Stamps

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by Allan Hauck, CPC #999

As members of the Christmas Philatelic Club know, each Christmas season brings a veritable flood of Christmas stamps which are carefully chronicled by various philatelic publications. Because such a large portion of the year's mail is handled during the Christmas season, many postal administrations use this time to introduce new marketing techniques. During the last few years many postal administrations have begun to sell booklets and prepaid Christmas stationery for the convenience of their customers. Finland and Ireland have released prepaid postal cards and both Ireland and Portugal have sold conventional Christmas cards with accompanying pre-paid envelopes. These special items tend to be ignored by the philatelic press or are mentioned only briefly or belatedly. For that reason I am reviewing in this article the stamp booklets released during 1993. This will enable you to make sure you have secured any of them you might want and will also give you a clue to the countries which may issue booklets in 1994 (although, of course, there may be a few countries which will release Christmas booklets for the first time in 1994). While many dealers stock the special Christmas stamps, fewer stock booklets and it is often advantageous for the collector to secure these items as soon after they appear as possible.

Canada and the United States set the record for the number of booklets produced for Christmas 1993, with each country releasing four different booklets. Canada's 38 cents `Greet More' stamp was available in booklet format only. It featured a North American style Santa and the booklet cover pictured a wooden doll similar to the one hanging from Santa's belt in the stamp design. In some respects `Greet More' stamps are peculiar to Canada, although some other countries offer concessionary rate stamps (e.g. Australia) and bonus sheets sold at a discount (e.g. Ireland). `Greet More' stamps enable Canadians who use specially designed envelopes and follow specific directions in addressing their card envelopes to mail their Christmas cards at a 5 cents savings on the regular 43 cents rate. `Greet More' stamps are valid for use only within Canada prior to the end of January in the following year. They can, however, be used at their issue price (i.e. 38 cents in 1993) if additional stamps are affixed to cover the prevailing first- class rate (43 cents in 1993). The first nationally-issued `Greet More' stamps were sold for use during the 1985 Christmas season; they were sold at 32 cents (Scott #1070) and reflected a 2 cents savings on the then-current 34 cents rate. They too were released only in booklet format. In 1983 and 1984 Canada had experimented in Winnipeg and certain other major cities with "Stick'n Tick" prepaid labels but for some reason Scott has declined listing them.

I feel they deserve catalogue listing and examples of them properly used make nice extras for a Christmas collection.

Canada also released its three standard-rate Christmas stamps (43 cents, 49 cents and 86 cents) in booklet form as well as in standard sheet format. The 43 cents Canadian first-class-rate stamp featured Swiety Mikolaj and Gwiazdka. Swiety Mikolaj is a Polish version of St. Nicholas and is pictured as a bishop, wearing his mitre and a long cape. Swiety Mikolaj visits Polish children on December 6 and then Christmas Eve furnishes a second occasion for gift-giving when Poles watch for the first evening star, the Gwiazdka (meaning both star and gift in Polish), often personified as a beautiful, airy, angelic woman with a star crowning her head. She can be seen in the lower left of the stamp design and on the booklet cover. The booklet contains a pane of ten 43 cents stamps.

The 49 cents stamp (the rate to the United States) pictures the Russian Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost). The rabbit pictured in the lower left of the stamp is reproduced boldly on the booklet cover. This booklet contains only five stamps and sells for $2.45. The stamp pane contains a label which reads in English and French: "The Stamps of Canada worth collecting."

The 86 cents stamp issued to meet the international air mail rate pictures an Australian Santa, who arrives in mid-summer and often uses kangaroos instead of reindeer. A kangaroo is featured on the booklet cover as well as shown on the stamp design itself. This booklet contains five stamps and a label. The backs of the 43 cents, 49 cents and 86 cents booklets carry advertisements for Canadian postal products while the back of the 38 cents `Greet More' booklet lists instructions for the use of `Greet More' stamps.

The United States also released for 1993, Christmas booklets. The traditional (i.e. religious) 29 cents featured a detail of Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano's "Madonna and Child in a Landscape" (now housed in the North Carolina Museum of Art). This $5.80 booklet contains five panes of four stamps each. The contemporary (i.e. secular) 29 cents stamps came in four different designs and the booklet contained two panes of ten stamps each.

The other two Christmas booklets from the United States contain self- adhesive stamps. These self-adhesive sheetlets are sold flat and the purchaser must peel off a small central strip in order to fold the sheetlet into a booklet format.

Most collectors prefer to keep the sheetlets in their original unfolded condition. The booklets intended for over-the-counter sale contained twelve 29 cents stamps and the snowman stamp (also illustrated on the booklet front) has seven snowflakes under its carrot nose. The sheetlet prepared for sale in bank automatic teller machines contains eighteen of the 29 cents snowman stamps in a slightly reduced size with the result that there are only four snowflakes under the snowman's carrot nose. These self-adhesive stamps are, of course, imperforate.

Collectors who strive for absolute completeness may wish to include the panes from gummed booklets in unfolded condition. Unfolded panes were available only from the United States Philatelic Fulfillment Service Center in Kansas City and were not sold over the counter in regular U.S. Post Offices. The heavy cardboard backing slips used in packing the self-adhesive stamps for distribution to local post offices also makes an interesting "extra" to dress up your collection. I've been unable to verify whether similar cards were also used in the bulk packaging of the ATM sheetlets.

Great Britain, the Isle of Man and Chile all produced two special Christmas 1993 booklets. On November 9 the Royal Mail placed on sale booklets of twenty Second Class Christmas stamps priced at œ3.80. At the same time it released a booklet of ten first-class stamps priced at œ2.50. This booklet was sold on an experimental basis in a limited area. The cover design for both booklets was a modified version of the previous year's booklet cover. The 19p (inland 2nd class) stamp pictured Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim while the 25p (inland 1st class) stamp pictured Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. The entire 1993 Great Britain Christmas series was devoted to honoring the 150th anniversary of "A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens (1812-1870).

On October 12, the Isle of Man released its series of five 1993 Christmas stamps and offered two of the values in booklet format. The series featured designs by Christine Haworth, a children's artist. The œ1.90 booklet contained ten 19p stamps, featuring a boy and a girl with their Manx cat putting finishing touches on their Christmas tree while the œ2.30 booklet contained ten 23p stamps picturing a little girl who has just completed a snowman. On the front cover of each booklet was a large reproduction of the stamp design contained therein.

Chile released its Nativity-scene $70 stamp in two booklets. While the colors of the booklet covers and of the stamps vary in the two booklets, the only actual design difference is on the inscription on the right side of the stamp where the additional letters "DS/20" indicate that these stamps will be distributed by small commissioned vendors.

Again in 1993 both Australia and New Zealand released their customary Christmas booklets. Australia's 40 cents stamp (which covers the concessional greeting card rate) featured a "G" in a calligraphic style reminiscent of Medieval manuscripts. The "G" stood for "goodwill". This value was available in booklets containing 20 stamps and 20 "Card Only" stickers. New Zealand's Christmas booklet contained ten stamps reproducing the collage-like block of familiar Christmas objects which was also issued in sheet format. The ten 45 cents stamps total up to the NZ$ 4.50 price of the booklet with a front cover which will certainly appeal to Christmas gourmets (Christmas pudding).

Four Scandinavian countries each produced a Christmas 1993 booklet. Finland released a colorful Christmas booklet containing ten FIM 1.80 stamps which represented the concessional rate for Christmas postcards (effective until December 16). The green and red stamp pictured Anna Kymalainen's "Brownies and Christmas Tree" while the booklet cover features the drawing "Brownies" by Henriikka Koski. Sweden's Christmas stamps were available only in se-tenant pairs in booklet format. Each booklet contained five se-tenant pairs of a green stamp picturing a plaited heart (to be hung on the Christmas tree as a decoration) and a straw goat bound with a red ribbon, often placed under the tree next to the gifts. The stamps were designed by Martin Morck while the booklet cover's design of a row of Christmas brownies tripping along was designed by Karin Morck-Hamilton. Norway's Christmas booklet also contained se-tenant pairs of two different Kr. 3.50 stamps picturing churches. The booklet contained five se- tenant pairs and sold for Kr. 35. Iceland's booklet contained ten 30Kr. stamps featuring the Christ Child and the Three Wise Men and this same design was used on the booklet cover.

Finally it should be noted that in the last quarter of 1993 France released two booklets, not strictly "Christmas" booklets, but they will hold particular interest for Christmas topicalists. On October 25, France released its "Le plaisir d'escrite" booklet containing twelve 2.80 Fr. stamps, each with a distinctive design suitable for greetings use. The design of the lower left stamp pictures Santa Claus and the words "Joyeux No‰l." The lower right stamp features the same words but the design association with Christmas is less direct. A second French booklet, the annual Red Cross booklet, contains a pane of two labels and ten Fr. 2.80 + 0.60 semi-postal stamps which picture an early Metz print of St. Nicholas and in the lower left corner, the three infants he once rescued. An enlarged version of the St. Nicholas drawing appears on both the front and the back of the booklet.

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