My Life in Stamps

A Birthday Cover

Not too long ago, I read a thread on the Stamp Bears forum which talked about one collector’s pursuit of covers posted on his birthday.  Most of his covers were regular mail (what we philatelists like to call “postal history”) and he talked about how difficult it was to find such items while flipping through dealers’ boxes at stamp shows or searching on eBay.  Despite having only the latter source available to me here in Thailand, I was inspired enough by the forum thread to begin my own pursuit of a birthday cover or several.

The date on my birth certificate reads December 3, 1965.  I was adopted sometime in late December 1965 or early January 1966 and have long had the understanding that December 3rd wasn’t my actual date of birth.  When I moved to Thailand more than a decade ago, I discovered that His Majesty the King, the much revered Bhumipol Adulyadej (known in the West as Rama IX), was born on the 5th of December which is also Thai Father’s Day.  Thus, I began celebrating my birthday on this particular date as it’s a national holiday.

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I soon found that it was easier to search for philatelic covers (first day covers, first flight covers, etc.) using dates than for postal history items.  I have yet to find anything on eBay with a 3 December 1965 date but came upon this first flight cover from Paris to Las Palmas posted on 5 December 1965 and quickly purchased it.  A couple of nice Paris Aviation postmarks grace the front while it’s backstamped with a Las Palmas arrival postmark, also on my “adopted” birthdate.

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I also found a number of first day covers with December 3rd postmarks from other years, giving me the idea for a new collection rather than just a one-off cover.  While I hope to find something posted on 3 December 1965 (preferably from Dallas, Texas, as this was where I was born – in Parkland Memorial Hospital, to be exact), I will seek out covers from as many as the following birthdays as possible.  These will be from the 3rd of December up until 2006, the first year I celebrated a birthday in Thailand after which I will search for covers postmarked on the 5th of December (much easier as most years see an issue honoring His Majesty released on that date).

I think these will make a great addition to the “My Life In Stamps” collection I’ve already started, helping me to organize that along more chronological lines rather than thematically.  As always, the pursuit will be as much fun as the additions…

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.