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or some reason or another I find the name Twinings oddly disturbing. I am not sure if I find it humorous or sinister. Quite what prompts me to share this with you I do not know but it is cheaper than heading for the analyst. Freud must have noticed how you spelt that word.

Moving on.

Twinnings only did three sets as far as I can see and really it was all part of one theme.

Remember as a child when you stung yourself on stinging nettles and your parents told you to find a dock leaf because rubbing the dock leaf on the ever increasing nettle rash was going to ease the pain?

Well stamps and cigarette cards have a similiar relationship, wherever you find stamps you are going to find cigarette cards close by. As a child I was pretty good at locating the stinging nettles but useless at finding the dock leaves. Now I know a good deal about cigarette cards but I do not know the first thing about stamps.

Actually that is not quite true, I know Penny Blacks are not rare, which is a good thing to know. I am more interested in postmarks than I am stamps but we cannot all be 'normal' <g>.

Anyway Twinings.

I wonder what the odds of those two meeting

They are actually trade cards of course, being a tea company.

Each of the three sets were named, Rare Stamps, each set having 30 cards.

Series One and Two were issued in 1960 and series two (with red overprint) was issued in 1961.

Series One is the most sort after set and the one I deal with here.

The front of the card shows the stamp under question along with the number of the card and a very brief description of the stamp.

So far so good but the bottom fifth of the card bears the legens, 'Cut here Twinings 'Rare Stamps'. Oh dear Oh dear. A goodly number of trade cards had these messages of mutilation popped on them in an effort to enhance the collecting experience.

If you accumulated the thirty cards of the set and cut the bottoms of them and sent them to Twinins, Ibex House, Minories, London, EC3 along with a self addressed envelope you would get a free packet of selected foreign stamps.

The reverse of the card bears these address details but for some reason rather than being printed on the bit of the card that is taken off they take up card space which could have been given over to more description if necessary. The result is the description takes up a little less than half of the reverse of the card. This is a shame but it seems adaquate for the purposes, given I know nothing about stamps that is. The reverse of the card also mentions the set was by L.N & M. Williams.

Expensive

What is interesting about this set is the fact it states prices.

Now whilst most of my school cronies were collecting stamps I was cutting a lonely furrow with cigarette cards. I am not sure how many of my chums were able to avoid growing up in quite as spectacular fashion as myself but stamp collecting certainly has its roots in school yards. A schoolboy might know a good many things but the value of strange stamps is perhaps not one of them.

The first card details the rarest of all stamps, found by a schoolboy in 1873 it was sold for 6 shillings. Later Ferrary bought it for 150 pounds (250 dollars approx). In 1922 it was auctioned in Paris for 7343 pounds (12,500 dollars approx). The in 1940 it appeared in the US and was sold for a mighty 10,000 pounds (17,000 dollars) which was a lot of money back then.

The card leaves the plot at that point.

Notice the stamp is mentioned as 'it' there has only ever been one found. The British Guiana 1856 1 cent. This stamp last came to the market in 1980 as far as I am aware.

Now those of you with more knowledge than I on things stamps (and if you know more about them than you lick them and stick them on envelopes you can join that not very elite group) are going to have a fair idea what stamp I am going to introduce next.

You are right but for the wrong reason. If I was taking this set in order then the Swedish 3 skilling-banco yellow would not be the one I would get to. The set has an order, stamps are grouped by country, but the countries do not seem to be grouped in any order.

We have to wait till card 19 to see this unique stamp.

Frighteningly this was discovered by a schoolboy. Thankfully not the same fellow unless the shock of selling the 'Worlds most valuable stamp' for 6 shillings had, understandly, put his education back a few years, as this was found in 1885. It was discovered amongst his grandfather's letters and although the price this schoolboy managed to extract from the next person along the chain is not noted it did end up in the Ferrary collection, being sold for 700 pounds (1200 dollars approx). In 1937 King Carol of Roumania paid 5000 pounds (8500 dollars). At the time of the card issue it was in the hands of a West European collector. In 1990 it sold for 850,000 pounds (1.4 million dollars approx).

Since this time I believe the stamp has changed hands again and has become the most expensive thing on this planet by weight. I think I am right on that one, but lets not go quoting me.

Remember my stamp knowledge? Penny Blacks are not rare, well card 11 sheds more light on this matter for me. The fact that it is in a series called Rare Stamps does not bode well for me. Fear not though the reverse of the card tells me the scarce nature of the stamp boils down to the tiny white numbers either side of the Queen's head. If you find one with the number 77 then you are in luck it is the rare one. The plate was faulty and only 1 or 2 sheets were printed. Around 8 copies were known when this set was produced and they were worth 300 pounds (500 dollars approx) which doesn't sound a great deal I must confess. In total, 68 158 080 penny blacks were made.

So there you have it, two school boys letting more money pass through their hands than they could imagine. So here is the tale of a stamp dealer on card twleve. We are looking at the 10s IR Official. These were stamps overprinted for use by government departments, a practice which was stopped in 1904. Only a few sheets of 10s stamps were issued in this manner. The card says a dealer offered one of these stamps to a collector for 17 pounds 10 shillings (about 25 dollars) but this was rejected as being too expensive by the collector. No time was given as to this event but at the time of the sets issue the stamp was valued at about 1000 pounds (1700 dollars approx), 24 being known to exist.

So there you go a foolish dealer saved by an even more foolish collector, I wonder what the odds of those two meeting one another were looking at that particular stamp.

If I had not meandered from the compilers chosen path I would have reached card 2 after card 1.

As a child I used to watch Blue Peter (still do at times) a child's programme they often had collections for various good causes. On one occasion they asked for the young viewers to send in used stamps. I never did but plenty did. Imagine the delight on those presenters faces when somebody had sent them a particularly rare stamp by accident. I remember that to this day and will not be forgetting it, if I had even sent one stamp in I would still be kicking myself just in case.

Perhaps the producers of Blue Peter knew a thing or two about how schoolboys could be parted from expensive stamps with hideous ease.

Or perhaps they had heard about the old woman from British Guiana who gave a pair of stamps to the local church in Georgetown. They turned out to be two of the rare, 2 cent 'cottonreel' stamps 1851. 'Cottonreel' because that is what they look like. Only ten are known in existence. The widow's mite is one thing but things can be taken a little far.

Human frailty

Charless Connell was having something of an ego problem as Postmaster of New Brunswick in 1860. For some reason he felt the population would rather have a portrait of him on the 5 cents stamp rather than that of Queen Victoria. Not surprisingly he was forced to resign and his stamps were never issued. Connell seemed to have been allowed to buy up most of his stamps and he destroyed them, after giving a few to collectors.

Well that is one form of frailty and theft is another. This second problem is the reason the Gold Coast 20s Green and Red (card 15) is now rather hard to come by. This one pound stamp was issued in 1889. Now a pound back then was significant stuff and a few years later the stamp had to be withdrawn because an office cleaner had decided to help himself to a goodly quantity of the stocks from the strongroom, caught and imprisoned the stamps were officially destroyed.

Errors are also something us humans are pretty good at. In a sense almost every stamp discussed has been subject to some sort of error during its history, which only goes to prove how common these things must be. If you can sell the rarest stamp in the world for 6 shillings you are capable of anything.

One of the differences between stamps and cigarette cards is the fact that stamps with errors on them command high prices. Cigarette cards with errors on them are interesting to find but not worth much more or less than the ones that are correct.

I do not want to get bogged down at this point, discussing the differences between errors in cigarette cards and varieties in cigarette cards but it is worth remembering there is a difference even if the terms have become interchangeable. I was taught that a kilobyte was 1024 bytes, now if hard drive manufacturers have their way it is 1000 bytes,. It makes those hard drives look bigger. A classic example of presentation over substance but lets try to avoid that blood pressure rise and move on. 'Doctor says I've got blood pressure' is one of those classic lines you here every so often, along with 'I'm off to the Doctor with my bad leg.' Now things really are drifting.

The stamp on card 19, is an error stamp, the colour is wrong, that's what makes it worth the money. Card 22 also has a card rare because of error. Issued in 1851 the error was not noticed until 1894 when three examples were discovered. The error is, the paper is green rather than lilac-rose. You would have thought you would see this immeadiately (and this from a man that cannot remember the colour of the carpet or walls in his house, or anywhere actually, you just don't notice these things after a while) Anyway that is the Baden 9 Kreuzer Green. Germany.

Many cigarette card collectors have had reason to rue the day manufacturers produced the 'sticky-back' cigarette card. Designed specifically to be licked and stuck in an album. Nowadays cards in albums are much reduced in value and unless absolutely necessary not worth buying. So imagine collecting small bits of paper that all had sticky-backs, now stamps come on a roll and do not even need to be licked. Fortunately the stamp market seems to avoid the fussy nature of cigarette cards and the fact they are stuck on something does not cause a collapse in value.

A few months ago I saw a single card from Taddy's Clowns it had been ripped from an exercise book and looked like it had been. It sold for around 1000 dollars mind. Now this seems to be a pretty univeral rule, buy a vast quantity of cigarette cards and the one set that is worth more than the others put together is so beaten and damaged it is rendered worthless.

Card 23 shows the Saxony 3 pfenig red and a popular rareity amongst German collectors (the card tells me). Anyway a complete unused sheet of these things was found pasted onto a fire-screen in an old castle (I suppose there are new castles then) on the Elbe. Doesn't it make you want to spit.

So there you go a nice cross-over set. It is a little surprising there were not more sets devoted to stamps given the similarity of the hobbies and the two formats being very much the same.