Spectacular 1918 Canadian Forces in North Russia covers

Spectacular 1918 Canadian Forces in North Russia covers

Cherry Stone Auctions has a trio of Canadian Forces covers that should generate interest from military collectors, especially those specializing in WW1 pieces. These are rare items. The 3 covers were mailed by members of the Canadian Military Expedition North Russia during Canada’s short-lived fight with the Red Army.  These types of covers don’t see the light of day often and are listed at a decent price of $500 (US). After watching so many stamp auctions since the pandemic hit, I’m betting they go for substantially less.

Screen capture of 3 postal covers sent from Siberia by Canadian Forces troops

1918-19 three covers to Canada, “Field Post Office 201” On Active Service

The covers appear in their December 15-16, 2020 auction and are set to sell on the first day. Cherry Stone has a full pdf catalogue you can download or, if you haven’t stripped Flash out of your computer yet, use their flip catalogue. You can find both on their home page at https://www.cherrystoneauctions.com/ However, you really need to remove Flash before the new year. I posted an article about the security issues surrounding Flash in Oct. Read it here -> Uninstall Adobe Flash Now

About the North Russia Expedition

These Canadian Forces covers would be an extraordinary addition to any collection. Covers like these are rarely offered. The three have historical and military significance that goes beyond the Canadian Forces aspect. The North Russia Expedition is a little-known chapter in Canadian history, often neglected because of the larger battles being fought across Europe.  Ostensibly, the joint international expedition was to ensure no German troops landed in the Murmansk region, but it quickly turned into a fight between the Red and White armies, with international troops supporting the Czarist White Army.

Here’s a brief geography lesson. Murmansk (where Arkangel is located) is above the arctic circle, bordering Finland, hence the concern Germany might cut up through the area. Murmansk was of strategic importance to both the Germans and the allies because of the open port and abundance of minerals. When German troops arrived in Finland, alarms went off throughout the allied forces about the possibility of Germany seizing the Port of Murmansk and the rails used to move vital supplies. Canada sent 4,192 troops from the Canadian Field Artillery (67th and 68th Batteries of the 16th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery). They arrived in the fall of 1918 and withdrew June 1919. If you have information you’d like to add (or correct what I’ve written) feel free to leave it in the comments field below. Always happy to have more information on these posts.

Three Canadian Forces Covers

Each cover has a military cancel and marked “On Active Service” (OAS). The top left was sent Dec 8,1919 and backstamped Jan 10, 1920. This came from one of 53 soldiers transferred to British command when Canadian troops left Russia for home in June 1919. No mention of the soldier’s name, but a little research into which of the 53 were from New Brunswick might bear fruit.

The second, top right, was sent Nov 1918 to Markham Ontario. Markham, at the time, was a small agricultural township, and a search of Canadian records for soldiers from the Siberian Expedition might lead to a possible identify.

The bottom right cover was sent March 1919. It has a cancel from a Royal Army Medical Corps Hospital Ship anchored off Archangel. The address is here in the heart of Toronto, at near Wellesley Streets and Sherbourne. I did a quick record check for the recipient and came up empty. A deep dive into Toronto churches would be required to find more information.

Despite their obvious faults, these 3 covers are still highly collectable.

A few resources to check out

If you’d like to learn more about the North Russian Expedition aka the Siberian Expedition, hop over to the University of Victoria, BC website on this chapter of Canadian history. It’s titled Canada’s Siberian Expedition.

This brief trailer is also worth a look. It packs a lot of info into a short clip.

If you’re interested in Canadian military related stamps and covers, check out this article I published last month.

Amazing German FDC – Tag der Briefmarke 2020

As always, you can follow me with any of the social media links listed below. Cheers.

Essential stamp collecting tools PT 2 – free stamp catalogues

Essential stamp collecting tools PT 2 – free stamp catalogues

One of the most important tools for any collector is access to decent stamp catalogues. Unfortunately, they can be expensive. Few of us have $600 to put down on the Scott 6 volume series. My favourite, Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth & British Empire Stamp Catalogue 1840-1970 is listed for $156.38 (Cdn) for the latest edition. Luckily, there are alternatives to new purchases.

Used stamp catalogues

One choice is to check your local library, thrift shop or second-hand bookstores for used copies. Older catalogues are excellent resources. I lurk around book sales and grab them whenever they are offered. Some of the 1930s and 40s editions have detailed information lacking in modern volumes. If you are lucky, you can pick them up for less than $5.

Some of my used finds include:

  • Sanabria North American airmail 1944
  • Sanabria World airmail 1970
  • Stanley Gibbons British Commonwealth 2 volume set
  • Scott 6 volume set 2008
  • Scott Standard set worldwide 1959 1 volume
  • Scott USA, British Commonwealth and Latin America 1960
  • Circle Squared cancels – Canada
  • Canadian Revenue Stamp Catalogue 25th Anniversary Edition
  • Stanley Gibbons Specialised – QV, KG, QEII all hard cover editions for $2 a piece
  • British External Airmails Until 1934

I have 2 shelves filled with older volumes and find them as useful today as the original owner did when they were new. It isn’t necessary to have the latest catalogue. If you are interested in current stamp values, the internet fills that gap nicely. Just search philately stores for their latest prices.

If you purchase a used book online, be wary. Check shipping costs carefully. I’ve seen some sellers charge up to $30 for a small, light pamphlet.

Photo of some of my stamp albums and catalogues, cluttering up my desk

My desk is under there somewhere.

Single country/topic volumes

If you specialise, individual country catalogues are better than larger books covering world stamps. Each of the major catalogue companies offer specialised books focusing on a specific topic or country. The 2021 Unitrade Specialised Catalogue of Canadian Stamps currently sells for $56 (Cdn). I purchase a new one every 5 or 6 years. Little of the information changes over the years and the only reason I update is to get detailed information for newer stamps.

All catalogues are not created equal. I prefer the Unitrade because it lists all the semi-official airmails. Scott and SG list official airmails only, so airmail collectors will find them frustrating. It pays off to do some basic research before committing to a specialised catalogue. Make sure it offers the level of details you need.

Catalogues in eBook format

Not everyone wants to look at the computer screen when playing around with their stamp collection. But for some of us, stamp catalogues in eBook form, are a great option.

Pros Cons
Portable Not always easy to set up to access your laptop/tablet
Digital catalogues are in full colour Most digital stamp catalogues are subscription only, so you need to be online to use them
Easy to zoom in and see details
Less expensive than print versions

I bought the Scott Canada online catalogue last year for $14.99. I can access it via my tablet anywhere I have internet access.  I wish I could download a copy, but I understand why they don’t allow it – too easy to pirate the edition.  Stanley Gibbons, Michels and other stamp publishers offer the same options. I especially like the ability to blow up the images full screen size to see all the detail.

Free on-line stamp catalogues

It’s surprising how many free catalogues are online. You don’t need to lay out cash to access excellent information on your stamps. It takes a bit of hunting, but there are hundreds of quality sites out there.

Start with post offices. A number have basic catalogues of their products free to use on-line. India Post is a good example.  The pre-independence issues don’t have any numbers or info, but still useful if you are trying to identify a stamp. The site excels in newer issues. It offers both clear images and downloadable brochures of each stamp. The brochures offer info on topics, designer, and quantities, downloadable in pdf format. It’s ideal for collectors. If you are like me, you’ll download them and keep them on file for future reference.  When I save the pdfs, I rename them like this: India_2020_Sept. If it has an aviation topic, I’ll include a keyword in the file name as well. You can access their catalogue here -> https://www.indiapost.gov.in/Philately/Pages/Content/Stamps.aspx. I am currently searching for all such Post Office related catalogues as part of a spreadsheet I’m working on. I’m about 1/2 way through listing all post offices and when completed, will post it.

Another option is Colnet – a massive online stamp database. It’s searchable by topic, year, country, type, format, perforations, colours, year issued and face value. The best part of the Colnet system, is it allows you to focus on specific catalogue numbering systems. If I want to look at Canadian stamps, all the major numbers are listed.

Here’s an example:

A sample from Colnet.com's website information on stamps

Snapshot of type of info offered

Sample of photo of stamps available at Colnet

Canadian Airmail – allegory of flight

Keep in mind, Colnet is a work in progress. Some issues may be missing. This site is powered by the work of stamp collectors who contribute information. It’s free, and easy to use. Sign up for an account and get started https://colnect.com/en/stamps.

Specialty websites

If you are looking for detailed information not available in a basic catalogue, you can dig deeper into specialised websites. If you are an Indian airmail collector, for example, try https://www.indianairmails.com/. It offers info on covers, stamps, airplanes, routes, and airlines.

Canadian cancel hounds should bookmark Postal History Society of Canada’s website https://www.postalhistorycanada.net/php/postmarks.php for its in-depth explanation of types of cancels found on early Canadian mail.

These are just two samples of online resources put together by collectors for collectors. Google is your friend when it comes to stamps.

Next article in this series will cover how to use image searches to identify stamps. Check out Part one of this series below:

What are your essential stamp collecting tools?

If you are interested in stamp related merchandise, stop by my store and see if there’s something that tweaks your interest. A percentage of all sales go directly to Bitter Grounds Magazine. I’m hoping to spend more time writing, in the new year, and less time on the road fixing computers. Hopefully, the store will help towards that goal. Check out BitterGrounds.redbubble.com

Screen capture of a notebook for sale at Red Bubble

New items will appear each month.

In the meantime, follow on Twitter, FB, Flipboard. LinkedIn and Instagram (links below).

Austrian stamp, 2020 & a sense of humour

Austrian stamp, 2020 & a sense of humour

The Austrian post office outdid themselves in October with a stamp that perfectly symbolizes 2020.

An Austrian stamp - showing a cartoon baby elefant printed on toilet paper for Covid

Remember – stay one baby elephant away

That is a piece of toilet paper and it’s a legitimate Austrian stamp.  The design perfectly describes what all of us think about the year so far. In case you are struggling with the stamp, the point is to emphasis distances. It’s a little reminder to stay 1 meter or 1 baby elephant away from others to help prevent the spread of Covid.

It isn’t marked as sold out on the Austrian Post website, so if you are interested, you can still buy it here.  If you are looking for out-of-the-box designs this is a find. It’s a semi-postal block, screen printed on toilet paper. It’s currently selling for €5.50 and is one of those stamps that makes me wonder if it will become a hot collectable in the future.  It certainly is fascinating, from both a design and historical perspective.

Marion Füllerer, designer Oct. 2020 Austrian stamp

The designer, Marion Füllerer  describes the stamp on her website:

Im Auftrag der Österreichischen Post AG entstand dieser Briefmarkenblock auf Klopapier um die besondere Corona-Zeit fest zu halten. Klopapier wurde in Österreich zu Beginn der Pandemie zur Mangelware. Der Babyelefant ist das österreichische Symbol für den Sicherheitsabstand


On behalf of the Austrian Post AG, this stamp block was created on toilet paper to capture the special Corona period. At the beginning of the pandemic, toilet paper became a scarce commodity in Austria. The baby elephant is the Austrian symbol for the safety distance.
Marion Füllerer Wir Gestalten

Stamps have been printed on a variety of materials over the years, but this is the first on toilet paper. It is symbolic, as many countries experienced an irrational run on items like toilet paper at the start of the pandemic. The stamp takes a lighthearted poke at the initial panic when Covid-19 hit yet still maintains a serious “be safe” tone.

The designer was quite brave in using toilet paper for this Austrian stamp. I’ve read a few criticisms about it, calling it in bad taste, but it isn’t. It’s the stamp for Covid-19. It’s been a tough year all around and an injection of humour certainly helps. As well, this simple, clean design is soothing. Lots of white space, clear symbols, easy to understand and amusing. I love it.

I’m going to keep an eye open for future stamps by Marion Füllerer and have added her to my spreadsheet of stamp designers to watch. The spreadsheet is coming along slowly and when I get it a bit more organized, I’ll share it with you.

I’ve included this post in both the Design and Stamp categories. The more I explore who designs the stamps, the greater my appreciation has been of the incredible tiny works of art produced by unsung heroes of philately. So many of us collect stamps but rarely give pause to the people who put their heart and souls into creating them. Hence the slight shift in some of my articles in putting a light on the creators, not just the topic.

Don’t forget, like this page on Facebook or Twitter (links below) if you want to see the latest articles as they are published. I will be publishing a list of all post offices in the world along with links to their stores and in some cases, their online catalogues made available to the public. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the list. It takes a lot of time to find working links because not all post offices make it easy to find newsletters and lists of available stamps. I’m aiming to have it up, in spreadsheet format, by the end of this week.

In the meantime, later everyone. Let me know if you managed to buy this Austrian stamp.

Delightful Deutsche Post Christmas stamp

Delightful Deutsche Post Christmas stamp

The 2020 Deutsche Post Christmas stamp is now available!  This release includes single self-adhesives, booklets, souvenir sheets, and greeting cards.

Markenset “Frohes Fest” / “Happy Feast” – festive decorations

Das festliche Dekorieren des Hauses oder der Wohnung in den Farben Grün, Rot und Weiß, Silber und Gold ist Teil des weihnachtlichen Brauchtums. Beliebter Weihnachtsschmuck sind der Adventskranz und der Adventskalender sowie die ursprünglich aus dem Erzgebirge stammenden Schwibbögen und die Weihnachtspyramiden, die mit ihrem Licht für Behaglichkeit sorgen. Den Mittelpunkt der Weihnachtsstimmung bilden die mit bunten Glaskugeln, Kerzen oder elektrischen Lichterketten, aus Holz oder Metall gefertigten Formen und Figuren, Strohsternen und Lametta geschmückten Tannenbäume und die kunstvoll gestalteten Weihnachtskrippen.
Deutsche Post 

Deutsche Post Christmas Stamp - decorations including a prancing deer

Stamp designed by Thomas Steinacker

The stamp highlights popular Christmas decorations like bulbs, Advent calendars, fir branches, and stars. Designer Thomas Steinacker also created the Jan 2020 stamp issued to commemorate Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

Deutsche Post Christmas stamp – booklets & s/s

Deutsche Post Christmas Stamp - decorations full booklet

Christmas decorations available in 10 stamp booklet

Souvenir sheet of German Christmas stamps

Souvenir sheets

The Christmas motif self-adhesive is also available in booklets of 10 stamps and a souvenir sheet.

Grußkarten-Set “Weihnachten 2020” / Christmas stamps Greeting Card Set

Photo of a Christmas set of greeting cards

5 different greeting cards and 10 stamps

If you enjoy sending traditional Christmas cards, the Germany Post Office sells a set of 10 greeting cards, with 5 unique designs, plus envelopes and 10 self-adhesive stamps. The German post office does Christmas up with panache.

Don’t forget to follow Bitter Grounds via any of the links just below this article.

Awesome 2021 Canadian stamps announced

Awesome 2021 Canadian stamps announced

Canada Post has released topics for their 2021 stamp issues, with some exciting 100th anniversary celebrations in the mix. The list is an interesting selection of Canadian achievements and multicultural events.

List of 2021 Canadian stamp issues

  • the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin.
  • five mammals that turn white in winter.
  • two legends of Canadian ballet.
  • the 100th anniversary of the launch of the legendary schooner Bluenose.
  • the three First World War heroes from Winnipeg’s Valour Road.

What are you picks?

I’m not sure which of Canada’s ballet legends will be honoured but I’m betting it’ll be Rex Harrington and Evelyn Hart. I’m not a major fan of ballet, so I’m likely off on these picks, but with Canada’s rich ballet history and there are lots of choices.

The mammals of winter will be fun. My picks are the artic hare, arctic fox, Peary caribou, arctic wolf, and harp seal.

It’s hard to imagine a world without insulin, but the discovery is only 100 years old. Read more on it here 100 Years of Insulin: Accelerating Canadian Discoveries to Defeat Diabetes. Previous stamps highlighting insulin included the 50th anniversary issue 1971, 1990 physician’s series, and 1999 millennium issue.

And the beloved Bluenose!

Scan of Bluenose 1929 stamp. Look for it on 2021 Canadian stamps

1929 Bluenose stamp from writer’s collection

The Bluenose has appeared on 4 Canadian stamps, 1929, 1982, 1988 and 1998.  The classic 1929 issue appeared on the 82 and 98 stamps. It’s hard to beat the iconic 1929 issue for power and grace. Of all the new releases, this one creates the greatest interest. I’d love to see a photo of the Bluenose incorporated into the design this time around.

The Valour Road stamps will honour 3 WW1 Canadian soldiers who lived on the same street in Winnipeg. Corporal Leo Clarke, Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall, and Lieutenant Robert Shankland each won the Victoria Cross, prompting Pine Street to be renamed Valour Road in 1925.

Reoccurring themes for 2021 Canadian stamps

As expected, Canada Post will highlight several popular themes used in past years.

  • spring flower stamps this year will be crab-apples blossoms.
  • the Chinese Lunar New Year will feature a multi-stamp look at past issues in the series.
  • Black History Month will honour pioneering settlements in Amber Valley, Alberta, and Willow Grove, New Brunswick.
  • a stamp honouring the Canada Post Community Foundation, which supports a number of schools, charities, and children’s organizations.
  • Eid, Diwali, and Hanukkah stamps.
  • and of course, the yearly Christmas stamps which will have an angel and some as yet unannounced, classic Christmas characters.

Lots to look forward to in the new year. I’m eager to see who the designers are as well. I started a small database tracking modern designer and their stamps. If I ever complete it, I’ll share it, but don’t hold your breath. So many stamps to write about, so little time to spare.

What are your choices? Leave them in the comments below.

Check back frequently for more stamp collecting news. Remember to follow Bitter Grounds on Twitter or Facebook to receive updates on the stamp world. If you don’t use them, check out the links below for more options to follow this site.


Celebrate Christmas 2020 with delightful Maud Lewis stamps

Celebrate Christmas 2020 with delightful Maud Lewis stamps

Beloved Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis graces 3 Christmas stamps for 2020.  Canada Post unveiled them with the cooperation of the Art Museum of Nova Scotia, who are proud curators of her works.  Three stamps, a FDC and a lovely souvenir sheet are now available.

Christmas 2020 Maud Lewis stamp - domestic stamp

Domestic Use

2020 Canadian Christmas stamp - Maud Lewis stamp

US Deliver

International stamp with Maud Lewis' horses pulling sled in winter

International Mail

“As long as I’ve got a brush in front of me, I’m alright” Maud Lewis

Maude Lewis painted on anything available, cardboard, wood planks, drywall, pots, and every inch of the one room home she shared with her husband Everett. The entire house became her canvas, a wonderful, colourful canvas filled with vibrant images and life. Despite living in a one room home with no electricity or running water, Maud managed to create a memorable visual archive of rural life in Nova Scotia. Her works hang in galleries around the world and is in demand.

Photo of outside of Maud Lewis' home, showing it covered in whimsical vines and flowers

Maud Lewis’ home is now part a permanent exhibit at the Art Museum of Nova Scotia

Inside of Maud Lewis' home showing it covered in her art

Inside Maud’s one room home. After she and her husband died, the house was moved to the museum to preserve it.

If you are unfamiliar with Maud Lewis, start with this short NFB documentary on her. It offers a thumbnail sketch of Lewis and her art. Then head over to the Art Museum of Nova Scotia to read her biography.

2020 Maud Lewis Stamps

Along with the three stamps, Canada Post has issued a FDC and souvenir sheet. My favourite part of the s/s is Maud’s wonderfully fluffy and wide-eyed cats. Canada Post needs to do a series with just her cats.

Souvenir sheet of Maud Lewis stamps showing all three issues and her black cats

Maud Lewis’ cats were the best.

The First Day Cover includes the full souvenir sheet and a special cancel displaying two deer, also taken from Maud’s paintings.

Souvenir sheet of Maud Lewis stamps showing all three issues and her black cats

First day cover .. you can’t beat those cats

Hélène L’Heureux, graphic designer

Hélène L’Heureux designed these delightful Maud Lewis stamps, and I have to say, I’m so happy she included the whimsical little cats on the souvenir sheet. L’Heureux also designed the 2012 gingerbread cookie Christmas stamps and the magnificent Yosuf Karsh series in 2008, to name just a few of her works. I list her designs as my favourites when I think of modern Canadian stamps. Check out Wiki for a list of her Canada Post designs.

All the stamps, FDC and souvenir sheets are on sale now at most Canada Post outlets. If they aren’t available, you can buy them online at Canada Post. If you know any stamp collectors, or folk-art fans, this might be the perfect Christmas present for them.