Water snake rings in Lunar New Year

Canada Post will continue its second series of lunar zodiac stamps with two issues for the Year of the Snake. This year’s stamps, designed by Joe Gault and Avi Dunkleman of MIX Design Group and calligrapher Tan Chao Chang, feature a water snake. The snake represents intelligence, materialism and gracefulness. Those born in the Year of the Snake tend to be analytical and lovers of luxury. It is the fifth year in a row that two stamps have been issued in the series. One is a permanent-rate domestic stamp, the other a $1.85 international-rate stamp. The stamps are produced in six-colour lithography, with foil stamping, varnish, and embossing. There is also a transitional souvenir sheet combining a domestic-rate snake stamp with last year’s $1.80 Year of the Dragon stamp, produced in seven-colour lithography, with foil stamping, varnish, and embossing.

Lowe-Martin produced the stamps, which are available in four different formats. The domestic-rate stamp is sold in panes of 25, with a total of five million stamps produced. The international-rate stamp is available in booklets of 10 with a total of 2.25 million stamps produced. There are also 455,000 souvenir sheets, 190,000 transitional souvenir sheets, and 15,000 uncut press sheets of 12 souvenir sheets available. The souvenir sheets feature the international-rate stamp only. There are two official first-day covers (OFDCs): one for the domestic rate, and one for the souvenir sheet. Both have a Toronto cancellation dated Jan. 8. All the stamps are printed on Tulles Russell paper, with the panes featuring four-side tagging and the remaining products with three-side tagging.

The booklet stamps have pressure-sensitive adhesive and simulated perforations, while the others have water-activated PVA adhesive and13-plus perfs. The foil stamping and embossing is done by Gravure Choquet of St. Leonard, Que. In addition, Canada Post is selling four-stamp corner blocks of the domestic-rate stamp. Each of the corner blocks is available on an OFDC as well, again with the same cancel as the other covers. Finally, the Crown corporation is offering framed enlargements of the international-rate, framed uncut press sheets, and framed panes of stamps.

The flag still flies
The popular “flag over” definitive series continues with five permanent-rate stamps depicting Canadians showing pride in their flag. This year’s offerings once again span the country. The five stamps show three Muskoka chairs made into a flag, a Canadian flag on a spinnaker outside Halifax, a Canadian hay bale, an ice-fishing shack on Lake Scugog, and a living flag made by more than 3,000 Winnipeggers on Canada Day 2012. The stamps are issued in booklets of 10 and 30 stamps, produced by Canadian Bank Note on Tullis Russell paper with four-colour lithography, four-side tagging, pressure-sensitive adhesive and simulated perforations. Both are listed as continuous printing, meaning that they will be produced to demand. A souvenir sheet of all five stamps has a press run of 170,000, water-activated adhesive and 13-plus perforations. The souvenir sheet is also used on the OFDC, which has a Winnipeg cancel and is dated Jan.14, the day the 2013 postage rates came into effect.

Royal definitive
The 2013 Royal definitive stamp marks the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II being proclaimed the Queen of Canada, the first monarch to receive that distinction. The stamp is based on a photograph of the Queen taken in Halifax on June 28, 2010, during her royal tour. Chris Jackson of Getty Images is credited as the photographer. The background has a subtle gold Maple Leaf design to mark the anniversary. The stamps were produced by Canadian Bank Note in continuous production and sold in booklets of 10 with pressure-sensitive adhesive and simulated perforations on Tullis Russell paper with four-side tagging. The OFDC has an Ottawa cancel dated Jan. 14 and photographs of the Queen as Princess Elizabeth.

Minor mammals
This year’s baby animal definitive issue consists of four stamps: baby woodchucks on the permanent-rate stamp, a porcupine on the $1.10 United States rate, deer on the $1.34 oversized rate, and a black bear on the $1.85 international rate stamps. As in previous years, the stamps are produced in booklets and in coils. Only the three higher rates are sold in booklets, which contain six stamps. The domestic and oversize stamps are in coils of 100, while the United States and international stamps are sold in booklets of 50.

The coils are also available in strips of four and 10 stamps. In all cases the stamps are self adhesive with simulated perforations and produced on Tullis Russell paper with five-colour lithography with four-side tagging. The souvenir sheets are water-activated with 13-plus perforations and are produced in eight-colour lithography. Lowe-Martin is the printer. There is also a dispenser for the coil stamps sold separately, featuring the images used on the stamps. All four stamps appear together on the souvenir sheet, which is also used for the OFDC. That cover is dated Jan. 14 and is from Ancaster, Ont., where the woodchucks were photographed.

Wallenberg honoured
Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish man credited with saving thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Second World War, is the subject of a Jan. 17 commemorative stamp. An architect and businessman turned diplomat, Wallenberg was sent to Budapest, where he already had business dealings, when the Nazi government took control of Hungary and started deporting Jews to concentration camps. Operating with the support of the Swedish government, which appointed Wallenberg to its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wallenberg created a document called the Schutz-Pass which identified the bearer as a Swedish subject awaiting repatriation.

While not legal, they were done is Swedish colours, authorities accepted the documents as real, and even exempted holders from having to wear the hated yellow badge. To bolster the impression, Wallenberg rented buildings in Budapest and claimed they were Swedish government buildings subject to diplomatic immunity. He put flags on them and named them libraries or research institutes, then filled them with refugees. In 1944, as Russian troops invaded Hungary, Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviets on suspicion of espionage. Since then there have been conflicting reports that he died in 1947 and that he was still in prison in 1985. In 1985, Wallenberg was the first person to be made an honorary Canadian citizen.

Last year, a Russian official stated that the case of his disappearance remained open. The stamp shows Wallenberg’s 1944 passport photograph. In the background is the Schutz-Pass of Judith Kopstein, who was saved by the use of her passport. Lowe-Martin will produce 900,000 stamps in five-colour lithography on Tullis Russell paper with four-side tagging in booklets of six self-adhesive stamps with simulated perforations. The OFDC is dated Jan. 17, from Ottawa.

Later issues
On Feb. 1, Canada Post will issue two stamps for Black History Month. This year’s stamps will honour Jazz great Oliver Jones and Seraphim “Joe” Fortes, a longtime lifeguard and swimming instructor at Vancouver’s English Bay. Both stamps will be permanent-rate domestic issues.

On Feb. 20, the final four stamps in the Greco-Roman zodiac will be issued: Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. The 12-stamp program started in spring of 2011, with four stamps issued each year. As with the previous eight stamps, they will have the permanent rate used on virtually all domestic stamps.

March 4 will see the next two flower stamps issued, this time featuring magnolias. The permanent-rate stamps will be issued in booklet and coil formats. The two species picked for this year were photographed at Ottawa’s Experimental Farm. It is the second time magnolias have appeared. A previous issue shows the common white and pink varieties, while this year yellow and lavender flowers were picked.

The final stamp issue of the first quarter of this year will be a series of seven stamps commemorating developments in Canadian photography. Five of the stamps will be domestic rate, while United States and International rates will be found on the other two.

On Feb. 22 a commemorative cover will be issued to mark the 100th anniversary of Alberta’s Olds College. The cover will feature a domestic-rate personalized postage stamp showing the main college building, and an Olds, Alta., cancel. A number of the 2013 issues are also being issued in postage card format. The prepaid postage cards are good for international postage.

On Jan. 14, cards will be issued for the baby animals and flag definitives, while on Feb. 20, cards featuring the zodiac stamps will be released. Later in the year, Canada Post will issue postcards for magnolias and photography.

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