John Winchester  |  Jan 21, 2011  |  0 comments

The Nicaraguan Mt Momotombo 5c blue, which helped change the course of the Panama Canal The first attempt to construct a navigable link between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, by the great French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps in 1882, was stymied by landslides, malaria and yellow fever.

Together, these caused the deaths of almost 22,000 workers in Panama.

When the United States took up the challenge, its Canal Commission initially recommended a different route, through Nicaragua.

John Winchester  |  Jan 21, 2011  |  0 comments

ABOVE: The top value had a magnificent portrait of King George V in the uniform of the Gordon Highlanders The Falkland Islands had enjoyed its own stamps since the 1870s, but its most memorable set had to wait until 1933, when it marked the Centenary of British Administration in some style, with its first truly pictorial series and its first printed in two colours.

It was early in 1833 that Britain had sent two warships to expel South American insurgents from the islands, and when the 24-year-old Charles Darwin arrived on HMS Beagle that March he was greatly relieved to see the Union flag flying aloft.

But the situation remained tense, and a few months later rebellious gauchos would run amok, slaughtering eight islanders loyal to Britain.

Adrian Keppel  |  Jan 21, 2011  |  0 comments

The 5c rose-red was the workhorse of the Netherlands’ 1899-1923 Fur Collar definitive series, prepaying the inland postcard rate for a period of about 20 years When a new series of definitives was needed by the Netherlands on the accession of Queen Wilhelmina in 1898, no Dutch artist managed to come up with a satisfactory portrait for the medium values.

So the French stamp designer Louis Mouchon, who had already done a lot of work for the printers, Enschedé, was invited to take up the challenge.

Partly as a result of this decision, the issue went far from smoothly.

John Winchester  |  Jan 17, 2011  |  0 comments

In 1935 France laid down the first of four new Richelieu-class ‘super-dreadnought’ battleships, the most powerful it had ever built, in response to heightened international tension.

By January 1939, when the third vessel was commissioned, war had become a serious possibility and the mood of the nation was in need of a lift.

This was to be achieved in two ways.

Julia Lee  |  Jan 12, 2011  |  0 comments

The Classic Locomotives of England miniature sheet, to be issued on February 1, is the first of a series of four highlighting the contribution made by steam engines to British industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Across the public railway network, and also in industrial locations such as factories, quarries and docks, locomotives of all shapes and sizes were the workhorses of the national economy until as recently as the 1960s, cared for by a vast army of drivers and firemen, engineers and mechanics.

Philip Parker of Royal Mail Stamps said: ‘For many people, the age of steam meant bright-liveried passenger locomotives, but in the background a huge number of other less glamorous steam machines were playing a massive role.

Adrian Keppel  |  Jan 07, 2011  |  0 comments

If you thought the Machin series was the ultimate in terms of the number of varieties there are to collect, you might need to think again.

Its myriad perforation types make the 1906 Landscapes definitive series of Bosnia & Herzegovina a serious rival.

Moreover, the stamps are stunners, at the time of their issue heralded by many as the most beautiful stamps in the world.

John Winchester  |  Jan 05, 2011  |  0 comments

Jamaica, the largest island in the British West Indies, was the very first British colony to operate its own postal service, having a post office established shortly after it was siezed from the Spanish in the 17th century.

But for two centuries the colony’s governors failed to implement an efficient service.

In the end London threw down the gauntlet.

John Winchester  |  Dec 22, 2010  |  0 comments

Did rubber tapping techniques really undergo radical change between 1935 and 1938? Today more than 70% of natural rubber comes from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

But in 1935 the British colony of Ceylon was a very important producer, and it was keen to reflect this in its pictorial definitive series of 1935-36.

Four of the 11 values were recess-printed by De La Rue, and the other seven by Bradbury Wilkinson.

John Winchester  |  Dec 21, 2010  |  0 comments

1899 Zanzibar 2r depicting Sultan Hamoud bin Mohammed, from the second series recess-printed but with a second colour added by letterpress The British Empire was always alert to developments in Zanzibar in the 19th century, because of its strategic importance for trade along the east coast of Africa.

Imperial influence was clear from the fact that an Indian post office was opened there in 1868, and the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty of 1890 formally established a British protectorate over the island.

Initially Indian and later British East African stamps overprinted with the word ‘Zanzibar’ were used.

Adrian Keppel  |  Dec 21, 2010  |  0 comments

In September 1890, when the use of Austrian postage stamps was extended to include postal orders and parcels, new values became necessary.

This no doubt encouraged a decision to replace the existing ‘Double Eagle’ stamps, in use since 1883, with a new definitive set depicting Emperor Franz Josef I.

This classic ‘Emperor’s Head’ series would remain in use for almost two decades, leaving plenty of varieties for collectors to study.