In Memorium, Thailand Philately

Thai Stamps for the Royal Cremation Ceremony

 

The Kingdom of Thailand is preparing for its final farewell to the most beloved monarch this nation has ever known. Even in Phuket, an island some 12 hours south of the capitol city of Bangkok by bus, one sees preparations for the massive funeral which will occur from October 25-29. Television, social media, and websites are almost exclusively black and white as of the beginning of this month and numerous commemorative items are beginning to fill local shops.

A new series of banknotes began circulating just under two weeks ago (I just received my first of the new 100-baht notes) and four commemorative coins are set for release in the near future; I may attempt to obtain the 100-baht coin but the gold 50,000-baht will have to remain a dream.

Three million copies of the new stamps are being released on October 25; I didn’t find out about the pre-sale (August 28-September 11) until a couple of days ago so hopefully I can find them on eBay or elsewhere (Thailand Post is certainly making it difficult to purchase their stamps lately). The stamps are really beautiful, but I can say that about virtually every stamp the Kingdom issues.

Three sheets will be released under the Thailand Post issue number TH-1135 and the official name “Royal Cremation Ceremony of the Late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej Commemorative Stamps”. The first sheet will include nine 9-baht stamps bearing various portraits of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama the Ninth. The second sheet features three 3-baht stamps portraying major components of the Royal Cremation Ceremony — the Royal Urn, Phra Yannamat Sam Lam Khan (the Golden Palanquin with Three Poles), and Phra Maha Phicha Ratcharot (the Great Victory Royal Chariot). The third sheet contains a single 9-baht illustrating the Royal Crematorium and the candlelit mass mourning ceremony held at Bangkok’s Sanam Luang ceremonial ground on October 22, 2016. The background of this sheet features Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall, where the body of His Majesty King Bhumibol is lying in state.

These stamps, as so many other details about the Royal Cremation, have received extensive media coverage so I expect them to be rather difficult to obtain. Several Thai-based stamp dealers are already offering attractive presentation folders for the set. Older stamps portraying King Bhumibol have already seen high selling prices offered on eBay and other online auction sites.

While I have had to forgo a previously-planned trip to Bangkok in order to view the funeral processions due to work commitments, the 26th will be a public holiday so that the entire country can mourn on the day of the actual cremation. Each of Thailand’s 77 provinces has erected replicas of the massive funeral pyre (as well as nine replicas in Bangkok plus the original) so that people who cannot travel to the capital can participate locally. I plan to attend Phuket’s ceremony. I assume that there will be big-screen televisions near the local replica, broadcasting the procession in Bangkok.


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General Pursuits, Stamped Holidays, Thailand Philately

October Is National Stamp Collecting Month

NOTE: This article also appears, virtually the same, on Asian Meanderings — my main blog about my life in Thailand.

Since 1981, the month of October has been celebrated as National Stamp Collecting Month in the United States and Canada. November is National Stamp Collecting Month in the Philippines.

I began collecting stamps around the age of nine years old; counting a few breaks for other pursuits (girls, music, travel to name but three), I estimate that I have been involved in the hobby for a little more than 30 years. I promote it whenever and wherever I can these days, having begun collecting again following my move to Thailand more than a decade ago.

November is National Stamp Collecting Month in The Philippines
November is National Stamp Collecting Month in The Philippines

At the beginning of July 2016, I started a blog called A Stamp A Day on which I feature a different stamp (usually from a different place) each and every day. Different countries and territories have been included in a more or less alphabetical order and historic anniversaries and birthdays have been marked on occasion with an appropriate stamp. The write-ups (background histories on the issuing entities and details about the stamps) are often quite lengthy!

ASAD” is my second stamp blog; Philatelic Pursuits is still active with a post or two each month. I also have a blog dedicated to postcards that I receive through Postcrossing, trades, or traveling friends and family members. I feel that the hobbies of philately (stamps) and deltiology (postcards) compliment each other. I recently changed the name of my postcard blog (for the third time) and it is now called Postcards to Phuket.

I live in Phuket, an island province in the south of Thailand. It wasn’t long after I’d arrived here that I discovered the Phuket Philatelic Museum in the administrative capital of Phuket Town. My first visit was in the midst of celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the reign of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I’d already been struck at how Thai people worshiped the king as a deity and had been swept up in royal fever. Seeing the beautiful stamps issued in his honor spurred me to return to the hobby.

While never much of a museum (a few dusty displays of telegraph equipment and several frames of stamp “reproductions” at the present), the Phuket Philatelic Museum contained a large shop which was filled with Thai stamps dating back to the early 1970s (all sold for face value), first day covers for the previous year’s releases, albums and supplies in a dedicated room.

About three years ago, the shop was moved to a counter in the museum lobby to make room for Thailand’s first drive-thru post office. Many of the supplies such as albums and ornate stamp pages plus older stamps were gone but at least I could still purchase the new-release stamps and first day covers (going back a year or so) as well as the annual yearbooks. The main clerk spoke good English and was extremely helpful. She was reassigned about a year ago, replaced by a woman who speaks very little English but is quite cheerful and always let me go through the stock books.

I recently visited the Phuket Philatelic Museum for the first time in quite a while and was told that they weren’t selling stamps anymore. There were a few first day covers remaining (most of which I already had). The clerk told me she didn’t know if they would receive any stamps in the future. She seemed quite upset about it. I’m actually worried that the museum itself might close down as I believe the sales counter was the only income source. There’s a meeting room that I believe used to be used by a local stamp club but I could never get any information about meetings, etc. I’ve had ideas in the past to organize a Postcrossing meeting there amongst members who live on the island or to form my own stamp club, but I just haven’t had the time.

I am now unable to purchase any Thai stamps locally; one visit to a nearby post office left me wondering if the two clerks on duty even knew what a stamp was!) I will have to rely on mail order until I find someplace else. It’s a shame as there have been some very interesting stamps issued by Thailand recently. I am looking forward to finding out what Thailand Post has planned to mark the one-year anniversary of King Bhumibol’s death; there’s already been an extensive series of banknotes and coins announced by the Royal Thai Mint.

The whole of October leading up to His Majesty’s cremation at the end of the month will be a period of intensified mourning in Thailand. The initial period lasted from his death on October 13, 2016, to the beginning of December (his birthday) when his son formally accepted the succession and became King Rama X.

While a number of people have remained wearing black for the entire year (including all teachers such as myself), it will once again be expected in public starting (I believe) today. Since midnight last night, all Thai television stations are broadcasting in black and white only; most of my Thai friends have changed their Facebook profile and cover photos to greyscale today. The public are requested not to engage in any festivities during the month of October and many entertainment and sporting events will be canceled.  There will be many other signs of mourning and I will put together another article in the near future detailing some of those.

I plan to do my part by combining my celebration of National Stamp Collecting Month with a memorial to the late king. I’ve decided to feature only Thai stamps on A Stamp A Day during the month of October, mainly those portraying King Bhumibol. I plan to keep the commentary to a minimum so that I’ll have the time (and energy!) to write a few how-to-collect articles for Philatelic Pursuits and add a few things to Postcards to Phuket as well.

Happy Stamp Collecting Month(s)!

Thailand Philately

Updates to 2017 Thailand Post Stamp Issues

Here we are in the middle of April and I still have not managed a trip to buy new Thai stamps this year! I am just coming off my first lengthy holiday of 2017, that of Thai New Year, but the philatelic museum and post offices were all closed for the holiday as well.

Although I also haven’t received a copy of the Thailand Post new issues bulletin for the second quarter of the year (it should be arriving shortly), the Siam Stamp Catalogue website recently added images for those stamps issued at the end of March and in early April.

I will add these images to my original post on the Stamp Issuing Programme for 2017 (the diagonal watermark of Siam Stamp Shop doesn’t appear on the actual stamps), to be replaced when I obtain stamps for my collection.

The next scheduled release is due on May 3, marking this year’s Vesak Buja Day.

Thailand Philately

New Thai Stamps for Late King


A set of stamps had been scheduled by Thailand Post last year to mark the 70th anniversary of the reign of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). These were due for release on what would have been the King’s 89th birthday; I believe this had the issue number of TH-1115. The designs had never been announced and the issue was quietly withdrawn following His Majesty’s death on October 13, 2016.

Yesterday (March 29, 2017), Thailand Post announced the release of a sheet of five stamps. A photograph appeared on page 2 of today’s Bangkok Post, the largest English-language newspaper in the country:

The caption reads:

Labours of love: Thailand Post Co. unveils a set of stamps featuring the late King Bhumibol Aduyladej at work in six different settings to commemorate the 70th anniversary of his accession to the throne. A 45-baht set consists of five stamps, each 17cm long, the longest in the world. The stamps will be sold across the country from Saturday.”

According to an even briefer article on the website for The Nation — Thailand’s second largest English-language daily newspaper — nine million copies of the stamp have been printed and will be released on April 1. Nine is considered a very lucky number in Thai culture, and most Thai people have been wearing black shirts during the one-year-long mourning period that include a stylized Thai number “9”, often with an inscription in English or Thai mentioning that the wearer is proud to have been born in the ninth reign.

The sale of black clothing over the last six months has been the sole “bright spot” in the economy; several times, black was in such short supply that the government offered to dye other colors to black at no cost.


Thailand Philately

Thailand Railway Stamps Due

A quick reminder that a very nice set of four circular stamps, plus a souvenir sheet, commemorating the 120th anniversary of the State Railway of Thailand, are scheduled for release tomorrow, 26 March 2016. This is a Sunday and so stamps will not be available for purchase here in Phuket until at least Monday. I will never understand why Thailand Post insists on issuing stamps when none of the post offices are open for business. In recent years, they have become even slower at distributing new issues to the provinces (and some NEVER arrive!).

Nevertheless, this is an attractive issue and I will do my best to purchase copies for myself. As the face value of Thai stamps is low (usually 3 baht, occasionally 5, 9 or 15 baht for the vast majority of issues), I tend to buy full sheets. Most stamps are released in sheets of just 10 stamps. Then, of course, are the first day covers which are sold at minimal mark-up from the face value of the stamps. All of these are easily obtainable at most local post offices. I am blessed in that I live within walking distance (approximately 10 minutes, most of which is through a shady park) from the provincial philatelic museum and their fully-stocked sales counter.

The ever-increasing numbers of “special folders” are harder to find and I have to resort to eBay; I don’t always hear about these scarcer collectibles until the price has risen or they’ve sold out completely. Lately, I’ve obtained several first day covers that have received multiple pictorial cancellations (mostly in locations around Bangkok); these are usually signed by the stamp designer as well.

I am still waiting to see illustrations of the next two issues due to be released (on April 2 and 7, each in a set of four) as these have yet to be revealed. At some point later this year, new definitives portraying HRH King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun — the first of the 1oth reign of the Chulalongkorn dynasty — will be released, probably with little (if any) advanced notice. Thailand Post also mentioned in the most recent stamp bulletin that there will be an issue marking the cremation of HRH the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in either September or October following the mandatory year-long period of mourning. Yes, as a teacher (a government employee), I am still required to wear black each and every day…

Thailand Philately

Thailand Post: Stamp Issuing Programme for 2017

Tscan_20170217he first 2017 installment of Thailand Post’s quarterly new issues bulletin finally arrived in mid-February, listing details for the first several stamps for the New Year.

January 1, 2017: Zodiac 2017 (Year of the Rooster)

As usual, the first stamp of the year was released on New Year’s Day — the annual Zodiac issue. This is the third year of the new series featuring hand-drawn animals by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn who happens to be a stamp collector herself. The stamp design was executed by Mr. Udorn Niyomthum of Thailand Post.

The issue number for this stamp is TH-1120. Bearing a denomination of 3 baht, it measures 30×40.5 mm in a vertical format. Thai-British Security Printing Company Ltd. has printed 1,000,000 of the stamp using lithography with 10 stamps per sheet.

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January 14, 2017: National Children’s Day 2017

A single commemorative, issue number TH-1021, was released on January 14 to mark the 2017 celebration of National Children’s Day and to call attention to “Social Ignorance in Thai Youth”. The design of the stamp is meant to stress the importance of parents as role models to encourage their children to stop excessive focus on their digital devices. The 3-baht stamp was designed by Mr. Thaneth Ponchaiwong of Thailand Post and printed using lithography by Thai-British Security Printing Company Ltd. Measuring 48 x 30mm in a horizontal format, 700,000 copies were printed.

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February 7, 2017: Symbol of Love 2017

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Thailand as the Day of Love and stamps are issued annually to mark the occasion. Most often, these feature roses and 2017 is no exception. This year’s “Symbol of Love” issue was released on February 7 and features the “polygon rose” which is “formed by many two-dimensional facet graphics of which different-shaped facets and gradient colors superbly represent multidimensional love,” according to Thailand Post. They go on to call this the “queen of all flowers.”

The stamp is denominated at 5 baht (higher rate for envelopes bearing wedding invitations, presumably) and was designed by Miss Euamporn Supharoekchai of Thailand Post. Cantor Security Printing Company Ltd. of France printed 800,000 of these stamps by lithography in sheets of 10. They measure 30 x 48mm in a vertical format.

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For more about Valentine’s Day in Thailand, please read my post on A Stamp A Day.

March 26, 2017: 120th Anniversary of the State Railway of Thailand

Issue number TH-1024 is scheduled for release on March 26 — four circular stamps commemorating the 120th anniversary of Siam’s first railway line which linked Bangkok with Nakhon Ratchasima. This will be Thailand’s third circular stamp series and will feature a different locomotive on each of the 3-baht stamps: the GEK locomotive with 1,320 horsepower first operated in 1964, the GEA locomotive with 2,500 horsepower first operated in 1995, the CSR diesel-electric locomotive which first operated in 2015 with 3,800 horsepower and the Airport Rail Link which started in 2010.

The stamps were designed by Mr. Udorn Niyomthum of Thailand Post and 500,000 of each design has been printed by Thai-British Security Printing Company Limited using the lithography process. There are 10 stamps per sheet, measuring 38mm in diameter. There will also be a souvenir sheet of four (one of each design) which will be sold by Thailand Post for 28 baht.

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April 1, 2017: The 70th Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty King Bhumibol Assession to the Throne

TH-1115 was originally scheduled for release on what would have been His Majesty’s 89th birthday, December 5, 2016, but was quietly withdrawn following the King’s death on October 13. The surprise announcement of it’s impending issuance came on March 29th and received wide press coverage here in Thailand due to it’s measurements: at 170 x 30 mm, it is the widest stamp yet released. The 9-baht stamp portrays the late King Bhumibol Aduyladej at work in six different settings, It was issued in sheets of five stamps printed by Thai British Security Printing Public Company Limited, Thailand. (Additional details coming soon…)

April 2, 2017: Thai Heritage Conservation Day 2017

This set of four three-baht stamps, issue number TH-1125, seem to portray murals from one of the Buddhist wats. More information should be forthcoming from Thailand Post in the near future…

April 7, 2017: Thai Traditions

Thailand Post issue #TH-1126 features “Thai Traditional Festivals” following the Songkran (Thai New Year) stamp sets of 2015 and 2016. Long boat racing is depicted on the four 3-baht stamps. Again, further information will be added once I receive it!

The schedule for the remainder of the year, as it stands now (no details or images yet) is as follows:

May 3, 2017: Vesak Buja Day (4 designs, 3 baht each)

May 7, 2017: 80th Anniversary of Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University (3 baht)

June 5, 2017: Chao Phraya River (4 designs, 3 baht each)

July 3, 2017: 120th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Russia (3 baht)

July 4, 2017: 60th Birthday of HRH Princess Chulabhorn (5 baht)

August 8, 2017: 50th Anniversary of ASEAN Community (3 baht)

September 26, 2017: 130th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Japan (4 designs, 3 baht each)

September 28, 2017: 100th Anniversary of Thai Tri-Colour Flag (3 baht)

October 9, 2017: World Post Day (3 baht)

November 15, 2017: New Year’s 2018 (1st Series) (4 designs, 3 baht each)

November 15, 2017: New Year’s 2018 (2nd Series) (2 designs, 15 baht each)

December 1, 2017: Thai Venerated Monk Amulet (9 baht)

The Thailand Post issues bulletin also mentions that 2017 will see the release of the first definitives of His Royal Highness King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (Rama X) and an issue marking the cremation of His Royal Highness the Late King Bhumibhol Adulyadej the Great (Rama IX). I suspect the former may be issued around the time of King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday (July 28). The cremation of King Bhumibhol should be around mid-October, ending the year-long mourning period following his death on October 13, 2016.

There is no mention of the usual annual stamp releases for Thailand Post Day or Her Royal Highness Queen Sirikit’s birthday, both in August.

General Pursuits, Thailand Philately

Happy Thailand Post Day!

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Today is listed on my calendar as Thailand Post Co. Ltd. Establishment Day, marking the date in 2003 that Thailand’s postal services were privatized.  The stamp at left was released to mark the 10th anniversary two years ago and is Thailand’s biggest stamp released to date, measuring 62 x 62 mm.  I’m not really sure what rate the 10-baht face value was intended for (first class domestic letters are 3 baht; international postcards are 15 baht); it was released in a sheet of four.

I’d already planned a trip to the Phuket Philatelic Museum to buy a few new issues released since my last visit on 29 July (the release date of the Thai Alphabet set), this being my last day off until early October.  But first I needed to visit Phuket Immigration Office; foreigner residents are required to check-in every 90 days.

While walking back home from the immigration office, I witnessed the totally unexpected local celebration of Thailand Post Day:  Led by a highway patrol car with lights and siren to clear the traffic, I first saw perhaps a half-dozen red-and-white Thailand Post and EMS trucks.  This was followed with around 50 motorbikes ridden by local mail carriers wearing their red-and-white jackets and helmets.  It was quite a site – particularly as they were circling a locally-iconic clock tower at the time.  It’s a shame that I didn’t have my camera with me – one of the rare occurrences that I’d left it at home!  Next year, I will be waiting…

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As for the post office visit, the ladies manning the philatelic museum shop counter were sporting the red 12th anniversary polo shirts which I commented on.  To my shock, they offered me one but they didn’t have one in my size (a Thai XXL which, back in America would be a loose-fitting XL).  Thai people are nothing but hospitable.  They had all the stamps I needed but were sold out of the first day covers for the THAIPEX issues (beautiful purple-based stamps portraying musical instruments played by HRH Princess Chakri Maha Siridhorn who is celebrating her 60th birthday this year) as well as the FDC for National Communications Day (which happens to be on the anniversary of the very first stamps released by Siam in 1883).  They did have the covers for the Royal Thai Army stamp and ASEAN Day stamp, both released on 8 August.

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The ASEAN Day stamp is quite striking and will make a nice accompaniment to my Muang Phuket Local Post ASEAN flags stamps on outgoing postcards (the 15-baht rate is the international postcard rate).  Since it also saw a souvenir sheet release, it took some effort to explain to one counter-lady that I wanted that plus a full sheet of ten.  I discovered that they call the souvenir sheet a “sheet” and a full sheet should be ordered by saying, “per sheet”.  This was the first time I ever had a real lost-in-translation moment at Phuket Philatelic Museum as they are usually pretty good at interpreting my stamp needs. 

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While I’m thinking about it, I’ll go online this afternoon and try to find the missing first day covers; the post office also sold out of the princess’s 60th birthday stamp issued in March and I haven’t yet tracked one down.

The next Thai stamps won’t be released until 18 September, a pair commemorating a half-century of diplomatic relations with Singapore and picturing tasty desserts (sticky rice with mango for Thailand, ice cream sandwiches for Singapore), followed on the 22nd with a single stamp marking the 103rd annual World Congress of the World Dental Federation to be held in Bangkok.

Happy Birthday, Thailand Post!