How to celebrate a centenary

Saturday, 24 August 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Worldwide interest in stamps is amply demonstrated by the response to the World Stamp Expo held recently in Melbourne. More than 54,000 album pages from 55 countries were exhibited. On display were 500-year-old letters, the 1840 Penny Black stamp – the world’s first adhesive stamp issued by Great Britain, and stamp rarities of the Australian colonies. Exhibit themes were diverse and among the wide range were whales, orchids, sailing ships and rocket mail. Exhibitors, dealers, postal administrations and clubs from around the world participated. The exhibition coincided with the centenary of the first Australian Commonwealth postage stamp issue. About 60 years prior to its release, the colonies had produced their own postage stamps. Incidentally, Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then known, issued the first adhesive stamp on 1 April 1857. Its value was 6 pence to pre-pay the first letter rate to England by ship for half ounce letters. The stamp featured the embossed head of Queen Victoria, the British monarch ruling over the colonies. After the introduction of a decimal currency of 100 cents to the rupee in 1872, a definitive series of 10 stamps was issued in small format and Rs. 2.50 in a large format. All depicted the head of Queen Victoria. Australia celebrated the well-known Kangaroo and Map stamp where Australia’s favourite animal was shown inside the country’s map. An international competition was held to get an outstanding design and a specialist stamp board was appointed to select the best design. Yet, there was lot of controversy around the selection. The Kangaroo and Map was not the design of a single artist and it created widespread anger that the king’s head was absent. Many did not want the kangaroo to be adopted as a national symbol. The design was considered rudimentary compared with the ornate designs of the time. However, after the turbulent launch, the design gathered respectability. The centenary issue offered several by-products too to the stamp collectors. There was a limited edition of Colonial Heritage Intaglio Collection featuring all four intaglio-printed miniature sheets, a special Colonial Heritage medallion and beautifully finished with a foiled cover. A set of six Kangaroo and Map lapel pins was made available. There was also a limited edition of 7,500 ‘make your own’ daily show cover – a joint product from Australian Mint and Australia Post. Each day, 1,250 copies were released and a different coloured foiled postmark was applied each day. A Medallion cover, a Prestige booklet, a Stamp-coin set, and a booklet relating the story of the kangaroo were among other releases. That was not all. A mainsheet, a ‘specimen’ sheetlet pack, a maxi-card, a stamp pack, a First Day cover, King George V prestige cover featuring a facsimile of the letter from the Postmaster General to the Minister of Trade and Customs were also issued. Thus, the stamp collectors had a field day. With more and more interesting themes being covered in our issues, the Philatelic Bureau can study these products and offer our stamp collectors a wide variety of items when a historic occasion comes up. Moreover, with so many collectors spread throughout the world, there is bound to be a lot of interest in picking up novel items.