The Round Towers of Ireland are remarkable among the world’s ancient monuments in that whilst they make a bold historical and cultural statement, they were built with a very practical use in mind. The Irish Round Towers were used between the 10th and 12th Centuries as bell towers and hiding places in the time of the Viking invasions.

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On behalf of the management and staff at postbeeld.com I would like to wish a Happy and Healthy New Year to all readers of the Freestampmagazine and indeed all of PostBeeld’s customers wherever you may be in the world.

February 16 marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year and with it a plethora of related postage stamp issues from countries around the world.

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As a young boy collecting stamps I was often more attracted to those with colour and shape rather than rarity. Diamond-shaped stamps from Hungary, Monaco and the Burundi particularly caught my eye.

The stamp on the left is from Hungary 1953, overprinted to celebrate a famous 6 goals to 3 victory by the national team over England at Wembley Stadium.

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Investigating the origin of the English-language term “Gordon Bennett”, once commonly used as an expression of surprise, I came to the conclusion that there does not seem to be a definitive explanation. Various theories abound. What is certain is that a motor car race held in Ireland in 1903, and a hot-air balloon race first held in 1906, was named after a certain Gordon Bennett. In tracing the origins of Gordon Bennett, I discovered that there were two famous Gordon Bennetts who might have been the source.

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In 2005 an unusual set of stamps was issued by the Royal Mail. They were issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Magic Circle, a society of magicians founded in London in 1905 by a small group of amateurs and professionals. What was unusual was the design of the five stamps. They featured optical illusions that included a jumping rabbit and disappearing dots.

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Alexander Baillieu was born in 1842. His father was a well-known antiquarian in Paris, also selling reprints of rare books. Alexander had collected stamps from an early age. It was probably in 1861, when collecting became popular, that his father advised him to sell parts of his collection in the store. On the first day, he sold stamps worth 27 Francs.

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Just added to stock at PostBeeld are some interesting stamps from the Dutch Dependencies. The Queen Wilhelmina 1901 Curacao overprints below are among them.

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Advances in the field of medical surgery have been dramatic and it´s possible that some philatelists find the subject interesting to collect. My father´s life was extended by many years as a result of two open heart operations. An amazing coincidence was that the surgeon who carried out the second operation had the same name as my father. He even gave me an impromptu tour of the operating theatre the day before the operation and explained the use of the various tools and instruments laid out awaiting his skilled hands.

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In 1955 Hungary became the first country in the world to issue a “metal” stamp. And below you see an example. Aluminium foil glued to paper was used in the production process.

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The stamp to the left is part of a stamp set that show portraits of various members of the British royal family. Many stamp collectors will recognise the people depicted but the faces will be a mystery for others.

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