Terms & Tips

Coming Soon: Terms & Tips

Over the course of nearly a year, I have put together 300 straight entries for the “A Stamp A Day” blog. Those articles concentrate on the stamp-issuing entities themselves be they nations, colonies, protectorates, states, provinces, armed forces, organizations, or the occasional private postal system. From time to time, the blog will celebrate a holiday (the majority of which are American or Thai), a noted person’s birthday, the anniversary of an historic event, or some other item I find particularly interesting. In putting these together, I learn a great deal about political and postal history as well as the stamps themselves. It’s been a source of great enjoyment to me and, I hope, to those who take a look on occasion.

At the same time, I would like to post more on this, the “Philatelic Pursuits” blog. In addition to more frequent reports on Thailand’s new stamp issues, I am planning sort of a super-charged glossary of “Philatelic Terms & Tips”: rather than brief explanations, however, I envision rather more in-depth articles dealing with many different aspects of philately — an “encyclopedia”, if you will. Yes, it does sound a bit ambitious but I think it will be quite fun to build-up through the individual articles and I’ll learn even more about this wonderful hobby.

Much like “A Stamp A Day”, I will stick to a more-or-less alphabetical schedule of publishing articles (and will keep a running index page with links for easy navigation). I hope to illustrate the entries mainly through my own photography and scans, although certain items — “Inverted Jenny”, “Mauritius Post Office” and others spring immediately to mind — will, of course, need stock photography. There will also be translations of the terms into various languages (including French, Spanish, Russian, and Thai). I will (probably) try to publish one item per week but we’ll see how that goes…

The first two entries in my “Philatelic Terms & Tips” (PT&T) — accessories and adhesive/gum — are nearly complete. Look for them soon!

General Pursuits

The State of the Blog

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I am spending this February tropical day (a bit overcast with a cooling breeze, 23° C at 12:15 in the afternoon) in Phuket, Thailand, trying to think of ways to resurrect Philatelic Pursuits as a frequently-updated blog.

My philatelic blogging focus since the beginning of July 2016 has been A Stamp A Day (ASAD). I have been successful at posting at least once entry each and every day of the past six months. The articles have become much longer over time and I am now including maps, flags, coats of arms, and occasional other images.

The research for each ASAD article takes quite a bit of time (more so for certain more complicated entities than others), although my primary source is always Wikipedia with a lot of cut-and-pasting. Much of the time, it takes multiple Wikipedia articles to combine into one entry. I try to supplement the postal and philatelic histories from a variety of other sources.

All of this work is done in my limited free time outside of my full-time job as the deputy head teacher for a large language school (we contract teachers out to most of Phuket’s government-operated educational facilities). It can often be difficult getting online and uploading images (all of my scans are done at 1200 dpi) as the Internet at my location in Thailand is often dismally slow (and seems to have been throttled-down significantly by the government since the beginning of this year). Time-outs and dropped connection are the order of the day.

My other blogs — The POSTCARD TRAVELLER (formerly, “Please, Mr. Postman!”) and Asian Meanderings — have fallen by the wayside as well. It’s not that I don’t have a strong desire to maintain each of these sites, it’s just that I’m committed to A Stamp A Day and the process often leaves me exhausted.

That said, I do not want these blogs to die off completely. The articles I’ve been posting on ASAD have essentially replaced the “Stamp Issuers” series I began here on Philatelic Pursuits. I have thought about reprinting the ASAD articles here, reformatted and including more scans from my collection. That’s a lot of work made much more difficult due to the lack of reliable Internet speeds. If you are interested in a particular entity, I refer you to the Index page on ASAD (I try to update it once or twice every few weeks).

Other ideas include “How To’s” (I’ve wanted to write one about my inventory process for quite some time) and “Collection Galleries” for certain entities which I have nearly complete collections of. I’ve only recently delved into topical collecting (none of which yet have very many stamps) and I would like to feature some of my favorite themes.

At any rate, I hope to make a “return” to this blog sometime very soon. If I can manage two or three entries here each month, I will be happy.

Any suggestions for what YOU would like me to include on Philatelic Pursuits are most welcome!

Stamped Holidays

It’s National Stamp Collecting Month!

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NOTE: This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on my “other” stamp blog, A Stamp A Day.

October is my favorite month, Here in Thailand, the long monsoon season is just coming to an end and I usually refer to the month as one of black and white: the nine-day Vegetarian Festival (thetsakan gin jeh — เทศกาลกินเจ) sees everyone dressed entirely in white while the month ends with Halloween which Thai women mark by wearing the skimpiest of little black dresses and donning black lipstick coupled with very white face powder in their version of a witch. Even better, October sees the annual celebration in the United States of National Stamp Collecting Month which was first designated some 35 years ago.

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National Stamp Collecting Month began in 1981 as a joint venture between the United States Postal Service and the Council of Philatelic Organizations. Then-Postmaster General William F. Bolger had made the initial announcement in the Postal Service’s internal Postal Bulletin, calling stamp collecting “the world’s most popular hobby,” and urged “employees and customers alike to discover the joy of stamp collecting — the hobby of a lifetime.” The USPS often issues special stamps designed to promote the hobby among youngsters and numerous post offices and local stamp clubs hold activities during the month of October. The National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. often has special exhibits centered around National Stamp Collecting Month.

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I’m not sure which new stamp release is this year’s designated NSCM release; I suspect it’s the four designs to be issued on October 7 portraying comic book heroine Wonder Woman. However, I am a big fan of the four Jack-O-Lantern stamps released on September 29 which are the most overtly Halloween-themed stamps ever released by the United States (1974’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow release — Scott #1548 — would be a close second and I’d group others in there including the five Classic Movie Monsters stamps of 1997 — Scott #1368-72).

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The American Philatelic Society, which bills itself as “America’s Stamp Club”, has a number of great suggestions for things one can do to help promote the hobby during the month (and, indeed, all year round). You can download a printable version (PDF) here. The October 2012 issue of The American Philatelist included a brief origin of National Stamp Collecting Month which you can read by clicking here. I try to promote the hobby each day of the year through my articles on A Stamp A Day and occasional musings on Philatelic Pursuits.

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General Pursuits

Phila-Bytes #3 [9-23 September 2016]

One of the best things about this wonderful hobby of philately is that I am constantly learning new things — not only about the stamps themselves but about the subjects portrayed upon them, the entities that issued them, and so on. In the course of my daily research for A Stamp A Day, I come across a great number of previously unknown (to me) webpages and blogs, some philatelic in nature, many about history or culture. It can indeed be a bit frustrating as I simply do not have enough time to read everything that I stumble across.

Take blogs, for example.  Just in the past two weeks, I have found (and subscribed) to the following: Barbados Stamps, Executed Today, EWorld Stamps: Worldwide Stamp Collection, My Native Belarus, My Philatelic Passion, and Stamps of Armenia. All are worthy of further perusal. I hope I can find the time someday soon.

One great resource of information on older stamp issues are auction catalogues and I really appreciate firms that archive .pdf versions of their previous catalogues on their website. One such auction house is that of Robert A. Siegel whose catalogue often include introductory essays on the stamps included in a particular auction. Auctions for the 1893 Columbians and Hawaii Missionaries immediately spring to mind. While looking around the site recently, I came across a number of shorter (one- to four-page) summaries of numerous U.S. issues including an excellent timeline of the American postal system from 1632-1792.

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One thing that really fascinates me is the beginnings and evolution of stamp collecting itself. While I have never seen a comprehensive work on the subject, I have come across bits and pieces in the philatelic literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and brief mentions on various websites. I just found a nice site with articles on early collecting in the United States. It’s called Stamping American Memory: Collectors, Citizens, Commemoratives, and the Post — and is a scholarly study of philately in the U.S. I’m looking forward to reading all of the pages.

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A recent article in Linn’s Stamp News reminded me of the Philatelic Truck that traveled around the United States between May 1939 and December 1941, promoting stamp collecting to the youth of America. Because I was never really interested in poster stamps, Cinderella stamps, or local post stamps during much of my philatelic life, I never obtained a copy of the souvenir sheet printed by the Bureau of Engraving & Printing given to visitors to the truck. My collecting interests have, of course, changed over the years and now I am very interested in buying one of these (and will be placing a bid on eBay shortly). It was in my quest to find out more that I came across the Stamping America’s Memory site mentioned above. There is also a book about the truck, the tour and the sheet written by John H. Bruns, a former director of the National Postal Museum, that I’d also like to track down.

Farley and philatelic truck at White House. Washington, D.C., May 9. The Post Office's new philatelic stamp truck which began a tour of the United States today following ceremonies at the White House was given a final inspection by the Post Master General James A. Farely before it started out from the White House. The truck, containing stamp frames of all U.S. stamp issues, a miniature stamp press and souvenir engravings showing the White House, will visit cities and towns in every state of the Union.

There are a number of significant anniversaries coming up in the next few months, including the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the 25th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. No doubt these will be commemorated philatelicly (but I have yet to see any announcements). Much sooner than those, actually released today (September 9) for the nation’s Stamp Day, is a four-stamp mini-sheet marking the 25th anniversary of Croatian independence which will occur on October 8. One million of the 11 kuna stamp have been printed, bearing a hologram using a special technique to produce a “real 3D” effect — supposedly the first stamps to bear such an image.

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Another recent issue commemorating an anniversary is that of Poland marking the 75th anniversary of the first airdrop by the Cichociemni, elite special-operations paratroops of the Polish Army in exile that were created in Great Britain during World War II to operate in occupied Poland. Designed by Ewa Szydłowsk, the 3.70 złoty stamps were released on September 1 in sheets of 35.

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Much closer to home is a set of three stamps and a mini-sheet to be released by Malaysia on October 21, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Penang Free School. I have fond memories of strolling the campus of PFS while on several visits to George Town several years ago. While I did absolutely nothing philatelic (not even the purchase of a postcard) during these trips, I will definitely purchase this set and accompanying first day covers.

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It’s not often that Royal Mail disappoints me with a stamp design for a subject that I’m interested in, but what’s with the graphic novel approach on the recent Great Fire of London set? The really ugly set of four was released on September 2 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the fire.

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As a teacher, I avidly collect stamps portraying aspects of my profession particularly those picturing students and/or teachers. I am thrilled with the release earlier this week (September 6) of a set of four plus mini-sheet by Hong Kong Post titled “A Tribute to Teachers.” This is just in time for the annual celebration of Teacher’s Day (September 10) in the Chinese Special Administrative Region. The stamps depict chalkboard drawings, something I used to create on an almost daily basis (most Thai classrooms are now equipped with whiteboards which don’t provide quite the same effect). There is a nice range of products (postcards, maximum cards, presentation pack, regular and color cancellations, etc.) available for this issue.

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Finally, one of my favorite stamp blogs — Big Blue 1840-1940, which covers the classic period of stamp issues as collected in the Scott International Part 1 albums or on Steiner album pages — earlier this week contemplated the question “Which Stamp Album is Best for WW Collectors?.” Blogger Jim, by the way, is almost finished with his survey of the “T” countries with an article at the end of August about the Turks and Caicos Islands. He started the blog about five-and-a-half years ago.

General Pursuits

Phila-Bytes #2 [25 August–8 September 2016

It’s been a very fast two weeks which means it’s time for the second installment of “Phila-Bytes” – a compendium of interesting things I’ve stumbled upon in the stamp web.  This will be a fairly short edition as I’ve been very busy with work!

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First up, I should mention that today is the centennial of the U.S. National Parks Service.  I am preparing an article about the NPS for my other stamp blog, A Stamp A Day (insert shameless plug here).  I was somewhat surprised that Wikipedia doesn’t have a dedicated page for the 1934 National Parks Issue but there is plenty on the Internet about the recently-released set of 16 stamps including a page on the NPS site itself.  I have yet to obtain copies of these but will do so as soon as our monsoon season ends.  While I was hoping that my personal favorite — Chaco Canyon — would be included, it was still nice to see two other parks from my former home of New Mexico honored.

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This is, in fact, a year where there are many interesting issues I can add to my various topical collections. I’ve long been a voracious reader of crime fiction and have a number of stamps commemorating  the legacy of Sherlock Holmes as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  It’s refreshing, however, that a different favorite mystery writer is receiving the philatelic treatment this year.  I came across the news on the Commonwealth Stamps Blog that a set of six will be released on 15 September by the United Kingdom to “to commemorate the Centenary of the first murder mystery written by Agatha Christie (The Mysterious Affair At Styles featuring Hercule Poirot).  It’s a rather striking set and one now firmly included on my want list.

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I’m also a lifelong fan of rock music in (almost) all of its forms.  While Bruce Springsteen has been my favorite performer for almost as long as I can remember (which is a long time, actually), I’ve also enjoyed forays into progressive rock such as Pink Floyd (honored by a Royal Mail set earlier this year), Peter Gabriel-led Genesis, and both eras of Marillion (I prefer Steve Hogarth’s version of the band over that of Fish,  despite him being the singer for the first four years that I listened to them).  I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Yes throughout the years.  I remember buying the LP for Yessongs when I was attending college in central Kansas but I refused to buy the then-current 90125 for years as the hit single was overplayed and I found it really annoying!  It wasn’t until 1994 that I saw them perform live and became began buying their back-catalogue.

Sometimes the best thing about the albums were the covers created by Roger Dean, defining the visual image of the band, much the same way that Hipnogsis represented Pink Floyd.  Thus, I was quite pleased to find that a set of his artwork would be released on stamps by the Isle of Man.  They were issued on 19 August and I like the fact that the attention to detail extended to the fonts used as well.  However, much like the writer of Commonwealth Stamps Blog, I was underwhelmed by the final product.  These images just don’t translate well to the stamp format.  Truth be known, they don’t look that great CD-sized either.  Roger Dean’s work is best seen on the full 12-inch LP with gatefold sleeves.  Oddly enough, I don’t think the same for the Pink Floyd album covers (or previous issues showing The Beatles covers).  Perhaps if I was a bigger Yes fan, I’d think differently.  The set also includes one brand-new piece of artwork inspired by the Isle of Man as well as artwork for albums by The Blind Owl and Uriah Heap.

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The biggest news this week was perhaps the selling at auction of two of the rarest stamps in the world – the 1p and 2p “Post Office” Mauritius stamps of 1847. I mentioned in “Phila-Bytes” #1 that the copper plate used to print these stamps will be auctioned later in the year. The most-newsworthy aspect seems to be the fact that an unknown Czech investor was the winning bidder for an undisclosed sum thought to be in excess of US $4.1 million.  It’s unknown whether these are on-cover examples or singles.  The news article can be found here.

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That’s all for this time.  I’ll see you again in about two weeks…

Stamped Holidays

Bonne Fête Nationale Belge

United States #914 (1943)
United States #914 (1943)

Today is Belgian National Day.  I couldn’t get a Flemish translation of that so I used French in this post’s title; it’s called Nationale feestdag van België in Dutch and Belgischer Nationalfeiertag in German.  It commemorates the anniversary of the date in 1831 that Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg swore allegiance to the new constitution of Belgium as the first King of the Belgians. The king’s vow marked the start of the independent state of Belgium under a constitutional monarchy and parliament.

I had originally planned to post about this holiday on my A Stamp A Day blog, but I didn’t have any Belgian stamps marking their national day or portraying anything I felt was usable.  So, I wrote an article about Allenstein instead.  Coming home on the bus this evening, I realized that I had the “perfect” stamp — Scott #914 of the United States, part of a series of stamps issued in 1943 and 1944 paying tribute to thirteen nations overrun, occupied, and/or annexed by the Axis Powers during or shortly before World War II.

This five-cent stamp portrays the Belgian national flag, to the left of which appears a phoenix, symbolizing the renewal of life, and to its right appears a kneeling female figure with arms raised, breaking the shackles of servitude.  While the frame was engraved, the center was offset letterpress and rotary press printed on unwatermarked sheets perforated 12.  Because of the elaborate process necessary for the full-color printing, the United States government’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC, contracted with a private firm, the American Bank Note Company in New York City, to produce the stamps.