Royal Mail 2021 stamp subjects offer up an interesting mix of nature, history and humor. Collectors of sci-fi and history related themes will be pleased. One series has already been released and available in the RM’s online store National Parks | Royal Mail Shop, a visual tribute to 70 years of National Parks. Each stamp in that series represents a stunning miniature work of photographic art. Studio Mean outdid itself with this set.
As the rest of the issue are released, I’ll load them up so keep coming back for more details.
Royal Mail 2021 stamp issues – January
Dartmoor National Park
Broads National Park
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Peak District National Park
South Downs National Park
North York Moors National Park
Snowdonia National Park Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Lake District National Park
New Forest National Park
70th anniversary of the opening of the first of the UK’s 15 National Parks.
Hard to believe but much-loved Rupert the Bear is now 100. First appearing Nov 20 1920, Rupert has entertained young and old alike over the decades. I remember mom scouring bookstores looking for Rupert for me when I was younger. They were extremely hard to find in small town Ontario back in the 60s, but she managed to find a few that were treasured and read until they fell apart.
Isle of Man’s Rupert the Bear tribute
The Isle of Man stamps are usually attractive offerings, and their Rupert compendium is no different. Check out them out at the Isle of Man’s Post Office (iompost.com) store and splurge on a set for a bear loving soul in your life. It’s a bit pricey at £65, but you get a lot in return, including a copy of the Rupert Annual. Might be a little too late to order for Christmas, but you could put it away for a special day. Face it, no one is too old for Rupert.
A book, stamps & some coins to celebrate Rupert’s birthday
I tried to find just the sheet of stamps for sale at the online store, but it doesn’t look like they are sold separately, just as part of this pack. Either that, or they simply sold out.
Rupert the Bear Postal Cancel
Rupert the Bear Stamp sheet & cancel.
The special hand cancel is good fun on the covers and is almost as fun as the upcoming Japanese Moomins. Almost.
However, if you are a Rupert aficionado, track down Royal Mail’s wonderful Sept releases – Rupert the Bear’s 100th birthday stamps. Royal Mail outdid themselves with this set. But, then again, the subject makes an easy study.
Rupert the Bear on Royal Mail stamps
Then with a terrifying roar / The water bursts through the door.
The bath is rocked from side to side / And Pompey quite enjoys the ride.
Then Algy looks a trifle glum / “I’m going home,” he tells his chum.
The large bird says “Our king will know; climb on my back and off we’ll go”
“There’s something puzzling all of you,” / Says Rupert. “So please tell me too.”
“My cuckoo is back again – hooray! / He didn’t really go away.”
Though Rupert searches all around, / There’s not one spruce tree to be found.
The tree is such a lovely sight, / Then Rupert’s chums gaze in delight.
The 8 stamps are taken from 4 adventures – Rupert’s Rainy Adventure (1944), Rupert and the Mare’s Nest (1952), Rupert and the Lost Cuckoo (1963), and Rupert’s Christmas Tree (1947). I vividly remember when I received the Lost Cuckoo adventure. I read it until the cover fell off. Oh, the memories. Click on each stamp to see a large version. The details harken back to the classic advertising stamp designs of the early 1900s. Crisp colours, amusing, and full of whimsy. I think of the two sets, the Royal Mail’s is superior.
Each of the stories, displayed in this set, was written, and illustrated by Alfred Bestall, who penned over 200 of the best Rupert adventures.
Alfred Bestall 14 December 1892 to 15 January 1986 (aged 93)
It was Bestall who dressed Rupert in his iconic red sweater and yellow checked pants, after assuming the mantel of official illustrator. If you’re interested in reading more on him, check out Comicopedia’s entry Alfred Bestall – Lambiek Comiclopedia.
Rupert the Bear in a presentation pack, FDC, sheets & framed.
Rupert the Bear Presentation package
Royal Mail’s presentation packs are eye catching. I don’t tend to collect them, but this is one I’d like to get my hands on. These colourful brochures tend to be chocked full of interesting details about the subject and design. I looked through the online store and didn’t any info on the stamp designer. A shame really. They should be commended for this excellent collection.
As usual, full sheets of 60 stamps and half sheets of 30 are available through the online shop. My favourite is the framed stamps.
Looking for something different? Think about the framed set
This is an excellent set of Rupert the Bear memorabilia to have. If you collect comics, bears or Rupert, this is a must have set. If you enjoy stamps like the Rupert set, don’t forget to check out the Moomins from Japan.
I’ve been sorting through random boxes, clearing stuff I’ve been hanging onto for no particular reason. You know the boxes, they go from move to move, apartment to apartment because you can’t bring yourself to make a decision. Nested deep in one of the boxes was a little tin of UK stamps. Not a clue why they were shoved into a junk box, but I’m glad I found them. I vaguely remember getting them in an auction lot over 10 years ago. I guess because I don’t collect modern UK stamps, I shoved them away thinking I’ll check them later.
What’s in the Tin Box?
What’s in the tin?
Inside, I found this:
Lots of loose stamps, packs and little white boxes
Royal Mail presentation packs, loose stamps, including quite a few Machins
Something odd popped out of the box and intrigued me.
2 ½ x 3 ¼ size cartons. Sealed with either a red or blue label
One pack was open, so I took a closer look at it and found more Machins.
Opened Royal Mail carton showing 4 little Machins
That’s a lot of packaging for 4 tiny stamps. In the dim recesses of my brain, I remember looking for info when they first landed in my lap and tossed them back into the tin after coming up empty. Ten + years on, I decided to give it another kick.
The big problem was pretty basic – I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. I wasn’t even sure the Machin stamps belonged in the boxes or if they had been randomly thrown in. The boxes weren’t listed in any catalogue I searched. I didn’t want to open the other boxes and assumed they were Machins as well, so I rolled through the Machin listings in various catalogues and came up empty.
It took a lot of detective work to find anything. How do you search for this? Small condom sized boxes of Machin stamps? Or small boxes of UK stamps? Those produced frustrating results, so I went to eBay and scrolled through pages and pages and pages of UK stamps, hoping to spot one. Bingo! One popped up. I had a name to work with – Scotland’s Experimental Vending Machine Post.
There really isn’t a lot out, even with a working title. I found a couple of sites that talked about them, but nothing substantial was offered up about the who, what and when. I trolled through the UK archives, checked the usual postal sites and information is sparse. Finally, I found a gold mine of information, courtesy one Glen H. Morgan and the Stamp Printer’s website. [http://www.stampprinters.info/Cartons.pdf] And it’s a quirky little story.
Scotland Experimental Postage Packet 1977-1978 Production
Between 1977 and 1978, 6 cartons were designed, holding between 4 to 8 stamps per pack. They were manually filled and put together by a local post office authority. This was an unsanctioned act by the Edinburgh depot, leaving the postal authorities a little unimpressed with the initial experiment
‘I am concerned (as I know that you are) that we did not know that this work [making-up the cartons] was being undertaken by your depot in Edinburgh. I would be grateful if you could make it clear to the officer in charge that P&SD should deal with postal regions through PHQ on all matters of policy and not take instructions directly.’ Mr. Hutton, the Manager of the Supplies Depot at Hemel Hempstead http://www.stampprinters.info/Cartons.pdf
The first vending machines went into business March 7, 1977, in Dundee, Scotland. Followed by Aberdeen and Paisley on Mar 9, Kilmarnock the next day and Edinburgh a month later, on April 15. Initially 2 books were put together and sold via vending machines. The first two used the Scottish Regional stamps. When rates changed, 4 more books were created, using regular Machins.
30p – Red Print – 2 x 6 ½ p and 2 x 8 ½ p Scottish Regional stamps
60p – Blue Print – 4 x 6 ½ p and 4 x 8 ½ p Scottish Regional stamps
Second issue when price increases took place in June 1977:
30p – Red Print – 3 x 7p (with 2 phosphor bands) and 1 x 9p Machin stamps
30p – Red Print – 3 x 7p (1 phosphor band) and 1 x 9p Machin stamps
60p – Blue Print – 6 x 7p (with 2 phosphor bands) and 2 x 9p Machin stamps
60p – Blue Print – 6 x 7p (1 phosphor band) and 2 x 9p
The project was shelved in 1978. Costs coupled with a pragmatic look at the bulkiness of the little cartons doomed them:
‘A variable denomination machine which sold counter-sized books containing stamps made from sheet cylinders would be the ideal from our (PMK3) point of view. I am sure the public would also prefer it as books go into wallets and handbags more easily than boxes, and also take-up more room in vending machines and so reduce the capacity and increase the empty time.’ http://www.stampprinters.info/Cartons.pdf
Over production of existing stitched booklets and comparative high costs for the little cartons kill off the idea. UK post printed 70 million stitched booklets yearly but sold only 46 million, leaving a substantial surplus of stamps. Creating a more expensive type of book/package would not help the oversupply situation.
“The cost of cartons versus the cost of stamp booklets was revealed in a letter from Mr. Hutton to Mr. Burn. Counter books of ten stamps apparently cost around £7.93 per thousand booklets, while the smaller SVM booklets of six stamps came in at around £8.67 per thousand. The proposed Scottish cartons would be £140 per thousand due to the making-up by hand and, although this would reduce if packed by machine, the capital costs of the new equipment to undertake this task would be considerable. Mr Hutton further wrote: ‘It seems crystal clear, therefore, that, having already acquired the Libra machines, there is no case financially for the introduction of the proposed vending machines on a large scale” Glen H. Morgan http://www.stampprinters.info/Cartons.pdf
When the trial completed, the remaining cartons were bundled into lots and sold off. In a couple of searches online, I found individual cartons sold for anywhere from $5 (Cdn) to $12 (Cdn), depending on the seller. I’m not sure how many cartons still exist but they seem to be a bit rare. It might be that most people gave up looking for info on them, like I did initially, and tossed them into a bin of unwanted stamps.
A few websites I found thought the vending machines were old re-purposed condom machines. Although not true, it’s not a hard stretch to see the rational, when you look at the size and shape of the boxes. I thought the same when I first looked at them. I also thought it was a collector’s method of storing Machins. According to Glen H Morgan (http://www.stampprinters.info/Cartons.pdf) this is an apocryphal twist on the story. As fun as the idea is, the machines were Vendador cigarette machines, www.autonumis.co.uk which were already setup to accept 50p and 10p coins.
I’m resisting the urge to open the packs to see if one of them has the rare questionnaire that was slipped inside some. Not all had them and, quite frankly, my curiosity is killing me. But, I’ll be a good collector and leave them unopened.
Read more here on Scotland Experimental Post 1977-1978 Production:
Stamp Printers has a top-notch article on their site that dives deep into the experiment. Scottish Experimental Cartons, by Glen H. Morgan Cross Post Magazine, Autumn 2009 http://www.stampprinters.info/Cartons.pdf
I relied heavily on the article for details about the Scottish Experiment. Mr Morgan’s article has a lot more information if you are interested in finer details about the experiment and the discussions behind the scene regarding it.
Trivia time: Where is the first post office in Toronto located?
260 Adelaide Street East. It’s a small, lovingly restored building across the road from George Brown College. I’ve passed by it more times than I can count, until this week, never stopped in. A scandalous state of affairs for any stamp collector. It’s a smart little Georgian building, that doesn’t draw a lot of attention to itself. Built in 1833, and served as the local post office until 1839. The Adelaide address has an added layer to it’s story because it was tied up with the Rebellion of 1837, although it’s resident was an unwilling participant.
York was a muddy blotch of land on the edge of Lake Ontario back in it’s early years. It was pretty much a rural backwater – small, provincial and according to visitors horribly backwards. It wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that York was kick started into a new, vibrant town with new wharfs, warehouses, commercial businesses etc popping up in the next decade. By the 1830s, the existing system of governing proved to be incapable of taking care of business. York, the provincial capital, was also transforming into a growing commercial hub. Along with the growth came the demand for better roads, sewage, and other services befitting a provincial capital. The old system, geared more towards a small village and rural surroundings was no longer enough. In 1834, the provincial government incorporated the city of Toronto.
There were 4 post offices in York prior to incorporation. The one on Adelaide was the first official Toronto post office. Enter the hero of our story – James Scott Howard the first Post Master of Toronto.
Born in County Cork Ireland 2 Sept. 1798, Howard arrived in Canada in 1819, first settling in New Brunswick and later moving to York. He received an appointment to work in the post office, under York Post Master William Allen. By July 1828, Howard was elevated to Post Master. All was well for a number of years. The house on Adelaide was built in 1833 and the Howard family lived upstairs with the post office downstairs for a while. When Toronto incorporated, Howard made it to the history books as it’s first official Post Master.
It’s difficult to imagine how important a post office was in the 1800s. It was a major hub of activity, near the financial district, close to the harbours, and of vital importance to people waiting to hear from family back home. Post Masters ran notices in the newspapers, quarterly, listing who had mail waiting for them. Line ups were not uncommon. The post office included a reading room where people would gather to have their letters read to them. This was in an era before public education made basic literacy the norm. Postal staff would be on hand to read and in some cases write return letters for people.
But … things were afoot in Canada, an event that would throw Howard’s comfortable life into turmoil for years. He inadvertently fell out of favour of the ruling Family Compact here in Ontario. For those not steeped in grade school history of Canada, the Family Compact were the ruling class in Ontario. Elitist, Loyalist, Anglican, tight knit family ties and very conservative, the Compact controlled all aspects of Ontario. A businessman dared not bring down the wrath of the Compact, it could cost them them dearly.
By the 1830s, their power was being challenged. The harder they tried to maintain control, the more discontent grew. Times were changing, whether they wanted them to or not. By 1837, things came to a head when an armed uprising began against the government. [Read more on the Rebellion here http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/rebellions-of-1837/]. Uprisings occurred in both Upper and Lower Canada. They were all put down within a year and things appeared to settle back into the status quo. However, defeating the Rebellion proved to be the last gasp for the ruling compact. Although the rebels were beaten, in the long run, they won. Within 10 years, the Durham Report [Read more here http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/durham-report/] drew up the plans for responsible government and laid the groundwork that broke the grip of the Family Compact for good.
James Scott Howard wasn’t part of the Compact – he wasn’t Anglican for starters and not part of the ruling families. Second he seemed to have been pretty fair minded. He had friends from all walks of life, including some who were central players in the Rebellion. Howard maintained political neutrality and by all accounts, kept himself out of politics. But he was accidently swept up in the Rebellion of 1837 and unfairly accused of siding with the Rebellion. The government of Ontario dismissed him without any formal charges being brought against Howard or proven. The Family Compact viewed his friendship with some of the rebels as guilt. Out he went. The position of Post Master was handed to Albert Berczy, who took up residence in the building for about a year. The post office was moved from Adelaide to Front Street (just west of Yonge Street) in 1839 and the Adelaide ceased functioning as a post office.
Howard fought for years to clear his name. Lieutenant Governor Francis Bond Head was convinced of Howard’s complicity and refused to budge. Although an inquiry did agree with Howard that he had no part in the rebellion and that he had remained neutral, it didn’t make a difference. He wasn’t rehired as Post Master. He hadn’t shown due loyalty to the ruling class and that was enough to doom his chances. Friends agitated on his behalf in the 1840s, believing a great injustice had been done. Although he was never reappointed to any post office position, he was given the job of treasurer for York and Peel counties He later took on other government roles but was never again involved in postal matters.
When the post office vacated, the building was rented out to a number of different tenants and businesses. Howard sold the building in 1873. 260 Adelaide changed hands many times over the next 100 years until it was an unrecognisable shell of it’s former self – Toronto isn’t always kind to it’s own history. It wasn’t until a fire nearly destroyed the historic building in 1978 that the city of Toronto finally begin to recognise it’s importance. It was purchased, restored to it’s former simple beauty and is the local post office once again. It was a busy little place when I visited. A steady trail of people coming and going.
The Adelaide post office also serves as a museum. The main room is a fully functioning post office, complete with a replica of the original post slots. You can potter around looking at the displays in the other rooms, try your hand at using a quill pen (not as easy as it looks) and read a little on the history of the building. Letters mailed from here can be, on request, hand cancelled with a reproduction red ink cancel from the era. If you’re interested in receiving one, drop me a line and I’ll pad down to the post office and send you one.
If you come to Toronto, take a bit of time and visit. A perfect little window on Upper Canada.