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

Introducing My Philatelic Pursuits

Welcome to my “Philatelic Pursuits.”  Allow me to introduce myself and this blog.

My name is Mark Jochim and I was born in Texas.  For the first 40 years of my life, I lived in the United States where I collected stamps off and on from the age of ten.

A decade ago, I made a very big change in my life. I became a teacher of English As A Second Language (ESL) and moved to Phuket, an island in southern Thailand.

I recently returned to the world of philately and occasionally wrote about the hobby on a blog called Asian Meanderings.  At the end of each month, I summarized my stamp collecting activities in a wrap-up called “Philatelic Pursuits.”

However, I feel that writing about stamps distracted from the main focus of Asian Meanderings which is to record my life as an expat in Southeast Asia. Thus, I have decided to create a stamps-only blog.

This will give me an opportunity to write in greater detail about my interests in various areas of philately as well as share some of my experiences trying to collect stamps while adjusting to a new culture and language. Along the way, there may be occasional how-to articles, collecting tips, country and topical profiles, new additions to my collection and much more.

One of the primary reasons I enjoy the hobby is that I am constantly learning new things — not only about the stamps themselves, but the issuing entities, the subjects they portray, the history they represent.

Starting out in the hobby, first in rural Tennessee and then in northeastern Kansas, I was a general worldwide collector.  Back then I had a Scott Modern Album, 1938 edition; my mother had mounted her stamps in it when she lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the Second World War. 

By the time I was a teenager, I owned a World Traveler Album and had also started my first two country collections — the United States and the United Nations (New York issues) — using H.E. Harris albums before graduating to Scott Specialty albums. 

In my twenties and early thirties, I put together nice collections of Great Britain, the Faroe Islands and Åland in Davo hingeless albums.  I also became extremely interested in the postal history of the Western United States, particularly New Mexico where I was living at the time.

As I approached the age of forty, I’d all but abandoned the hobby and when my life took a turn and the opportunity presented itself for a “reboot” in Southeast Asia, the old collections were sold in order to finance my move.  It wasn’t until I was settled in Thailand that I returned to stamp collecting. It’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve really devoted a lot of time and effort in furthering my philatelic pursuits.

So, what do I collect now?

My return to philately following perhaps fifteen years of non-activity found me concentrating on the stamps of Thailand.  After all, it was my new home.  There happens to be a philatelic museum rather close to my apartment in the provincial capital of Phuket; while the displays aren’t very interesting it’s the best place at which I can purchase new issues.  As always in my personal collecting history, I became more interested in the classic stamps (when the nation was still known as Siam) and now have a decent collection ranging from the first general issues of 1883 up to the most recent releases.

Currently, I’m having a lot of fun collecting “A Stamp From Everywhere”.  Since there have been more than 3000 stamp-issuing entities since 1840, according to the list on Stamp World History, this will keep me busy for a very long time.  I’ve just started designing my own album pages for this collection, something I’d never done before.

In fact, I’m enjoying the page design process so much that I’m starting to think about another collection that I’m tentatively calling “My Life in Stamps.”  The idea is to include some philatelic and/or postal history representation of each place that I’ve lived, perhaps places I’ve visited (or want to visit), stamps portraying significant events that have occurred during my lifetime, other interests (such as favorite books and authors), and anything else I think might be fun.  Since I turn 50 years old later this year, this can serve as a personal commemoration of my first half-century.

My modest collection is currently housed in a few small stock books.  Supplies are hard to come by in Thailand!

There are a number of countries that I dabble in, mostly what I’d call mini-collections of countries that I became interested in merely by following my “A Stamp From Everywhere” pursuits.  Amongst those I enjoy are places as far flung as the Falkland Islands, Pitcairn, Bohemia and Moravia, German East Africa, Penang, and Barbados.  In a way, I’ve almost come full-circle in that I could consider myself a general worldwide collector once again albeit without a proper album.  I need to remedy that fairly soon…

I also have a few topically-themed mini-collections although most of them consist of very few stamps but with the desire to obtain many more.  These include ocean liners on stamps (particularly the Titanic and the Cunard Queens); stamps marking the 50th anniversary of the ascent of Mount Everest (I met Sir Edmund Hillary in London on that particular anniversary); stamps portraying various aspects of education (students, teachers, schools, etc.); stamps and covers related to the territorial period of New Mexico; stamps portraying Charles Lindbergh and/or the Spirit of St. Louis, The Wright Brothers; Mark Twain and Charles Dickens (or characters from their books); and stamps marking the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

I don’t really consider myself to be a specialist in anything.  I don’t go out seeking color shades (unless it’s a major catalogue number — I primarily use Scott but I also have Stanley Gibbons and Michel catalogues on hand); I don’t check for fly-speck varieties.  I do somewhat prefer postally used copies for classic era stamps simply because the stamp has done the job it was designed for — the conveyance of the mail — but only if the postmark is clear and doesn’t obscure the design of the stamp.  For unused stamps, I don’t mind if there are hinge marks or even if the stamp is missing it’s gum up to a certain era (remember, the earliest philatelists used to paste their stamps into albums using gum of Arabic and similar adhesives).

Finally, I also collect postcards, particularly those sent to me via Postcrossing and the like.  I have another blog where I write about those.  If you’re interested, “Please, Mr. Postman!” is waiting…

I hope that you find this blog enjoyable.  Perhaps you will learn something interesting or decide to start a new collection based on something you read here.  Perhaps you will have further information you can provide to expand my own limited knowledge.  I always encourage you to leave a comment, a suggestion, a correction, or an addition.

Happy Collecting.