All posts by Mel West

I only collect identifiable species on stamps and prefer them to be indigenous to the issuing country. Rather than just tick off from lists, I am inclined to seek out those issues that have a degree of variation and complexity, or are unusual or well designed. I also collect whole sets , irrespective of whether the set is entirely ornithological. I am rarely excited by new issues, but instead particularly interested in the older stamps of, for example, Australia, Guatemala and New Caledonia, but alongside the more recent and excellently illustrated issues of Belgium, the Philippines, Eire and a number of other countries. I also very much like collecting items of postal stationery and covers, especially older items, and whenever possible will seek out uncommon postmarks, cancellation marks and cachets.

The Pre-stamped envelopes of the Birds of Canada Series

The postage stamps of the Birds of Canada series were issued annually between 1996 and 2001. There are six series altogether with four stamp designs per set, giving a total of twenty four stamps across the whole series.

Designed by Raymond Bellemare and illustrated in Acrylic by Pierre Leduc, the stamps are attractive and highly collectable. They can be found in sheet or strip form as well as individually, are common and relatively inexpensive to purchase. The 1999 (4th) and 2001 (6th) series were also issued as self-adhesive booklets. They can be a little trickier to acquire, but I’ve seen them on ebay.

Sheet of the Birds of Canada 1st Series (1996)

Burnt Fingers Again?

Fijian Definitive Overprints – Fire Sale Warning

In a message to Pacific Study Circle Society members, Bryan Jones, the editor of Pacifica the Society’s journal, has advised that Post Fiji (PF) announced in late September that there would be a “fire sale” of stock from the bird definitive overprints. (Also see: “Perplexed in the Pacific”). He reports that the sale will be made up of forty eight complete sheets of the overprints remaining, and which the Philatelic Bureau had not intended to distribute to Fijian post offices.  

Is BIOT now a “Dead Country”?

During the summer I wrote a short blog advising that the governing council of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) had recommended that the stamps of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) should no longer be recognised. (See: “Bye, bye BIOT?”) From a report in the latest edition of Stamp Magazine, I now understand that at their August Congress held in the Ivory Coast the recommendation was adopted almost unanimously.

Acceptance of the recommendation has not come as a surprise. Earlier in the year, the United Nations (UN) had ruled that Britain’s administration of the Chagos Islands, including Diego Garcia – which forms the substantive part of the territory – was in breach of international law. The UPU is a specialised agency of the UN.

The upshot is that the UPU will now formally cease to register and distribute stamps and postage from the territory, and that the islands must now carry the stamps and postcodes of Mauritius which has long laid claim to the islands.

At the time of writing it is unclear what the official British government response to the ruling will be. The post office in the territories is managed by the British foreign office but operated on a day-to-day basis by a private company. It is also unclear what impact this may have on the wider philatelic world. Is BIOT now just another, “dead country”? 

The Impact of BREXIT on Online Buying

An article in a recent edition of ABPS News has alerted collectors to the impact of Brexit on VAT and buying material online from EU countries.

Buyers of philatelic items on eBay are now discovering that 20% VAT is being added to the cost of their purchases. They have advised that Value Added Tax (VAT) generally applies to purchases by UK consumers, and prices on are shown inclusive of VAT. However, from the beginning of 2021, eBay is now required to collect VAT on certain orders delivered to UK addresses. This includes orders sent from outside the UK up to the value of £135 but also orders where the item is located in the UK, although the seller is not UK based. For orders over £135 imported to the UK, the purchaser may need to pay VAT as part of clearing the parcel through customs.

Additionally Delcampe, probably the leading website for collectibles have now advised that a new European law will come into force in July of this year. This will require marketplaces such as Delcampe to collect VAT on goods sold to private individuals by professional sellers from outside the EU, for any shipment of maximum 150 Euros.

Delcampe have issued the following advice to their customers:

“This law, which was originally intended to come into force on 1st January 2021 has been postponed to 1st July 2021. However, the United Kingdom has adopted a similar law applying to marketplaces such as Delcampe which requires them to collect VAT for goods sold by non-British professional dealers to UK citizens, for any shipment below €150 (£135). The entry into force of this law is in place on 1st January 2021, leading to a distortion between the two systems, when this should have been avoided. This leads to some uncertainties which unfortunately do not allow us at this stage to tell you exactly what will be the steps you will have to take and what actions Delcampe can take as an online platform. We are currently waiting for answers from the European Union and our legal advisers. We will of course not miss to inform you as soon as we have clear information to give you.” ABPS reported that one European dealer had said that the new rules now made it impossible to sell items at less than €150 to the UK because unlike eBay, Delcampe will not automatically collect VAT, and that the alternative would be to register his business for VAT in the UK which was unrealistic. Effectively, it now seems likely that Delcampe will cease to be usable for UK collectors unless the purchase price is more than £135.

Fiji Definitive Overprints – New finds!

Further to my original piece on the Fiji overprints of some months ago, The Pacific Islands Study Circle (PISC) have now reported two new additions to the already large list of overprinted bird definitives. The original definitives were issued in 1995 but due to a severe shortage of postage stamps to cover their postal rates in early 2006, Fiji resorted to overprinting with new denominations the large stocks of these definitives with redundant values. As my article hopefully showed, the overprintings have resulted in a huge number of overprints with new values while at the same time producing a stunningly complex array of varieties and errors. Frankly, they have become a collector’s paradise!

6c/44c “xxx” overprint

In the latest edition of Pacifica magazine, PISC have announced that two new overprints have been found on the original 44c Purple Swamphen. In January this year they reported that a 6c with lower case triple “x” obliterating the 44c (“xxx”) had been found with an overprinted line measuring 11mm. This combination has not been seen before. More recently a 23c new value, also with triple lower case “x” obliterations appeared. It is thought that this was issued in either March or April. There are currently no further details on the crucial overprinting measurements for this 23c/44c arrangement. Only one other version of this overprint combination – appearing in late 2016 – is known.

23c/44c “xxx” Overprint

As can be imagined, COVID has had a substantial impact on tourism for the Pacific island nations and this has contributed to severe economic difficulties, leading to substantial cutbacks in their issuing of new stamps. It is possible – perhaps probable – that Fiji has responded by further plundering of its old stocks. Some of the original values were never used for the overprintings, perhaps because of insufficient numbers, but I now wonder if more examples might emerge.