Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year, known popularly as Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival (simplified Chinese: 春节; traditional Chinese: 春節; pinyin: Chūn Jié). For a number of years, my adopted home of Thailand issued Zodiac stamps usually on January 1 and then a Chinese New Year set (often depicting various deities) a few weeks later. Last year, there was no Chinese New Year stamp and that has been repeated this year as well. Many nations have released Year of the Dog stamps, most with a distinctive Chinese slant, and a few have released issues more focused on the Spring Festival itself. If you are a dog lover, there are some very attractive topical stamps issued so far in 2018. To read more about the background of Chinese New Year, please have a look at my article on A Stamp A Day.
BHUTAN: Year of the Dog, released January 20, 2018
CANADA: Chinese New Year, released January 15, 2018
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA: Year of the Dog, released January 5, 2018
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA: Spring Festival, released January 10, 2018
CHRISTMAS ISLAND: Year of the Dog, released January 8, 2018
FRANCE: Happy New Year, released February 2, 2018
FRENCH POLYNESIA: Year of the Dog, released February 16, 2018
GIBRALTAR: Year of the Dog, released January 30, 2018
GUERNSEY: Year of the Dog, released February 3, 2018
HONG KONG S.A.R., CHINA: Year of the Dog, released January 27, 2018
INDONESIA: Chinese New Year, released February 1, 2018
ISLE OF MAN: Year of the Dog, released February 8, 2018
JERSEY: Year of the Dog, released January 5, 2018
KAZAKHSTAN: Chinese New Year, released January 1, 2018
KYRGYZSTAN: Chinese New Year, released January 30, 2018
MACAU, CHINA: Year of the Dog, released January 5, 2018
MALAYSIA: Working Dogs, released January 13, 2018
MONGOLIA: Year of the Dog, released January 5, 2018
THE NETHERLANDS: Year of the Dog, released January 29, 2018
NEW CALEDONIA: Year of the Dog, released February 16, 2016
NEW ZEALAND: Year of the Dog, released January 10, 2018
SINGAPORE: Year of the Dog (personalized stamps), released January 5, 2018
SLOVENIA: Year of the Dog, released January 26, 2018
TAJIKISTAN: Year of the Dog, released January 26, 2018
A week ago, I posted a blog entry about Thailand’s Symbol of Love 2018 stamp release. Of course, the Land of Smiles is not the only nation promoting the theme of LOVE philatelicly. Below are images of other stamps that have been released recently which you may wish to use on any Valentine’s Day cards you’d like to mail (people do that, right?). At the very least, these may inspire you to buy something special for your significant other on what we call in Thailand Wan Rak (“day of love”). I recommend giving flowers or chocolate, NOT stamps or first day covers unless your loved-one also happens to share your beloved hobby.
IRELAND: Love & Marriage, released February 8, 2018
LEBANON: Spread Your Love, released February 7, 2018
MOLDOVA: Organ Transplant Promotion, released January 11, 2018
While this stamp from the land-locked Eastern European nation of Moldova looks similar to the other stamps in this theme, the purpose of this issue is actually to promote Organ Transplants which are probably the ultimate gift of love!
The United States Postal Service is issuing a new definitive stamp today — February 9, 2018 — at the American Stamp Dealers Association’s ASDA Winter Postage Stamp Show in Fort Lauderdale, FL 33310. The USPS’s two contract security printers — Ashton Potter of Williamsville, New York, and Banknote Corporation of America in Browns Summit, North Carolina — have each printed a coil and a double-sided pane, creating a total of four collectible varieties of this design. All four varieties are pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) and are Forever stamps to pay the First-Class Mail rate, currently 50 cents.
United States stamps picturing the national flag in vivid red, white and blue have been available to the public almost continuously since 1957. This eye-catching new issuance continues that tradition with a striking graphic design of the flag with two crisp folds. Ethel Kessler served as art director for this stamp, which features a digital illustration by Kit Hinrichs. It is one of two U.S. flag stamps currently scheduled for release in 2018, the other being a commemorative stamp in the same basic design to this definitive, marking the 200th anniversary of the Flag Act enacted by Congress on April 4, 1818. This final Flag Act (of three) 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.
Mailers in the United States like to use flag stamps on their mail as it is thought they have a better chance of being opened; however, most volume mailers use non-denominated stamps to pay a base fee, 5¢ for example, then pay the remaining postage by check or balance transfer. So this stamp will be used mostly by small businesses and individuals.
Full technical details and information on ordering first day of issue postmarks (the deadline is April 9, 2018) can be found in USPS Postal Bulletin 22484 (January 4, 2018). Postal Bulletin 22486 (February 1, 2018) pictures a black & white pictorial postmark for the first day of issue.
Thailand Post is issuing its annual Symbol of Love stamp today — February 7, 2018 — at post offices throughout the Kingdom. The single 5-baht stamp has been given the issue number 1143 and is released just in time for Valentine’s Day (วันวาเลนไทน์ — Wan Wal-en-thyn), which is a very big event here in Thailand. Most Thais refer to it as Wan Rak (วันรัก) which means “day of love”.
While giving boxes of chocolate is not very popular (it melts easily in the heat — February tends to be one of the hottest months in Thailand) and I have never seen a candy heart here, flowers seem to be even more popular of a gift than in the United States. Even though the price does increase a bit this time of year, the cost of bouquets and individual long-stemmed flowers is still dirt-cheap compared to most Western countries.
In the early morning hours the day before Valentine’s Day, thousands of street stalls suddenly appear EVERYWHERE and start selling anything that is red or pink or both: stuffed bears, plush hearts, and tons of flowers. In the schools, the students (and it doesn’t matter whether you’re in kindergarten or a high school senior) will walk around plastering all manner of heart stickers on each other’s shirts. By the end of the day, everybody is covered head to toe in pink and red stickers (including some of the teachers!). One finds hearts that have fallen off of shirts affixed to sidewalks for weeks afterwards.
Yes, Valentine’s Day in Thailand is mostly about who gets the most gifts and flowers to show off (and the girls love walking around carrying bears and huge bouquets all day long).
While many will go out to eat dinner, it is rare to see Thai people holding hands in public other than the younger generation (no doubt, influenced by us Western visitors who aren’t so chaste). For those who stay at home, there are special Valentine’s Day television programs shown all day long on almost every channel. Mostly, these are cheesy game shows and comedies.
For philatelists (some in Thailand actually have girlfriends and wives!), a number of the Bangkok area post offices have special Valentine’s Day cancellations available. These are in addition to the regular first day of issue postmarks (again, most branches in Bangkok will offer special pictorial cancellations today). I often wish that Phuket would do something similar (at least the Philatelic Museum counter) and have occasionally thought about moving to the capital simply in order to obtain postmark-filled covers on release dates. But then I think of the traffic congestion and pollution and come to my senses.
The postmarks, press release and first day cover pictured above came courtesy of Thailand Post’s collector-oriented Facebook page (called “Stamp In Love”). The following images were shared this afternoon on the Thai Stamp Museum Facebook page:
I hope all of you enjoy Wan Rak with your significant other. If you want to be a little adventurous, why not give these Thai love phrases a try?
Once again, the Olympics are upon us. I don’t watch many sports but I have tuned-in to watch the Olympics ever since I can remember. In fact, I can recall viewing bits of the 1976 summer games held in Montréal and being disappointed when the United States boycotted the Moscow-hosted edition in 1980.
While I casually collected the U.S. stamps released for those two Olympic years, by the time of the 1984 winter games I was philatelically “all in”. I designed my own cachets for not only the first day covers of the stamps (different designs for blocks and singles) but also for the special postmarks available from the post offices along the torch relay route and for the various venues themselves. I began collecting Olympic memorabilia and amassed a great amount of Lake Placid 1980 souvenir magazines, clothing, even ticket stubs. When Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner were forced to withdraw from the gold medal round of the pairs figure skating due to Gardner’s groin injury, I wrote them a condolence letter and received a reply back. That was really the peak of my Olympic collecting activities, although I did dabble every four years until my first real break from stamps around 200o or 2001 — a philatelic hiatus that lasted until shortly after I moved to Thailand permanently in 2015. Sadly, that collection remained in the U.S. and is now gone.
I still get excited when the Olympics come around and, since Lake Placid, I prefer the Winter Olympics more than the Summer. The 2018 edition — the XXIII Olympic Winter Games (Les XXIIIes Jeux olympiques d’hiver in French and 제23회 동계 올림픽 in Hangul, pronounced Je-isipsamhoe Donggye Ollimpik) — are being held from February 9 through the 25 in Pyeongchang County, South Korea. Interest is very high here in Thailand as there is a very large Korean population. These will be South Korea’s second Olympic Games and its first Winter Games; Seoul hosted the Summer Olympics in 1988. There are now 2,952 participating athletes registered from 92 nations with a total of 102 events in seven sports (15 disciplines).
Amazingly, a unified Korean team consisting of players from both North Korea and South Korea will compete in the women’s ice hockey tournament following talks in Panmunjom on January 17. Of the 35 players on the team, 12 are from North Korea and 23 are from South Korea. Although Russia participated in the 2014 Winter Olympics, following a doping controversy the Russian NOC was barred and the Russian athletes are participating in Pyeonchang as the “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.
The National Olympic Committee of Thailand is scheduled to field a team of four athletes in the 2018 Winter Olympics, the largest delegation it has sent since its Winter Olympic debut in 2002. Thailand qualified one male — Nicola Zanon — and one female — Vanessa Vanakorn — alpine skier. In cross-country skiing, Thailand qualified two athletes, one male and one female. Mark and Karen Chanloung are siblings who are half-Italian and half-Thai. They grew up in Gressoney-La-Trinité, Italy.
South Korea released it’s first stamps for PyeongChang 2018 way back on August 3, 2011. It had been announced as the host city on July 6, 2011, having won its bid in the first round of voting, receiving more votes than both Munich, Germany and Annecy, France combined.
On November 1, 2017. South Korea issued two miniature sheets containing ten 330-won stamps each portraying the PyeongChang 2018 emblem and the official mascot — official mascot, Soohorang (수호랑), a white tiger — as an athlete in the various sports. The Paralympic Games, which will follow, have a different mascot — Bandabi (반다비), an Asiatic black bear.
Several different nations have released, or scheduled, stamps marking the 2018 Winter Olympics. Those that I’ve heard about are pictured below, sourced from a variety of sources (I don’t have any of these in my collection…yet).
If you know of any stamps released for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, please let me know in the Comments (and include an image, if you can). Also, what is your favorite Winter Olympics sport? My favorites are bob-sledding and the ski jump).
It’s been nearly four months since I’ve last posted anything to Philatelic Pursuits; most of my free-time energies have been dedicated to putting together material for A Stamp A Day. That being said, I do have a few items in the works for this blog so please stay tuned. The first is a periodic overview of new stamp issues for a few of the countries that I’m interested in philatelicly such as Thailand (where I live and try to keep up with new releases) and the United States (which puts out so much material each year that I often don’t pay much attention). I may add other countries at times to serve as reminders to myself to seek out certain stamps that catch my eye.
Thailand has only released two stamps in 2018 and I have yet to get to the post office to buy either of them. Unusually, Thailand Post has only announced new releases only up until the end of May rather than the full year as it has previously. These include the regular annual issues such as “Symbol of Love”, “Thai Heritage Conservation”, “Thai Traditional Festival”, and “Visak Day” as well as a new entry in its long list of “Diplomatic Relations” stamps (Turkey this time) and a joint issue with Romania. Just announced is the first set of definitive portraying the as-yet-coronated King Maha Vajiralongkhorn (Rama X), due to be released on April 6. New coinage bearing his portrait has also been recently revealed but still no word on the new reign’s paper currency with the new series of King Bhumibol Adulyadej banknotes having been released at the time of his cremation last October.
As usual, January 1 saw the release of the annual Zodiac issue with a single 3-baht stamp marking the Year of the Dog (Thailand Post issue number 1141). Once again, the stamp features a painting by Her Majesty Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
The second Saturday in January is celebrated in Thailand as National Children’s Day and a set of four 3-baht stamps featuring traditional Thai crafts including kites and parasols was released on January 13 (Thailand Post issue number 1142). A number of post offices in the Bangkok area had Children’s Day activities and featured the usual myriad of individual first day of issue postmarks. Most of the handstamp devices are also available in the large atrium at Bangkok’s old General Post Office in Chinatown and many collectors go there and apply the various chops to their own covers rather than try to travel throughout the capitol, visiting each post office in turn.
The only upcoming stamp announced (so far) to be released in February is the annual “Symbol of Love” 5-baht emission due to be issued on February 7, just a week before Valentine’s Day (Thailand Post 1143). The design appears to be a crocheted heart. The next issues on the calendar are set for April 2 — a four-stamp Thai Heritage and Conservation set (Thailand Post 1144) — and April 4 — four designs for the Thai Traditional Festival set (Thailand Post 1145), which annually is released just prior to Thai New Year (Songkran, April 13). No images for either of these two set have been revealed yet and I suspect that we will also see releases soon for the annual Chinese New Year and Red Cross stamps.
The Thai-language Stamp magazine is the source for the image above — the first set of definitives depicting His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn who took the throne following the October 13, 2016, death of his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX). These range from 1 baht to 100 baht and will be used on the majority of stamped mail within Thailand for the next few years. While these have yet to appear on Thailand Post’s website or on the official release schedule, a Facebook post by a well-connected Thai collector mentions that they will be issued on April 6. I will attempt to create some unofficial first day covers as I doubt Thailand Post will sell official ones.
There are a number of very interesting stamps on the early release calendar of the United States Postal Service. Five stamps and one stamped envelope have been released in January so far and one more is due tomorrow (January 30). One of the reasons I long ago gave up trying to purchase one of each new stamp from the United States is the expense. The stamps released thus far this year have a total face value of US $39.60 (which is 1240.17 Thai baht, making it sound even worse!). While the designs are striking for the Priority Mail rate issues, I doubt I will ever purchase any. However, some of the U.S. stamps slated for later this year are ones I definitely want to pick up featuring such subjects as the end of World War I, scenes inspired by “America, The Beautiful” and British music legend John Lennon. I’m not excited by the Mister Rodgers stamp but to each, their own.
The United States’ Zodiac 2018 stamp was released on January 11 in Honolulu, Hawaii 96820, in a PSA pane of 12 printed by the Banknote Corporation of America. The Year of the Dog stamp is the 11th of 12 stamps in the current Celebrating Lunar New Year cycle. The artwork focuses on some of the common ways the Lunar New Year holiday is celebrated. It depicts an arrangement of lucky bamboo. On the red paper to the right, the Chinese character fu — meaning good fortune, rendered in calligraphy — is a common decoration on doors and entryways during Lunar New Year festivities.
Love Flourishes, the latest stamp in a series that goes back to 1973, was released on January 18 in Phoenix, Arizona 85026 in a PSA pane printed by the Banknote Corporation of America in panes of 20. It features a fanciful garden of colorful flowers surrounding the word “Love” in cursive script. The First Day of Issue site is Creativation, the annual Craft & Hobby Association convention that brings together the global creative products community from designers to manufacturers, some of whom may want to incorporate postage stamps in their designs. The flowers on the stamp include stylized roses, peonies, and dahlias in pink, coral, and yellow, with pale blue-green berries and gold fronds and leaves.
The 2¢ Meyer Lemons stamp is the latest in the current Fruits low-denomination definitive series. It was issued on January 19 in Kenner, Louisiana 70062, printed in coils of 10,000 by the Banknote Corporation of America. The Meyer lemon is native to China, and is thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange. It was introduced to the U.S. in 1908, but in the 1940s it was discovered that a majority of the Meyer lemon trees being cloned were symptomless carriers of a virus that had killed or rendered useless millions of citrus trees all over the world. Most of the Meyer lemon trees in the U.S. were then destroyed, after which a virus-free selection was developed in the 1950s and certified and released in 1975 by the University of California as the ‘Improved Meyer lemon’.”
The Byodo-In Temple — a popular tourist attraction in Hawaii, is featured on a $6.70 Priority Mail flat-rate envelope as well as a $6.70 stamp released in panes of four released on January 21 in Kansas City, Missouri 64108. These, and the following stamp, are the latest entries in the long-running American Landmarks series.
With this Priority Mail Express stamp in the American Landmarks series, the Postal Service celebrates the Sleeping Bear Dunes, a national park in Michigan that takes its name from a Native American legend. It was released in panes of four on January 21 in Kansas City, Missouri 64108.
Due for release on January 30 is a single stamp portraying Lena Horne in New York, New York. Horne is included in the USPS Black Heritage series as a trailblazer in Hollywood for women of color when in fact, her fame and her contributions were much broader. As a performer her 70-year career was capped by a one-woman show, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” which ran for more than three hundred performances on Broadway and then on tour across the United States. And as an activist, her defense of the civil rights of all Americans led to her being blacklisted during the infamous era of McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Released in panes of 20 printed by the Banknote Corporation of America, the stamp features a photograph of Lena Horne taken by Christian Steiner in the 1980s, with an added background reminiscent of Horne’s “Stormy Weather” album.
Next to be released by the United States are four Forever definitive stamps (currently 50 cents) in two double-sided panes of 20 and two coils of 100 scheduled for issue at Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33310 on February 9. I will provide images of that release, as well as more new stamps, next month.