Weekly Phila-Bytes #2019-02

A fairly active week for me in my hobby of philately capped off by purchasing the year’s second Thailand stamp issue and some successful bids on eBay (where I’ve been looking at some classic U.S. stamps trying to fill gaps in my 1893 Columbians and 1869 pictorials sets as well as much more recent first day covers).  I received a few purchases made in December and am continuing to seek out news of upcoming releases for 2019. Canada recently revealed its first designs of the year, the first of which were issued on January 14, and Great Britain releases its Stamp Classics sheet today. I’ve also begun creating what I am calling my “Virtual Album”, placing scanned images upon digital pages. All of this amidst daily additions to the A Stamp A Day blog (and my day-job of teaching) has made for a very busy week indeed.

It wasn’t until last night that I had a chance to read a few philatelic news sites, learning that the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. is yet another victim (as are all of the other Smithsonian Institution facilities) of the current U.S. government shutdown that began on December 22. The postal museum closed on January 2 and suspended all on-site programming and events. The Smithsonian Institution is about two-thirds federally funded, with the rest of the funding coming from other areas; including donations, endowments and revenues from product development and sales, concessions and other sources. The Smithsonian Institution reports that its federal appropriation for the 2018 fiscal year was $1 billion.

The unveiling of the Love: Hearts Blossom forever stamp Jan. 10 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. From left to right: Erica Marie Sanchez, actress, “The Inspectors;” Robert Cintron, U.S. Postal Service Vice President of Network Operations; Lisa Ojeda, USPS, Carribbean District Manager; and Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez, graphic novelist, “La Borinquena.” Photo by Daniel Afzal, U.S. Postal Service.
The unveiling of the Love: Hearts Blossom forever stamp Jan. 10 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. From left to right: Erica Marie Sanchez, actress, “The Inspectors;” Robert Cintron, U.S. Postal Service Vice President of Network Operations; Lisa Ojeda, USPS, Carribbean District Manager; and Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez, graphic novelist, “La Borinquena.” Photo by Daniel Afzal, U.S. Postal Service.

I am actually surprised that the shutdown hasn’t (yet) affected the United States Postal Service. Let’s hope that the issuance of stamps and delivery of mail continues uninterrupted. The first U.S. stamp of the year — the Hearts Blossom stamp — was released on January 10 with a ceremony at the Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is the latest in the popular Love series which began in 1973. The Forever-priced (50 cents at the time of issuance) self-adhesive stamp was designed by Art Director Antonio Alcala and shows 12 colorful hearts in a palette of red, purple, orange and pink. It will probably be assigned the Scott catalogue number of 5339. USPS Vice President of Network Operations Robert Cintron dedicated Hearts Blossom and offered remarks in Spanish and English.

The first 2019 stamps of Great Britain — six beautiful stamp-on-stamp designs in a miniature sheet — are being released today (January 15) to mark the 150th anniversary of the Royal Philatelic Society London. The next set from Royal Mail to be announced will be released on February 13 featuring twelve stamps and a prestige booklet honoring the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. This is in conjunction with exhibitions of da Vinci’s drawings which will occur across the UK starting in February and at Buckingham Palace in May. These are part of the Royal Collection owned by Queen Elizabeth II who has what The Guardian calls “arguably the greatest collection of Leonardo da Vinci drawings in the world.

Canada - Queen Elizabeth II definitive, Permanent rate (January 14, 2019) - image from Canada Post website
Canada – Queen Elizabeth II definitive, Permanent rate (January 14, 2019) – image from Canada Post website
Canada - Far and Wide souvenir sheet (January 14, 2015)
Canada – Far and Wide souvenir sheet (January 14, 2015) image from Canada Post press release

Canada’s first stamps of the year were issued on January 14 (yesterday) including a single definitive honoring Queen Elizabeth II and nine designs in a multitude of formats constituting the second installment in Canada Post’s Far and Wide series. The QEII definitive was designed by Steven Slipp, using a photograph from 2017. This has a Permanent denomination (Canada 90 cents at the time of issuance) and was released in a booklet of ten stamps.

With the Far and Wide set, “Canada Post once again invites you to take a fantasy trip to some of the most amazing and picturesque places in Canada.” Designed by Stéphane Huot, the stamps are denominated with domestic, U.S., international and oversized rates in several different configurations of booklets and coils. Postcards featuring the stamp images are also available, as is a nine-stamp gummed souvenir sheet. The locales featured on these stamps are Tombstone Territorial Park (Yukon), Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park (Alberta), Quttinirpaaq National Park (Nunavut), Mahone Bay (Nova Scotia), Little Limestone Lake Provincial Park (Manitoba). Castle Butte in the Big Muddy Badlands (Saskatchewan), Smoke Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park (Ontario), Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve (Quebec), and Iceberg Alley near Ferryland (Newfoundland).

Thailand - Thailand Post #TH-1163 design 4 (January 12, 2019) - my scan
Thailand – Thailand Post #TH-1163 design 4 (January 12, 2019) – my scan
Thailand - Thailand Post #TH-1163 (January 12, 2019) first day cover - my scan
Thailand – Thailand Post #TH-1163 (January 12, 2019) first day cover – my scan

Thailand Post released its second stamp issue of the year this past Saturday (January 12) — a set of four marking Thailand’s National Children’s Day, held on the second Saturday of January each year. Designed by Mr. Udorn Niyomthum and printed by the Thai British Security Printing Company Limited outside of Bangkok, the four 3-baht stamps represent the festive atmosphere in Children’s Day activities held by organizations throughout the Kingdom. A light blue-framed stamp depicts a boy on a dinosaur replica, a stamp framed in red portrays a girl on a carousel, one in orange features a boy riding a large toy airplane, and the stamp framed in dark blue shows a boy playing in a bubble house.On the date of issue, I was manning my company’s booth during the second of three days of Children’s Day activities held at the recently-opened megamall directly across the street from our offices. I made my trip to the post office to buy the new set and first day cover on Monday after teaching lessons in a local high school. I hadn’t heard any details on this issue prior to then other than the fact there would be four stamps. I was a bit surprised to see that each stamp was in its own sheet rather than as blocks of four in one pane but since the face value was only 3 baht and Thailand issues its stamps almost exclusively in miniature sheets of 10 stamps, the total outlay wasn’t much. The clerk (without any request by me) made sure that she gave me a matched-number set of sheets (several plate numbers were already sold out).

Denmark - Danish National Flag (January 2, 2019) - image from Gulfman Stamps World blog
Denmark – Danish National Flag (January 2, 2019) – image from Gulfman Stamps World blog
Denmark - Life of Vikings (January 2, 2019) - screenshot from Postnord press release PDF
Denmark – Life of Vikings (January 2, 2019) – screenshot from Postnord press release PDF
Denmark - 1-krone definitive (January 2, 2019) - screenshot from Postnord press release PDF
Denmark – 1-krone definitive (January 2, 2019) – screenshot from Postnord press release PDF

While researching an article about Queen Margrethe II of Denmark yesterday, I learned that Postnord had released a total of 11 stamps on January 2 including five-stamp sets promoting the Danish national flag and the “life of Vikings” as well as a new 1-krone definitive, “a natural extension of the Wavy Lines and Small National Coat of Arms series” according to their promotional material. The Viking stamps picture items found at archaeological sites throughout the country with the images provided by the National Museum of Denmark. These include a ship-shaped buckle, a Valkyrie figure, a necklace made of glass beads, a Thor’s hammer inscribed with runes, and a clasp. The backgrounds of the stamps bear drawings by Bertil Skov Jørgensen.

United Arab Emirates - AFC Asia Cup (January 5, 2019) pane of nine - image sourced from Gulfmann Stamps World blog
United Arab Emirates – AFC Asia Cup (January 5, 2019) pane of nine – image sourced from Gulfmann Stamps World blog

Another stumbled-across new issue is a single 3-dirham stamp released by the United Arab Emirates on January 5 promoting the upcoming AFC Asian Cup for football (soccer). While I’m not a big fan of most sports (and then only my hometown teams), I quite like the design of this stamp. It was released in miniature sheets of nine.

I won’t detail the stamps and covers received this week other than a mention that two copies of the 6-cent Columbian issue of 1893 (United States Scott #235) arrived on the same date (one from a dealer in Ontario, Canada, the other from Rome, Italy). With this weekend’s successful bid on a nice #238 (the 15-cent denomination of the set), I am only missing the 10-cent and 30-cent values (Scott #237 and 239) of those easily affordable on my teacher’s salary. Well, I might be able to find an affordable used 50-cent (Scott #240) but the others (Scott #241-245 — $1, $2, $3, $4, $5) will probably always remain out of reach.

I love when my stamp purchases include collectible stamps on the enclosing covers as well. Although it would be nice if the various postal facilities would cooperated by actually cancelling all the stamps.... - my scans
I love when my stamp purchases include collectible stamps on the enclosing covers as well. Although it would be nice if the various postal facilities would cooperated by actually cancelling all the stamps…. – my scans
“Virtual Stamp Album” page for the 1893 Columbian set – my scans of stamps from my collection digitally placed on screenshot and modified version of Steiner album page PDF’s.

Along with adding a few more Classic U.S. stamps to my collection this week, I revisited an idea I had quite some time ago of recreating a virtual representation of my stamp collection.  Since resuming my stamp collection about 12 years ago following my move to Thailand, I have diligently scanned each item purchased be it a stamp, cover, sheet, or some other philatelic item. The originals are then filed away in glassine envelopes and the lucky ones make it into one of many volumes of stock books. Most of these are small-sized books purchased for 100 baht each (just over USD $3 at the current exchange rate) with 16 bound pages. There is no indication whether the strips holding the stamps are PVC-free so I’ve been (slowly) replacing these with A4-sized Vario stockpages ordered periodically from a company in the UK. I’d love to put my stamps into a “real” album someday but even the starter albums are rather expensive, especially when adding shipping costs to get them to Thailand. None of the stamp dealers in Bangkok that I visited during a trip there about a year ago had anything other than larger versions of the stock books I can buy locally.

I do love how stamps look on an album page (particularly when that page happens to have all the spaced filled) and have experimented with printing my own pages (at one point, I even designed pages to house my “Stamps From (Almost) Everywhere” collection but never found the time to make much progress). Thus, for the foreseeable future, my collection remains in anonymous stock books.

A few of my
A few of my “Virtual Stamp Album” pages using scans of stamps in my collection digitally placed on modified Steiner pages

However, I had the idea some time ago of creating a virtual version of my collection using my scans. I’m very organized when scanning. Each stamp-issuing entity has it’s own folder (within a folder for each letter of the alphabet). As soon as I can do so after scanning a batch of stamps, I catalogue them and rename the files using “Entity Name — Scott Number — Year of Issue”. This keeps them in Scott catalogue order and alphabetical order if I move them to different folders such as for a blog entry. It becomes a bit problematic if I cannot find a Scott number (or it’s unlisted) and use a Michel number instead but that doesn’t happen too often. At any rate, my original plan was to create HTML pages to share online that would be clickable to zoom in on any given image. In the end, I abandoned this idea due to lack of time (or, for that matter, the necessary programming knowledge).

What I’m doing now is simply taking screenshots of modified Steiner pages (I change the font for the stamp entity name and make a few other small changes here and there). Once I have a batch of pages from a particular stamp issuer in a good range of year, I start populating it by adding my stamp scans and resizing them to fit the appropriate spaces on the page. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time to do and the end result is quite pleasing. I can “see” my collection as I’m building the pages yet saving all sorts of money that I would have to pay for physical albums and the cost to ship them (not to mention the price and postage for stamp hinges and mounts). Thus far, I’ve only made a few of these virtual pages (U.S. from 1850-1935, Great Britain through 1940, Germany through World War I, Canada and Australia into the early 1950s) but I’m enjoying putting these together whenever I have a little bit of free time.I’ve even created a few pages for my Muang Phuket Local Post and subsequent Republica Phuketia issues.

“Virtual Stamp Album” pages from my collection including a sparse Canada page (but it has my Bluenose) and one I made for my Phuketian local post creations.

This seems to be a good spot to mention that Amos Publications has just announced a new set of United States album pages called “Scott United States National Used Singles.” Part One covers 1964 through 1979. According to Linn’s Stamp News, “What sets this album apart from the pages for mint stamps is that it provides a separate framed box for each stamp of a se-tenant issue (in other words, an issue of two or more attached stamps). The first se-tenant U.S. stamp issue was the Christmas stamps of 1964 (Scott 1254-1257), and that is why these album pages start with that year.” Designed to fit Scott Specialty Series binders and slipcases, the first part has 50 pages with additional parts scheduled for release throughout 2019 and beyond..

There have been no additions announced to the U.S. stamp program yet, although the Virtual Stamp Club blog has speculated that there will be a stamp or stamps to mark the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad which was completed on May 10, 1869, in Promontory, Utah.

A Stamp A Day articles published last week:

  1. January 9, 2019:  “The Avro Lancaster Bomber” (Great Britain — Scott #1758, 1997) 5,034 words
  2. January 10, 2019:  “Pinocchio” (Germany — Scott #B885, 2001) 1,699 words
  3. January 11, 2019:  “The Conquest of Mecca” (Republic of the Comoros — Scott #503, 1980) 2,053 words
  4. January 12, 2019:  “Jack London” (United States — Scott #2197, 1988) 3,742 words
  5. January 13, 2019:  “Kansas City Chiefs, My Hometown Team” (United States — Scott #5203, 2017) 8,154 words
  6. January 14, 2019:  “Queen Margrethe II of Denmark” (Faroe Islands — Scott #312, 1997) 2,919 words

Today’s article will be about Austrian writer Franz Grillparzer, known mainly for his dramas. He devoted especial attention to the Spanish drama, and nearly all his writings bear marks of the influence of Calderón. He also wrote the oration for Ludwig van Beethoven’s funeral.

Screenshot of Philatelic Pursuits on the afternoon of January 15, 2019, using the
Screenshot of Philatelic Pursuits on the afternoon of January 15, 2019, using the “Expound” theme (version 2 – first theme-change since May 2015).

In closing, I will mention that I am trying to decide on a new theme for the Philatelic Pursuits blog. You may notice a few changes as I explore options and I tweak settings to see which is most pleasing to my eye. That may involve a redesign of the blog’s header as well, something I haven’t done since starting this site back in May 2015. In preparation for this, I have been going back and adding “Continue Reading” links to older articles as I am trying to eliminate large chunks of text and slow-to-load images from the main page. The above screenshot is “version 2” of the blog (“version 11” is the theme I’d been using since May 2015). It one uses the “Expound” theme. It’s okay, but I’m not entirely sure about it. If you have a favorite style of site theme, please let me know in the comments.

UPDATE:  Now testing the “Dyad 2” theme….

Philatelic Pursuits version 3.0 testing the "Dyad 2" theme, late night January 15, 2019.
Philatelic Pursuits version 3.0 testing the “Dyad 2” theme, late night January 15, 2019.

Happy Stamping until Next Week….

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