13.10.04

Do, do, do the Stanley Gibbons


Continuing with the translation of the article on 19th century Portuguese finance, I am still in the 'value token' mode of yesterday. Hence the stamps, which are really money in all but name and appearance. By remarkable coincidence, as I was going through my old negatives, out fell these little fellows: British postage stamps from the 1940s and 1950s. Like most young boys of a certain generation, between the ages of 8 and 12 I was an avid stamp and first day cover collector (until I learned that girls were much more interesting than old bits of gummed paper!). My passion was always for British stamps. I only collected British stamps - exclusively. My young mind was always impressed by the quality and uniformity of this nation's postage stamps, and by the fact that they make no mention of the country. I think what I liked most about our stamps is their minimalism. While other countries did their best to make their stamps colourful and showy, or large, or oddly shaped, the good old British postage stamp remained plain, bordering on the austere. A stamp, according to the Postmaster General displaying a typically British attitude, is a functional object which does not need to be fancy. It is not a decoration, it is a token. The apparently unassuming ostentatiousness of not putting the name of the country on our stamps appealled to me. By not having United Kingdom on our stamps we are effectively showing off by saying that we don't need to show off! About every other month, the Post Office issued a special issue postage stamp to commemorate some more or less important occasion in the life of the country, such as Red Cross Day, or Green Cross Code Day, or even Conference of European Postal and Telecommunications Administrations Day. All of these stamps were uniform and extraordinarily well designed and produced for such a small and essentially ephemeral item. Hooray for us!

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