Monday, August 22, 2011

3 June & 9 August - Singapore's National Days on Stamp

August is a month where patriotic sentiments run high for Singapore because of the various national day celebrations. These celebrations gel the nation together, and deepen the ties for the participants with this little island nation. The National Day Parade on 9th August is typically the highlight of all the events. Often, there would also be Singapore stamp issues commemorating the National Day.

Let me share a little tidbit of Singapore history via a stamp below. It was not always the 9th August that Singapore celebrates its National Day. In its early years between 1959 and 1963, the National Day was actually 3rd June for Singapore.

Thus when I saw the stamp (left) below, I was pleasantly surprise to see two of Singapore's "National Days" marked on a single stamp. During the early days, 9th August would be a normal working day, and thus there would be stamps with cancellation date marked as "9th August". On the same stamp, the "June 3 1962" is also stated clearly since it is the National Day issue.

The stamp issue was released in 1962 and both stamps formed the complete set of the National Day stamp (4 cents and 10 cents). The design was symbolic of labour's role in building the nation.

See related:
- State of Singapore Stamp

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SingPost - Our Profitable Postal Operator

Well, the recent financial turmoils around the world highlighted the difficult stages that many companies faced. So it was not surprising when I read about the financial difficulties of many postal companies. Postal companies are the important players in the development of the philately for the country. They are the parties who design and print stamps (including stamp errors which the collectors love), and operate / develop the postal system, which in turn created many interesting developments of philately worth (e.g. postal codes changes). Their "healthy" existence is necessary for the local philately scene. But 'healthy' is not a word to describe many of these companies.

In Canada, the ( info from - Canada's Unions "Mail Aggression": page 36 of The Economist 2nd July 2011 Edition." the Canadians post fewer letters than they once did (same for Singaporeans) and Canada Post has avoided obsolescence by encouraging the growth of "direct" (junk) mail, which now accounts for almost a quarter of its revenue. When the dispute in Canada began, their National Post newspaper ran the headline "Canada Post Strike: Will We Even Notice?" That is a sad headline for the postal operator.

Similarly for US, (info from Bloomberg Businessweek 30 May 2011 Edition), US Postal Service, i.e. USPS is losing money at the tune of -13.58%. The health of the postal operator would definitely cause worries for the 570+k employees of USPS.

So these examples drew my attention to our own Singapore operator, SingPost. Singapore's postal market has been liberalised for a couple of years now, i.e. Singapore has more than 1 postal operator. IDA (the postal regulator) listed 5 operators (incl SingPost) on its website, including DHL, Fuji Xerox and Swiss Post. An interesting point about the postal liberalisation is that it created more postmarks due to the entrance of new players. I've also received letters from other non-listed couriers. With competition, how's our SingPost doing?

Apparently very well! SingPost reported profit of S$34.8 millions for Q4 FY 2010 / 2011, and they have been giving out dividends for the shareholders. I believe that some of these growth come from direct mails, i.e. junk mails, that we received in our letterboxes. Earlier articles about the USPS and Canada Post revealed that direct mails are now important revenue growth for these companies, and I think it is likewise for SingPost.

This means in future I'll likely continue to receive more junk mails (or faced increasing cost for the stamps), and I wonder if one day junk mail will become a recognised element of the philately development for a country? Scary... nonetheless if that is necessary so that our local postal operator SingPost can survive in this new digital online world, I guess receiving junk mail is but a small price to pay. Don't you think so? :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stamp Exhibition on Dr Sun Yat Sen @ SPM

We went to the Singapore Philatelic Museum for the Stamp Exhibition on Dr Sun Yat Sen. It was a rare treat to see some of the uncommon stamps linked with Dr Sun Yat Sen. The visit was highly educational. For example, I didn't know that Dr Sun Yat Sen 孙中山's "中山" came from his Japanese name 中山樵, which he used when he was hiding in Japan. His actual name is 孙文. Another piece of philately tidbit was that Dr Sun Yat Sen was personally involved in the design of one of the early China stamps because he felt that these stamps were important to the modern day China.

Of course, the philately material provided much information about Dr Sun Yat Sen's life. It was also interesting to know that Dr Sun's Three Principles of the People (三民主义) had been depicted on a US stamp, together with Dr Sun and US President Lincoln's portraits. It seemed that the political ideas of both great men had often been compared for their similarities. While I do have stamps with Dr Sun's portrait (many Taiwan stamps have his picture), I think I might want to keep an eye to look out for that particular US stamp with both Dr Sun and President Lincoln.

The exhibition also contained materials about Dr Sun Yat Sen's relationship with the early Singapore Chinese, and the establishment of 晚晴园. Looking at the pictures of Dr Sun Yat Sen with some of the early Singapore Chinese (including famous folks like Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Nam and Lim Nee Soon), I would say that Singapore's relationship with China started really early. 

For those who are interested to visit the Singapore Philatelic Museum, you can find out more accessibility details at their website.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Taipei Postbox

When I travel to other cities, I tend to collect little tidbits of information about their postal related matters. I guess it is a habit for many stamp collectors. Thus earlier I posted about the 'Nostalgic Looking Postbox in China' when I visited ShangHai.

Here's another postbox and this postbox is in Taipei. They have two different colours for postboxes - one for domestic mail and another for international mail. The Green Postbox is for Taiwan mails, and there is further differentiation - Taipei / Shilin area vs rest of Taiwan. Similarly for the Red postbox meant for international mail - Airmail vs Prompt Delivery. No I don't really understand what is meant by Prompt Delivery. The Chinese words at the prompt delivery is "限时邮件", so if there is any Taiwanese reading this post, I'll greatly appreciate your enlightenment on this category of mail.

Singapore's postboxes are more 'colourful' compared to those in Taiwan or China. Well, to prove my point, here's a picture from the Kovan Postbox, near the Kovan MRT. But regardless of the design of the postboxes, what is more important is that any mail that dropped into the postboxes get delivered on time to the recipients, isn't it?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Spices of Singapore & Food Festival 2011

In conjunction with the Singapore Food Festival 2011, SingPost has timed its latest stamp issue - "Spices of Singapore" to be released on 15 July 2011. Of course, the theme is spices, a once upon valuable commodity (still valuable today) that is essential for food flavouring.

Singapore has its history tied closely with spices, when the spice commodities were traded in Singapore's early days as a entre port in the Straits Settlements. We celebrated our historical ties with spices by setting up a special spice garden at the Fort Canning Park, at the location of Raffles' experimental and botanical garden.

For the Spices of Singapore stamp issue, five different spices (and one food / drink containing each spice) are featured:

- Cinnamon (1st Local) used in Masala Teh (spiced tea with milk)
- Coriander (2nd Local) used in Satay
- Star Anise ($0.65) used in Braised Duck
- Tamarind ($0.80) used in Assam Prawn
- Tumeric ($1.10) used in Fish Head Curry

The Spices of Singapore stamps presentation pack is sold at $4.95, while the pre-cancelled First Day Cover is sold at $3.95. Those interested can get these stamps at any SingPost outlets as well as the Singapore Philatelic Museum.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SingPost Registered Article Delivery - Not At Home

What happens when there is a delivery of registered article to your place and there is no one at home? Well, SingPost will still have options for you to receive the article. 

SingPost will leave a note (see the picture below) informing the recipient that there was an unsuccessful delivery.

Within the notice, SingPost will leave three options for the recipient:

a) Go to the stated Post Office and collect the article at the next working day; or
b) Request to collect the article at another Post Office (2 days upon receipt of this request); or
c) Request for another delivery to the original stated address (i.e. to your house) at 1 working day after the request

Give a call to SingPost (1605) if you wish to activate option b or c.

The notice has 'evolved' over the years. It used to be just a tiny slip of paper requesting the recipient to go down to a particular Post Office. Guess postal services have evolved for the better over time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Philately Books - Major unauthorisd copying of other people's posts

After I posted about the 'Most Beautiful' stamp,  I was shocked  to find the entire post on another site - Philately Books. To my amazement, I found some of my other blog posts on the site as well.

Unlike normal blogs aggregator, Philately Books make absolutely no mention of my blog or that the content came from non Philately Books origin. Yes, it is unauthorised copying in a big way. Disgusting isn't it?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2005 Most Beautiful Stamp - Greta Garbo of Sweden

We have often heard of the world's first stamp (Penny Black), the most expensive stamp (Treskilling Yellow) etc etc. Recently I came across another 'most', and in this case it is the 'Most Beautiful' stamp - Sweden's Greta Garbo (2005).

Apparently there was a vote (not sure by whom, perhaps the UPU?) and this stamp of Greta Garbo was deemed as most beautiful via a combination of a beautiful woman, fantastic portrait photo, well made engraving and a recces print of the highest quality.

Accompanying this 'Most Beautiful' stamp in this little booklet are other stamps and to me, they are just as beautiful. I think stamps are generally 'beautiful' when they tell a story, regardless of whether it is of a beautiful woman or not. Nonetheless, the Most Beautiful stamp - Sweden Greta Garbo (2005) is quite well made.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hawker Centres of Singapore Stamps

SingPost recently released a commemorative set of stamps about Singapore's hawker centres. Four of the more well know hawker centres are featured: East Coast, Maxwell, Newton, and Lau Pa Sat. Of course Singapore has plenty of other hawkers, e.g. Tekka hawker, Fengshan hawker etc etc but I guess the designers chose these four to be featured.

This issue of stamps caught my attention for two reasons, 1) hawker centres are part of the Singapore lifestyle, and 2) the stamps designers are actually students from the design class in Nanyang Polytechnic. Let me elaborate further.

Hawker centres are a way of life in Singapore. They are often a source of cheap and good food. In fact, many hawker centres have long queues of people waiting as much as an hour just to get their plate / bowl of favourite dishes. Increasingly when food courts and restaurants start to replace hawker centres, and when older hawkers decide not to continue their trade (e.g. after hawker centres are renovated / upgraded), hawker centres may one day disappear into history. So I thought it is appropriate to commemorate their existence somehow. (Added: a picture of Lau Pa Sat - note the somewhat unique architectural design)

I am also glad that design students from poly (Leon Yeo Hai Tian & Jean Ng Ting Fong) have been asked to craft this issue of stamps. Philately has often been thought of a hobby only for the retired or the primary school going kids. Thus it is good to involve those in the teens as much as we can. Of course, publishing the works of design students is also a great way to recognise the budding talents in local design scene.

So for those who are interested in our Singapore hawker centres, do buy a copy of these hawker centres stamps (each stamp selling for only $0.80 while the presentation pack cost $5), and enjoy a meal at these hawker centres!

Monday, May 16, 2011

1990 Tourism Definitive Stamps - High Values

The 1990 definitive series featured a series of tourism related stamps. There are stamps with the zoo, Sentosa, Jurong Bird Park etc for the lower value denomination stamps.

The 4 high value denomination stamps featured the four races instead.
These stamps are:

- $1 Chinese Opera Singer
- $2 Malay Dancer
- $5 Indian Dancer
- $10 Ballet Dancer (Eurasian)

In the background of the stamps there are also four buildings but I recognised only two of them, i.e. the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Little India for Indian Dancer, and the Victoria Concert Hall for the Ballet Dancer. I thought the mosque was the Sultan Mosque, but the drawing does not matched up somehow. I am clueless about the Chinese Arch. Anyone can help?

P.S.: Thanks for helping me about the two buildings.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

World Population Day Stamp - 1974

Singapore has just experienced a 'watershed' General Election and many voters have commented about the government policies. Thus I think it is timely to show this stamp that reflected one of the much talked about policy of the Singapore government in its yester-years.

The stamp was issued in August 1974 (if I am not wrong the date is 9th August, our national day). There were 3 stamps (10 cents, 35 cents and 75 cents) and two of them bear this message 'Plan Your Family Small' at the top of the stamp). This was a commemorative issue for the World Population Year.

It was the national policy to control the population back then. Families were encouraged to keep their size small, and two children per family was preferred.

This of course is starkly different from the situation today, where the government is giving out major bonus to families in order to maintain or grow the population. The declining birth rate is used as a justification for the much discussed immigration policy.

What a remarkable change in a span of 26 years!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Singapore Stamps: Anniversaries & Milestones

I came across the book "Singapore Stamps: Anniversaries & Milestones" and found it to be a good read. The authors (Tan Wee Kiat, Ivan Chew and Ong Yew Ghee) have taken pain to research and compile the many stories behind the diferent stamps issues.

Some stories had me taking another look at some stamps in my own collection. For example, the authors highlighted that the design of the 1969 issue on Public Housing has a 100,000 homes in the form of a '1' and many '0's stacked like a HDB flat.

There are many other books in this series of Singapore stamps, and the books are available from the library for those who want to take a quick look.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth II

The stamps of Straits Settlement period have always offered little tidbits of history which I would not have known if not for my interest in the stamps.

One such example would be the year of death for King George VI and the subsequent coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Due to this event, the stamps for Penang & Malacca has to be changed. In the photo below, it could be seen that the King George VI portray had been replaced with Queen Elizabeth II's portray.

Other than Penang and Malacca, Singapore also used the King George VI stamps up to 1952. I wonder why I couldn't find any Queen Elizabeth II stamps for Singapore post 1952. Perhaps my collection is quite lacking in this area.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Stamps 'Error' - Royal Wedding Stamps from NZ

There are stamps errors, which are often overlooked at either the design stage (e.g. wrong facts) or the printing stage (e.g. missing colours). Most recently there is a stamp 'error' that is due to a lack of thought at the design stage, and that is the New Zealand Post's commemorative Royal Wedding stamp.

The 'error' is that the stamp perforation for this se-tenant pair is right in the middle, which split the royal couple into individuals, individual stamps that is. If it is done by the Brits, I'm sure they would have been a lot more careful.

I'm sure the couple is not happy with such a design, but oh well, who cares. I'm sure the stamp collectors will be keeping this issue, especially in light of such an 'error' story behind the design.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stamps from Tokyo - PhilaNippon 2011 & Hello Kitty

During a recent trip to Japan Tokyo, I dropped by the Shinjuku Post Office or a visit. Of course, there is a philately corner with plenty of interesting stamps that attracted my attention (and some of my Japanese yen as well).

I bought a few sets of Japanese stamps, including a set about the Year of the Rabbit, a Hello Kitty Four Seasons set, and a PhilaNippon 2011 set. For the Japanese, there are a number of significant anime / manga characters such that these characters are featured in the stamps. Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Doraemon and Astro Boy. It is also amazing that the Hello Kitty craze seems to be never ending for the Japanese, judging from the nicely designed Hello Kitty set.

Before the visit, I didn't know that the Japanese are organsing the PhilaNippon 2011 this year. Well, I guess we will see more of these interesting sets when they are released for this major event.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ziplock Bag as an Envelope

I've seen many different types of envelopes but I was still surprised when I received this corporate gift in an envelope that is actually a ziplock bag!

I guess this choice of an 'envelope paper' is in sync with the corporate gift's message of 'keeping your ideas fresh'. Very innovative.

Wonder how did they manage to persuade SingPost to accept this ziplock bag as an envelope for mail processing. Hmm.

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