Archive for September, 2009

Extinction, conservation, Charles Darwin, zoos and stamp collecting?

September 30, 2009
Charles Darwin dinosaur hunter (featured on a  cigraette card)

Charles Darwin dinosaur hunter (featured on a 1940s or 1950s cigarette card)

Stamp collectors sometimes collect other things, like trade cards or cigarette and tea cards. (It’s often called collecting ephemera). This card is from my collection  at Newquay Zoo, showing Charles Darwin as a geologist and fossil or dinosaur hunter. We had so many possible stamps and images to choose from our collections that we had to leave this one out of the Darwin stamp book , despite there being a fabulous area featured of Charles Darwin stamp collecting – DINOSAURS.

There are however many great designs of dinosaur stamps from a bewildering range of countries that we have scanned from the collection of Sandie Robb at RZSS and Eugene Wood to illustrate the use of stamps as educational resources and objects of great beauty, miniature and usually affordable works of art.

Using the dinosaur stamps or fossil plant stamps in the classroom or the craftroom, students could research the dinosaur pictured and named on each stamp. Mini fact files can be found on websites like the Natural History Museum, BBC, National Geographic and others.

Teaching or craft idea:  Dinosaur landscapes or communities (even good old predator / prey food webs in class!) could be painted or depicted around printed out or enlarged scans of stamps.

Did all the dinosaurs featured live at the same time? What fossil plants could you show them with?

 I have seen some beautifully hand painted stamp pages in albums or designs for First Day Covers  (some Darwin ones are featured in our book). Just be careful you don’t splash paint on your favourite stamps!  

And the zoo connection? Where have all the dinosaurs gone? What does extinction mean? The extinction of dinosaurs was one thing humans can’t be blamed for, a result of a rapidly but naturally changing world. However, one animal featured in our stamp book is the Warrah, a Falklands Wolf seen by Charles Darwin on his famous Voyage of the Beagle.

Sandie Robb in her non-stampy role for RZSS Edinburgh Zoo has worked on the Falkland Islands linking Scottish and Falkland schools (see her blog at

Sandie didn’t see a Warrah as they are now as extinct as the dinosaurs Darwin discovered, but extinct in the last 100 to 150 years, persecuted like other wolves as a threat to that famous non-native Falkland animal, the sheep!

Maybe Warrah would still exist in the wild or at least in zoos in Edinburgh or Newquay if they had survived just a little longer; instead it’s just a stamp! How very sad and frustrating for conservationists! There are many other creatures we can still save …

My favourite Darwin portrait stamp

September 30, 2009
"My favourite Darwin portrait stamp" - blog co-author Mark Norris

"My favourite Darwin portrait stamp" - blog co-author Mark Norris

“I like the simplicity of line, colours and the dignity or gravity of this stamp – it does all it needs to do to celebrate the quiet intensity of a character like Darwin. Just his  name, simple dates and no unintentionally strange caricature of Darwin’s portrait, copied from early portrait paintings or photographs. It’s not the classic grand old scientist and  man with beard we are so used to seeing” says Mark Norris.

“In the classroom for example you could look at clothes, costumes, hair style (Darwin’s picture on stamps is usually copied from early portrait paintings or photographs).

Lots of questions result from this one stamp:

How was this stamp produced? Who was Darwin? Why was or is Darwin celebrated on a stamp? Why was this stamp one of many Darwin stamps produced by a then Communist country? Which country and which currency are shown? How long did Darwin live? Who was Queen or King when Darwin was alive? What happened in this time (timeline)?

Then you can compare it with other stamp designs. Which is your favourite?

This is one of the dozens of Darwin stamps featured in our forthcoming book Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps, to be published in November 2009, 150 years since Darwin published Origin of the Species and in Darwin’s 200th anniversary year.

This blog will give teachers, children  and stamp enthusiast of all ages ideas about how stamps can be used educationally and artistically in the classroom, the craftroom and in your own stamp collection.

In future blogs,  Darwin stamp book authors Sandie Robb from RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and Mark Norris from Newquay Zoo in the UK will tell you more about how they use stamps in their jobs, why they collect them and how they promote stamp collecting and philately.

New Charles Darwin / Darwin 200 related stamp blog

September 27, 2009

This is a weblog  for a new Darwin 200 related stamp site celebrating his life, times and commemoration in postage stamps. It is a joint project with Sandie Robb at Edinburgh Zoo, RZSS, Mark Norris Newquay Zoo and the Association of Scottish Philatelic Societies, ASPS and Scottish Philatelic Trade Assocaition, SPTA. We have published a book for educational use, initially in Scottish and Cornish schools, entitled ‘Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps’. It will be launched on 24th November 2009, the 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’. It is also part of Darwin200, the bicentenary celebrations.

The weblog will have lots of ideas, new scans and updates for using the publication and ideas for teaching using stamps. Watch this space for more.