Cats on Stamps
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From the archive: November 2005 Review
There didn't seem to be enough new cat stamps around in September, when I would normally have written a new review, but by now there are a number to mention. In the absence of any better plan, I'll put them in alphabetical order of the issuing countries.
There is an interesting stamp that came from Andorra in February this year. There are two stamp-issuing authorities in this Pyrenean principality, a French one and a Spanish one, and the stamp was produced by the French office. It shows a giant rat and an equally giant and very fierce-looking cat encountering each other on top of a mountain range, and is inscribed Llegenda del Port del Rat. Apparently The Legend of Rat Pass relates that there was a pretty young girl named Soucarra living with her parents in the Soucarra valley in Andorra. The next valley was called Caroussan; a brutal giant of the same name lived there, and terrorised anyone using the shepherds' path between the valleys. Soucarra planned to get rid of the giant once and for all. She walked along the path carrying her cat, whereupon the giant jumped down and started boasting about his magical powers. Soucarra challenged him to change into an animal. He turned into a rat, which the cat caught and devoured.
In August Antigua and Barbuda produced another set of cats and dogs, the cats being on four single stamps and a miniature sheet (MS). Two of the portraits are semi-stylised and not very attractive, in my opinion, but the other two a golden Persian (shown here) and a Siamese are pleasant enough. The MS has a 'Turkish cat', which I think must be a Van, and a dog and another cat in the margin.
July saw Argentina issue its first-ever set of 'dedicated' cat stamps, and very nice they are too. They form a sheetlet of six on different-coloured backgrounds, with small marginal labels showing close-ups of the cats on the stamps. In addition there are labels with the first two stanzas of a children's song written by Maria Elena Walsh, whose work was featured on some earlier Argentine stamps in 1998; the verse translates as 'Cats Chacarera', and has some political/historical overtones. I'm really grateful to Monica in Buenos Aires for sending me these lovely stamps and information about them.
Cuba, which last year came up with a set of domestic pet stamps, has now also issued a set devoted just to cats. They show bicoloured cats in typical feline poses; and the MS (pictured) has two little tabby kittens. The first-day covers have, in addition, a cat drawing and a cat cancellation.
East Timor, which gained independence from Indonesia and has been recognised as a separate nation since May 2002, is a new name to the cat-stamp fraternity. The illustration is of a pair of stamps showing examples of 'The History of Chess in Paintings'. One has a cat under the table apparently playing with a mouse. The stamps give no indication of which paintings are depicted, but are dated 2004. I do not know whether these are genuine stamps or not.
A feature of Royal Mail's stamp-issuing policy in the last few years in Great Britain has been 'Smilers'. These are special, large-sized sheets that are built around ten commemorative stamps of various kinds, but with labels and margins themed on a particular topic. The original 'Smiles' were the set of Greetings stamps of 1990, including the Cheshire Cat, but they have evolved into 'Smilers' and there are now numerous examples. In October a whole new batch has appeared, and one of these is the beautiful Cats sheet illustrated here (left). Others celebrate two very well-known British comics, the Dandy (far right) and the Beano. One of the characters in the former is 'Korky the Cat' (near right), who appears in the margin and on one of the labels on that sheet. These are expensive but most attractive productions, and are issued in limited, numbered editions of 1000. (The GB Christmas 'Smilers' issue appears at the foot of this review.)
There has been a long series of stamps showing 'Science and Technology Animation' from Japan; the sixth issue came out in November 2004 (two sheetlets), and includes the robot animated cat 'Doraemon' in several situations. He appeared previously on some greetings stamps in 1997. In our picture from this latest issue he is being bounced in the air by a group of other, angry cats, but appears to be enjoying it!
This year, 2005, marks the bicentenary of the birth of storyteller and fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, and there have been a large number of issues worldwide to mark this occasion. So far I have found three stamps that include a cat, with the first two coming from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Of the four designs in the set, The Princess and the Pea and The Emperor's New Clothes both have cats at the bottom, although I wasn't aware that either story has any cat in the tale. For the third, see St Helena below.
From Mongolia, in April this year, there came a pretty sheetlet of four stamps entitled 'Nature's Wisdom', produced for the Stamp expo in Aichi, Japan. One of the animals on it is a small tabby kitten.
The Netherlands has in recent years produced quite a large number of local or 'city post' stamps, which I believe allow cheaper-than-standard postage over a limited distance. I have acquired a strip of five of these that picture cats: the only text is 'Stadspost', 'OSS' and the value of 0,60, so I don't know much about them. If any Dutch (or indeed other) reader can give me any further information, please contact me.
New Zealand has quite often given us cats on stamps in the past, and the annual Health set for 2005 features children and pets. No cats on the actual stamps, but the MS margin shows a boy playing with a ginger kitten, while the first-day cover has a picture of a girl holding a cat.
It's some while (1989) since there were any cat stamps from Paraguay, but there is a recent set of four with two cats and two dogs; the cats are shown here. I have no further details at the time of writing, but am grateful to Bridget for sending me scans of them.
Bridget also spotted the small cat on a June 2005 issue from Portugal. This is a sheetlet of 11 caricatures, presumably of well-known Portuguese people, and a label. The top-hatted gentleman smoking a cigar and with a cat at his feet (far left) is Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro: as far as I can gather from web pages translated from Portuguese he was a writer and artist, living from 1846 to 1905. Also from Portugal, in July, came a series of four self-adhesive 'machine franking labels' showing pets. As well as the handsome tabby cat pictured here (near left), there are a parrot, a dog and a guinea pig. There is a bewildering variety of values available at least four for each design and more for some.
The third of the Hans Christian Andersen stamps to include a cat is from the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena, and shows a cat and a hen looking rather surprised as a duckling (or should that be a cygnet?) emerges from its eggshell. This is, of course, a scene from The Ugly Duckling. Other tales shown in this attractive set, which is also a Christmas issue, are The Little Fir Tree, The Snow Queen, and The Little Mermaid.
In August this year Singapore produced a large set of stamps entitled 'Fabric of a Nation'; there are 40 designs (two sheets of 20) in the form of 'patchwork pieces', and they are for first-class local postage. One stamp features two cats and two dogs. There is also a miniature sheet bearing reduced images of all 40 designs, and the two main sheets come in both gummed and self-adhesive forms. This issue is a colourful and 'different' one.
To finish with, as this will be my last review before Christmas another 'Smilers' sheet from GB, this one of Christmas stamps. The complete sheet of 20 has two different stamp designs, with each stamp attached to a different label. The labels depict the adventures of a black cat, in the snow, with a polar bear. Two examples are shown here, one for each type of stamp. The stamps are the same as were used for Christmas 2001, but it's really fun to have them in this new format.
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!
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or bring any cat stamps to my attention,
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