As a teacher of English As A Foreign Language (EFL), I would like to start collecting stamps and postmarks portraying different aspects of education be they schools, students, classroom elements, or the teachers themselves.  Thus, I’m thrilled by the recent stamps issued by the tiny nation of San Marino.  Perhaps they will be the first I will add to an education-themed topical collection (I have yet to find them listed on eBay).

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The pair of stamps released on 16 June honor World Teachers’ Day, held annually every 5 October since 1994 in order to mobilize support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers.  According to UNESCO,  World Teachers’ Day represents “a significant token of the awareness, understanding and appreciation displayed for the vital contribution that teachers make to education and development.”  Over one hundred countries currently observe this special day.

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The 2015 San Marino set of stamps were designed by graphic artist Guido Scarabottolo.  The 80 euro value features stylized students listening to a teacher holding a book in his hand while they are standing on piles of books, meaning that the roots of knowledge come from the same fertile soil.  The 95 euro stamp portrays a teacher showing the light of knowledge to her students.  This same image appears on the issue’s first day of issue cancellation.

There have been many stamps issued since the late 1950’s honoring education in all of its forms.  I’ve identified a few on eBay that I’d like to purchase in the near future.  This pair below was issued in 1997 for Thailand’s Children’s Day, held annually on the first Saturday of January.  The stamp on the left illustrates a typical schoolyard scene with the students in the ubiquitous uniform of Thai government-run school – white tops with brown shorts for boys and blue skirts for the girls.

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Teachers are generally greatly revered in Thailand and there are two days designated in the schools here in which to honor them.  Wai Kru Day is on a Thursday in mid- to late June on which is held a ceremony where all of the students of the school will bow to the point that their knees and head are on the floor before presenting an elaborate flower arrangement to the teacher who happens to be sitting across from them.  If it is a large school (as most here tend to be), the teacher may end up with fifty or more flower arrangements each which often end up in a large trash bin.

In January (the week following Children’s Day, on a Thursday once again), is Wan Kru which translates as “Teachers’ Day” and is simply an extra day off.  The students seem to enjoy this more than the teachers do as it falls right at mid-terms and there are already way too many government, Buddhist and other holidays (days off without pay) during the November to February stretch.  At any rate, I have yet to come across any stamps honoring these two special days for teachers.  However, the stamp below was issued in mid-June 1998 honoring education in general so it may have been intended to mark Wai Kru as well.

Thailand 1998 Education

My birth-country of the United States has issued numerous stamps on an education theme since the 1950s.  A selection appears below:

Higher Education US

USA Helping Children Learn 1997

As has the United Nations:

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I quite like these from Vietnam, Mongolia, China, and Israel:

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Beautiful maximum card from Greece:

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I’m not usually a big fan of Disney stamps, but perhaps I’ll make an exception for this mini-sheet from St. Vincent and the Grenadines:

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And, finally, here are two more marking various World Teachers’ Days – from The Philippines and Algeria:

Philippines - World Teachers Day FDC

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What other education-related stamps do you recommend?  Please leave images in the Comments…

Please note that this article contains stamp images from press releases or eBay. I don’t (yet) own any of these. All other images on this blog are scans of items that I own, unless otherwise noted.

SAM_6522Actually, this covers the past two weeks or so as my mail has been trickling in a piece or so at a time.  In that period, I’ve only added 33 stamps to my collections from six different countries, two of which are new to my A Stamp From Everywhere project – Bermuda and The Roman States.  I did receive two books I’d ordered, The German Occupation of Jersey (1940-1945) and the indispensible reference work that is Stamp Atlas.  Rounding out the recent arrivals were several items for yet another thematic mini-collection based around my family history.

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Let’s start with the A’s:  I’ve become enamored with the engraved issues of Aden Protectorate and have been obtaining a few here and there, with 22mostly used values arriving recently – seven of the 1937 dhows issue (a couple duplicates of which are damaged) and the remainder covering the period between 1938 and 1959.

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Next up are five stamps from Bermuda – beautifully engraved bi-colors which I just love.  It’s going to be difficult to choose one stamp to represent the island in the ASFEW collection.  The final British Commonwealth stamp in this batch is Scott #96 from Gibraltar, issued in 1931.

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My Roman States stamp is a used copy – with a thin at the top – of Scott #4c, 1 bajocchi black on yellow buff paper, issued in 1852.  Next to my Penny Black, I believe this is the oldest stamp currently in my possession.  Catalogue value would be US $50 if the condition was much better than this space-filler for which I paid one cent.

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A trio of stamps from the Straits Settlements also arrived.  I’m really interested in this region with the Straits Settlements and Penang State stamps being particular favorites.

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One of my mini-topical collections revolves around my family history including usages of my surname which was originally spelt Joachim.  Long ago, I became interested in the mining community of Joachimsthal in the mountains of the Bohemian Erzebirge and currently known by its Czech name of Jáchymov.  Czechoslovakia issued a stamp (Scott #1413) in 1966 calling the town the “Cradle of the Atomic Age” due as this was where pitchblende was first discovered.  Marie Curie discovered the element radium in pitchblende ore and Joachimsthal was the world’s only source until the First World War.

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Other items received this month on the Joachim theme include a couple of covers – one posted from Stiedra Stedra in Austria in April 1890 and backstamped Joachimsthal, the other featuring a commemorative cancellation during the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia during World War II – plus a poster stamp featuring the arms of another town called Joachimsthal that is situated north of Berlin.

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Another area of interest is the German occupation of the Channel Islands during the Second World War and I’ve started purchasing a few non-stamp items including a small booklet published by the Jersey War Museum in the 1950’s.

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I’d been perusing the Stamp Atlas section on the Sandafayre auction site for quite some time and so was positively thrilled when I found a good used copy on eBay for an excellent price and very low shipping cost.  It’s much better than the Sandafayre excerpts and will be a much-treasured part of my slowly-expanding research library.

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Finally, as I was putting the finishing touched on this article, a cover arrived from Eckerö in the Åland Islands.  I’d recently met a collector from Åland in a Facebook group and was thrilled when he offered to correspond via snail mail…

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Happy Collecting!

France Coat of Arms (Unofficial 1898-1953)

Alaouite Flag

Alaouites / Alawites State

LOCATION: A district of Syria, bordering on the Mediterranean Sea
GOVERNMENT: Under French mandate
POPULATION: 278,000 (est. 1930)
AREA: 2,500 square miles
CAPITAL: Latakia

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 1 January 1925
LAST STAMPS ISSUED: 1930

CURRENCY:
100 centimes = 1 piaster

The Alawite State, listed in most stamp catalogues under the French name Alaouites, was a region in western Syria bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. It was part of the Ottoman Empire at the start of the twentieth century but was occupied by France at the close of World War I. Growing anti-French sentiment in the region led to the establishment of the Arab Kingdom of Syria on 7 March 1920. The League of Nations issued a mandate on 5 May 1920 for France to govern the area of Syria and Lebanon. France divided the area of its mandate into territories and the Territory of the Alawites was formed on 2 September 1920. The coastal city of Latakia was the administrative capital. At the end of 1924, the territory became an independent state while still administered by France under mandate.

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The first stamps issued for Alaouites were overprinted French stamps and were available in Latakia from the first of January 1925. This initial regular issue included twenty-one definitive stamps, four for airmail, and five French surcharged stamps intended for postage due. All included an overprint of the denomination and state name in both French and Arabic. Beginning in March 1925, Syrian stamps were overprinted for use in Alaouites. There were a total of twenty-five regular issue Syrian overprinted stamps released between 1925 and 1928 as well as thirteen intended for airmail and five for postage due.

The total count, then, for Alaouites stamps is forty-six general issue, seventeen airmail and ten postage due stamps.  Because every issue is  an overprint, almost every stamp issued has variations of the overprint. Some have multiple copies of the overprint, but the most common variation is the inverted overprint.  Most of the stamps are reasonably priced with only ten cataloguing at US $10 and above.  The most expensive is Scott #49, 4p on 25c olive black issued in 1928 and valued at US $75 mint and $50 used.  Collecting doubled impressions or different colored overprint variations is much more expensive.

In 1930, the Alawite State was renamed the Government of Latakia and Syrian stamps overprinted with “Lattaquie” were released the following year.

To date, I only own one stamp from Alaouites, but it’s a beauty – Scott #C17, 50 centimes yellow green with red overprints, perforated 13½.  In June and July 1929, the Alawite State released three airmail stamps, applying an additional overprint of an airplane on previously overprinted stamps in either red or black. The 50 centime value, with its initial overprint of country name in French and Arabic on the Syrian yellow-green type A4, was originally released on 1 March 1925. The view pictured is the harbor area of Alexandretta, to the north of Alaouites.  The Scott catalogues lists three varieties for this stamp with minor numbers: #C17a features a doubling of the airplane overprint; #C17b has the airplane overprint on both the front and back of the stamp; and #C17c is a listing for a pair of stamps with the airplane overprint tête bêche, a philatelic term from the French for “head-to-tail” describing a joined pair of stamps in which one is upside-down in relation to the other.

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Åland COAÅland Flag

Åland Islands

LOCATION: A group of 6,554 islands in the Gulf of Bothnia, between Finland and Sweden
GOVERNMENT: Province of Finland
POPULATION: 28,666 (est. 2013)
AREA: 590 square miles
CAPITAL: Mariehamn

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 1 March 1984.

CURRENCY:
100 kopecks = 1 ruble (1809-1921)
100 pennia = 1 markka (1921-2002)
100 cents = 1 euro (2002-date)

The Åland Islands are an archipelago situated at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia. It includes the main island of Fasta Åland on which 90% of the population resides and another 6,500 skerries and islands to its east. Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of Sweden by 38 kilometers (24 miles) of open water to the west. The main town is Mariehamn.

For centuries, the islands have been a key link in transportation between Finland and Sweden. The Mail Decree of 1636 is considered to be the birth of the Swedish postal system.  Along with mail services established in Finland in 1638, regulations were adopted for the mail road between the two countries to cross the Åland Islands.  Its first post office was soon established in the Kastelholm castle.

 Sweden lost Finland and Åland following the war of 1808-1809. The islands were ceded to Russia under the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in September 1809, becoming part of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland. The Russians completed construction on a huge customs and post office in the western outpost of Eckerö in 1838 and shortly thereafter began construction on the fortress of Bomarsund with workers coming from all over the Russian Empire. Bomarsund became a community where many different cultures and religions met.  Bomarsund wasn’t completed before the Crimean War broke out in 1853.

During the Crimean War,  Britain and France took sides with Turkey against Russia. Postal transportation between Sweden and Finland was stopped when the Åland Sea was blockaded by the British starting in May 1854.  Bomarsund was attacked in August 1854 and the Russian forces were soon forced to surrender. After the war, it was decided during the peace negotiations in Paris that Åland should be a demilitarized zone which it remains today.

The First World War (1914–18) also had a significant impact on the Åland Islands with shipping the worst hit industry; several ships were sunk and Åland sailors killed.  After the war, Åland was wracked with uncertainty and anxiety. Russian soldiers were present throughout the region, and there was heated tension between the Conservatives and the Communists. Sweden was perceived as safe, and a group of activists began discussing a reunion with the former motherland.

Finland’s declaration of independence in 1917 gave impetus to discussions on the issue of Åland’s reunion with in the newly-formed League of Nations. The League did not uphold the wishes of the Ålanders, ruling instead that Åland should belong to Finland. The islands were, however, granted broad autonomy and guaranteed demilitarization and Swedish as the official language. It became an autonomous province of Finland in 1921.

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Autonomy means that Åland has its own parliament (Lagtinget, formerly the county council) and a government (provincial government, formerly the provincial authority). In 1954 the region got its own official flag.  It also has its own police force and its residents speak Swedish.

Most of the post offices in Åland were founded at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The postal delivery routes came about in the 1920s. In 1917 the independent Finland took over the responsibility for the postal service in Åland. The postal service got incorporated with the telegraph service as Post och Telegrafverket in 1927.  In 1981 the department changed its name to Post och Televerket. In 1990 the organizational form was changed into a business firm with independent economy under the name “Post- och tele”.

The post office network was re-organized in 1991, with one-third of the offices closed and one-third were to be run by representatives. The remaining post offices were combined with bank services.  In the middle of 1991 the postal service in Finland was deregulated. Finland, along with Åland, became the first country in the world to open its postal market to competition.

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Åland became an independent postal administration on 1 January 1993 through a change in the Åland Autonomy Act. The business is based upon the provincial law regarding Åland Post and is run as a business firm under the supervision of the Åland Government.  It has issued its own stamps since 1 March 1984. There are a total of 16 communities in the islands, each with their own post office.

The first series of Åland Islands stamps in 1984 used the same currency of Finland — 1 markka = 100 pennia. This first series showed various subjects related to Åland, including a map of the area, the flag, buildings, scenery, and wildlife. Their stamps have always used their Swedish name rather than the Finnish Ahvenanmaa.

The Åland Islands postal authorities quickly began issuing items to appeal to the international stamp collectors’ market, with periodic souvenir sheets and maximum cards being among the interesting items available. The stamp designs from the Ålands tend to effectively reflect the pride that the locals have in their region, with a nice balance between “old” subjects that recall the islands’ history, and bold new designs for modern subjects. In 2002, Finland and the Åland Islands discontinued the markka in favor of the euro; all Åland Islands stamps from that point have been in euros.

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Åland can be found in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue following the parcel post stamps of Finland in Volume 2.  My 2009 edition lists issues up to the Christmas issue released on 9 October 2007.  Between the first stamps issued in 1984 and the 2007 Christmas stamp, I count a total of 288 general issues (no air mail or other back-of-the-book releases).  Most singles are valued in the US $1-$5 range with the most expensive stamp being Scott #257, priced at US $13.00 in both mint and used.  Some issues are collected in booklet panes of and these are a bit more in cost.

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Prior to moving to Thailand a decade ago, I had an almost collection of mint Åland housed in a hingeless Davo album along with quite extensive holdings in the islands’ postal history.  That was sold along with my other pre-2004 collections and I currently have but thirteen Åland stamps – Scott #72, the Autonomous Postal Administration souvenir sheet plus singles of each of its four stamps; Scott 109-112, Cargo Vessels issue as a block of four (half a booklet pane); and Scott #122-125, Owls in a block of four (half a booklet pane).

The Åland representative in my A Stamp From Everywhere collection is Scott #72a the 1.90 markka lithographed in light blue and black, perforated  12½x13. This was part of a souvenir sheet of four issued 1 March 1993 commemorating the ninth anniversary of its first stamp issue. The two stamps in the center were engraved while the two on either side were printed by lithography.

This stamp portrays inscriptions found on an early stampless letter and features the rare cancellation of Kastelholm in Cyrillic. When Gustav Wilhelm Landau became head of the postal authorities for the Grand Duchy of Finland following its loss to Russia in 1809, he decided that every post office had to have Russian-speaking officials. The Finnish post offices received their first single-line Cyrillic postmark devices in 1812. Two of these offices were in Åland – Eckerö and Kastelholm. The latter operated until 1842 when the post office moved to Skarpans, the village outside the great fortress of Bomarsund.

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Scan_20150117 (13)Because I prefer the classics, Thailand is the only country that I actively collect new issues of.  I find that most of the stamps are attractively designed, feature interesting subjects, and the face value is pretty darn low – usually 3 baht which translates to 10 U.S. cents per stamp.  While there are occasional sets of three or four in an issue, most are singles.  These usually come in sheets of ten so I usually buy them in full sheets as well as the singles and first day covers.  Thailand Post has been averaging about thirty-five issues per year which isn’t that many.

Scan_20141226 (51)While some issues do seem to be geared solely towards the collector’s market – digital TV, owls and frogs, for example – the majority honor royal anniversaries such as our monarchs’ various birthdays, Buddhist religious days, and the Red Cross (of which the eldest princess is the head).  National Children’s Day is always a popular issue and lately have seen designs featuring not only kids but trying to promote awareness of the ASEAN community’s ten member nations.  One forthcoming issue clearly motivated (likely ordered) by last year’s military coup is a pane re-iterating the 12 values for Thai youths to follow.  Hopefully, the English translation on the stamps themselves will be better than the flyers distributed to schools and portrayed on billboards last year, translations that had all of us English teachers rolling on the floor laughing at the unintended hilarity.  Lost in translation, indeed.

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In fact, I frequently puzzle over the stamp descriptions as published in the Thailand Post new issue bulletins.  On my other blog, I’d taken to transcribing them as printed in order to give my readers a chuckle.

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As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I do prefer the classics.  For Thailand (or Siam, as the nation was called until the 1940’s), that starts a bit earlier than the August 1883 solot issue.  The post office in the British consulate in Bangkok provided a mail service for foreigners (farang), initially using stamps from India and Hong Hong but finally began overprinting Straits Settlements stamps (Penang, Malacca and Singapore) with a large B.  These are quite popular amongst collectors in this region and thus far I haven’t been successful in obtaining one. I do have a rather poorly-executed counterfeit of the most expensive issue – Scott #22 which is priced at US $45,000 unused in my 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue.

As far as catalogues go, there are several options for the collector of Thai stamps.  Scott does cover the issues quite well, although I prefer Stanley Gibbons for the British Post Office in Bangkok postal history.  There are several different catalogues published here in Thailand, most are in the Thai language of course, but a couple are semi-bilingual.  The problem with these is that there always seems to be a lot more of the foreign language than the English equivalent; I just know they aren’t translating everything!

Scan_20141226 (47)The language barrier does create some problems, particularly at the post office.  I do have adequate Thai language skills that serve me well for basic conversation or when attempting to purchase food in the market but they don’t extend to philatelic terms.  Luckily, Phuket is in possession of a philatelic museum and I make almost all of my stamp purchases at their sales counter due to the slightly more than rudimentary English skills of the main sales lady.  She really tries to be helpful, even passing me the ancient and well-worn Phuket circular datestamp on those rare occasions when I want to make a commemorative cover of some sort.  (The handstamp probably dates from the 1920’s and I have never gotten a passable impression from this device.)

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Thailand021-rsOne of the most frustrating things is that issues of new definitive stamps never seem to be announced in Thailand and it can be difficult to find out details once they are released.  Also, an increasing number of commemoratives are issued in special limited edition mini-sheets of four the majority of which are NOT available in post offices.  They are usually distributed in souvenir folders at events associated with the subject matter and can be found on eBay at huge markups usually without the original folders.  Other back-of-the-book items and booklets add to the mix of annual issues (unannounced) and there are multiple pictorial postmarks for every new issue and many local events.  Some are announced in Thai language publications after the fact.  Thus, it seems to be virtually impossible to stay on top of things and form complete annual collections of Thai new issues.  At least that’s my take on things.

There are a few other mild irritations, including the complete lack of physical stamp shops on Phuket.  There are a few that remain in Bangkok so I need to spend some time in the capital at some point doing nothing but checking these shops out.  Also, there are always several issues each year that either are never supplied to post offices on Phuket or sell-out before I have a chance to get there.  The shelf life for many issues seems abnormally short.

On the plus side, there’s at least one major show each year in Bangkok but I have yet to attend one due to it being held during the school year.  If I had the time, there are also active philatelic communities in both Malaysia and Singapore.  The last time I visited the latter place, I spent an enjoyable couple of hours in the philatelic museum there.

I simply enjoy collecting what I can of the country, sticking with the items that I can find at the Phuket Philatelic Museum sales counter and if one of the harder-to-find items appears on eBay at a reasonable price, I will snatch it up.  I’m certain it would improve my collecting of the nation if I were able to read the Thai language but I’ve more or less given up on more than a rudimentary understanding of the language.  At least I’m having fun and that’s the most important aspect of any hobby.

Happy Collecting.

Postmark2014iAround the time I began collecting stamps again in earnest, I stumbled across several local post stamps.  Somewhat inspired by these, I set off on a tangent to my main philatelic pursuits and launched my own local post.  I had two purposes in mind when I created Muang Phuket Local Post:  1)  to learn how to use photo-editing software to design stamp-like labels and postcards and 2) to commemorate subjects that I felt were interesting but weren’t being honored by official postal administrations.  Mostly, it was just for fun. 

phuket_mapMuang refers to an administrative district for a community in Thailand, applied to the capital district (amphoe muang) of a province but is also generally the municipal equivalent of a town.  Originally, the term was used for a town having a defensive wall and a ruler with at least the noble rank of khun.  Other district subdivisions include tambon (township or subdistrict) and muban (village or hamlet).  I happen to live in Tambon Talat Yai (“big market subdistrict”) in Amphoe Muang Phuket which most local people just call Muang Phuket or “Phuket Town”.  Thus, the name for the local post.

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The first issues in late 2013 were designed using a couple of different Android apps while the postmarks were done in Adobe Photoshop (a program in which I’m still struggling with the basics).  Various other markings were pieced together using Microsoft Paint and sheet layouts were often done using MS Office Word.  The 2014 releases were created using a Windows 8 app called Fotr while the January 2015 Penny Black issue and the yet-to-be-released ASEAN flag stamps were made using Paint.  An issue I’m planning to mark my 50th birthday in December may be the most complex yet as with portions made using Paint, Photoscape, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.  I hope it comes together as I intend…

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I “released” the first two Muang Phuket Local Post stamps in October 2013 – a definitive featuring an iconic building that serves as one of the symbols for Phuket Town plus a commemorative for World Post Day.  Four additional issues appeared before the end of the year marking the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, 180 years of Thai-American friendship, and a 6-stamp Christmas in Thailand set.  MPLP has participated in the last two World Local Post Days (the last Monday in January) with a single commemorating the centenary of the start of World War I in 2014 and the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black this year.  A pair of stamps at the end of 2014 marked the tenth anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami.

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Future releases include an eleven-stamp set portraying flags of the ASEAN member nations (plus the ASEAN flag itself) to be issued in early August, at least five marking my 50th birthday in December (which happens to fall on the same day as His Majesty King Bhumiphol Adulyadej), and a single designed for use at the English camps held by my teaching agency at various village schools on Phuket and neighboring islands.

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To date, all MPLP issues have been imperforate, the 2013 issues printed on plain paper and affixed to covers using a glue stick.  The 2014 and 2015 stamps have been printed on self-adhesive paper.  All have been extremely limited releases, usually numbering less than fifty of each design printed with less than ten first day covers prepared for each issue.  These are dual-canceled by the Phuket Town post office and sent through the mail. 

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Denominations are in either 25 or 50 satang, a very small unit of the Thai baht (100 satang = 1 baht = US $0.029).  The tiny brass coins are occasionally given as change (rounded down) but never accepted for payment, at least here in Phuket Town. 

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First day of issue postmarks have also been made for each issue, the majority printed directly on the envelopes after stamps had been affixed.  For the 2014 tsunami anniversary issue, I had a generic undated rubber handstamp made with a stylized wave which I’ve been using on all Muang Phuket Local Post correspondence (primarily Postcrossing postcards).  I’ve also designed a few transport markings including “Carried by Elephant” and “Tuk Tuk Express” but thus far these have been printed by computer rather than actual handstamps.

The sole manner of conveyance is by my own footpower, transporting covers and postcards from my home to the closest mailbox or post office (usually the main one in Phuket Town, adjacent to the Phuket Philatelic Museum).  Rather than doing hand-back service at the counter, I prefer to have these go through the Thai mailstream (i.e., FDC’s are always mailed to myself or another collector).  I have sent envelopes bearing MPLP stamps (affixed to the lower left) internationally and all have arrived…so far.  The local postings do illustrate the inefficiency of Thailand Post as they take at least a week and usually closer to two weeks to travel the two kilometers between the main post office and my home.

I’m currently at work creating a catalogue listing the stamps, covers, and postmarks of Muang Phuket Local Post.  And I just realized that I should make stamp album pages as well…

Once again, I find it interesting the tangents that this hobby can lead you to pursue.

Happy Collecting.

Aitutaki (Cook Islands) COAAitutaki (Cook Islands) Flag

LOCATION: One of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean, northeast of New Zealand
GOVERNMENT: Dependency of New Zealand
POPULATION: 2,000 (est. 2014)
AREA: 7 square miles

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: New Zealand stamps overprinted January 1903.
FIRST STAMPS RE-ISSUED: Cook Islands stamps overprinted 7 August 1972.

CURRENCY:
12 pence = 1 shilling; 20 shillings = 1 pound (1892-1967)
100 cents = 1 dollar (1967-date)

Aitutaki is an “almost atoll” in the Cook Islands group, probably first settled around AD 900. The land area of the atoll is 6.97 square miles (18.05 square kilometers), of which the main island occupies 6.5 square miles (16.8 km²), with a hill called Maunga Pu providing the highest elevation of approximately 123 meters.  The lagoon is about 19 square miles (50 square kilometers).  Most of Aitutaki’s important features, including a boat passage through the barrier reef are found on the atoll’s western side.  There is a small airport close to the northern point and flying boats and in the southeastern part of the lagoon.  There are eight villages which are further divided into 19 tapere.  The main village is Arutanga and today Aitutaki has a population of 2000.

Aitutaki -- Image from Space (NASA)

The first known European contact was with Captain Bligh and the crew of HMS Bounty when they discovered Aitutaki on 11 April 1789, just prior to the infamous mutiny. Aitutaki was the first of the Cook Islands to accept Christianity following the 1821 visit of John Williams, a missionary from the London Missionary Society (LMS);  A British Protectorate was declared over the 15 islands of the Cook group on 20 September 1888. On 9 October 1900, Aitutaki became the only one of the Cook Islands to be annexed by Great Britain rather than ceded.  All of the islands, including Aitutaki, were transferred by Great Britain to New Zealand control on 11 June 1901.

New Zealand and American forces were stationed on the island in 1942 and built the two-way airstrip that is in use today. This was used as an Allied bomber base during the Second World War.  Aitutaki’s lagoon was used as a stopover for the flying boats of Tasman Empire Airways Ltd. (TEAL) during the 1950s on the famous Coral Route.  Cyclone Pat struck the atoll in February 2010, damaging 60% percent of the houses and other buildings including a school and a hospital.  While there were a few minor injuries, no deaths were reported.

Cook Islands stamps were used on Aitutaki from 1892 until 1903 when overprinted or surcharged New Zealand stamps were issued. Seven of the eight values were placed on sale in Auckland on 12 June 1903 and on Aitutaki on 29 June, with the 2½ pence arriving on 9 November. The denominations were written in the local dialect. 

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The last of the overprinted stamps appeared in 1920 and were replaced by a six-stamp pictorial set inscribed “Aitutaki” and sharing designs with the Cook Islands and Niue issues.  Another set of three Aitutaki stamps were released from 1924-1927. All of the Aitutaki stamps issued from 1920-1927 are worth more used than mint. Inverted centers and double frames are known from printers’ waste. Cook Islands stamps superseded those of the island on 15 March 1932 and were used until Aitutaki became a separate postal entity on 1 April 1972 and resumed issuing its own stamps in August of that year. These were overprinted Cook Islands issues; the first new stamps inscribed “Aitutaki” appeared in April 1973.

My 2009 edition of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue lists some 611 general issue stamps for Aitutaki in Volume 1.  Of these, 32 were issued between 1903 and 1927 with the bulk released between 1972 and the present.  Some collectors avoid the later issues as they are designed primarily with the tourist and collector in mind rather than serving any real postal use amongst the 2000 residents.  In addition, all of the back-of-the-book releases are post-1972 as well; I count 83 semi-postal stamps, six for airmail and 41 official stamps.

Aitutaki Map 03

I currently have three Aitutaki stamps in my collection although I do aim to add more of the earlier issues.  Scott #7 (pictured above) was released on 9 January 1911, a yellow-green half-penny New Zealand stamp overprinted in red with the denomination rendered as “Ava Pene” (half-penny).

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On 23 August 1920, Aitutaki released its first stamps inscribed with its name rather than the over-printed New Zealand stamps that had been used since 1903. The set of six engraved stamps were designed and printed by Perkins, Bacon & Co. of London and followed the designs of Cook Islands and Niue. The half-penny value (Scott #27), a striking bicolor design in green and black, depicts the landing of Captain Cook on another island in the group which eventually received his name (he didn’t actually visit Aitutaki).  The “Avarua” waterfront depicted on the 1p carmine & black value is actually on the island of Rarotonga.  It is this last stamp (Scott #29) that I chose to represent Aitutaki in my A Stamp From Everywhere collection.

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Afghanistan National EmblemAfganistan Flag

LOCATION: Central Asia
GOVERNMENT: Republic
POPULATION: 23,500,000 (est. 1995)
CAPITAL: Kabul

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 1871.

Afghanistan is a mountainous landlocked country in central Asia. Emerging as an independent state in the mid-18th century, during the 19th century, the country was caught up in the struggle between Russia and Great Britain and became a de facto British protectorate until it won its independence in 1919. The emir was crowned king in 1926 and the kingdom remained until 1973.

In 1978 a Russian-inspired coup installed a puppet Soviet regime and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was established. Following opposition by Muslim loyalists, the Russians invaded in December 1979, an occupation that lasted ten years. Moderate Muslims replaced the Marxist government in 1992, followed by the radical Taliban in 1996. A United States-led invasion occurred in the early 21st century, toppling the Taliban government. An Islamic republic with a democratic constitution was formed in 2004.

Afghanistan issued its first stamps in 1871 as the Kingdom of Kabul. However, these weren’t valid for postage outside of the country as Afghanistan didn’t join the Universal Postal Union until 1928. British India stamps were required for postage abroad.

Afghanistan A1 from Scott CatalogueThe Lion’s head issues of 1871-1878 are famous for having a corner torn off to indicate cancellation.   Created during the reign of the emir Sher Ali Khan who had initiated the postal service a few years earlier, the first of the square stamps featured a circular design printed in black ink.  The lion’s head in the central emblem symbolized the reigning emir – Sher means “lion” in the local Dari language.  Note that my copy of the Scott catalogue (2009 edition) calls these stamps “tiger’s heads”; the first issue is numbered #2.

Stamps were issued between 1876 and 1878 for each postal district, printed in different colors for the main post offices at Jalalabad, Kabul, the Afghan office in Peshawar in neighboring Pakistan, and Khulm (Tashqurkhan).  Catalogues differ in how they treat these issues; Scott has them listed as #29-108 but is unclear as to which color belonged to which office.  It does note that some specialists view the black printings as proofs or color trials.

The emir died in 1880, after which a similar circular design was used but without the lion’s head emblem.  This basic design was used until the Kingdom of Afghanistan was established in 1891 after which all designs were rectangular in their layout.  In February 1927, the first stamps to include the words “Afghan Post” in English were released; prior to that, only Arabic script had been used to label the stamps.  The French equivalent, “Afghanes Postes” began appearing shortly thereafter.

As a result of the civil war, no official stamps were issued from 1992 until 2001. The Taliban issued stamps during this period after they were expelled from the capital but still controlled parts of the country, but these aren’t listed in catalogues.

Afghanistan Map 2

Between May 1870 and 7 December 2004 (the last issue listed in my 2009 Scott catalogue), Afghanistan issued 1600 general issue stamps. There are many more unlisted varieties, many of which were imperforate versions designed to be sold solely to collectors.  By my count, the nation released 113 semi-postal stamps between July 1952 and October 1981.  The first air post stamps were released 1 October 1939 with the last appearing in 1962, a total of 62 stamps including a few souvenir sheets.  Other back of the book issues include 10 registration stamps (used on post office receipts), nine official stamps which were used only on interior mail, 21 parcel post stamps, and 25 postal tax stamps.  This all makes a grand total of 1,842 stamps released by Afghanistan that are listed in Scott.

Only the pre-1891 Afghani stamps are fairly expensive with some retailing for USD $200 and up.  Most of those released after 1891 are affordable.  The most valuable are Scott #8 and 9, “tiger’s” head stamps released in 1872 on toned wove paper and dated “1289”.  They were printed in sheets of four (2×2) – two of the 6 shahi and two of the 1 rupee kabuli, both in violet.  There are two varieties of each with the date varying in location.  Unused copies of the 6sh are valued at USD $1,000 (2009) and the 1rup goes for $1,500.  Used copies are valued $650 and $1,100, respectively, with most used examples smeared with a greasy ink cancellation.

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Currently, I only have three stamps issued by Afghanistan in my collection.  Scott #285 – 2 pouls black – was released imperforate in 1937, paying the newspaper rate.  I found a mint pair in a packet of 100 all-different stamps from 100 different countries (a VERY good mix, by the way).  An unused single is worth USD $1.00.

Scott #689 is the high value of a set of three issued on 12 July 1964 to publicize Afghanistan as a tourist destination. The 3 afghanis red, black and green stamp was printed in Photogravure and is perforated 14×13½. A map of the country is superimposed upon the national flag, a vertical tricolor of black, red, and green charged in the center with the national emblem (not seen here).

Afghan001

The flag of Afghanistan has had more changes since the start of the 20th century than has that of any other country in the world. The design remained static through most of the constitutional monarchy period but has been changed thirteen times since 1973. The current design is very similar to the one flown from 1930 until 1973 with the addition of the shahadah at the top of the coat of arms.

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I’m becoming increasingly convinced that either my local postman or somebody at the main post office is withholding my mail from delivery until they decide that I have “enough” to make it worth their while.  Last Wednesday, I received some 14 pieces of mail after quite a long period of nothingness and today there were nine envelopes waiting for me at the reception desk.  I’d only received one postcard in the interim (one picturing the Bohemian town of Joachimsthal).  But no matter, at least the mail does arrive slowly but surely and it’s nice to have such treasures awaiting me when I return from a 13-hour day at work.

New stamp arrivals -- 11 June 2015

Bech001As I’m currently making small purchases – single stamps and sets to fill a few gaps and build new topical interests – the nine envelopes received today contained a total of 27 stamp items from eight different countries.  Only two of the stamp-issuing entities are “new” to my A Stamp From Everywhere collection – British Bechuanaland and Bechuanaland Protectorate (the northern section of the the Bechuanaland region in southern Africa).

A glance at the scans above will reveal a few of the themes I’m  working on – Places I’ve Lived and The Story of My Family (my father was a missile instructor at Fort Bliss) are the less obvious. 

Picture side of Swedish stamped postcard, 1977I’ve started to collect stamps picturing Charles Lindbergh because my life-long interest in his historic first flight across the Atlantic was rekindled last year by reading Bill Bryson’s excellent One Summer: America, 1927.  The first day cover for the United States’ 1977 issue marking the 50th anniversary of his flight was the first I received through the Postal Commemorative Society.  I vividly remember buying a few of the stamps shortly after their release, pasting one inside the front cover of my paperback copy of The Spirit Of St. Louis and getting it postmarked at the Hendersonville, Tennessee, post office near our home at the time.  The Wright Brothers stamps were similarly inspired by reading a book – David McCullough’s recently published biography.

Ajman23The Ajman airmail stamps (Scott #C1-9) were purchased as they are actually listed in the catalogue whereas a set of (rather ugly) international military uniforms that I received in a packet a couple of years ago is not listed.  However, I’m rather disappointed in the torn lower left corner of the 15-naye paise value.  I’ll probably use the 35np camel as the Ajman representative stamp on the ASFEW album page.

Lastly, I want to mention that I absolutely love the design of the two stamps from Gibraltar (Scott #932-933) received today.  The tiny colony always seems to produce some of the nicest-looking stamps around.  I look forward to obtaining more (these are only the second and third that I own from “The Rock”).

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The French Lindbergh stamp from 1977 (Scott #C49) is also strikingly beautiful…

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Happy Collecting!

Aden Colony COA

Aden Colony Flag

LOCATION: Southern Arabia

GOVERNMENT: British colony and protectorate

POPULATION: 220,000 (est. 1964)

CAPITAL: Aden

 

FIRST STAMPS USED: India 1854.

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 1 April 1937.

LAST STAMPS ISSUED: 1965.

1 Rupee = 16 Annas; 1 Anna = 12 Fils (1937-1951)

1 Shilling = 100 Cents (1951-1965)

1 Dinar = 1000 Fils (1965-1968)

On 19 January 1839, the British East India Company landed Royal Marines at Aden – a city in southwestern Arabia – as it was considered an important place due to its location where attacks by pirates against British shipping could be stopped. Upon the opening of the Suez Canal it was used as a coaling station for the steamship route from Suez to India. The British governed Aden as part of British India, originally as the Aden Settlement under the Bombay Presidency. British influence then began to extend inland, both west and east, with the establishment of Aden Protectorate.

A residency post office was opened under Indian administration in 1839 and it became the exchange point for mail through the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean and Far East. Indian stamps were used in the protectorate starting in 1854. The city of Aden itself became a separate Crown Colony on 1 April 1937 and began to issue its own stamps.  These were also used in the Protectorate of Aden.

A several of the individual emirates objected to the usage of the British monarch on the stamps.  In 1942, the Kathiri State of Seiyun and the Qu’aiti State of Shirh and Mukalla (renamed Qu’aiti State in Hadramaut in 1955) began issuing their own stamps which were valid for postage throughout Aden, portraying local sultans.  Although  they are listed after Aden in the Scott catalogue, I will deal with the individual emirates when they come up alphabetically.  Neither Scott nor Stanley Gibbons list the post-1963 emirates issues as these are in some dispute (as are later issues by Mahra State and the State of Yaffa).

On 18 January 1963, the Colony of Aden (the port) and the sheikdoms and emirates of the Western Aden Protectorate formed the Federation of South Arabia. South Arabian stamps replaced the stamps of Aden on 1 April 1965. In 1967, Aden became part of the People’s Republic of Yemen.

Aden issued a total of 81 General Issue stamps between 1937 and 1965 (no Air Mails or Postage Dues, etc.).  The majority are relatively inexpensive with the exception of definitive high values scattered throughout its stamp-issuing period.  The most expensive stamp is Scott #12, the 10-rupee olive green picturing the ubiquitous dhow.  It’s valued at USD $450 mint and $475 used in my 2009 edition of the catalogue.

Aden Colony Map 01

Aden

I currently have ten stamps from Aden – the three stamps marking the 1937 coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Scott #13-15); the 1946 Peace issue pair (#28 and 29); the four issued in 1949 commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union, surcharged with new values in Annas and Rupees (#32-35); and the 1-anna value of the 1939-1948 definitive set (#16-27a).  I aim to add more of these beautifully engraved stamps, such as the low values of the 1937 Dhow set.

The stamp I chose to represent Aden in my A Stamp From Everywhere collection is Scott #18, the 1a bright light blue released in 1939, part of a set of thirteen definitive stamps.  Perforated 12½ and engraved, the stamp features the ancient natural harbor at Aden which lies in the crater of a dormant volcano forming a peninsula joined to the mainland by a low isthmus. The original port city is called Crater while the modern port is known as Ma’alla. The area of Tawahi was called “Steamer Point” during the colonial period. The same design is also featured on the 2 rupee value, issued in 1944.

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