First issued in 2002 in coil format, USPS’s 5-cent American Toleware postage stamp in the American Design Series features a tea or coffee pot adorned with a lovely floral pattern.  Online dictionaries define toleware as decoratively painted, gilded enameled metalware often found in kitchens.  The production process involves japanning – a European imitation of Asian lacquer finish. More research is required to verify if this particular teapot is an illustration–thus imagined–or a museum’s treasured article.

15 years might have passed since I last accessed my postage stamp collection, created during elementary school years and gathering dust on bookshelves. I was hoping to find at least one stamp depicting activities related to tea; for example, tea leaf picking in Sri Lanka.  There are the commemorative Embekke Temple wood carving stamp, and the Buddhist Kelaniya Temple wall mural stamp: Both issued by Sri Lanka Post in 1979 and both far from being in the so-called mint condition; because of which professional philatelists will advise discarding but I keep simply because I have kept them all these years. (There are of course many beautiful Sri Lankan postage stamps depicting tea leaf picking, just not in my collection.)

One stamp in Taiwan’s 1984 Enamelware Series showcases Qing Dynasty’s (1644 – 1912) exquisite square teapot, whose lid and four sides are painted with blooming chrysanthemum on a dazzling yellow background.  The Chinese characters on the postage stamp denote its production during QianLong Emperor’s reign (1711 – 1799).  Interestingly, an almost identical teapot–displayed at London’s 1935-36 International Exhibition of Chinese Art–was produced during the reign of KangXi Emperor (1654 – 1722): QianLong’s grandfather.  It must have been a popular design.

Postage stamps recount history and bring ineffable thoughts on capriciousness, and sometimes conundrum too.  While inspecting the 1964 Afghan Philately Day stamp featuring a tiger’s head, Iran’s 1975 Buildings and Industrial Plants series, and the Syrian Arab Republic’s 1980 2nd International Symposium for History of Arabic Science commemorative stamp (issued during a more peaceful time); I was reminded of not only the world’s incessant turmoil but also of the callous passage of time.  How did these stamps end up in my collection?  My parents operated a trading company in Taiwan and corresponded with the world’s commercial entities.  I was playing in their office one day and found, in a desk drawer, a messy pile of stamps clipped from envelopes.  Should I have asked anyone’s permission before removing them to enrich my own collection?

The 5-cent American Toleware stamp–re-issued in 2004 in self-adhesive sheets–is called a make-up stamp; its status seems to have been elevated to collectible.  I recently decided to start using mine to make up and complement other brand new stamps in my collection: The 1994 29-cent Summer Garden Flowers series capturing the beauties of lily, zinnia, gladiola, marigold, and rose in full blossom; the 1999 33-cent Tropical Flowers series featuring bird of paradise, royal poinciana, gloriosa lily, and Chinese hibiscus, and many others. In other words, I am giving up my collection.

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