Friday, 26 May 2017

I Muse... On a Cormorant Issue

That deflated feeling that comes from discovering a stamp you need to complete a collection is way beyond your price range. It is an awful feeling, trying to come to terms with the very real possibility that you may never be able to acquire a particular stamp, and therefore, always have a blank space in your album. This situation, in my view, can be even more heartbreaking when you have chosen a collection that you have - albeit wrongly - assumed could be completed over time while working within tight budgetary constraints.

So how do you deal with such a conundrum? This is a question I am now wrestling with, so I thought musing about it may help bring some clarity. My current dilemma arose a few days ago while I was looking through my new Stanley Gibbons France Catalogue. I had turned to the Monaco section of the catalogue to have a look at the newest issues. As I was flicking through my eye caught a particularly nice diamond style set of airmail stamps issued in 1955, SG 508-11a. When I stopped to have a look I discovered that the set of four was designed by Pierre Gandon, and Gandon engraved three of the four. My excitement over finding this gorgeous set was, however, short-lived! The instant I spotted the catalogue value of the highest value in the set, my heart sank. £500. Yes, you read right. £500!

Here is the offending stamp - SG 511. 1000f Cormorants. 

It is a truly beautiful stamp, but alas, at £500 this stamp is totally out of reach. Now I know what you're thinking. Catalogue value doesn't truly reflect current market value. So with that in mind, I went online and had a look. Before I go any further I have to say that I have never spent more than $50 AUS on a stamp. Not because I didn't want to, but simply haven't had the means to do so. This is not a woe-is-me speech. Just a statement of fact. With this known, you will understand then why the online prices of this stamp are still beyond reach...for the time-being anyway! The average online price for this issue is $95-105 AUS.

But it is not all doom and gloom. There is a small ray of light at the end of the very narrow tunnel. There is the possibility of a used example appearing on the market. So far I haven't found one markedly cheaper than a mint example. But who knows what the future will hold?

There is one other option. This stamp when issued in 1955 was perforated 11. In 1957 the stamp was reprinted with perforation 13. The latter example has a lower catalogue value of £150, which means a distinctly lower market price. Indeed, I have found an example that, with a little saving, is right at the top end of my budget. This will allow me to have an example of Gandon's engraving, but it will not fill the 1955 space in my album. But I have been asking myself, does this really matter, given the 1955 issue is so darn expensive?  Probably not. But I'm sure I'm not alone when I say, "I don't like blank spaces!"  Anyway, enough rambling.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Monaco 1961 - Vintage Cars

Men in their driving coats, stout gloves, caps with goggles, and crisp, white scarves. Women in their fur-lined coats and jaunty hats. Shiny automobiles, their brass fittings gleaming in the sun, their gas lamps primed, the spoked wheels and leather seats polished. This was the dawn of the age of the automobile. A golden age of beautifully constructed machines. Rolling works of art.


On 13 June 1961 Monaco issued a charming set of 14 stamps celebrating the beauty of the antique automobile. Two of the stamps in this set were engraved by Pierre Gandon. The 10c and 30c values. These two stamps will be the focus of this blog.

The 10c value depicts an 1899 Panard-Levassor. The AL model.

The company known as Panhard et Levassor, was a French car manufacturer, established by René Panhard and Émile Levassor in 1887. They sold their first automobile in 1890, a vehicle based on a Daimler design. For more on the evolution of the Panard Motor Company, click HERE.

By 1891 they began incorporating their own features to the vehicles. In fact, their designs set the groundwork for many modern standards. They were the first to incorporate a clutch pedal to operate a chain-driven gearbox. Their deign was also the first to feature a front-mounted radiator. It is also believed that the 1895 Panhard et Levassor included the first modern transmission. And if this ere not enough technical innovation. The automobile Panhard et Levassor entered into the 1894 Paris–Rouen Rally came equipped with a steering wheel, This is believed to be one of the earliest uses of this apparatus. 

A French Magazine, dated 6 Aug 1894, advertising the Paris-Rouen race...


The 30c value depicts a 1901 FN Herstal.

The Fabrique Nationale d'Herstal (National Factory of Herstal), is a firearms manufacturer, located in Herstal, Belgium. The company is usually identified by the name: FN Herstal, or simply FN. The company was originally established in 1889 to manufacture 150,000 Mauser Model 89 rifles ordered by the Belgian Government. In 1899 FN Herstal also began manufacturing automobiles.

The very first FN automobile was in the style of the horse-drawn dog cart, which was commonly used by sport shooters. It had a twin-cylinder engine with a chain-drive, and a two-speed gearbox. The company continued to sell this style of automobile through to 1906. By 1939 the company stopped making automobiles.

Until next time...

Thursday, 11 May 2017

France 1945 - Marianne de Gandon

Dubious past associations can sometimes come back to haunt a person and affect the rest of their life whether they be innocent or guilty. But sometimes unforeseen circumstances can extinguish one's past, giving them a chance to start over.

In late 1944, after Paris had been liberated from the Nazis, the leader of Free France, Charles de Gaulle, returned to France from his exile in England. He quickly set up a provisional Government. One of the things he wanted to do as soon as possible was to have a new France definitive stamp issued, a stamp that would reflect the country's fierce patriotism and pride. He wanted a new Marianne design. Consequently, a contest for the design of the new definitive was launched.

Meanwhile, the stamp engraver, Pierre Gandon, had been considered by Charles de Gaulle's new Government as a Nazi collaborator by continuing to work for the Vichy Regime. They offered as proof his role in the creation of Vichy "propaganda" stamps, namely the Tricolour Legion stamps, issued 12 October 1942. Click HERE to view my blog on this stamp set. Whatever the case, as a result of this alleged collaboration, Gandon was blacklisted and his name was removed from the French Post Office's engraver list.

However, and this is where the story gets interesting, Gandon had actually already submitted a potential design for the new France definitive. And when Charles de Gaulle reviewed all the potential designs, one design in particular stood out. Without knowing who the designer was, Charles de Gaulle chose Pierre Gandon's design! One can only imagine the conundrum de Gaulle faced when he discovered who the winning designer was. It seems that his love for the design outweighed all else, and Gandon was allowed to work on the engraving. This proved to be a superb choice! What resulted was one of the finest definitives ever produced. The Marianne de Gandon.


It was decided early on in the production of the Pierre Gandon's Marianne design that the stamps would be issued in three versions. A version printed in typography, which was a relatively cheap method of stamp production, was for internal use. This design was engraved by Henri Cortot. And two versions, for overseas mail, printed in intaglio: a small format and a large format. Both iintaglio versions were engraved by Gandon.

On 15 February 1945 France issued two Marianne de Gandon stamps. The first of these was the 4f blue, printed in intaglio. It was designed and engraved by Gandon. It is a truly stunning stamp.

The other stamp issued on 15 February was the 1.50f pink, printed in typography. This printing method produced far less attractive results.


Four further values were printed in the small format intaglio type. The 20f green on 4 March.


On 15 March two values were issued. 10f blue and 25f orange.


On 15 May the last of the small format intaglio stamps was issued. 15f  lilac-pink.


On 12 March 1945 the first large format Marianne de Gandon was issued. The 50f brown-red. In my opinion this format is also the best! 


Three further values were issued in this large format. The 100f carmine on 12 March.


The 20f green on 14 March.


The 25f violet on 16 May.


This gorgeous design portrays Marianne wearing a Phrygian cap and staring off to the right (perhaps to the future) with her head slightly raised. This elegant design encapsulates freedom, pride, and strength. To create this beautiful design, Gandon used his own wife, Raymonde, as the model. What a charming way to immortalise your life partner.


So which format is your favourite? And for that matter, do you have a colour preference?

Until next time...

Friday, 5 May 2017

France 1941

Year Set

Society of the Works of the Sea (Engraving)
23 October


The Coat of Arms of Reims
15 December

Thursday, 4 May 2017

France 1945 - Liberation

It began on 19 August 1944. The Liberation of Paris. Also called the Battle for Paris. This was a time of sweeping change in World War II. The D-Day landing had been a success. The allies were pushing further and further into France, gradually removing Nazi German occupation from strategic locations. Charles de Gaulle, the leader of Free France and living in exile in England, had decided that now was the time to liberate Paris from Nazi German rule. The city had been under the rule of the Nazis since 22 June 1940 when the Second Compiègne Armistice was signed. It is interesting to note that Paris was not deemed a location of significant strategic importance by the allies. So its liberation was actually not a high priority. Charles de Gaulle disagreed, He stressed that France needed now more than ever a stable government, a government that controlled Paris.  
The French Forces of the Interior (FFI) had already begun to pave the way for the Liberation of Paris. Months earlier, Radiodiffusion nationale (French National Radio) had been put back into French hands, and broadcasts of the allied push through France had alerted the public in Paris of what was happening. Further, the FFI had begun placing posters throughout the city urging the population to fight. All citizens aged 18-50 were called on to arm themselves, to join "the struggle against the invader (the Germans)". Other posters promised that "victory is near!"

On 19 August the FFI (better known as the French Resistance) took action and staged an uprising in the city with the help of everyday Parisians. Their goal was to harass and inflict as much damage as they could on the German garrison until the arrival of the French and US Armies. On the 20 August the FFI had started erecting barricades using everything to hand, such as trucks, trees, and even street paving. The FFI managed, through a form of guerilla warfare, to capture German fuel trucks. And they commandeered civilian vehicles, painted them in camouflage, and marked them with the FFI emblem. They used these vehicles for transporting things such as ammunition from one barricade to another. They were also used as mobile gun platforms. This was quite an impressible ad hoc army!

By 22 August the fighting had hit a peak. And on the 23 August the Germans started massive retaliatory strikes, firing at street barricades with tanks, and they attacked the Grand palais, an FFI stronghold. Apparently, Hitler had given the garrison orders to inflict as much damage in the city as possible. Some 1,000 FFI fighters were killed during the battle for Paris, and another 1,500 wounded.   

On 24 August the big guns started rolling in to help the FFI. The first to arrive were elements of General Philippe Leclerc's 2nd French Armored Division (the Régiment de marche du Tchad). They arrived in Paris at the Hôtel de Ville shortly before midnight. Then the next morning, 25 August, the rest of the 2nd Armored Division along with the US 4th Infantry Division entered the city. These forces by far surpassed those of the German garrison. The Germans signed a surrender that very day at the Hôtel Meurice. Charles de Gualle then entered the city and immediately assumed control as head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic. Paris had been liberated! And by the end of September most of France had been liberated.


On 16 January 1945 France issued a stamp to celebrate the Liberation of France. This stamp was designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon. This was the first of many stamps issued with this theme.

If Gandon had previously been blamed for being a "so-called" supporter of the Vichy Regime with his Vichy propaganda stamps, this gorgeous stamp symbolising French hope, pride, and fierce patriotism surely earned him a clean slate or as they say a tabula rasa!

In this stamp we see France in the personification of a woman riding a winged horse over French Resistance fighters, spurring them to glorious victory. The horse, with its wings spread wide, is particularly spectacular in this composition. But one other thing I did find interesting was the depiction of the woman. Her face and the position of her head bear a strong resemblance to Gandon's Marianne, which would be issued a month later on 15 February. Perhaps the artist was offering the public a tantalising glimpse of their new definitive. Or perhaps this is just another product of my over-imaginative mind.

Until next time...