Out In The Universe . . . Stamps: Hailing The New Millennium

Michael O. Nowlan - December 30, 1999
 

The dawn of a new Millennium will mean a lot of things to a lot of people ranging from mega- parties to the totally absurd that the end of the world will occur. In between those extremes will be the stamp collector eager to add some, maybe even all, of the special stamps to a collection.

I suggest if you want to bypass any New Year's celebrations, you may be able to afford a complete world collection of Millennium stamps. The total will be expensive, but probably no more so than New Year's Eve in New York or some other major city hotel which purports to have 'the best' of all millennium-ending and millennium-commencing festivities.

Stamps to mark the end of the 1900s and the beginning of the 2000s have been appearing on the market since 1998 and will continue throughout the new year. Although all postal administrations have not as yet designated or revealed their Millennium plans, most have made some overtures to the celebrations; others have already gone overboard. in stamp production.

There are many ways to collect Millennium stamps, especially if your budget restricts to one of a few areas. One of my interests will be the "Stampin' the Future" series. Stampin' the Future, a national design contest to celebrate the new millennium, was initiated by the United States Postal Service to have youth design stamps for 2000. More than 30 countries are participating in the international event, and the national winners will gather in Anaheim, California in July 2000 for a special global celebration.

Countries involved include the United States, Canada, Uruguay, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Guernsey, and Belgium. The stamps designed by children are always fascinating, especially when they were asked to describe what they thought the future would look like. The dates for release of the stamps vary. Canada plans to launch its four-stamps on July 1, Canada Day while the US is looking at sometime in July, probably during the Anaheim event.

If you great multiples of millennium stamps, you will want to look at United States, Great Britain, Canada or Sweden. They are among the nations that are producing considerable numbers. The United States commenced its "Celebrate the Century" series in February 1998 with the issue of the first sheet of 15 stamps to commemorate events between 1900 and 1910. The series continued at regular intervals ever since with the final two decades scheduled for next year. The USPS calls it "the greatest stamp series of them all."

At least the American millennium series has not been fraught with controversy. In June, Canada Post Corporation announced a special book, The Millennium Collection, featuring 68 stamps to be arranged in a hardbound book compiling important Canadian events of the past century. That first announcement said the 68 stamps would be available only in the book, but it was met with such furore, Canada Post made a decision to issue the stamps in souvenir sheets of four different stamps each, the first four of which will go on sale December 17. Since the June announcement, Canada has also released The Official Millennium Keepsake, which has three special souvenir sheets in 46-cent (domestic) 55-cent (to U.S.) And 95-cent (international) rates. The stamps depict respectively a hologram, a child holding a dove, and a dove with an olive branch. They are beautiful.

Across the Atlantic in Great Britain, a two-year program is in full swing. In January 1999, Royal Mail commenced monthly releases of four different stamps to recount major events of the last millennium. In January 2000, a second series of four stamps each month will focus on the future. Although the British stamps have been praised by Royal Mail spokespersons, they have received scorn from the collecting community for their drab colours and rather abstract images.

If you wish to mark the millennium with a few stamps, several administrations have rather modest issues. I like the United Nations plans to have a three-stamp set issued on January 1. The stamps, in values for New York, Geneva, and Vienna, depict the Glory Window in the Chapel of Thanksgiving at Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas. Texas. The stamps are beautiful and rightly fit the United Nations' International Year of Thanksgiving. The UN will also have two other special millennium issues during the year.

In scanning all the information on the millennium stamps it is difficult to pick a favorite, but one that caught my attention is New Zealand's "First to See the New Dawn" stamp scheduled for January 1. The stamp features a sunrise over a outline of a world map. The sunrise is on Mount Hakepa on Pitt Island which New Zealand says will be the first place on earth to see year 2000. The stamp border even notes the time of the sunrise as 3:59 a.m.

There will be much to select among the many millennium stamps. It would be great to have representatives of all nation's offerings. That would probably make a sensible topical collection. To get them all may be nice, but it is better to be prudent or realistic.

Millennium stamps are important as the new century comes in. It is an event of prodigious significance, and rightly marked with stamps. I am always concerned when floods of stamps capture the scene, but the accent today is on bigger is better, so I am not going to argue with that 'market-place attitude'. I will, however, have a column soon on the matter of too many or too few stamps. It is an argument that needs some definition.

In the meantime, let me know what attracts you to millennium stamps. Is it the great numbers? Is it the attractiveness? Is it the history? Or is it the remarkable intaglio design of Canada's 95-cent stamp in the Millennium Keepsake? It is one of the finest I have seen for some time.

Michael O. Nowlan was born in Chatham, New Brunswick Canada. He grew up on a nearby farm, was educated, and became a teacher. In retirement, he follows his life-long avocation of writing. His credits include 16 books (four books of poems, two children's titles, and anthologies for schools). In recent years, he has written extensively about stamp collecting for CANADIAN STAMP NEWS, GIBBONS INTERNATIONAL STAMP NEWS, and other philatelic publications.



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