It seems incredible to think that there are people born during the First World War still alive today. That means they have lived for one hundred years or more. In 2015 it was estimated that there were more than half a million known centenarians worldwide. One country celebrated the longevity of some of its citizens by way of a special limited edition stamp issue in 2016.

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In the December 1863 edition of ‘Das Magazin für Briefmarken-Sammler’ (The Magazine for Stamp Collectors) is an ad from Jeanne Wed.(Widow) Elb in Dresden offering albums, stamps and catalogues for sale. This stamp trade was driven by her but was owned by her son Ferdinand Elb.

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The man in the photograph above features in the Guinness Book of Records more than once! He was responsible for producing the artwork for more than 1,000 stamps for many countries, an incredible amount considering the time and precision demanded for every single engraving.

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Now and then we focus on the incredible variety of subjects that can be found on postage stamps, some being very unusual. And today I came across some such stamps. Those in question feature a sport whose participants must not only have a considerable amount of stamina but also excellent navigational skills. The sport, orienteering, began in Sweden in the late 19th Century and involved the crossing of unknown land with the aid of a map and a compass.

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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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