Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Gibbons’

Care for the rare – What connects Charles Darwin, postage stamps, evolution, conservation, zoos and extinction and rarity value?

January 18, 2010

Charles Darwin first day cover Falklands 1982

 

Last week from Stanley Gibbons I received an inviting offer to invest in a very, very rare Victorian stamp. 

Here at Newquay Zoo www.newquayzoo.org.uk  and my colleagues at Edinburgh Zoo www.edinburghzoo.org,  we are very used to working with often very, very rare animals. The kind that feature  on the IUCN Red Data list www.iucnredlist.org of endangered animals.  If we do our work well, they will became less rare and more common (or at least less endangered and better protected). 

Charles Darwin on his travels around the world and his visits to early zoos like London Zoo ZSL saw some now exceptionally rare animals, even some that are now extinct.  The Warrah or Falkland Islands wolf (Dusicyon australis, pictured above) is one such recently extinct animal.  So no chance of Sandie Robb (co-compiler of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps) seeing one on her recent Falklands expedition twinning Falklands schools with ones in Scotland. http://rzssfalklands.wordpress.com and www.rzss.org.uk/education/school/falkland_islands_project.html 

Darwin discovered dinosaur bones for other long extinct creatures in South America, being an early palaeontologist and geologist. He even stopped passed Mauritius on his route home on the HMS Beagle, narrowly missing seeing the Dodo by a century or two. 

 

 

 

Breeding rare animals in a well-managed conservation programme is obviously important and you can find more about this on our zoo websites, along with our networks www.biaza.org.uk, www.eaza.net and www.waza.org .  

I’m  not sure if Stanley Gibbons or collectors and investors in very rare stamps would be very impressed if we suddenly produced lots more of a rare stamp like the one we were offered by their investment site. They might be a bit suspicious of forgery. 

  

” Today’s Top Tip – An Undervalued Rarity received from marketing@stanleygibbons.co.uk 10th January 2009 

“One of the most important stamps from the British Empire. Our Philatelic Director produced the description of this item. As it is a bit technical in nature, I have simply highlighted in “bold” the important aspects influencing its investment quality to help you understand why it is so special. 

NEW ZEALAND 1855 SG: 3b–StockCode–P09004882 
1855 (Dec) 1d orange on white paper, watermark large star, imperforate with large margins and brilliant colour, part original gum.Plated as position 5 on the sheet, the centre stamp from the reconstructed strip of 3 (position 4-6) assembled by H. Gordon Kaye (CRL 12/11/91, lots 65-67), and much the finest of the three.

Slight gum crease at foot but very fine appearance and excessively rare

This first Richardson printing, using paper supplied from London, represents the initial production of postage stamps in New Zealand. A very important and desirable stamp. Stamp comes with a British Philatelic Association certificate (1990).(catalogue value: £32,000

Price: £24,000   This stamp is the finest of the three in existence …”      

New Zealand 1855 (Dec) 1d orange on white paper a very very rare stamp from the Stanley Gibbons website - probably the closest you'll ever come to seeing one!

and so the email temptingly went on. Not having £32,000 or even £24,000 spare, I didn’t take Stanley Gibbons up on their kind offer. Our zoo directors might wonder where their zoo budgets had gone. 

Island life
Stamps from small islands like the animals from small islands tend to be at risk of becoming rare because of the very few produced or surviving, compared to the thousands of everyday definitive (penny and pound) postage stamps used in Britain each year for example. Many of our rarest creatures in zoos today are from islands. Many of the extinction lists feature island species quite heavily.
Darwin noticed that island life tends to create perfect conditions for speciation and evolution of certain features that help you survive or adapt to each unique environment, often favouring certain natural individual variations (height, speed, bill shape etc) within any animal or plant population.
 
Even more like evolution, it is often the tiniest variations, tiny mistakes or errors (famously missing colours or printing pictures of airplanes upside down) that escape the printers’ censorious eyes and the ‘error’ stamps become worth a fortune.  
There are many stories about rare stamps or errors that we will share with you on the blog, even the odd Victorian murder by crazed collectors to gain the only copy of a stamp known to survive. Some animal collectors hoard rare animals such as the Spix’s Macaw until they have the last few left. Other people illegally collect rare bird’s eggs.  Stamp collecting  is much less destructive or murderous than that. 
 
You don’t have to bankrupt your school, classroom or own budget to collect some inspiring and beautiful stamps on almost any thematic subject you can think of to illustrate your teaching and brighten your day !
 
Stamps can easily be obtained from dealers, auction sites like E-Bay, kindly collectors, friends or lucky charity / junk shop finds.  Look at the blogroll for more links.
 
If you do have a spare £24,000 or £32,000 and don’t want to spend it on beautiful rare stamps, both Edinburgh Zoo and Newquay Zoo are conservation charities. We’ve lots of ideas on what to do with the money. You could buy and protect a lot of rainforest habitat for that sort of money through the World Land Trust!
 
Alternatively, you could buy all several hundred  first edition copies of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps  (for price and postage, see Sandie’s comments on the comments page). Even better, we  will send one copy free to any UK primary school that requests one, thanks to a legacy from Beryl Rennie, a Scottish stamp collector to encourage schools and youth stamp work.   
 
Teaching Tips  – Extinction and Conservation
It is important to distinguish what different causes made animals disappear such as dodos, dinosaurs and more recently extinct animals such as the Falklands Wolf  or Dusky Seaside Sparrow. This can create lots of questions in class to investigate:
  • Was this a natural extinction such as the dinosaurs? 
  • Was it unnatural and influenced by man such as the Dodo or Falklands Wolf?
  • What causes animals to become extinct?
  • What causes animals to become endangered?
  • What rare or endangered animals do we have in Britain?
  • What can zoos, conservation  and nature organisations do to help prevent extinction in the future?

We look forward to hearing from you via the blog about ways that you have used the Darwin book or stamps in your classroom or craftroom.

 

  

 

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A Victorian Christmas greeting, the Victorian Farm, gardens, female stamp collectors and a happy stampy crafty new year!

December 28, 2009

One of the best preserved working Victorian post boxes I have ever seen or used (despite being near the sea and many repaints) on St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, 2006. Look for these in your area on your own Victorian stamp time safari! Imagine how many Victorian letters and postcards to Cousin Jacks overseas must have passed through this post box. How many bright holiday greetings, christmas cards, Valentine's and sad black bordered letters. Reading WH Auden's poem Night Mail gives a flavour of what life in letters must have passed through this and continues today (mostly happy holiday postcards like this Gibsons Of Scilly archive image postcard now!)

Charles Darwin as a well off Victorian family men would have made much of Christmas, which it is often and popularly said, was  invented by Charles Dickens and the Victorians. For those of you who saw the evocative Christmas specials of BBC’s Victorian Farm set in the 1880s, the decade of Darwin’s death, there are 25 fabulous free craft resources for celebrating or preparing for next Christmas on the bbc.co.uk/victorianchristmas  website.  

From handmade crackers to parlour games, toy theatres to paper marbling, decorations to recipes, there are some fabulous decorative ideas for use in the classroom or stamp room. The first Victorian Christmas card by Horsley and Cole is shown (only ten survive, so they are worth tens of thousands!). The halfpenny post rate for Christmas cards meant that they were originally written only the front decorated picture side, like many Victorian zoo postcards in the Newquay Zoo Victorian life collection, as nothing but the address was at first allowed on the address side. There are some lovely template Victorian cards on the website for use in school, great for handwriting practice and creative writing tasks. However real Victorian Christmas cards (and the scraps they resemble) for showing in the classroom can easily and fairly cheaply be found in junk / antique shops and sites like Ebay.    

 The bbc.co.uk/victorianchristmas site is organised as  an ‘advent’ calender of  25 downloadable windows of Christmas activities featuring  instruction templates and short video clips to watch at home or school with the three fabulously enthusiastic presenters Alex, Ruth and Peter. Think of it as a Victorian farmhouse Blue Peter ‘make’ .  

More ideas for your Victorian stamp and time safaris out   

Hopefully you had a relaxing christmas with its Victorian traditions (or tack), watched Victorian Farm, Cranford and Doctor Who, so are  now looking forward to fresh sir, a few walks to get rid of Christmas pudding pounds and some inspiring visits (through time) out in 2010. We hope you liked the teaching suggestions in the last blog about going out and around your neighbourhood as  Victorian time detective. The BBC Victorian Farm original series is out on DVD (Acorn Media), set at Acton Scott Historic working farm in Darwin’s birth and childhood county of Shropshire. Shopping in Blists Hill Victorian village is shown on the series , whilst similar Victorian villages exist at Beamish, Black Country Living Museum, York Castle Museum, Flambards and Morwhelham Quay in Cornwall. Newquay Zoo is signed up to the Learning Outside the Classroom manifesto and quality badge scheme, so hope you will go out of the classroom or house on your Victorian time and stamp safari.  

Darwin was also an accomplished  botanist and interested in the work of many plant hunters sent out by his friend Hooker at Kew Gardens (sharing with Darwin an anniversary year and commemorative Royal Mint coin this year). We have in the office the superb Great Plant Hunt resource box sent out to all UK primary schools in 2009 – resources are downloadable at www.greatplanthunt.org).   

Tracking down rarer stamps can be as hazardous, murderous or dangerous  as the quest for rare orchids. We’ll be featuring some of the Darwin stamp book stamps of plants, dinosaurs and different countries  in our activity trails at Newquay Zoo in 2009 and 2010, showing how flexible and useful they can be as inspiration and illustration. Plant hunters of the Victorian era will be celebrated through the characters of  ‘Edwardiana Jones’ and his sister ‘Victoraina’ in our Plant Hunter trail events schedule at Newquay Zoo in May 2010 onwards.  Acorn Media also publish the DVD of the Victorian Kitchen / Garden series from the 1990s, worth tracking down especially once you’ve seen the Victorian estate, garden  and railway restorations such as  at Trevarno in Cornwall with its toy museum and National Gardening Museum. Heligan and the great heritage gardens of Cornwall including the one that Fitzroy, Darwin’s Captain of the Beagle visited when the Beagle docked in Falmouth such as Penjerrick gardens (near Trebah Gardens) are restored to their Victorian glory and open. Some of these such as Glendurgan are  run by the National Trust across the UK and your local regional versions of English Heritage should have many more inspiring Victorian sites (such as Lanhydrock in Cornwall) for you or your school to visit. Quuen Victoria’s Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Down House, Darwin’s home in Kent  are both English Heritage properties. The Victorian Society also do adult study tours, talks and Victorian pub crawls! 

More ideas   for your Victorian stamp and time safaris inside  

Like The 1900s House and Adam Hart Davis’ What the Victorians Did For Us before it, the BBC Victorian Farm  is an excellent programme and website for ideas. Lots of the craft activities could be adapted using stamps as decorative items, something the Victorians did themselves with countless early and now precious stamps! It took a few years after Rowland Hill’s Penny Post (the Penny Black issued on 6th May 1840)  for the collecting or classifying brain of a ‘stamp world Darwin’ and the entrepreneurial luck of men like Stanley Gibbons (1840 -Penny Post year -to 1913) to establish stamp collecting as  the worldwide hobby and trade it is today, rather than a craft pastime.  

It was however not just a boy’s pastime, something Beryl Rennie the Scottish stamp collector ,whose legacy bequest made the Darwin stamp book possible,  would be pleased to have known. I have met many female stamp collectors but not  sadly one of the first recorded ones, a young Victorian girl who wrote to the Times newspaper in 1841, asking readers to send her postage stamps for her collection. She was quick  off the mark , but limited in choice as only three stamps existed then to collect , the Penny Black,  Twopenny Blue and Penny Red.   

Maybe she was doing creative and imaginative craft work with them, as Sandie Robb the Darwin200stampzoo blog co-author continues to do at her fabulous wildlife stamp weekends at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo.  Victorians such as Albert Schafer plastered the walls with them, covered tables, chairs, fire screens, wreaths, maps, tea services in willow pattern, guitars, pianos, mantlepieces, model ships, made self-portraits, even covering whole rooms with stamps!  This craft tradition using stamps in a decorative way is still continued  in Cornwall where Newquay Zoo is based, with many fine stamp craft objects by local artists and crafts people in galleries such as in St. Just.  

Stamp collectors like our Victorian girl seem to be  faster to react than organised business. The first stamp album was not produced until 1862 and guide to stamp prices until  1863.  

Stamps (especially Christmas ones) are great I found this year for Christmas decorations and keepsakes, bringing us back to the 25 brilliant craft ideas on the BBC Victorian Farm website bbc.co.uk/victorian christmas.  There are some great craft and decorative articles in the free online Victoriana webzine / magazine http://www.victoriana.com/ a US based Victorian website worth signing up to!  

We’ll feature more about stamps for decorative craft as well as stamp collecting for  teaching resources in future blogs, including your portrait in stamps inspired by Victorian examples made of stamps. There are many fine portrait stamps of Darwin to feature in our book and blog, portraits of many kinds being good materials for an interesting classroom activity. Newquay Zoo – and myself in tiny form- had our ‘portrait’ painted many times in 2009 (the zoo’s 40th birthday year) as part of the Darwin 200 celebrations by our resident Cornish artist John Dyer working with Falmouth Art Gallery (see the weblinks). If you look carefully on his online gallery in his Zooing Around print of the zoo at dawn, you’ll spot a tiny me leading a tour by torchlight! More next time.  

Happy New Year! or as our Edinburgh Zoo colleagues say, Happy Hogmanay!  

Some more Victorian schools resource links  

More Darwin and Victorian links 

The BBC’s Victorian Farm series is based at Acton Scott’s  historic working farm in Shropshire, Darwin’s birth and childhood county 

http://www.actonscott.com/ 

http://www.actonscott.com/shropshire.php  based in Darwin’s birth county 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/shropshire/darwin/ 

http://www.darwinshrewsbury.org/  with its 2010 Shrewsbury Darwin Festival 2010 12th – 14th February 

http://www.shift-time.org.uk/blog/ 

Step back in time: Victorian towns and villages 

Lots of downloadable activities, visit details and links at each of these sites 

http://www.beamish.org.uk/ 

http://www.kirkgatevictorianstreet.org.uk/   York castle Museum’s virtual Victorian street tour 

http://www.bclm.co.uk/ Black Country Living Museum, Dudley http://www.bclm.co.uk/witeachersresources.htm 

http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/learning/resources/  Blists Hill Victorian Town 

http://www.flambards.co.uk/exhibitions/the-victorian-village-experience.html  Flambards 

Learning outside the classroom manifesto website including advice on taking school trips out and about guidance and link to list of quality badge holders. 

http://www.lotc.org.uk/ 

Victorian Gardens and properties to visit  

Heligan – atmospheric photographs

http://www.heligan.com/ or http://www.heligan.com/non_flash/ 

Penjerrick

http://www.penjerrickgarden.co.uk/history.html 

Trebah

http://www.trebahgarden.co.uk/history_of_trebah.htm 

Glendurgan and Lanhydrock

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ 

Osborne House

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.19473 

Down House

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.19529 

http://www.charlesdarwintrust.org/education 

Stanley Gibbons

http://www.gibbonsstampmonthly.com/Journals/GSM/Gibbons_Stamp_Monthly/July_2006/attachments/sgstory.pdf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/ 

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/victorianbritain/  

http://www.victoriana.com/

http://www.victorianweb.org/index.html

http://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/Victorians/  

http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/earlyphotos/index.html