The First Christmas Stamps

Christmas is celebrated in many ways throughout the world so it’s no surprise that the philately for the holiday includes thousands of stamps and covers, most created since the mid-20th century. The Christmas theme is among the world’s most popular topical areas to collect. So, in the spirit of Christmas giving, the APS blog team is presenting 10 holiday-themed blog posts. Happy holidays.

First Christmas Stamps
Whenever we talk about “firsts,” a lot of contenders line up to make claims so it’s no surprise that there are a lot of firsts when it comes to Christmas stamps. That said, there’s little doubt that Canada can claim the first Christmas postage stamp connection, even if the stamp was not intended to specifically celebrate the holiday.

The 1898 2-cent stamp features a collage of Queen Victoria’s crown at the top, a Mercator map of the world with the nations and colonies of the British Empire displayed in red, “Xmas 1898” and the phrase, “We hold a vaster empire than has been.”

Two varieties of what many philatelists consider the world’s first Christmas stamp, Canada’s Imperial Penny Postage stamp of 1898.
Two varieties of what many philatelists consider the world’s first Christmas stamp, Canada’s Imperial Penny Postage stamp of 1898.

It was Canada’s first bicolor stamp and has major color varieties involving the colors of the ocean and land (Scott 85–86).

But why does it say “Xmas 1898?” The stamp was issued December 7 and its use went into effect December 25, 1898, the inauguration of the Imperial Penny Postage rate (which was 2 cents in Canadian funds).

There is an oft-repeated story that Canadian Postmaster General William Mulock developed the stamp and proposed that it be issued on November 9  to “honor the prince,” meaning the Prince of Wales. But when Queen Victoria asked “what Prince?” in a displeased manner, Mulock realized the danger, and answered “Why, madam, the Prince of Peace.”

Here are some other Christmas stamp firsts:

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Two Changes Coming for Danish and Swedish Stamps

Swedish Northern Lights stamps issued in November with marginal markings of color circles and a plate number.
Swedish Northern Lights stamps issued in November with marginal markings of color circles and a plate number.

The APS recently received an e-mail from Bo Overgaard-Hoeifeldt, Head of Sales and Marketing for PostNord Stamps, about upcoming changes related to Danish and Swedish stamps affecting stamp soaking and special markings.

“As always, when it comes to the philatelic part of our business, changes in production and postal use of our stamps are always reflected directly in our philatelic products,” said Overgaard-Hoeifeldt.

“The changes are expected to take place within the first half of 2017 when Cartor/Walsall Security Printers (WSP) will print the first stamps for us. As soon as I know which issue will be the first I will inform you. The reason for this uncertainty is, that we try to print as much as possible at our existing print house in Stockholm simply to use all the raw materials we already have in stock there,” said Overgaard-Hoeifeldt.

The changes noted by PostNord specifically included the following for stamp soaking:
“It will no longer be possible to remove the stamps from envelopes and postcards. This change is introduced to reduce fraud, where stamps are being reused. This change is only related to self adhesive stamps — until further notice our minisheet will be printed on gummed paper and thus they will still be removable after soaking.”

And this in regards to special markings:
“There will no more be special markings on sheets and rolls (cylinder numbers, colour markings etc.). This change is made simply because these features are not needed at Cartor/WSP’s production.”

Great Britain Hibernating Animals Post & Go Stamps

Great Britain’s Royal Mail issued four new pictorial Post & Go: Hibernating Animals stamps, overprinted with First Class, First Large, Second Class and Second Large values, today, November 14.

blog-postngo-animals

Royal Mail provided the following description of the four stamps:

Hedgehogs like to hibernate in piles of dead leaves and vegetation, though this can make them vulnerable to garden bonfires.

Grass snakes are cold-blooded and rely on sunlight for warmth. When the days grow too short, they crawl into vegetation or cracks in banks to hibernate.

Dormouse are proverbially sleepy, dormice can spend more than half the year in hibernation, within carefully woven woodland nests.

The Brown long-eared bat needs a steady supply of insects, so when this food source disappears, they hibernate.

Canada Post Debuts Four Christmas Stamps

2016 Christmas souvenir sheet.
2016 Christmas souvenir sheet.

Canada Post issued four new Christmas stamps today, November 1. Three have a contemporary theme and a single stamp with a religious theme.

Here are details from Canada Post on the contemporary Christmas stamps:

On the domestic stamp, a smiling Santa stands in the snow facing a jovial tree. On the U.S.-rate stamp, a vibrant green tree is adorned with a red Santa hat. The international-rate stamp features a white dove, carrying an olive branch, a symbol of peace.

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National Postal Museum Opens “From Royal Mail to Public Post” Exhibition

[NPM October 21 Press Release]

National Postal Museum Opens
“From Royal Mail to Public Post” Exhibition

Observing the 500th Anniversary of the United Kingdom’s Royal Mail

“From Royal Mail to Public Post” opened today, Oct. 21, at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. The exhibition, open through Jan. 16, 2017, chronicles postal reform in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom’s postal service, Royal Mail, observes its 500th anniversary in 2016. To mark the occasion, the National Postal Museum is presenting a temporary display of original documents from 1635 and 1840, pivotal years in the expansion and evolution of the country’s postal network. The exhibition includes the earliest known example of the world’s first stamp, the Penny Black, dated April 10, 1840, from the archives of leading British postal reformer Robert Wallace. These important documents chronicling postal reform in the United Kingdom are on loan from the private collection of British businessman and philatelist Alan Holyoake.

First Proof of Penny Postage Stamp Cover. Presented to Mr. [Robert] Wallace by the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Francis Thornhill Baring, April 10, 1840. Loan from Alan Holyoake. Photo courtesy National Postal Museum.
First Proof of Penny Postage Stamp Cover. Presented to Mr. [Robert] Wallace by the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Francis Thornhill Baring, April 10, 1840. Loan from Alan Holyoake. Photo courtesy National Postal Museum.
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