Monday, 20 March 2017

I Spy...A Phantom Island

The term "Phantom Island" conjures up images of a small island in the middle of some vast ocean, a thick layer of fog enshrouding all but its jagged peaks that claw at the sky. Something found in the pages of a fantasy novel or a funky comic strip. 

Interestingly, the term "Phantom Island" has a real world application. This is the name given to an island on a map that, one way or another, has been to proven to be non-existent.. This non-existent - or "phantom" - island is subsequently removed from all relevant maps.  This scenario generally occurred when early sailors, exploring unknown regions, got their bearings wrong and misidentified what they were seeing. For instance, the Baja Peninsula in California was at one point represented as an island off mainland America. 

There have been other instances in which purely mythical islands have been added to maps. The Isle of Demons was purportedly an island off the coast of Canada. It first appeared on a Johannes Ruysch map, dated 1508. Legend had it that the island was inhabited by vile demons and crazy hell beasts that attacked passing ships or those foolish enough to land on its demented shores. Sounds very much like the fantasy novel images I mentioned earlier, doesn't it?

So what exactly does all this have to do with stamps? Well, several weeks ago I wrote a blog on the 1984 Nordia Exhibition mini-sheet, designed and engraved by Czeslaw Slania. Click HERE to have a look. After I had published the blog, it was brought to my attention by a stamp buddy that the map featured on the mini-sheet actually contains a Phantom Island. Pretty cool! The Phantom Island in this map was known as Frisland. It apparently appeared on most maps of the North Atlantic for roughly one hundred years beginning in the 1560's. 

So where is Frisland on the 1984 mini-sheet? Our Phantom Island can be located on the stamp portion of the mini-sheet at centre-left, adjacent to the perforations. See below.

Here's a close-up...

You will note that many of the discernible names have an Italian flavour to them: Aqua, Spagia, Bondendea, Monaco. This strongly suggests the original reports of this island came from southern Europe somewhere. If you'd like to learn a little more about Frisland click HERE.

Until next time...

Friday, 10 March 2017

I Muse...on Slania's Boxers

Silence. Suddenly lights flare to life, illuminating the battle arena. The spectators crowded around the boxing ring erupt in frenzied cheers and shouts. The gladiators stare at each other from opposite corners of the arena, their eyes seething with battle-lust. Then a man steps into the ring. The announcer. Grabbing the microphone dangling from a long wire before him, he takes a deep breath...

"L-l-let's get ready to rumble!" he shouts. Then leaves.

The crowd goes ballistic! The bell rings. The fight is on...


Anyone who is a fan of Czeslaw Slania probably knows that he was a huge boxing fan. So much so that hen produced a set of 23 engravings in postage stamp format of World Champion Boxers. These stamps were printed in 1964 and they are true masterpieces, each and every one. So without further ado, let us feast our eyes on some truly glorious engraved portraits.

John Lawrence "Boston Strong Boy" Sullivan
Born in Boston 1858
Defeated Jake Kilrain in 1889
Record: 40-1-2

James John "Gentleman Jim" Corbett
Born in San Francois 1866
Defeated John L. Sullivan in 1892
Record: 11-4-3

Robert James "Bob" Fitzsimmons
Born in Cornwall, UK, 1863
Defeated James J. Corbett in 1897
Record: 63-8-4

James Jackson "The Boilermaker" Jeffries
Born in Ohio USA, 1875
Defeated Robert J. Fitzsimmons in 1899
Record: 19-1-2

Tommy "The Little Giant of Hanover" Burns
Born in Ontario, Canada 1881
Defeated Marvin Hart in 1906
Record: 48-5-8

John Arthur "Galveston Giant" Johnson
Born in Texas, USA 1878
Defeated Denver Ed Martin in 1908
Record: 73-13-10

Jess Myron "Great White Hope" Willard
Born in Kansas, USA 1881
Defeated Jack Johnson in 1915
Record: 28-6-1

William Harrison "Kid Blackie" Dempsey
Born in Colorado, USA 1895
Defeated Jess Willard in 1919
Record: 54-6-9

James Joseph "The Fighting Marine" Tunney
Born in New York, USA 1897
Defeated Jack Dempsey 1926
Record: 55-1-1

Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried "Max" Schmeling
Born in Pomerania, Germany 1905
Defeated Jack Sharkey in 1930
Record: 56-10-4

Jack "Sharkboy" Sharkey (real name: Joseph Paul Zukauskas)
Born in New York, USA 1902
Defeated Max Schmeling 1932
Record: 38-14-3

Primo "Ambling Alp" Carnera
Born in Sequals., Italy 1906
Defeated Jack Sharkey 1933
Record: 89-14-0

Maximilian Adelbert "Max" Baer
Born in Nebraska, USA 1909
Defeated Primo Carnera 1934
Record: 68-13-0

James Walter "Cinderella Man" Braddock
Born in New York City, USA 1905
Defeated Max Baer 1935
Record: 50-26-7

Joseph Louis "Brown Bomber" Barrow
Born in Alabama, USA 1914
Defeated James J. Braddock in 1937
Record: 66-3-0

Ezzard Mac "Cincinnati Cobra" Charles
Born in Illinois, USA 1921
Defeated Jersey Joe Walcott 1949
Record: 93-25-1

Arnold Raymond "Jersey Joe Walcott" Cream
Born in New Jersey, USA 1914
Defeated Ezzard Charles 1951
Record: 51-18-2

Rocco Francis "Rocky" Marchegiano
Born in Massachusetts, USA 1923
Defeated Jersey Joe Walcott 1952
Record: 49-0-0

Floyd "The Gentleman of Boxing" Patterson
Born in North Carolina, USA 1935
Defeated Archie Moore 1956
Record: 55-8-1

Jens Ingemar "The Hammer of Thor" Johansson
Born in Gothenburg, Sweden 1932
Defeateed Floyd Patterson 1959
Record: 26-2-0

Floyd "The Gentleman of Boxing" Patterson
Born in North Carolina, USA 1935
Defeated Ingemar Johansson 1960
Record: 55-8-1

Charles L. "Sonny" Liston
Born in Arkansas, USA Unknown
Defeated Floyd Patterson 1962
Record: 50-4-0

Cassius Clay AKA Muhammad Ali
Born in Kentucky, USA 1942
Defeated Sonny Liston 1964
Record: 56-5-0

Incidentally, if we turn our attention back to stamp one, of John L. Sullivan, one notices he fought bare-knuckled. Slania actually used his own hands as models for the engraving.

As a final note, I'd like to thank Roos Philately for the excellent images. I can't wait to acquire this set myself.

Until next time...

Stay Slania Crazy!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Iceland 1986 - Bicentenary of Reykjavík

Reykjavík is the capital of Iceland, and it just so happens to be the world's northernmost capital city. It is believed the area was first settled around 870 by Ingólfur Arnarson from Norway. The story of how Arnarson decided upon the location of his settlement is rather interesting. He employed a traditional Norse ritualistic practice, involving the use of Öndvegissúlur, or high-seat pillars.  So just what are Öndvegissúlur? In Norse culture the leader of the family sat in a throne-like chair, known as the high-seat. Two wooden poles stood either side of the high-seat. These were the Öndvegissúlur.  The ritual basically goes as follows: upon sighting land, Arnarson took up his Öndvegissúlur and hurled them into the ocean, trusting they would find an ideal settlement location. He then waited to see where the pillars were washed ashore. The point at which they struck land was the site of the new settlement. Simple as that!

In this case it seems Arnarson's Öndvegissúlur had chosen wisely. They directed him to a spot literally steaming with geothermal energy. Energy, which over time, was harnessed by the people of Reykjavík in many utilitarian ways. As far back as the 1930's geothermal energy was being used to heat schools, hospitals, swimming pools, many of the homes in the city, and it has even been used to dry fish, a staple in the Icelander's diet. In fact, the abundance of Hot Springs are what possibly gave the city its name, Reykjavík, which means "Smoke Cove" or Smoky Bay". In 1786 the city was founded as a trading town, and from that point forward it grew steadily, and it now has a population of a around 130,000 people. 

I sometimes spend a moment to reflect on when and how I first heard tell of a particular spot on this globe we call home. For me Reykjavík became part of my known world back in the early 1980's while studying chess at school. I learned that Reykjavík hosted the 1972 World Chess Championship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.


In 1986 Iceland issued a set of four stamps to commemorate the Bicentenary of Reykjavík, two of which were designed and engraved by Czeslaw Slania.

The 12k stamp depicts a captured moment from 1856. This elegant scene brilliantly illustrates some of the intrinsic aspects of Icelandic life. 

In the foreground we see two men chatting near the 'Reykjavík Pond'. One of the men is holding a farming sickle. Agriculture was a vital industry in Iceland. Food crops included potatoes, turnips, cabbage, carrots, and grain for bread and livestock feed. Over time crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, and capsicums were grown in greenhouses heated by geothermal energy.

In the middle-ground a church and other buildings line the geothermal 'Reykjavík Pond', a crucial part of the local geography. While in the background we spy a ship lying at anchor, a reminder of the city's trading roots. Indeed, the man chatting with the farmer is perhaps a merchant come to trade with the locals.

While doing a bit of research into Iceland I came across a photo (seen below) from the 1860's. It is taken from a similar perspective as the stamp. Indeed, several matching features can be spotted. The pond, of course. The church and other buildings. We can even see wooden fences similar to the one in the stamp.


The 13k stamp depicts two women washing clothes in a hot water stream and hanging them on a frame straddling the stream. Below is a photo of a woman doing just this at Laugardalur c. 1902-1910.

Until next time...

Stay Slania Crazy!

Friday, 24 February 2017

I Interview...Ed from Ottawa

A loyal follower of my blog, named Ed, graciously volunteered some of his time for a Slania Crazy! interview. Enjoy!

Slania Crazy!: Thank you very much for participating in my "I Interview..." series.
Ed: You are welcome.

Q: When did you start collecting Slania stamps?
A: About 3 years ago.

Q: What drew you to start collecting him?
A: I have always collected paper ephemera and became interested in stamps. I had started a collection of German stamps and was looking for more information and came across the 'Collecting by Engraver' posts on the Stamp Community Forum on the internet. It introduced me to Slania as well as many other engravers. Being of Polish descent, I was thrilled to find out that Slania was also Polish, and I already had some of his stamps in my small collection of Polish stamps without knowing it.

Q:What is your favourite Slania stamp, and why is it your favouritre?
A: I would have to pick the Polish 1.40 zl Air Mail stamp issued in 1952 of an airplane flying over Warsaw. Having visited Warsaw many times, I recognised the old town of Warsaw depicted on the stamp.

Q: Where do you usually get your Slania stamps?
A: The internet, a local stamp shop and a monthly stamp bourse in Ottawa, where I live.

Q: What references do you like using? Which is your favourite?
A: The Heindorff website dedicated to Slania is fantastic.

Q: Do you remember what your first Slania stamp was?
A: Since I had some Slania engraved stamps in my Polish collection without knowing his involvement at the time, most likely one of the 1954 air mail issues (there are six in this set). I was also carrying a Slania engraving in my pocket, an engraving featured on a Canada $5.00 bill!

Q: Do you collect any other engravers?
A: Quite a few. I collect most of the French engravers, and besides Slania, a handful of the other European engravers as well. But my interest in engraved stamps begins to wane after the early 1980's.

Q: What are your other stamp specialisms?
A: I like First Day Covers (especially signed ones), souvenir sheets, cinderellas, and revenue stamps. The engraving work on some of the earlier Canada revenue stamps are quite ornate and spectacular.

Q: How do you store your Slania stamps?
A: Vario-Lighthouse stock sheets that are housed in three ring binders.

Q: Do you have any collecting tips to share?
A: A lot of great examples of engraved stamps are still reasonably priced. Work within your budget. Invest in a good magnifying glass so you can get a closer look at the engraver's art. Better yet, if you have a scanner, scan a stamp at 800-1200 dpi. You'd be amazed at the details it reveals. And at times it reveals faults unseen by the naked eye.

I'd like to thank Ed again for the interview. As always, if anyone else out there wishes to participate, please let me know in the comments.

Until next time...

Stay Slania Crazy!