General Pursuits

Phila-Bytes #2 [25 August–8 September 2016

It’s been a very fast two weeks which means it’s time for the second installment of “Phila-Bytes” – a compendium of interesting things I’ve stumbled upon in the stamp web.  This will be a fairly short edition as I’ve been very busy with work!

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First up, I should mention that today is the centennial of the U.S. National Parks Service.  I am preparing an article about the NPS for my other stamp blog, A Stamp A Day (insert shameless plug here).  I was somewhat surprised that Wikipedia doesn’t have a dedicated page for the 1934 National Parks Issue but there is plenty on the Internet about the recently-released set of 16 stamps including a page on the NPS site itself.  I have yet to obtain copies of these but will do so as soon as our monsoon season ends.  While I was hoping that my personal favorite — Chaco Canyon — would be included, it was still nice to see two other parks from my former home of New Mexico honored.

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This is, in fact, a year where there are many interesting issues I can add to my various topical collections. I’ve long been a voracious reader of crime fiction and have a number of stamps commemorating  the legacy of Sherlock Holmes as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  It’s refreshing, however, that a different favorite mystery writer is receiving the philatelic treatment this year.  I came across the news on the Commonwealth Stamps Blog that a set of six will be released on 15 September by the United Kingdom to “to commemorate the Centenary of the first murder mystery written by Agatha Christie (The Mysterious Affair At Styles featuring Hercule Poirot).  It’s a rather striking set and one now firmly included on my want list.

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I’m also a lifelong fan of rock music in (almost) all of its forms.  While Bruce Springsteen has been my favorite performer for almost as long as I can remember (which is a long time, actually), I’ve also enjoyed forays into progressive rock such as Pink Floyd (honored by a Royal Mail set earlier this year), Peter Gabriel-led Genesis, and both eras of Marillion (I prefer Steve Hogarth’s version of the band over that of Fish,  despite him being the singer for the first four years that I listened to them).  I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Yes throughout the years.  I remember buying the LP for Yessongs when I was attending college in central Kansas but I refused to buy the then-current 90125 for years as the hit single was overplayed and I found it really annoying!  It wasn’t until 1994 that I saw them perform live and became began buying their back-catalogue.

Sometimes the best thing about the albums were the covers created by Roger Dean, defining the visual image of the band, much the same way that Hipnogsis represented Pink Floyd.  Thus, I was quite pleased to find that a set of his artwork would be released on stamps by the Isle of Man.  They were issued on 19 August and I like the fact that the attention to detail extended to the fonts used as well.  However, much like the writer of Commonwealth Stamps Blog, I was underwhelmed by the final product.  These images just don’t translate well to the stamp format.  Truth be known, they don’t look that great CD-sized either.  Roger Dean’s work is best seen on the full 12-inch LP with gatefold sleeves.  Oddly enough, I don’t think the same for the Pink Floyd album covers (or previous issues showing The Beatles covers).  Perhaps if I was a bigger Yes fan, I’d think differently.  The set also includes one brand-new piece of artwork inspired by the Isle of Man as well as artwork for albums by The Blind Owl and Uriah Heap.

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The biggest news this week was perhaps the selling at auction of two of the rarest stamps in the world – the 1p and 2p “Post Office” Mauritius stamps of 1847. I mentioned in “Phila-Bytes” #1 that the copper plate used to print these stamps will be auctioned later in the year. The most-newsworthy aspect seems to be the fact that an unknown Czech investor was the winning bidder for an undisclosed sum thought to be in excess of US $4.1 million.  It’s unknown whether these are on-cover examples or singles.  The news article can be found here.

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That’s all for this time.  I’ll see you again in about two weeks…

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