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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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.

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 #1118 (1985)
General Pursuits, Space on Stamps, Topical Pursuits

Eclipse!

I’m just beginning work on tomorrow’s article for A Stamp A Day (and you can probably guess the stamp I’m going to feature). I am quite excited about the “Eclipse Across America” as the media is billing it as many of my friends and my immediate family live very near the 70-mile wide path of totality that will sweep coast to coast. I really wish I’d followed-through with my original plans to pay the States a visit in order to view this grand celestial event. The thought of Kansas in August, however, kept those plans from ever becoming too serious (well, that and the general lack of cash for Thailand to USA air tickets at this point in time).

In doing research for this ASAD article, I found that there have been a great number of stamps released in the past fifty years or so marking solar eclipses. Of these, I have exactly two — one is tomorrow’s featured stamp from the U.S.A. (which received a Scott catalogue number just in time: #5211) and the one that I wrote about for ASAD just over a year ago for Thailand’s National Science Day, Scott #1118). While a few are quite boring in design, the majority of the solar eclipse stamps I found on eBay were quite striking. I also discovered a vast array of interesting covers commemorating the observances in addition to the regular first day covers. What an interesting topic to collect! Adding such items to my collection would (somewhat) compensate for never having seen a total solar eclipse in person myself. I’m already planning a trip back to the States for the next one in 2024, a scant seven years away. I don’t want to make the same mistake twice (and doubt if I will last long enough to see the next total solar eclipse due for Thailand — in 2070!).

Thailand #1118 (1985)
Thailand #1118 (1985)

If you are in the States tomorrow, please don’t hesitate to get out there and look skyward. Even if you are in a location that will receive only a partial eclipse. Make some covers — there are bound to be a number of special postmarks in towns and cities along the path of totality and elsewhere! I will be seeking these out to add to my new thematic collection. I am already mentally planning the album pages. Now, to listen to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to get even more in the mood…

Happy Eclipse Day!

General Pursuits

400 Posts… Wow!

Not here, but on my “other” stamp blog — A Stamp A Day. It just snuck up on me. I published an article a few minutes ago about Trinidad & Tobago, illustrating the ½ penny green Britannia (my copy might be Scott #1, released in 1913, but it’s probably a later issue as the postmark is dated in 1924), and noticed the post count. The amazing thing is that I started the blog just over one year ago — July 1, 2016. I never thought I would be able to maintain daily entries for more than a few months; the blog’s name kept me going — even when it was the last thing I wanted to do on certain days, even when work or the weather or unreliable Internet all seemed to transpire against me. Four hundred posts. Wow, indeed!

By contrast, I started this blog — Philatelic Pursuits — on May 25, 2015. This will be my 97th entry. I’ll have to think of something special for #100, just as I’ll need to pick a significant stamp for ASAD’s 500th post. I can’t let that one sneak past me like this one nearly did….

General Pursuits

Philatelic Phun with Photoshop

Well, not really…

I never have fun when using Photoshop and there are only about two functions that I can perform using the unwieldy program (and not always with the same degree of success).  “Fun with Paint” isn’t quite as good a title, however…

If I attempt to design something, I use a combination of Microsoft’s Paint (and not that new 3D version they tried to force upon me a few Windows 10 auto-updates ago) and an open-source program called PhotoScape which is great for things like placing (and resizing) transparent background images upon other images and manipulating lettering amongst other functions.

This weekend, I decided that it was time to change the small logo at the top of my “other” stamp blog, A Stamp A Day. After all, I hadn’t done anything to the design of the blog since I started it over a year ago (I am VERY happy with the theme — a free WordPress theme called Spun).A Stamp A Day

That logo was just a simple “edit” of a stamp issued by France in 1963 for an upcoming philatelic exhibition (Scott #1078):

France #1078 (1963)
France #1078 (1963)

But this didn’t even include the name of the blog, something that kind of bothered me but also allowed me to use the image from time to time here on Philatelic Pursuits and as an avatar on various stamp forums that I’m a member of.

I’d planned to make a new one for quite some time but it’s just hard to find the free time (another detractor is that I didn’t save a copy of the “unlettered” version so I’d have to start from scratch). This weekend, I finally had plenty of downtime and made several versions:


After I made those, I thought, “Let’s do some more!” Once I get started on something, it’s hard for me to stop.

My second try with “editing” a stamp was an attempt using Monaco #C16 issued in 1947, my favorite stamp-collecting themed stamp (I also collect FDR topicals):

Monaco #C16 (1947)
Monaco #C16 (1947)

My first tries at obscuring the cross-hatching in the upper-left and below the country tablet were fairly awful:

I then decided on a “wipe” approach to the upper-left cross-hatching (mainly because any lettering I placed over the cross-hatching was completely unreadable):

Hey! This is fun! Let’s see what the United States #1474 from 1972 looks like:

United States #1474 (1972)
United States #1474 (1972)

German Democratic Republic #91 issued in 1951 for Stamp Day:

For my final stabs at stamp “editing” this weekend were to work on two booklet panes issued in 1986 with a stamp collecting theme: Sweden #1588a and United States #2201a:

Sweden #1588a (1986)
Sweden #1588a (1986)
United States #2201a (1986)
United States #2201a (1986)


I even added a couple of items to the selvage of the Swedish stamp (at the top is the Phuket provincial seal) and at the bottom is a stylized entwined U.S. and Thai flag design. I had some problems removing elements and some of the quadrilles on the U.S. issue in particular are out of alignment. I will go back and fix these at some point, but my “free time” on a Sunday morning had come to end….

Admittedly, what I’ve done is quite basic. But the point is: If I can do this, then anybody can.

My biggest problem now is deciding which of these that I like the best. Which one shall have the upper left corner of the “A Stamp A Day” blog for the next year? I applied the Monaco stamp yesterday but it appears too large so I’ll resize that. I may end up setting it so that a different image appears on each separate click.

In preparing this article, I thought I’d also share a few stamp “designs” I made earlier this year. They may see eventual “release” through my Muang Phuket Local Post; I haven’t printed any of my creations for that project in almost two years (the last being a souvenir sheet for ASEAN Day on August 8, 2015). I have found somebody who can print these labels on dry gum paper and apply perforations so I may do that at some point in the future. The personalized image at the head of this article was created entirely in Photoshop (one of my few “successes”, I suppose but I’m still not entirely happy about it); I’d planned to make covers for my 50th birthday at the end of 2015 but never finished it.

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!