stamp needs to have culture to understand it. Either the stamp depicts a person without any illustration of its life and death, or the subject is treated with highly allegorical symbolism (the 1995 Europa stamps are quoting as examples of this problem).
One of the book's example of WW2 or not stamp: Honoring the Woman or very discretly celebrating a French communist resistant who died in a concentration camp? (via
Exceptions exist of course: explicit stamps of Israel, stricking Austria's Niemals vergessen [Never forget] series of 1946, and the distance many Anglo-Saxon countries put between the wars and their stamps until recently - but for the Australian and New Zealand exceptions since Gallipoli in 1915-1916.

The two historians are astounished by the 3rd anniversary of the liberation of the Channel Islands: the gathering of vraic... in the same "back to daily life" way as the British 1946 Victory issue. Seems a tradition when Newfoundland marks its soldiers' sacrifice at the Ypres by "The Trail of the caribou" stamp in 1916. To compare with the graph showing the millions of stamps printed by France for Charles de Gaulle, the last four Marshalls (especially Leclerc), numerous members of the Free French and resistant movements, and the symbolic commemoration of war and deportation.
Radio at war issued in Jersey May 2017: finally a stamp to avoid the repetitive issue of the Appeal of 18 June. King George VI after the radiobroadcast speech of 3 September 1939 (read on SébPhilatélie).
Towards the end of the book media are evoked: the actors of those wars created texts, pictures, films, radio shows and stamps. The author studied how, more and more, stamps are reproducing these documents: war posters, Raising of Flag on Iwo Jima and Raising a Flag over the Reichstag photographs for example. Movies seem present, but more difficult to stamped while the role of radio in WW2 is almost invisible but for Charles de Gaulle's Appeal of 18 June 1940 in France and wherever the French stateman is celebrated. [a Jersey 2017 issue helps add a new stamp on this topic]

In conclusion, firstly: this book is fascinating for people used to study traces of the past as documents. Who decided the issue? Why this issue? What artist? What image? How many printed? What postage rate: a common one for every one to remember or a seldom use one...?

Secondly: the author succeeded partly in their global history of World War stamps. Global history is a way to study and compare different points of view of the same events. For example to study 15th century European discoveries from the African, American and Asian peoples' perspectives. Concerning the differences of depth by countries, they admitted the lack of language skills and access to postal archives to perform to every country what they did with the French Heroes of Resistance series.

A must-read that list in the bibliography and notes many philatelic books and articles, and other academics stamp studies all over the world.
The Battle of Verdun, one hundred years later, by Maël and engraved by Elsa Catelin (via
Especially to reflect on the on-going issues: yesterday evening, Thursday 30 June 2017, La Poste presented the best 2016 issues of France after a public survey on the web. In the category of "commemorative single stamp", the centenary of the Battle of Verdun was chosen.

Alain Croix and Didier Guyvarc'h, Timbres en guerre. Les mémoires des deux conflits mondiaux, ed. Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2016, 214 pages ; ISBN 978-2-7535-5135-0 ; 29 euros. PUR webpage.

Final little criticism: an index by country would have been a very practical idea. Readers, prepare your bookmarks.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Week #2017.24 on SébPhilatélie

That week between 12 and 18 June 2017, nobody on the old continent can keep his eyes shut: Summer was here. And Winter was but a long-forgotten legend only the eldest spoke with glee to sceptical children who preferred to break open the fire hydrant in the burning streets of the capital...

Yes, I shouldn't bingewatch Game of Thrones during heatwave episodes :)

Monday 12 June: What's this stamp's message?!
Considering my two decade long career as French voter, I am still puzzled by the message of this stamp designed by Louis Briat in 1995.
Louis Briat's National Assembly stamp, issued 15 May 1995 (via
It commemorated the bicentenary of the Directoire decree that decided the Council of Five-Hundred, the new lower chamber of the First Republic, be hosted in the Bourbon Palace, where the National Assembly sit to this day. Another stamp in 1998 marks the effective installation in the building in 1798.

But the meaning of the symbols... decided by the artist... ordered or accepted by the political and postal authorities...?

After two decades of political despair in front of my democracy, I concluded that the nightly blue palace kept Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People prisoner of the political elite.

Now, under the current Macronmania, I'm thinking that the People entered the sleepy palace to set the old political world ablaze... Not very Emmanuel Macron that idea... Is it a premonition of what would happen if he failed considering some of the new deputies: Le Pen and Mélenchon.

Tuesday 13 June: No stamp at the Oaxaca post office. What of the Museum?
I receive a holiday postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico. The sender was sad that no postage stamp was available at the post office of this city, famous for precolombian archeological settlements.
A Mexican counter label, 12 April 2017. The postcode 68001 corresponds to the current set of codes for Oaxaca city and state (thank you Sophie).
At least, it makes me get interested in the MUFI, the Museum of Philately, located in Oaxaca. Its website and Twitter account are quiet interesting to browse and follow.
Will this little fish stand still in his stamp? (MUFI's Twitter page, June 2017).
For example, yesterday Friday 23, the MUFI opened an exhibition on water and the sealife, displaying stamps of fishes like in an aquarium. And collectors of missing colors would like the little animation the MUFI team published with a Singapore 1960s error.

Wednesday 14 June: Uninspired stamps of France...
The article in French is the evil kin of the one published the same day in English.

While touristic stamps of France are often wonderful, inspired and sometimes looks innovative in treatment, commemorative anniversary are sometimes dull.

Why engraved a phi letter in the hand of a Queen of France? Fun with or against collectors? Or, I wish, an angry gesture by an engraver fed up by adding this stupid symbol on all commemorative stamps of France since 2010? I'm afraid the answer will be the former.

The main part of the article are about the centenary of the Lions Club. Too many postal operators just copy-paste the anniversary's or the organisation's logo. And have the gods of philately and good taste mercy for Monaco...
Simple designs yes, but useful design for the Lions Club (Jersey Stamps webshop).
Praise by Jersey Stamps! At least, this often accused of issuing too costly and useless stamps issued a six stamp series that explains what is a Lions Club for.

Thursday 15 June: Universal Mail stamp puzzled a French Muggle family.
A family from Nantes received a postcard from the son's friend visiting London.
The postcard and its many labels (Presse Océan).
The local newspaper Presse Ocean showed the card on 15 June explaining the problem and even that the French post couldn't explain it.

Philatelists will recognize a Universal Mail UK stamp, the private post that aimed at tourists' international postcards.

The sending family bought a booklet at any commodities in central London, but not a post office. Universal Mail franked card can be dropped in a Royal Mail box. At the sorting center, these cards are gathered and given back to Universal Mail that forwards them by anyway at the lower cost possible.

In this case, early April, the chosen route was lenghthy in distance and time: through Praha, Czech Republic. Hence the postage paid label with the Czech Post's logo.

Saturday 17 June: Royal June of travels.
Is it the Royal Philatelic Society London's June activities? Or my Summer-is-coming state of mind? For the second year in a row, I got travel inspired by the June articles and displays at 41 Devonshire, London.

I could only invite you to check the summary of the June issue of The London Philatelist, the last edited by Steve Jarvis, and the collection and talk by Frank Walton, his last as President of the society.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Weeks #2017.22-23 on SébPhilatélie

Ten days in June, before Summer hit the South of France (and the rest of Europe it seems).

Thursday 1st to Sunday 4 June: Interamerican exhibition in Saint-Pierre-and-Miquelon.
During four days, the Club de Saint-Pierre (with a refurbished website) hosted its third international exhibition in this French overseas collectivity, SPM Expo, with six countries of the American continent attending.
The poster of the exhibit designed by Jean-Jacques Oliviéro (official website).
To follow the event the website and its blog were of course useful, and were reinforced by the local radio and television public channel, SPM 1ère.

A list of reports and interviews to watch back:
- Club president Stéphane Fouchard presented the event, the importance of exhibiting and the value of collecting stamps during the radio news on Thursday morning ;
- On the Wednesday evening tv news the mounting of the exhibit was reported ;
- On Friday the camera followed high school students training their Spanish with Jaime Benavides, the Mexican representative (on this link look for the 2 June 2017 edition), followed by Fouchard explaining this was the sole continental competition for 2017 and the impact for the archipelago ;
- On Sunday (article on Monday) a report of the award ceremony took place with the 109th and 110th medal and Grand Prix for Jean-Jacques Tillard and a gold medal for Loïc Detcheverry for Cancellations of Nova Scotia on stamps of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. Jim Taylor, President of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada was interviewed too.

Sunday 4 June: 50 years of Machin, 10 years of philatelying in English.
A personal article on me and the English language. It dated well before I needing it for philatelic purposes, but since my first subscription to Stamp Magazine, English philatelic reading became quite addictive.
The June 2007 issue of Stamp Magazine that encouraged my continuing subscription.
The Machin series is to thank for too.

Wednesday 7 June: Were chocolate bar wrapping be recess-printed!
Warning: open class topic getting off-topic... but...

After many weeks of thoughts I finally opened and ate the Rococo Chocolates bar I bought last January in Chester (remember). A powerful taste for only 63% dark chocolate from Peru!
Okay, I admit, this item is damaged. I need to learn how to unmint chocolate packaging... Must be like carefully open envelopes.
Back to philately... Let's try at least.

The drawing outside and inside the cardboard wrapper are the same that of the shopping bags and could have been printed in intaglio.

The article was written to mark the day the Rococo Chester team opened its new premises: 118 Northgate.

Friday 9 June: Another souvenir of Frédéric Bazille's paintings.
Thank to Michel Soulié, President of the Montpellier Philatelic Association, I now held a 1980 souvenir edited by the association for the Day of the Stamp, inspired by The Pink Dress, another view of the Castelnau village by impressionist Frédéric Bazille.
Local Montpellier souvenir at the Day of the Stamp 1980, illustrated by G. Jeanjean, inspired by Frédéric Bazille.
Readers in the Americas could see paintings of Montpellier-born Bazille in Washington, D.C. until the 9th of July at the National Gallery of Art.

Sunday 11 June: The Postal Museum to open 28 July in London.
Finally - some almost waited 20 years - the Postal Museum is to open in London on Friday 28 July 2017.

More informations on the Museum's website and Twitter account.

Today, 21 June, there still some informations missing, especially how to book for the Mail Rail, the new attraction reactivating the former London postal underground train of the British Post Office.

After such ten days, Spring felt very well, the Winter children thought... But Summer was coming.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

French villages got talent... and a stamp

On Tuesday 13 June 2017, Rochefort-en-Terre hosted the one-night contest Le Village préféré des Français on France 2, the main public television channel, presented by Stéphane Bern, our current perfect son-in-law and expert on European royalty.
Very rare event in France nowadays: a new stamp announced on prime time tv (ok, not the best audience of the night facing an international football match) and in a knowledgeable way: the picture shown is the engraved one, not the computer before gravure one (France 2, catched and captured thank to Dominique Stephan of the Blog philatélie, an important blog for amateur of France from the Sower to current events).
The village in Morbihan, Brittany, won the 2016 edition of the show created in 2012 and broadcasted live in June. A sort of Let's spend the holidays in our homeland. I have been told of many past participating villages by weekenders, hikers and... of course: stamps.

For a long time now the French post has a tradition of issuing "touristic stamps" on cities, villages, regions, natural parks, islands,... And whatever techniques the artists and the printer used, the result is often far better and enjoyable than the other main category: anniversaries of personalities and institutions that can be very logo-only or with not enough hints of why they are commemorated.

Sometimes the smaller the place, the bolder the artist or the printer: multicolor intaglio printing are common in France, but not often with such stricking color as bright red on quieter colors. Other examples can be found (browse database or your Dallay/Spink catalogue) with seldom colors such as brown, violet and dark orange together for village close to mountainous cliffs.

Artists' side: you can find modern-style illustration like the summer beach of Saint-Brévin-Les Pins last year, or use of the sky and clouds to place symbolic elements of a city.
The illustration project by Elsa Catelin before engraving (via Blog Philatélie). It's the form generally presented by Phil@poste in its catalogues and publications.
During the 2017 edition of the tv show, the stamp for Rochefort-sur-Terre was presented in exclusivity. The stamp was added at the last moment (officially in May) in the philatelic program and its illustration hidden until tuesday night.

Enthusiastically (his normal behavior) Stéphane Bern showed the inside of a file to the camera: a complete sheet of the new stamp alongside the engraved one-page souvenir Phil@poste edits with each issue. He insisted enough on the artist Elsa Catelin, one of La Poste's in-house engravers.
First day cancel in Rochefort-en-Terre (La Poste Bretagne's Twitter account)
And the announcement: the first of day of sale for the morrow - Wednesday 14 - in Rochefort and Carré d'Encre, Phil@poste's shop in Paris, and the general sale on Thursday.

This show can be watched again for 30 days (but because of TV tax that may be not possible outside France): over here. The stamp announcement was cut and posted on youTube over here.

For a more negative article on the new stamps on France: read this other article in French on SébPhilatélie.

Note added Thursday 24 August 2017:
This televised event displeased the editor of L'Écho de la timbrologie, one of the three French philatelic monthly magazines, because of the embargo on the stamp and all intelligence about its issue, place of first day of cancel, etc. La Poste is accused of hiding news from the usual stamp collectors.

Until now I was only aware of British dealers being unable of preparing first day cachet for "secret issue", that Royal Mail hadn't even told them the topic. And when their amateur competition on auction websites displaying stamps to be issued ,which appearance was under embargo until media launch.

Rest the question: How did these media launch attract non collectors to stamps?