Sunday, 24 June 2018

The CFL Gets Its Crown Corporation Due - (Volume 1 Addition)

In service to the taxpayers of this country, over the past few decades Canada Post has produced quite a large number of attractive stamp and related ephemera sets commemorating hockey and great hockey players. Finally in 2012 in conjunction with the 100th Grey Cup Anniversary celebrations the government agency turned its designers loose on Canadian Football, and the results were attractive, historically interesting and presented a multi-faceted collecting challenge.

Team Logo Definitives issued June 29, 2012 

Firstly there were eight small definitives issued one per team with team logo on the modern sticker type of paper attached to a waxy background with a wavy die cut edge. The stamps carry the P denomination meaning they are permanently worth the going rate for a basic letter regardless of when they are used. The stamps were sold in strips of 4 or 8 and you could also order a set of all 8 teams in either size, or you could order a roll of 50 of any specific team.

Now stamp collectors are very particular people and variations or differences are something they specialize in, beginning with the basic distinction between a mint unused stamp and a postally used one. These types of sticker stamps are somewhat difficult to remove from paper once affixed and often times they are "cancelled" not by hand stamp or automated machine cancellation, but by straight lines scribbled over top of them with a permanent marking pen. Because of this well cancelled used specimens are typically rarer than unused ones.   

Gutter pair, Gutter End and Gutter Start strip examples 

Some collectors also differentiate between the stamps on a roll with the small gutter sticker between a pair or with the gutter at the start or end of a roll position (noted by the wavy die cut through the gutter sticker). Also available was a cute little team themed Canada Post mailbox to dispense your roll of stamps.

Definitives Souvenir Sheet

Each definitive stamp was also available in a more traditional gummed paper on the team souvenir sheet. Finding nicely cancelled privately used versions of these variants would also be a pretty big challenge as consumers are less likely to break up the sheet to use the stamps Finally, an official first day cover with the complete souvenir sheet was issued and orderable online.

Definitives Official First Day Cover

The next product for the 100th Anniversary of the Grey Cup was a set of 8 commemorative sticker stamps highlighting one representative great player from each team and one classic moment from each team's historical championship legacy, including some of the most epic in the history of the game such as the Grey Cup Mud, Fog and Ice Bowls. The ninth stamp in the set celebrates the Grey Cup itself.

100th Grey Cup Commemoratives issued August 16, 2012
(machine and hand cancelled)

Each Stamp was sold online and in post offices in booklets of 10 with the stamp's striking graphics reproduced in larger form on the front cover and a historical write up with the Grey Cup on the back covers. The image above was from a nice Ebay lot of all the stamps postally used and buying something like this in one shot is a lot easier than collecting them yourself one at a time. 

100th Grey Cup Commemoratives Booklets of 10

Each of the nine commemorative stamps was also featured on a souvenir sheet on traditional gummed paper with regular perforations, however these stamps were embossed with parts of every stamp design raised in relief making for a unique collectible. The embossed effect is not particularly visible on the scan below. Of course well cancelled used versions of the embossed stamps are considerably harder to acquire.

100th Grey Cup Commemoratives Embossed Souvenir Sheet, Framed Art Print
and Limited Edition Signed Framed Art Print

Framed art prints of the Commemorative designs for each of the nine teams were available online and at post offices for somewhere around $69.99 if memory serves. Also 300 limited edition player signed larger framed prints with a different layout and more components were produced for a considerably higher cost, although I can't remember the exact amount and after some period of time they were reduced online by up to 50%. The stamps embedded in the frame were of the sticker die-cut type (confirmed for the smaller frame, assumed for the larger one).


100th Grey Cup Commemoratives Official First Day Edmonton Cover

As you might expect a set of nine Official First Day Covers with specialized postmarks and detailed historical write-ups were produced. If that is still not enough, then you could also buy a set of nine pre-stamped postcards with variations of the same graphics.

100th Grey Cup Commemoratives Pre-Stamped Winnipeg Postcard

If you visited your local Canada Post post office during the summer of 2012 you could have picked up for free the aptly named quarterly publication called details, which in fact contains a ton of details and historical facts about these CFL issues. You can review the contents today at the digital archive here and here although the original insert order form showing what all of the items initially cost is not reproduced in the PDF's, you will need an actual copy of the magazine for that.

Volume XXI No 3 of Details magazine and fold up double sided Poster and product catalogue 

Also for free was a nice folded poster with a large reproduction of the Grey Cup stamp on one side and all of the products illustrated and prices indicated on the other. The post office was a good place to maybe get your hands on some of the rarer display items that were set up in the retail establishments such as wall posters, desktop blotter poster and poster strip, stand up cardboard display and on delivery van panel posters. Eventually most of this stuff was probably just thrown away or recycled so it will be considerably rarer than the regular issue material.

Post Office promotional materials, clockwise from top left - Counter top blotter poster, Cardboard advertising standup, Toronto specific retail poster, Delivery van side panel all-weather poster.
I managed to resist the impulse to climb up and try to slide the panel poster out when I came upon this delivery van parked downtown.  

Now I know what you are probably thinking, all of these collectibles are really not enough for an ultimate fan, so yes indeed for those for which all of this stuff is insufficient, you could by one of 8,000 Ultimate CFL Fan Sets for $199.95 + tax in a nicely engraved wooden display box.

2012 Ultimate Fan Set with both souvenir sheets, a set of team logo pins, replica numbered Grey Cup, 100th Grey Cup Commemorative silver medallion and normal circulation 100th Grey Cup Commemorative Loonie 

Once the Toronto Argonauts had won the 100th Grey Cup in 2012, Canada Post re-issued the Grey Cup Commemorative stamp (only) in booklet form with the Argos logo and the same on each stamp. It is not clear if they printed more or held some back from the original print run to add the winning team's logo after the result was known.

The Ultimate set also came with a 28 page historical Booklet with the Grey Cup Commemorative stamp affixed and "postmarked" on the front. Displayed above are the set's silver medallion modeled after the stamp and the subsequently reissued stamp and booklet with Argo logo.

But wait, there's more... All Canada Post issues are made available for collectors to purchase in quarterly packs and then at the end of the year a lavish album with foil engraved slipcover is published. The album contains 18 pages of CFL historical information and photographs which do not appear in any of the other formats of collectibles issued. 

2012 Quarterly Stamp Pack 03 - $26.23 and 2012 Yearly Album $66.95

The quarterly pack includes all loose stamps and the two souvenir sheets while the album includes just the two souvenir sheets (of course both including examples of all other postage stamps issued that period as well). However the 100th Commemoratives were die cut from booklets, resulting in a section of the booklet backing being affixed to the stamp, which in cataloging terms would make this a format variation. While the logo Definitives were die cut from coils but there is no backing, the stamps seem to have the normal moisten to use glue on the backs and not the sticker stamp type of glue, perhaps should be catalogued as a variation.

Two die cut Commemorative stamps from the quarterly pack showing the backing, issued Commemorative embossed souvenir sheet bar code top, promotional display bar code bottom, combined Canada Post & Canada Mint coin & stamp set.  

One unusual thing that I have noticed is that in every case where the promotional material (Details magazine, Ultimate Set box cover, Collection Canada album) pictured the 100th Grey Cup Commemoratives Souvenir Sheet, the image does not show the individual stamp embossing and the UPC bar code is different from the actual embossed Sheet that was sold online, came with the Ultimate Set or came with the Quarterly Pack/Collection Canada album. I am not sure if this was only a graphic design peculiarity or if there actually was a separate non-embossed sheet ever produced. If so I have never seen one without the embossing.

The post office and the mint combined to package the Commemorative stamps with a specially issued quarter highlighting each team`s Grey Cup wins in a fold out cardboard package with more historical photos and details reproduced inside. The coin & stamps set cost $25.95 when first issued. Besides that team pens and team greeting cards were available.

Various envelope designs with special Day of Issue cancellations

I am not quite sure of the process but I believe that enterprising philatelists can produce their own envelopes and on the specific day of issue, have the postmaster cancel to order their self made first day covers. A number of these are reproduced above, they come with vintage team logos, vintage helmets, mode modern helmets, the Grey Cup and the 100th Grey Cup logo with various postmark designs from the CFL cities.These are unofficial but nice keepsakes anyways.

Ottawa RedBlacks Commemorative & Definitive issued June 19, 2014
Booklet, Official First Day Cover and a pair of envelopes with day of issue cancellations

Two years after the 2012 100th Grey Cup Anniversary celebrations in 2014 when Ottawa rejoined the league, Canada Post would revisit these designs and issue some similar RedBlacks material. One Commemorative stamp (with Booklet of 10) , one Definitive logo stamp and one Official First Day Cover were produced with Russ Jackson the player selected to represent the Ottawa Rough Riders historical connection, naturally.

These were also available in the relevant quarterly pack (presumably as format and variant differences) but at over $80 for the pack it is a pretty steep price to pay just to get those two CFL stamps. I would also assume they make an appearance in the year end Album, however there was no souvenir sheet issued.

I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to add up just exactly how many collectibles were issued by Canada Post here in total, I don`t have the figure and cataloguing all of this properly is a pretty major chore, but the answer will obviously be a hell of a lot. Given the opportunity, it is clear that Canada's Crown Corporations went all out for the CFL and Canadian Football.