More of the same… or is it?

One of the cool things about my job is that as soon as each year’s stamp program is unveiled, I get to play armchair critic. I have to admit that I was a bit curious what this year’s stamp program would bring. One of the hallmarks of Deepak Chopra’s first year at the helm of Canada Post was the use of picture postage to bring out issues that were dramatically different from earlier designs. Another innovation was the integration between smartphone technology and users to allow people to design and create issues, and even mail their own postcards.

Frankly, I wondered if we would see similar changes in the regular stamp lineup. The truth is, stamp programs have some flexibility, but the 2013 issues were well on the road to being settled months ago. What I do see are a couple of interesting issues such as motorcycles and ghost stories, which seem a bit out of the ordinary. But on a second look, they are not that much different from issues such as Canadian motor vehicles, and the spooky stamp month issue of some 15 or more years ago. The truth is, this stamp program, with the exception of some as-yet-undefined special effects, is not that different from those of past years.

Don’t get me wrong; that isn’t a bad thing. Continuity is good for collectors, while dramatic and sudden shifts in direction are not always desirable. What’s more, the stamp program as it has evolved in recent years has not been a problem, so it really didn’t need fixing. So when I looked at the 2013 lineup, it was pretty much business as usual, but I suspect that things are not that simple. There will be some new twists and turns in the coming year. For one thing, I don’t think we’ve had the first and the last interactive stamps. The so-called augmented reality will become a pretty regular thing.

I’m also sure that there will be a few unexpected issues using picture postage. The ability to just toss out a design and get it made fast, plus the fact that it isn’t exactly an official part of the stamp program, means picture postage will probably be used for a few more spur-of-the-moment, or less formal issues. Why shouldn’t Canada Post take the opportunity to make a few off-the-shelf collectibles? Collectors have been doing it for years. Meanwhile, discussion continues to surround the modern $2 Diamond Jubilee stamp. I personally don’t know if the stamp is ugly, but I do know that I prefer the Victoria issue because I think it is better done and more attractive. However, I also recognize that those are personal opinions that may be unique to me.

Looking at the two stamps one thing does come to mind. First off, the modern stamp is a bit harsher, probably because modern technology allows us to make the design a bit more accurate. Victoria wasn’t pretty and while the artists back then didn’t lie, I think the images were a little more subdued. After making the modern image a hard realistic style that the Queen did get a chance to approve, I suspect the Perals then had to grough up h the Wilding image to give the final stamp a consistent look and feel.

That brings me to my second thought about this stamp. Jorge Peral is a very talented artist and engraver, if you want to see his work, look not only at that stamp but at the money in your pocket. In producing this work he had to harness his creative talent to almost reproducing the work of a now long-dead engraver who produced the first Jubilee issue all those years ago. I suspect that he felt a bit constrained by the need to follow someone else’s vision, and put a bit of his own personal style into the stamp. Is it my favourite stamp of the year? No way! But it is quite possible that someone thinks this is the greatest stamp in the world. No accounting for taste.

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