Stamp Day in the Netherlands

I have the most wonderful brother-in-law (Hi, Ben!). Every year around Christmas time, he sends us this big envelope with goodies. Out come the annual bird calendar and the Christmas card, but more interestingly, out come the latest Dutch stamp issues as well! As an ex-pat I do still keep a general Dutch collection going, but you may wonder why I would care to bring this up here on my engravers blog. After all, it's been ages since the Dutch were last able to enjoy a hand-engraved stamp. Well, the thing is that this year's goodies included the annual Stamp Day issue, and it is wonderful!

As you can see it features the 1944 Queen Wilhilmina definitive, which was produced in England by Bradbury Wilkinson (at the time the Dutch government was in exile in London) and engraved by Edward T. Dawson. Here it is in all its glory:

The Stamp Day issues have focused on 'classic' Dutch stamps for quite some years now and the great thing is they don't just show the stamp but add something extra as well. In this case, it is an illustration of the actual master die.

The dies and all other material were first kept in Britain but later an official request was received from the Netherlands to have the material donated to them, so it could be included in the collection of what was then the Dutch Postal Museum. This request was granted and the so the Dutch went to London to pick it up and to supervise the destruction of all surplus stock, misprints, etc. The master die, transfer rollers and printing plates were also defaced to prevent any further use. As you can see, there is a big cross scratched into the master die. The brutes. But there you are.

This particular sheet would make a good starting page for any engravers display as it shows so very well that the engraving is done in stamp size and in mirror image. Another Stamp Day issue which would be great to use is that of 2012.

Again, we have an engraved Dutch classic featuring on the stamp, this time the 1949 Queen Juliana high value definitive, engraved by Sem Hartz. What is so good about this particular sheetlet is that it shows die essays rather than the finished article.

As you can see, these earlier versions still used lettering which hadn't been filled in, and the value was also done in letters rather than figures. That would soon change to filled-in lettering and the use of numerals. But more would change. When the queen saw the trial prints of the photogravure lower values she demanded that the diadem be removed. She was not one for pomp and circumstance. There was no time to make a whole new die, so Hartz had to try and erase the diadem in the existing die, which is extremely hard to do. He did succeed, though it did leave the queen's hair looking slightly dented, as you can see on the finished article:

So here we have two sheetlets which, even though not themselves engraved, could be part of a display as they illustrate material which is not available to collectors and does tell an interesting story!