General Pursuits

“Exploring Stamps” on YouTube


Until recently, I was only a casual YouTube watcher generally seeking out the occasional country, historical, or wildlife documentary, kiddie videos to entertain my younger students, and old live music clips or full concerts. I’d dabbled in searching for stamp-related videos from time to time but wasn’t often impressed with what I found. Earlier this year, I discovered “vlogs” — video blogs — and became hooked on several involving expat life in Japan and here in Phuket, Thailand, as well as several concerning food (Hellthy Junk Food and The Burger Show chief amongst these). Still, I couldn’t find anything similar related to philately.

Maybe I just didn’t search hard enough.

It took reading a recent article on another blog, The Punk Philatelist, to become aware of Exploring Stamps. I spent a couple of hours this Sunday watching episode after episode (most are around five minutes long), starting from the very first and continuing through the start of Season 2. As often happens, I feel I’m a bit late to the party as a Google search turned up a number of discussions on stamp collecting message boards as well as an earlier blog article. Apparently, the series was even featured in The American Philatelist earlier this year.

The basic premise is very similar to what I’ve been doing with my A Stamp A Day blog for the past two years: the host, Graham, uses his tongs to fish out a random stamp from a large cardboard box and then learns what he can about the stamp itself as well as the subject matter portrayed thereon. Where my articles tend to the lengthy and try to give all the information I can find, Graham condenses his findings into a highly entertaining few minutes that keeps you watching. Along the way, he touches on many different aspects of the hobby as well as geography, history, and so much more.

The production quality of the videos is top-notch. His use of simple graphics, different camera angles, props, and even green-screen effects make each episode a joy to watch. The videos are educational enough that I learn something new from almost every episode. He speaks very clearly as well in language that would be understandable to school children. I’ve long desired to incorporate stamps into my lessons here in Thailand; Graham has given me a roadmap to follow.

Graham has Twitter and Instagram accounts in addition to his YouTube Channel on which he gives hints to upcoming Exploring Stamps episodes. While he doesn’t have a regular blog, he does have a landing page on WordPress which provides links to each of Exploring Stamps’ other social media outlets, including an interesting site and app called Snupps which Graham explained in an early video.

Now, to continue watching….

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New Issues

O Beautiful Stamps!

With the release today, July 4, 2018, of the “O Beautiful” pane of 20 se-tenant stamps, the United States Postal Service is unleashing another beautiful set in a year full of them. I can’t recall another recent year so full of attractive stamps. It also seems that they are being issued at a more or less “reasonable” rate rather than too many all at once.

This particular set sees the Postal Service commemorating the beauty and majesty of the United States through images that correspond with one of the nation’s most beloved songs, “America the Beautiful.” The lyrics were written by Katharine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, and the music was composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey. The two never met.

In 1893, at the age of 33, Bates had taken a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to teach a short summer school session at Colorado College. Several of the sights on her trip inspired her, and they found their way into a poem she called “Pike’s Peak”, including the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the “White City” with its promise of the future contained within its gleaming white buildings; the wheat fields of America’s heartland Kansas, through which her train was riding on July 16; and the majestic view of the Great Plains from high atop Pikes Peak.

Plaque commemorating the song, "America the Beautiful" atop Pikes Peak. Photo taken on July 1, 1999.
Plaque commemorating the song, “America the Beautiful” atop Pikes Peak. Photo taken on July 1, 1999.

On the pinnacle of that mountain, the words of the poem started to come to her, and she wrote them down upon returning to her hotel room at the original Antlers Hotel. The poem was initially published two years later in church periodical The Congregationalist to commemorate the Fourth of July. At that time, the poem was titled “America” for publication. It quickly caught the public’s fancy. Amended versions were published in 1904 and 1911.

The first known melody written for the song was sent in by Silas Pratt when the poem was published in The Congregationalist. By 1900, at least 75 different melodies had been written. A hymn tune composed in 1882 by Samuel A. Ward, the organist and choir director at Grace Church, Newark, was generally considered the best music as early as 1910 and is still the popular tune today. Just as Bates had been inspired to write her poem, Ward, too, was inspired. The tune came to him while he was on a ferryboat trip from Coney Island back to his home in New York City after a leisurely summer day and he immediately wrote it down. Supposedly, he was so anxious to capture the tune in his head, he asked fellow passenger friend Harry Martin for his shirt cuff to write the tune on. He composed the tune for the old hymn “O Mother Dear, Jerusalem”, retitling the work “Materna”. Ward’s music combined with Bates’s poem were first published together in 1910 and titled “America the Beautiful”.

Historical marker at Grace Church in Newark where Samuel Ward worked as organist, and wrote and perfected the tune "Materna" that is used for "America the Beautiful".
Historical marker at Grace Church in Newark where Samuel Ward worked as organist, and wrote and perfected the tune “Materna” that is used for “America the Beautiful”. Photo taken on September 24, 2016.

Ward died in 1903, not knowing the national stature his music would attain since the music was only first applied to the song in 1904. Bates was more fortunate since the song’s popularity was well established by the time of her death in 1929.

At various times in the more than 100 years that have elapsed since the song was written, particularly during the John F. Kennedy administration, there have been efforts to give “America the Beautiful” legal status either as a national hymn or as a national anthem equal to, or in place of, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, but so far this has not succeeded. Proponents prefer “America the Beautiful” for various reasons, saying it is easier to sing, more melodic, and more adaptable to new orchestrations while still remaining as easily recognizable as “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Some prefer “America the Beautiful” over “The Star-Spangled Banner” due to the latter’s war-oriented imagery. Others prefer “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the same reason. While that national dichotomy has stymied any effort at changing the tradition of the national anthem, “America the Beautiful” continues to be held in high esteem by a large number of Americans.

"America the Beautiful" sheet music (page 1 of 3), 1917. Image from the Library of Congress
“America the Beautiful” sheet music (page 1 of 3), 1917. Image from the Library of Congress.

According to the USPS announcement, each of the 20 stamps on the O Beautiful! pane features a photograph that helps illustrate one of five phrases from the song’s famous first verse: “Spacious Skies” (top row), “Waves of Grain” (second row), “Mountain Majesties” (third row), “The Fruited Plain” (fourth row), and “Sea to Shining Sea” (bottom row). Art director Ethel Kessler designed the pane using existing photographs taken by Timothy T. De La Vega, Kevin Ebi, Larry Michael, David Muench, Sean Ramsey, Benjamin Williamson, Gary Crabbe, Tim Fitzharris, Yva Momatiuk, and John Eastcott. Ashton Potter (USA) offset printed the stamps in Williamsville, New York, on the Mueller A76 press. A total of 60,000,000 self-adhesive stamps were printed.

United States - $2 Statue of Freedom - June 27, 2018
New Issues

United States Stamp Issues – June 2018

United States - Flag Act of 1818, released June 9, 2018
United States – Flag Act of 1818, released June 9, 2018

Since my last “catch-up” article on U.S. New Issues, there has been only a couple of releases by the United States Postal Service, starting with a single Forever stamp issued on June 9 in Appleton, Wisconsin, marking the 200th anniversary of the Flag Act of 1818. The basic design repeats that used for the U.S. Flag definitive stamp released on February 9; that stamp bore a 50-star flag while the newer stamp features a flag with 20 stars, the number of states in the Union when the Flag Act of 1818 was implemented. According to the USPS press release, “The flag‘s crisp folds and layering effect convey a sense of the dynamism of the young nation.” Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, Maryland, served as art director for the project with stamp design and typography by Kit Hinrichs of San Francisco. The stamps were printed by Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd. at Williamsville, New York, using the offset process in a quantity of 200,000,000. They were released in self-adhesive panes of 20.

Flag Act of 1818 black & white pictorial First Day of Issue cancellation - June 9, 2018
Flag Act of 1818 black & white pictorial First Day of Issue cancellation – June 9, 2018

digi

Flag Act of 1818 digital color First Day of Issue cancellation - June 9, 2018
Flag Act of 1818 digital color First Day of Issue cancellation – June 9, 2018

The Flag Act of 1818 (3 Stat. 415) was enacted by Congress on April 4, 1818. It provided for the modern rule of having thirteen stripes to represent the original thirteen colonies and having the number of stars match the number of states. It also provided that subsequent changes in the number of stars be made on July 4, Independence Day.

As the result of the lack of a Flag Act between 1794 and 1818, there were no official U.S. flags with sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, or nineteen stars. No flag laws were enacted to accompany the admission of new states to the Union during this period.

NAPEX Station, McLean, Virginia, pictorial postmark commemorating the Flag Act of 1818 - June 9, 2018
NAPEX Station, McLean, Virginia, pictorial postmark commemorating the Flag Act of 1818 – June 9, 2018

An Act to establish the flag of the United States.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress Assembled, That from and after the fourth day of July next, the flag of the United States be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be twenty stars, white in a blue field.
And be it further enacted, That on the admission of every new state into the Union, one star be added to the union of the flag; and that such addition shall take effect of the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission.

United States - Frozen Treats (10 designs) - June 20, 2018
United States – Frozen Treats (10 designs) – June 20, 2018

Next on the USPS calendar was a set of 10 designs depicting Frozen Treats released in Austin, Texas on June 20 in a double-sided pane of 20. The Frozen Treats stamps showcase whimsical watercolor illustrations and are printed with a coating that “evokes a sweet summer scent,” according to the Postal Bulletin — the first U.S. Scratch & Sniff stamps.. Art directors Antonio Alcalá and Leslie Badani designed the stamps with original art by Margaret Berg. Ashton Potter USA) Ltd. printed 100,000,000 of the stamps using offset and the “flexographic” manufacturing process on the Muller A76 press.

Frozen Treats black & white pictorial First Day of Issue postmark - June 20, 2018
Frozen Treats black & white pictorial First Day of Issue postmark – June 20, 2018

Frozen Treats digital color First Day of Issue postmark - June 20, 2018

Frozen Treats digital color First Day of Issue postmark – June 20, 2018

The release date fits with the season, as Americans enjoy cool, refreshing ice pops on hot Summer days. Modern frozen treats are available in many varieties. Ice pops are made by large manufacturers, home cooks, and artisanal shops. In recent years, frozen treats containing fresh fruit such as kiwi, watermelon, blueberries, oranges, and strawberries have become more common. In addition, flavors such as chocolate, root beer, and cola are also popular.

United States - $1 Statue of Freedom - June 27, 2018
United States – $1 Statue of Freedom – June 27, 2018
United States - $2 Statue of Freedom - June 27, 2018
United States – $2 Statue of Freedom – June 27, 2018
United States - $5 Statue of Freedom - June 27, 2018
United States – $5 Statue of Freedom – June 27, 2018

Many of the stamp designs for 2018 have been quite striking but my favorite thus far are the Statue of Freedom stamps scheduled for release this coming Wednesday, June 27. I’ve long been a fan of stamps that re-create classic images used on previous stamps but slightly modernized as these three stamps are. The stamps of this issue feature the head of the statue that tops the United States Capitol dome, in a modern interpretation of an engraved vignette originally created for a 1923 stamp, the $5 Head of Freedom Statue on Scott #573. The tightly cropped enlargement, rendered in emerald green, indigo, and brick red, highlights the solid and dashed lines as well as the cross-hatching characteristic of engraved illustration. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps using John Eissler’s engraved artwork.

United States - Scott #573 (1923) source: Wikipedia
United States – Scott #573 (1923) source: Wikipedia

Scott #573 was part of the U.S. definitive series of 1922–1931 — 27 stamps issued for general everyday use. Unlike the definitives previously in use which presented only a Washington or Franklin image, each of these definitive stamps depicted a different president or other subject, with Washington and Franklin each confined to a single denomination. The 1, 2 and 5 dollar denominations were printed only once, early in 1923, with the Flat-Plate printing press, unlike most of the others which were later reprinted with the Rotary Press also. The 5-dollar and highest denomination of the series features the Head of Freedom Statue which stands atop of the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, D.C.. The bi-colored stamp with its blue colored vignette and red frame required the manufacture of two plates, one for the vignette and one for the frame and required two separate passes through the printing press. The image of “America” was engraved by John Eissle and was modeled after the statue Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace by Thomas Crawford which was erected on December 2, 1863, atop the Capitol building in Washington D.C.

Digital color and black & white pictorial cancellations for the Statue of Freedom stamps - June 27, 2018
Digital color and black & white pictorial cancellations for the Statue of Freedom stamps – June 27, 2018

The $1 and $2 Statue of Freedom stamps will be issued in a pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) pane of 10 stamps while the $5 Statue of Freedom stamp will be issued in a PSA pane of 4 stamps. All three will be released on June 27 at the Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, headquarters of the American Philatelic Society and will replace the odd “Waves” stamps that were designed more for security than for design considerations. The Statue of Freedom stamps were printed in intaglio — a process that is used when counterfeiting is a particular concern — by the Banknote Corporation of America in Brownsville Summit, North Carolina, on a Alprinta 74 press. There were 100,000,000 copies of the $1 stamp, 30,00,000 of $2, and 5,000,000 of the $5 denomination printed.

There are a number of interesting stamps coming in July with a 20-stamp sheet of images based on the song “America the Beautiful”, the first U.S. stamp appearance of the cartoon dog Scooby Doo, and a single World War I centennial commemorative. I’ll report on those next month…

 

 

General Pursuits

Stamp Art?

Photo by Mark Jochim on May 23, 2018
Photo by Mark Jochim on May 23, 2018

I have been extremely busy at work since the new school year began in mid-May (yes, we start as schools back in the U.S. are just letting out for the long summer holiday) and haven’t had much free time to work on most of my blogs. The workload shows no signs of lessening in the near future but I am trying to prepare a New Issues update with recent USPS design and issue announcements.

In the meantime, I offer this piece of “stamp art” on display in the Phuket, Thailand, shopping mall where I work. Now, Thailand at this time of year — the monsoon season — isn’t exactly the most stamp-friendly of environments. A collector really needs to be on a constant alert that his or her mint stamps are protected from the extremely high moisture content in the air as the humidity fluctuates from intense dryness to sweating walls. I’ve taken to (trying not to) order many stamps at all between around mid-April until October when the rains (usually) let up. I’ve had more than one packet sent from overseas that, upon opening, was full of mint stamps glued together.

France - Scott #C28 (1949) used (1)
France – Scott #C28 (1949) used (1)

At any rate, stamp collecting in a popular hobby in the Kingdom and occasionally comes out into the open with random images such as the one above suddenly appearing in odd places. The one above, portraying a French airmail stamp from 1949, is on the fourth floor of the Central Festival shopping mall in the center of Phuket island, past the cinemas (and preceded by a long line of “coming attractions” posters. It’s across from the “poor man’s” food court used mainly by mall employees. I don’t often venture to this area of the mall — my office and classroom are in the basement near the parking garage — but I accidentally came across some newly-installed ATM’s on the third floor (the ones by the banks on the second floor are always crowded and frequently run out of cash!) and, after happily withdrawing from one, I took an escalator upstairs only to see this stamp on the wall as I ascended. Hopefully, they will add more as time goes on….

France - Scott #C28 (1949) mint, never hinged
France – Scott #C28 (1949) mint, never hinged

I actually own three copies of France Scott #C28, one mint and the others used. Of course, neither has a giant bald eagle flying out of the right side of the stamp. Designed and beautifully engraved by Pierre Gandon, the 100-franc brown carmine airmail stamp portrays the Alexander III Bridge and Petit Palais in Paris. It was issued on June 13, 1949, to mark the International Telegraph and Telephone Conference in Paris, held from May to July of that year. With some 85,152,500 copies of the stamp printed, it’s not nearly as rare as some of the other French airmail stamps issued around that time at around US $7.50 for unused and $5.50 for used copies. I’m still holding out for Scott #C26 — 500-franc bright red with an aerial view of Marseilles (US $58 for a mint copy but a much more doable $6 used) — and Scott #C27 — 1000-franc sepia and black on bluish paper portraying an aerial view of Paris ($150 mint, $28 used).

Perhaps the biggest question is, Why did the management of Central Group pick this particular stamp to grace their wall? I can think of one other piece of local “stamp art” — in the historic Old Town, as a matter of fact — and that one features a French stamp as well, if memory serves. I’ll have to seek it out again the next time I’m in that area, this time camera in hand. If I see any others, I will feature them here on Philatelic Pursuits….as time allows.

Editorial, Thailand Philately

What About the U.S.A.?

[url=https://flic.kr/p/24w2P7f][img]https://farm1.staticflickr.com/974/40377611310_6292bdafb3_o.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/24w2P7f]ef54ba8a-b2c7-11e6-b17d-d6b2ebc6f34a_image_hires[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/am-jochim/]Mark Jochim[/url], on Flickr
U.S. President Barack Obama meeting with the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a visit to Bangkok, Thailand, on November 18, 2012.

Sometimes I wonder what Thailand Post is thinking of when the stamp selection committee meets to choose topics for future issues. Tue, most subjects on Thai stamps are quite worthy and beautifully executed; we aren’t bombarded with the tons of frivolous wallpaper that some postal administrations churn out with regularity. There have been relatively few poor designs in the years since I moved to southern Thailand and began to avidly collect the Kingdom’s issues, past and present.

However, I feel that there have been missed opportunities along the way and that Thailand Post has repeated itself far too often in recent years. There are certain issues that are guaranteed each year: (Western) New Year’s Day, Children’s Day, Chinese New Year (which they actually passed over in 2018!), a Thai traditional festivals set coinciding with Thai New Year, at least one of the Buddhist holidays (Vesak Bucha being this year’s honoree), Thai Heritage Conservation Day, the King’s Birthday, Mother’s Day, World Post Day, and the multi-stamp flowers issue for the following New Year (annually released in November, they take the place of the Christmas stamps released by Christian nations).

There are also various joint-issues mixed in throughout most years. I quite like these but it is in this area that Thailand Post tends to make mistakes. For example, last week a nice pair of stamps was released to mark the 60th anniversary of Thailand’s diplomatic relations with Turkey with a stamp each portraying the nations’ national sports. A beautiful set and a worthwhile commemoration until you realize that the 50th anniversary of Thai-Turkish diplomatic relations was marked by a joint-issue a mere ten years ago. Is the nation going to mark the 70th anniversary as well? It’s not as if we are being overrun with Turkish tourists (I’ve only met one Turk in the 14 years I’ve lived here).

Thailand -Thailand Post #TH-1147, released on May 12, 2018.
Thailand -Thailand Post #TH-1147, released on May 12, 2018.
Thailand - Thailand Post #TH-1068 First Day Cover, released May 8, 2015.
Thailand – Thailand Post #TH-1068 First Day Cover, released May 8, 2015.

Thailand does seem to like oddly-numbered anniversaries as well. While many nations such as the United States or Great Britain will deem 50th, 100th, and 200th anniversaries of events as stamp-worthy, Thailand Post has issued stamps in the past few years marking the diplomatic relations between the Kingdom and Russia (120 years), China (40 years), Sri Lanka (60 years), Israel (60 years), and even the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — that’s North Korea to you and me — (40 years). Of course, the granddaddy of all of these was the joint issue with Portugal which marked 500 years of friendship (which predates both the Chakri Dynasty and the Ayutthaya Kingdom).

Yet, Thailand has never philatelically honored the United States of America — it’s longest-held diplomatic trading partner if you measure the birth of the nation as the beginning of the ongoing Rattanakosin Kingdom (อาณาจักรรัตนโกสินทร์,) which was founded in 1782. Perhaps the bosses at Thailand Post have forgotten that nearly every paved road and airport in the vast northeast region known as Isaan was not only designed but also constructed by U.S. Army manpower. The two countries have fought shoulder-to-shoulder in every major conflict since World War II, and even redefined their partnership to meet modern global challenges like terrorism and transnational crime.

I was reminded the other day that 2018 is the 200th year of friendship between Thailand and the U.S. This reminded didn’t arrive via a U.S. Embassy Resident Alert or mention on the media, or, as I would hope, by the announcement of a pending stamp issue. No, I made a rare visit to the local McDonald’s (sometimes you just NEED a Big Mac) and, as I finished my fries and moved the carton in order to attack the burger the message loomed large as life on the tray-liner!

Come on, Thailand Post! If a fast-food establishment — albeit such a sheer symbol of Westerness throughout the world — feels it is worthwhile to remind its customers that Thailand and the United States has been friends for 200 years, why can’t we have a nice stamp to commemorate that fact? Even North Korea has regularly portrayed its relations with the U.S. on stamps, although they aren’t exactly promoting anything remotely friendly or diplomatic..

North Korean anti-U.S.A. stamps issued June 25, 2017.

The first recorded contact between Thailand (then known as Siam) and the United States came in 1818, when an American ship captain visited the country, bearing a letter from U.S. President James Monroe. Chang and Eng Bunker immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1830s. In 1832, President Andrew Jackson sent his envoy Edmund Roberts in the U.S. sloop-of-war Peacock, to the courts of Cochin-China, Siam and Muscat. Roberts concluded a Treaty of Amity and Commerce on March 20, 1833, with the Chao-Phraya Phra Klang representing King Phra Nang Klao; ratifications were exchanged April 14, 1836, and the Treaty was proclaimed on June 24, 1837. The Treaty of 1833 was the United States’ first treaty with a country in Asia, making Thailand truly America’s oldest friend in the region.

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Treaty, it was revealed that President Andrew Jackson had given the king (later known as Rama III) a gold sword with a design of an elephant and an eagle chased on a gold handle. The king had also been presented a proof set of United States coins, which included the “King of Siam” 1804 dollar struck in 1834. The set, minus a Jackson gold medal, was purchased for a record price of U.S. $8.5 million by Steven L. Contursi, President of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Irvine, California on November 1, 2005. The set had been sold by Goldberg Coins & Collectibles of Beverly Hills, California, on behalf of an anonymous owner described as “a West Coast business executive,” who purchased it for over U.S. $4 million four years before.

Mural from a school in Koh Samui, Thailand, on the occasion of the 180th anniversary of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 2013.
Mural from a school in Koh Samui, Thailand, on the occasion of the 180th anniversary of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 2013.

Perhaps Thailand Post had ignored the United States considerable contribution to the Kingdom as an indicator of current U.S.-Thai relations.  Since the 2014 military coup, the United States has withheld military aid and high-level engagement, unwilling to resume them until a democratically-elected government is restored. That could be quite a bit in the future as elections have been postponed each year and were indefinitely put on hold by the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the ensuing year-long mourning period. As in the Philippines, China has been more than happy to fill this void with their own aid, steadily prying Thailand away from the U.S.-led alliance system.

While 2018 does mark the bicentennial of Thai-American contact, perhaps Thailand Post would like to mark the anniversary that the Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed, formalizing diplomatic relations. Still, 2018 is the 185th anniversary of that event. Please don’t make us wait another 15 years for a stamp marking our long friendship.

In the absence of a stamp issue, at least those Americans who live here or are just passing through can feel proud that McDonald’s has remembered us. If only they would give us a free Big Mac if we show them our passport….

The U.S. Consulate produced a nice logo in 2013 on the occasion of the 180th anniversary of the Treaty of 1833. The slideshow below includes a few additional anniversary logos and Thailand Post stamps…

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New Issues, Thailand Philately, U.S. stamps

Catching Up: Recent & Upcoming New Issues by the United States and Thailand

I’m quite surprised that the two main countries for which I collect new stamp issues — the country of my birth and my adopted home of the past thirteen years — have not released more stamps thus far in 2018. The United States issued just five in the entire month of April, four of those in a set at the beginning of the month and a single definitive towards the end of April. Thailand released eight stamps and one souvenir sheet in the same time frame which I discussed in my last Philatelic Pursuits article. For May, the USPS has but two stamps scheduled (one of which was issued almost weeks ago) while Thailand Post is set to release eight in three different sets.

United States - STEM Education - April 6, 2018
United States – STEM Education – April 6, 2018
United States - STEM Education - April 6, 2018
United States – STEM Education – April 6, 2018

On April 6, four Forever (50-cent) stamps were issued by the United States to promote the role of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education “in keeping the United States a global leader in innovation and providing new opportunities for all Americans to learn and explore the world.” David Plunkert of Baltimore, Maryland, was the designer and artist for the four stamps which each feature a collage of faces, symbols, drawings, and numbers that represent the complexity and interconnectedness of the STEM disciplines. Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, Virginia, was the art director and typographer for the issue while Joseph Sheeran was the modeler.

Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd. printed 15,000,000 of the self-adhesive stamps in panes of 20 using the offset process at its plant in Williamsville, New York, on a Muller A76 press using the colors of black, cyan, magenta, and yellow. The stamps first went on sale in Washington, D.C.

In 2015 the Department of Education established the Committee on STEM Education and explained, “The United States has developed as a global leader, in large part, through the genius and hard work of its scientists, engineers, and innovators. In a world that’s becoming increasingly complex…it’s more important than ever for our youth to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information…subjects collectively known as STEM.”

United States - Peace Rose - April 21, 2018
United States – Peace Rose – April 21, 2018
United States - Peace Rose - April 21, 2018
United States – Peace Rose – April 21, 2018

On April 21, 2018, in Shreveport, LA, the U.S. Postal Service issued a single Peace Rose Forever (50-cent) stamp in a self-adhesive double-sided booklet of 20 stamps. The stamp was dedicated at the Gardens of the American Rose Center. April 21 was also the closing date of one of the oldest festivals in the South, Holiday in Dixie, which was held April 13-April 21 in Shreveport. The stamp release served as the kick-off to the annual Spring Bloom Festival and preceded National Peace Rose Day on April 29.

Art director Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, Marylan, designed the Peace Rose stamp from an existing photograph taken by Richard C. Baer. Ashton Potter has printed 400,000,000 of these stamps using offset and microprinting in Williamsville, New York.

The new Peace Rose stamp celebrates one of the most popular roses of all time. The stamp art features a detail from a photograph of the Peace Rose blossom and its creamy yellow petals, with a touch of pink on the edges. The rose revolutionized hybrid tea roses with its unique coloring, hardiness, and disease resistance.

United States - U.S. Airmail Centennial (blue) - May 1, 2018
United States – U.S. Airmail Centennial (blue) – May 1, 2018
United States - U.S. Airmail Centennial (blue) - May 1, 2018
United States – U.S. Airmail Centennial (blue) – May 1, 2018

Cover flown on the first day of scheduled Air Mail Service in the U.S. and franked with the first U.S. Air Mail stamp, the 24 Cent "Jenny" (C-3). Cancel: "AIR MAIL SERVICE - WASH. N.Y. PHILA." "MAY 15, 1918 - FIRST TRIP" "PHILA." (Type: USPOD CDS w/killer bars) Sourrce: The Cooper Collection of U.S. Aero Postal History, via Wikipedia.
Cover flown on the first day of scheduled Air Mail Service in the U.S. and franked with the first U.S. Air Mail stamp, the 24 Cent “Jenny” (C-3). Cancel: “AIR MAIL SERVICE – WASH. N.Y. PHILA.” “MAY 15, 1918 – FIRST TRIP” “PHILA.” (Type: USPOD CDS w/killer bars) Sourrce: The Cooper Collection of U.S. Aero Postal History, via Wikipedia.

On May 1, the United States marked the centennial of the world’s first regularly scheduled airmail service by releasing a single Forever (50-cent) self-adhesive stamp picturing a Curtis JN-4H biplane printed in blue. The issue ceremony was held at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. An identical stamp, printed in red, will be released later in the summer to commemorate the beginning of airmail delivery through the U.S. Post Office Department, which began in August 1918.

Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd. printed 7,500,000 copies of the blue Airmail stamp using the intaglio process on a Stevens Vari-size Security Press in Williamsville, New York. Dan Gretta of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was the designer and also did the typography while Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, Virginia, was the art director on this project which “commemorates the pioneering spirit of the brave Army pilots who initiated the world’s first regularly scheduled airmail service.”

United States - Sally Ride - May 23, 2018
United States – Sally Ride – May 23, 2018
United States - Sally Ride - May 23, 2018
United States – Sally Ride – May 23, 2018

The USPS will pay tribute to America’s first woman in space, Dr. Sally Ride (1951-2012) with a single Forever (50-cent) self-adhesive stamp scheduled for release in La Jolla, California, on May 23, 2018. Ride was a member of the crew of Space Shuttle Challenger STS-7 in 1984. She inspired the nation as a pioneering astronaut, brilliant physicist, and dedicated educator, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Sally Ride was born May 26, 1951 in Encino, California, and died July 23, 2012 in La Jolla.

The stamp art, sketched first in charcoal and then rendered in oil paint, features a colorful portrait of Ride in her light blue space suit with a dramatic depiction of a space shuttle lifting off in the background. Art director Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, Maryland, designed the stamp with artwork by Paul Salmon of Burke, Virginia. Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd. is offset printing 20,000,000 Sally Ride stamps on the Muller A76 press at Williamsville, New York.

For the past couple of years, Thailand Post has been very slow to publicize information on its upcoming stamp releases. Currently, there is nothing on the schedule beyond May 31 other than the delayed Rama X definitive set at the end of July. Due to my work schedule, I haven’t even made it to the post office since last November.

Thailand - 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Turkey - May 12, 2018 [TH-1146]
Thailand – 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Turkey – May 12, 2018 [TH-1146]
Thailand - 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Turkey - May 12, 2018 [TH-1146]
Thailand – 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Turkey – May 12, 2018 [TH-1146]

There are two 3-baht stamps under the title of “60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Thailand and Turkey Commemorative Stamps” scheduled for release tomorrow, May 12. A press release (in Thai) along with images of single stamps and a full sheet were finally released earlier this week.. It has a Thailand Post issue number of TH-1146 assigned. One of the stamps depicts Thailand’s national sport of muay thai (มวยไทย) while the other portrays oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş in Turkish), also called grease wrestling, which is the Turkish national sport. It is so called because the wrestlers douse themselves with olive oil.

Thailand - Vesak Bucha Day - May 29, 2018 [TH-1147]
Thailand – Vesak Bucha Day – May 29, 2018 [TH-1147]

 There are rather blurry images of the four-stamp TH-1147 “Visak Day 2018 Commemorative Stamps” issue now rescheduled from May 14 to the actual 2018 date of the holiday, May 29. Vesaka Bucha (วิสาขบูชา) is a major festival in Thailand and elsewhere throughout Asia as it commemorates the birth, enlightenment (Buddhahood), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition. The designs portray the stupas (เจดีย์ — chedi in Thai) from various Thai temples called wat (วัด). I tried to identify the chedi on these new stamps, using the released image but failed. They don’t seem to be any of the “usual subjects”.

Finally, on May 31, there is a 2-stamp joint issue planned with Romania planned but no further details have been announced. Romania and Thailand established diplomatic relations with the establishment of an embassy in Bangkok on June 1, 1973. There is also an honorary Romanian consulate in Pattaya and the Thais have an embassy in Bucharest. Additionally, December 1, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the union of Transylvania with Romania celebrated with Romania’s national holiday of Great Union Day.. The holiday was established after the Romanian Revolution, and marks the unification not only of Transylvania, but also of the provinces of Banat, Bessarabia and Bukovina with the Romanian Kingdom. These other provinces had all joined with the Kingdom of Romania earlier in 1918.

Sueng Bung Fai with traditional Isan dressing and local long drum show. Photo taken in Suwannaphum District, Roi Et, Thailand on June 6, 2015.
New Issues, Thailand Philately

New Issues: Thailand [April 2018]

After nearly two months without any new stamps, Thailand Post is set to release two sets within the next four days for a total of eight stamps and one souvenir sheet.

Thailand TH-1144 Thai Heritage Conservation Day 2018 commemorative stamp set, release date April 2, 2018 Thailand TH-1144 Thai Heritage Conservation Day 2018 souvenir sheet, release date April 2, 2018Thailand TH-1144 Thai Heritage Conservation Day 2018 First Day Cover, release date April 2, 2018

Thailand TH-1144 Thai Heritage Conservation Day 2018 pictorial postmarks, release date April 2, 2018
Thailand TH-1144 Thai Heritage Conservation Day 2018 commemorative stamp set with souvenir sheet, release date April 2, 2018

Due tomorrow, April 2, 2018, is the annual set marking Thai Heritage Conservation Day (วันอนุรักษ์มรดกไทย — Wan Anurak Moradok Thai). Marking the birthday of the popular Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (มหาจักรีสิรินธร), a stamp collector and designer herself, the special day has been observed since 1995. Unfortunately, I don’t have any information about the murals portrayed on this year’s stamp set. Four 3-baht stamps plus a souvenir sheet which will be sold for 15 baht are scheduled to be issued under the Thailand Post catalogue number of TH-1144.

Thailand TH-1144 Thai Traditional Festivals 2018 commemorative stamp set, release date April 4, 2018 Thailand TH-1144 Thai Traditional Festivals 2018 First Day Cover, release date April 4, 2018

Thailand TH-1144 Thai Traditional Festivals 2018 pictorial postmarks, release date April 4, 2018
Thailand TH-1144 Thai Traditional Festivals 2018 commemorative stamp set, release date April 4, 2018

On April 4, the annual set of four Thai Traditional Festivals set will be released under the Thailand Post number TH-1145. This year’s subject is the spectacular Sky Rocket Festival (ประเพณีบุญบั้งไฟ — Prapheni Bun Bang Fai), a merit-making ceremony traditionally practiced by ethnic Lao people throughout much of the Isan region of northeastern Thailand and Laos near the beginning of the wet season. Celebrations typically include preliminary music and dance performances, competitive processions of floats, dancers and musicians on the second day, and culminating on the third day in competitive firings of home-made rockets.

Rocket Festival, Yasothon ประเพณีบุญบั้งไฟ จังหวัดยโสธร
Rocket launch at Yasothon, Thailand ประเพณีบุญบั้งไฟ จังหวัดยโสธร
Sueng Bung Fai with traditional Isan dressing and local long drum show. Photo taken in Suwannaphum District, Roi Et, Thailand on June 6, 2015.
Sueng Bung Fai with traditional Isan dressing and local long drum show. Photo taken in Suwannaphum District, Roi Et, Thailand on June 6, 2015.

Local participants and sponsors use the occasion to enhance their social prestige, as is customary in traditional Buddhist folk festivals throughout Southeast Asia. The most famous celebrations are those held in Yasothon’s provincial capital staged annually over the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday that falls in the middle of May. In 2018, I believe this is May 18-20 but haven’t been able to confirm those dates yet. It appears that the photographs used for Thailand’s new stamps were taken at Yasathon. The festival is one I’ve long wanted to attend and will make an extra effort this year (it can be difficult to take more than two days off from work). At the very least, I will put together an article about the Skyrocket Festival for my A Stamp A Day blog next month.

In the meantime, here’s some video from the 2016 Rocket Festival at Kut Wa in Kalasin Province, Thailand:

The next stamps on the Thailand Post calendar is a 2-stamp set marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic releations between Thailand and Turkey (TH-1146), scheduled for release on May 12. There is also a four-stamp set (TH-1147) scheduled for May 14 to mark Vesak Buja Day (วันวิสาขบูชา — Wan Wisakhabucha). This is a Buddhist observance commemorating the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha, traditionally at the full moon of the sixth Thai lunar month (May). In Thailand, it is also observed as National Tree Day.

April 6 in Thailand is observed as Chakri Memorial Day (วันจักรี — Wan Chakkri), which commemorates the establishment of the Chakri Dynasty and the founding of Bangkok by King Phutthayotfa Chulalok in 1782. Officially known as King Phutthayotfa Chulalok the Great Day and Chakri Dynasty Memorial Day (วันพระบาทสมเด็จพระพุทธยอดฟ้าจุฬาโลกมหาราชและวันที่ระลึกมหาจักรีบรมราชวงศ์), this year the date will see the release of the first new banknotes and coins bearing the likeness of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (มหาวชิราลงกรณ บดินทรเทพยวรางกูร). In the West, he is called simply King Rama X. Banknotes in the denominations of 20, 50 and 100 baht will be released on April 6 as well as coins denominated 10, 5, 2, and 1 baht plus 50, 25, 10, 5, and 1 satang (all of the satang coinage is basically useless, retailers usually will round up or give customers 25- or 50-satang coins in change but refuse to accept them as payment; the lowest values are so that banks can balance their account books and probably won’t reach circulation).

Thailand King Rama X Definitive Stamps (Series I), scheduled for release July 28, 2018.
Pre-Order announcement for Thailand King Rama X Definitive Stamps (Series I), scheduled for release July 28, 2018.

The first Rama X definitive stamps were originally scheduled to have been released on April 6 as well but are now delayed until July 28. That date is known in English as King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday but in Thai it is วันเฉลิมพระชนมพรรษาสมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัวมหาวชิราลงกรณ บดินทรเทพยวรางกูร — Wan Chaloem Phra Chonmaphansa Somdet Phra Chao Yu Hua Maha Wachiralongkon Bodinthrathepphayawarangkun. Have I mentioned that I have given up trying to learn the language due to mouthfuls such as this? There will be twelve stamps released that date bearing Rama X’s portrait in denominations of 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 15, 50, and 100 baht. The total face value is 220 baht, plus it appears that there will also be a souvenir sheet containing all 12 stamps to be sold for 250 baht. The stamps are now available for pre-order, as evidenced by the pictured advertisement I found on Facebook.

Although King Maha Vajiralongkorn accepted the throne on the night of December 1, 2016, and King Bhumibol Adulyadej was cremated on October 26, 2017, a coronation for the new king has yet to be held.