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From the Archive: June 2009 Review
We have been in a fairly quiet period for new cat stamps, with too few to write about in March, but things are starting to appear and there are enough for a review now. One that seems to have been overlooked last December was from Hungary and was issued in early October 2008 a green cat in a cartoon strip of five called 'Hello, animals'. The same country also has a more recent issue (April 2009) including a Hungarian cartoon cat called Kacor Kiraly (which means King Cat); this is a strip of four stamps in a sheetlet marking the 150th birth anniversary of Hungarian writer and folk-tale collector Elek Benedek.
As has become customary, Japan issued its set of 'Winter Greetings' self-adhesive stamps in December 2008; and as is also customary these included cats, or rather kittens. On one strip of five stamps is a pair of white kittens on a rectangular stamp, and on the other a pair of red tabbies on an oval stamp.
Meanwhile Belgium issued, I think early in 2009, another sheet of 15 'Duostamps' pictorial labels with 'priority' stamps attached. The five designs here (three of each on the full sheet) show kitten groups. Unless they are actually older stamps, this issue is a bit puzzling, as I have read that the system of 'priority' mail in Belgium was ended in 2007, so I can't see what purpose the labels serve here unless this isn't actually a new issue at all.
For many years Monaco has issued a stamp each year to mark the international dog show held there. This year one of the first cat stamps of 2009 (February) is also the first to mark the corresponding cat show, held by the Monaco Cat Association, and shows a Birman; we picture it with the first-day cancellation. The choice of breed to be shown on the stamp was apparently made by Prince Albert of Monaco himself.
Meanwhile Monaco's much bigger neighbour, France, has again produced several items of interest to cat fans. For those who go in for varieties, the Jean-Jacques Henner painting reviewed last time was also issued in self-adhesive form, as well as the normal gummed type. This year's 'Fête du Timbre' (Stamp Festival) production featured Disney's 'Looney Tunes' characters, including Sylvester the cat and Tweety Pie the canary on one of three different designs. These come in a variety of formats: single stamps, a booklet pane of self-adhesives, separate sheetlets each with five of one stamp and more characters in the margins, and finally a miniature sheet (MS) with one large stamp showing all the characters. They were released in late February.
There is another interesting and very modern development from France, which is 'print-it-yourself' stamps, under the title 'Mon Timbrenligne' ('My stamps Online'). To access them you need a credit card and you have to supply a French postal address. A number of designs have been produced, so far in two batches, and among them are five that show cats. You choose the design(s) and face value(s) (up to 99.99 euros) you want, pay for them and then print them at home directly onto envelopes. Each stamp is coded with a unique number that is registered with the postal authority La Poste, so copies and multiple prints are not possible; and in addition each stamp has a use-by date of (I think) two months from when they were printed. This seems an excellent system and perhaps other countries will adopt something similar.
'Hello Kitty' keeps popping up on stamps, this time in an ambitious group from Singapore issued in March and celebrating her 35th anniversary. It consists of 12 miniature sheets, each with four similar stamps bearing one of several abstract designs. The 12 MSs depict the 12 signs of the Western zodiac, each in a different colour, and each stamp is attached to a label with Kitty in an appropriate setting. In addition there are seven other MSs, six that each combine two zodiac signs and one that includes all 12. I have not yet acquired the last seven, as the set appears to be available online only to Singapore residents and I believe comes in a presentation folder.
In January China (the People's Republic) produced a set of four stamps featuring 'Zhangzhou New Year Woodprints'. A charming depiction shown on one is entitled 'Rat marrying off its daughter', complete with detailed wedding procession and there is a cat looking on! This is reminiscent of a rather similar stamp from North Vietnam way back in 1972, although in that case the wedding was said to be of mice rather than rats.
St Thomas & Prince (or rather, their agents) came up with another cats set in January a block of four and an MS. They feature cat portraits in front of suitable backgrounds; for example, the stamp with Russian Blues (pictured) includes St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. The set is quite attractive, but expensive.
The West African nation of Guinea is another prolific issuer of expensive stamp sets, again no doubt actually issued by an agent on its behalf. There was a curious set, dated 2008, showing cats intermingled with an apparently random choice of 'celebrities' old and new; for example, one of the three MSs pictures Samuel Johnson, Michelle Pfeiffer and an assortment of cat breeds! The whole set may well be bogus, but I cannot be sure; apart from the strange content, they are well produced. The MSs are accompanied by a sheetlet of six showing two images each of Michelle Pfeiffer, Brigitte Bardot and Anne Frank; the rationale for the issue is 'Cats and their famous owners'. They are also available imperforate.
Lastly there are two sets apparently from Benin, another African nation under whose name there have been many bogus issues; but again I am unsure whether these are more of the same or not. The odd thing is that both carry the date 2003, but seem only now to have come on the market. One is a set of seven delightful Christmas designs with kittens, looking rather as though they originated as watercolour paintings. They are unusual in that they bear, in very small print at the foot, the name of what I presume is the printer, or possibly the designer. Not only have I never seen anything like that on any bogus stamps, but also I bought them from a reputable dealer who does not normally stock 'illegals'. So who knows? The second set, of nine stamps, has fairly standard kitten portraits; they do not bear the designer or printer name, but they are similar in using the same script for the lettering. If anyone can shed any further light on these interesting stamps, I'd be delighted to hear from you.
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