Two centuries of postal history trace York’s rise to Toronto

John White, attorney general of Upper Canada, mailed a letter from York to London, England, in February 1798, before the establishment of a post office in York. It was carried outside the mails to England. Photo by Garfield Portch.

Now derided by some Canadians as the sarcastic “centre of the universe,” present-day Toronto served as the heart of the fledgeling Province of Upper Canada soon after its establishment in 1791. Two years later, with Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) still serving as the British colony’s first capital, Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe made his first visit to the site of the “Toronto Purchase” (also known as Treaty 13). First negotiated in 1787, revisited in 1805 and finally settled in 2010, the Toronto Purchase saw the local Indigenous community – the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation – surrender about 250,000 acres of land to the British crown. The deal was made in exchange for “149 barrels of goods and a small amount of cash” – £1,700 altogether – according to the 1986 book Toronto Observed. The goods included 2,000 gun flints, 120 mirrors, 24 brass kettles, 24 laced hats, a bale of flowered flannel and 96 gallons of rum. Continue reading →

Canada’s ‘medical groundbreakers’ celebrated in new five-stamp set

Six Canadian doctors are featured in the 'Medical Groundbreakers' set (10-stamp booklet shown) issued by Canada Post on Sept. 10.

After nearly four months with no new issues, Canada Post released its five-stamp “Medical Groundbreakers” set honouring medical physicians and researchers on Sept. 10. Available in 10-stamp booklets with two of each design, the set is Canada Post’s first issue since May 20, when it released a pair of stamps marking 100 years of radio history. The brief hiatus was triggered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which caused some delays in new issues as the stamp program schedule was shuffled. Continue reading →

Canada Post revives kiosk stamps in 2012

A kiosk installed at Toronto’s ‘Station B’ post office in January 2013 replaced an earlier version installed a year earlier. (Photo by late postal historian Andrew Liptak, also known as ‘Philcovex’ on his Postal History Corner blog)

After a brief trial of computerized stamp dispensers three years earlier, Canada Post revived its kiosk stamp program at the end of 2012. It was philatelists, rather than mail senders, driving the sales of these stamps, according to collector Dave Bartlet, a member of the Calgary Philatelic Society and Canadian Aerophilatelic Society. Printed using special kiosks at select post offices across the country, “these are the things that everybody thinks of when you say ‘kiosk stamps,’ because no one ever saw most of the stuff that went on before this,” added Bartlet, who has visited all of the kiosks across the country and notes the machines are “basically identical.” Working with Wincor Nixdorf – a German company offering retail and banking hardware, software and services – Canada Post revived the kiosk stamp program and installed dispensers printing nine rates beginning Dec. 12, 2012. Continue reading →

Newfoundland rarities, forgeries garner interest in next Eastern sale

A complete sheet of Newfoundland’s 1921 Halifax airmail overprints is offered as Lot 294 of Eastern Auctions’ Oct. 2-3 public sale. It carries a catalogue value of $18,125.

With a spotlight on British North America (BNA), including a strong section of decimal-era Newfoundland stamps and postal history, more than 400 lots will cross the block in the first session of Eastern Auctions’ next public sale. The first of three sessions – offering Lots 1-416 – will kick off on Oct. 2 at 1:30 p.m., with another session later that evening and a final offering the following day. “The main strength is in Newfoundland’s decimal period, which ran from 1865 to 1897,” said Yohann Tanguay, stamp specialist and chief describer with the New Brunswick-based auction house. Continue reading →

A long history of disinfected mail

An 1828 folded letter mailed from present-day Québec to France during a cholera pandemic was exposed to smoke and vinegar for disinfection. Two vertical cuts on the front helped to ensure proper disinfection. (Photo by Auktionshaus Felzmann)

In the time of COVID-19, disinfected mail is perhaps one of the most intriguing and relevant areas of postal history for collectors to explore. It’s an aspect of postal history similar to disaster mail, which refers to mail disrupted by natural or human-made events such as fires, floods, shipwrecks and plane crashes. Arising from seemingly random instances, both disinfected and disaster mail are also understandably rare and date back as far as mail, plagues and disasters have existed. “Long before the causes of epidemic scourges were individually identified, the dangers of dissemination of infection had been grasped,” wrote K. F. Meyer in the December 1952 issue of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, a peer-reviewed medical journal on psychopathology (the scientific study of mental disorders). Continue reading →

Exhibitors focused on importance must ask, ‘Is it worth the effort?’

From 2015-19, the evolution of Jean Wang’s award-winning thematic exhibit on blood 'brings tears to my eyes,' said long-time philatelic judge Bill Schultz.

When it comes to the sometimes muddy waters of judging, there is perhaps no criteria more perplexing than philatelic and subject importance. It’s true for both exhibitors and judges: the former frets over how to justify their exhibit’s importance while the latter is burdened with determining “the challenge in creating the exhibit,” as it’s explained in the Manual of Philatelic Judging and Exhibiting. “Importance, in the arena of exhibiting in the points system, is one of the most challenging and confusing, conflicting areas for the exhibitors and the judges as well,” said Bill Schultz, of West Chester, Pa., who co-wrote the seventh edition of the venerable manual, which was published by the American Philatelic Society in 2016. Continue reading →

No shortage of COVID-19 stamps to fill out collection

On July 24, the United Nations Postal Administration will issue a mini-sheet with six semi-postal stamps to raise money for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 fund.

Since mid-march, more than a dozen countries have issued COVID-19 stamps as commemorations, fundraising efforts and attempts to bring people together in a time of crisis. While some of these stamps are official issues released by their respective country’s postal administration, many personalized stamps and much-maligned “wallpaper” stamps have also been produced in the past four months. The official issues began on March 17, less than a week after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, when Iran issued the world’s first COVID-19 stamp. It was followed by other official issues from Vietnam on March 31; Switzerland on April 5; the Isle of Man on May 4; Morocco on May 7; the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on May 10; China on May 11; Uruguay on May 13; New Zealand on May 20; Ukraine on May 29; Monaco on June 3; Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 9; Oman on June 14; the Czech Republic on June 23; Macau on June 24; and Taiwan on July 21. Continue reading →

‘Today’s mail, tomorrow’s postal history:’ COVID-19 collections taking form

Advertising mail sent by Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital Foundation features pandemic-related indicia. (Photo by Jean Wang)

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing since mid-March, countries around the world have been fighting an invisible enemy for about four months. In that time, while adjusting to the “new normal,” postal administrations have given collectors a plethora of pandemic-related postal history, stamps and postmarks that will serve topical and thematic exhibitors well into the future. “Today’s mail is going to be tomorrow’s postal history, right? Fifty years from now, all the collectors are going to be looking for covers that had markings or routings that were related to the COVID pandemic,” said Jean Wang, a seven-year member of the North Toronto Stamp Club (NTSC) who serves on the club’s exhibition committee and as its newsletter editor. Continue reading →

CAPEX host a ‘philatelic destination city’

Ingo Nessel, who’s co-ordinating the seminars and society meetings for CAPEX 22, considers Toronto as ‘one of the greatest centres of philately in Canada.’

When the first World One-Frame Stamp Championship comes to Canada in 2022, it’s expected to give yet another big boost to one of the country’s “greatest centres of philately.” Following in the footsteps of the previous two CAPEX shows, hosted in 1996 and 1987, CAPEX 22 will be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) in Ontario’s capital city. This time, however, the event will feature a World One-Frame Stamp Championship – a first for international philately. “Toronto is probably one of the greatest centres of philately in Canada,” said Ingo Nessel, of Brampton, Ont., who’s handling the show’s seminars and societies. “With resources like the VGG (Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation), it’s an attractive place to hold a stamp show.” Continue reading →

‘Phenomenal’ images taken by VSC6000 uncover surreptitious stamp alterations

The VSC6000 detects a variety of inks, including optically variable ink (top right) and phosphor ink tagging (bottom right), both of which were added to the $5 moose stamp issued in 2003.

Relatively unassuming in appearance, the VSC6000 packs a powerful punch when it comes to philatelic expertization. Its high-resolution colour camera, zoom lenses and various light sources and filters – from ultraviolet (UV) to visible and infrared wavelengths – give the user an unparalleled power to see a stamp’s invisible features. “You get very consistent lighting in a dark environment, and it gives absolutely constant readings,” said Garfield Portch, president and chair of the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation. Continue reading →

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