General Pursuits

Happy World Post Day!

Thailand #TH-1051 (2014)
Thailand #TH-1051 (2014)
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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.


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!

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

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…

My Life in Stamps

Birthday Covers, Revisited

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Last year, I read a thread on one of the stamp collecting online forums about a man who collected covers postmarked on his birthday each year. I set out to do something similar and quickly found that this is no easy task. The search parameters I used on eBay tended to generate lists of magazine covers (mostly TV Guide or Life Magazine); changing the year didn’t help much. I considered going through the Scott Catalogue looking for stamps issued on or near my birthday each year. Searching through the issues of the United States first, I only found one — a stamp released on my fourth birthday (1969). However, I soon tired of the boredom of this task.

I did find an Air France first flight cover (Paris to Las Palmas) dated December 5, 1965, two days after the date on my birth certificate but the date I’ve celebrated each year since moving to Thailand a decade ago. This is because it is a national holiday here as His Royal Highness the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born on December 5. Due to the nature of my adoption, however, the exact date of my birth is uncertain. The French cover is illustrated in an entry I wrote for Philatelic Pursuits on May 11, 2016.

Recently, I wanted to add more German stamps to my collection, specifically those with a philatelic theme such as portrayed on the annual Stamp Day (Tag der Briefmarke) issues. My search soon expanded to Austria and I quickly found covers bearing the 1965 Stamp Day issue (Scott #B321) and realized the postmark actually had my date of birth within — December 3, 1965. From the same seller, I managed to find three different first day covers of this stamp: one with a regular circular CDS from Vienna, one with a pictorial first day of issue cancellation, and one from an international stamp exhibition held at the Vienna Messepalast as this was the 30th annual Austrian Stamp Day. The first was held in 1935, the year of my father’s birth.

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The stamp itself is denominated at 3s and bears a 75g surcharge to support Stamp Day. The engraved blue green stamp portrays a postman distributing mail into mailboxes. It is perforated 13½ x 14.

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The sole United States stamp issued on my birthday was Scott #1386, an entry in the American Painting series. The 6-cent stamp portrays William M. Harnett‘s still-life entitled “Old Models” which can be seen at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. The stamp was designed by Robert J. Jones and was issued in panes of thirty-two, with an initial printing of 130 million. Released on December 3, 1969, the stamp is perforated 11.

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I have many December 5th covers from Thailand. There were releases on His Majesty the late King’s birthday throughout his long reign (May 2016 was the 70th anniversary of his ascension). I believe last year’s issue (due to commemorate that 70th anniversary) was pulled as it disappeared from the schedule following his death on October 13. I never could get an answer at the local post office about it, either. The 2016 Thailand Post yearbook has yet to be issued (it’s usually available by early February) and the 2017 stamp release schedule doesn’t currently include anything on December 5.

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Maybe it’s time to start looking for a few of those elusive non-philatelic usages….