Happy Valentine’s Day or as it is known in Thailand, Wan Rak (“Day of Love”).

The Philatelic Museum in Bangkok has a special Valentine's Day postmark. I really wish the museum in Phuket would do something like this sometime.
The Philatelic Museum in Bangkok has a special Valentine’s Day postmark. I really wish the post office or museum in Phuket would do something similar.

The past week has been extremely busy so my philatelic pursuits have been rather limited. In addition to the flurry of assessments as the school year rapidly comes to an end on March 8 (just in time for the long Thai New Year holiday), we also had disruptions for Chinese New Year and the three-day Phuket Old Town Festival. It will only get busier as my school is hosting an Open House the last week of the term (it is as yet unclear whether this will occur before, during or after the final exams). I have been asked to plan and organize a games area for the kindergartners at this Open House (when will I find the time?). This weekend, I am to interview (with one other teacher assisting) more than 100 prospective kindergarten students whose parents would like them to enroll in next year’s English program.

Yet, somehow I manage to find the time to blog. In the case of A Stamp A Day, I often find myself working on articles late into the night as I am proud of my 962 unmissed days. However, I am still planning to take a lengthy break from that blog once I hit post number one thousand, 38 days from now (yes, I am counting down already). I save two hours or so on Sunday afternoons for updates to the increasingly massive New Issues 2019 page. This particular column (although I am less than enamored with the name “Weekly Phila-Bytes”) usually begins life on Tuesday mornings but I was out late this past Monday for the closing of the Old Town Festival.

Thailand - Thailand Post #TH-1164 (2019)
Thailand – Symbol of Love special stamp 2019 Thailand Post #TH-1164 (February 13, 2019) single digitally cropped from full sheet

My Valentine’s Day gift to you, dear readers, is to spend my evening finishing the “Weekly Phila-Bytes”. Another advantage to being single on this, the most expensive of all holidays. Still, love is in the air. Many of my students gave me Valentine’s Day cards and I received a strange strawberry jam “sandwich” and a similar one of blueberries made with cold toasted bread. Yum! I love my students….

While on the subject of love, I mentioned in last week’s entry that I was planning to purchase the new Thailand Symbol of Love stamp that afternoon. I did do just that, walking to the post office as soon as my high school classes finished. The clerk was set up in the lobby (since the Philatelic Museum has been undergoing renovations, I have made most of my stamp purchases in the back room amidst sorting bins and piles of red-and-white Thailand Post boxes). The first thing she told me was that the museum was due to open this week and showed me some photos of the interior on her phone. She seemed genuinely excited, I will try to pay a visit next week. They were painting the window shutters bright red when I was there last Thursday (which somehow looks good with the rest of the exterior, a muted yellow).

Thailand - Thailand Post #TH-1164 (2019) first day cover
Thailand – Symbol of Love special stamp 2019 Thailand Post #TH-1164 (February 7, 2019) first day cover with added Phuket postmark (applied by the blogger)

Today’s ASAD article features the new stamp. I wrote it quite early in the afternoon, just as soon as I returned from school (where we had a few extra “Day of Love” activities and the younger kids ran around sticking heart stickers on to each other’s uniform shirts). As I didn’t want to spend hours putting it together, the entry is largely photographic — in addition to my scanned images of the new stamp sheet and first day cover, there are also several Thailand Post promo images and pictures of the first day of sale in Bangkok. Towards the end of the article are a few paragraphs on each of three United States stamps commemorating additional February 14th events. Please have a look.

The biggest news from Thailand Post this week is a revised Stamp Programme 2019 schedule which includes the assumed but now confirmed Coronation stamp(s). From my interpretation of the schedule, it appears to be a single 10-baht stamp in a sheet of 10 (or it could be two 5-baht stamps but that seems highly unlikely. His Majesty Maha Vajiralongkorn is the 10th King of the Chakri Dynasty so all of the Royal stamps for him have thus far been denominated at 10 baht (his father, the late Bhumibhol Adulyadej, was Rama IX so his stamps were usually 9 baht). What gives me pause is that Thailand Post has ordered 3,000,000 copies of this particular issue — three times the amount to be printed for the King’s annual birthday issue in July.

Republica Phuketia – MPLP #Ph29 (October 31, 2018)
Republica Phuketia – MPLP #Ph29 (October 31, 2018)
Republica Phuketia – MPLP #PH36a (2018) sheet #2, full pane of 15
Republica Phuketia – MPLP #PH36a (2018) sheet #2, full pane of 15

The only other major change to the stamp schedule is that the annual Thai Traditional Festival set of four stamps has been bumped from April to an issue date of October 7. The only festival that this date even remotely coincides with is the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, better known as the Vegetarian Festival. The 2019 festival will run from September 28 until October 7 so it is possible that Thailand Post will mark this huge event for the first time. I would think, however, that they would release the stamps BEFORE the end, not on the closing day (which, in Phuket, is utter mayhem with street processions from ALL of the island’s shrines converging on one very small space resulting in a SEVEN-HOUR LONG FIREWORKS BATTLE into the wee hours of the morning!) The stamps would burn! If the Vegetarian Festival is indeed being honored with a stamp release, I highly doubt the Phuket version (which is the largest and most famous outside of Mainland China itself) would be depicted as Bangkok tried to pretend we don’t exist. Which is why my personal local post (Republica Phuketia) released a set of eight “VegFest” stamps last year. I do hope Thailand Post reveals the actual subject soon so that I can have a reissue of the Phuketia stamps printed (with 2019 dates) if need be.

The U.S. stamp news front has been relatively quiet for the past week. The issue date for the Coral Reefs set of four postcard-rate stamps has now been set for March 29 during the St. Louis Stamp Expo. As of yet, there is no scheduled first day of issue ceremony scheduled but the show might decide to host one. Still, I find it amusing that the first day postmarks for stamps picturing coral will be St. Louis, MISSOURI (or does the Mississippi River now have coral reefs?).

United States - Coral Reefs (March 29, 2019)
United States – Coral Reefs (March 29, 2019)

Look for updates to my 2019 Stamp-Issuing Programs articles for Thailand and the United States in the very near future (possibly as early as Sunday). I will probably elevate them to page-status to make them a bit easier to find (and update). While the Thailand program is mostly a shuffle of dates with one addition to the schedule, Thailand Post has yet to reveal the images for any additional forthcoming stamps. The U.S. update will include several recently announced stamp issues and a number of new images (replacing the promotional images with real stamps in some cases). I would like to add non-official first day cancellations, photos of the first day ceremonies, etc. but these simply aren’t available for a large number of stamps (i.e., those that bear a Kansas City postmark such as the January 27 deluge, none of which had an official ceremony).

Great Britain - Leonardo da Vinci issue (February 13, 2019) first day cover;; one of four panes from prestige stamp book
Great Britain – Leonardo da Vinci issue (February 13, 2019) first day cover;; one of four panes from prestige stamp book

My favorite set of stamps released this week are probably Great Britain’s 12 stamps marking the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. I pre-ordered a presentation pack containing the stamps, two first day covers, and the prestige stamp book so those should be arriving at some point in the near future. Since yesterday (the first day of issue) also happened to be the anniversary of the discovery of Leonardo’s “Madrid Codices”, I featured the stamps in my A Stamp A Day article, a rare occurrence of my using stamps not actually in my collection on that blog. I feel that it’s still within my personal policy since I did purchase the stamps, they just aren’t actually in-hand yet. Also, Royal Mail actually provided very high-resolution promotional images for a change (most of the stamps measuring around 3400 x 3400 pixels) as well as information on each of the featured paintings in their press release. When I set out to put together the article, I had planned to include just one stamp, but I ended up using all twelve as well as images of various first day covers and more. I am quite proud of the end result and cannot wait until the stamps arrive in the post.

The full list of ASAD articles published in the past week follows.

  1.  February 7, 2019:  “Charles Dickens: A Philatelic Tribute on His Birthday” (St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla — Scott #224, 1970) 1,585 words
  2.  February 8, 2019:  “Jules Verne” (Monaco — Scott #348, 1955) 5,389 words
  3.  February 9, 2019:  “The Beatles Make History in the U.S.A.” (Great Britain — Scott #2320, 2007) 2,889 words
  4.  February 10, 2019:  “UNESCO and the World Heritage Site at Kotor” (UNESCO/France Official — Scott #2O35, 1984) 4,240 words
  5.  February 11, 2019:  “Thomas Alva Edison” (San Marino — Scott #1027, 1982) 5,024 words
  6.  February 12, 2019:  “The Galápagos Islands Become Part of Ecuador” (Ecuador — Scott #1122, 1986) 4,583 words
  7.  February 13, 2019:  “Leonardo & the Madrid Codices” (Great Britain — da Vinci set 2019 #11, 2019) 4,026 words
  8.  February 14, 2019:  “Happy Valentine’s Day 2019” (Thailand — Thailand Post #TH-1164, 2019) 2,128 words
The Punk Philatelist – Screen shot taken February 14, 2019

With my current schedule, I am falling behind on reading my favorite blogs — philatelic and otherwise. I’m afraid that posts by The Punk Philatelist appear all too infrequently but when they do show up in my news feed, I make sure I read them as soon as I have a chance to because I know I will soon be laughing out loud. Last week, she (oops, he — the “new” Punk is a man) takes on the ever popular topical of fondue on stamps. Just when I thought I’d heard of every possible subject to appear on a stamp, something unexpected comes along. Not only did I learn something new in a hilarious way, I now have a craving for fondue (something I HAVE seen in Thailand on more than a few occasions!). My first thought was that there should be a cheese-scented stamp with fondue-flavored gum. Then, I started thinking about hamburgers (as I often do).

Have there been hamburgers pictured on stamps? I cannot think of any offhand but that doesn’t mean much. I have been toying with an idea of creating Republica Phuketia picturing local foods now that we (um… Phuket, not Phuketia) have attained UNESCO World Heritage status as a City of Gastronomy. How about a set of local post stamps with expat-craved foreign foods. As an enthusiastic expat foodie myself, I am forever seeking new restaurants featuring Western food that tastes as good as it does back in the States. Most fail miserably (how can Taco Bell open its first restaurant in Thailand and NOT have BEEF on the menu!!)

Republica Phuketia - Juicy Lucy (never!) - A 10-minute idea to mockup essay proves the world is not ready for the half-eaten hamburger on stamps topical collection
Republica Phuketia – Juicy Lucy (never!) – A 10-minute idea to mockup essay proves the world is not ready for the half-eaten hamburger on stamps topical collection

The biggest problem with such a series idea is that I usually forget to take a photo of my meal until after I’ve taken a bite or several (they also tend to be rather blurry and totally unappetizing). However, I bet that stamps picturing food with bites out of them has never been done before. My local post can be the initial entry in the next big topical.  One could imagine what would happen if an agency such as the IGPC or Stamperija got a hold of such a revolutionary idea:  there would be an influx of bite-missing taco, pizza, hamburger, and hot dog stamps from such places as Malawi, Grenada and the Gambia in colorful multi-stamp mini-sheets no less. I don’t think the philatelic world is ready for such a thing….

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The Virtual Stamp Club Blog – Screen shot taken on February 14, 2019.

I am always interested in learning ways to interest children in our hobby so I was very pleased to read “Getting A Grandchild Interested in Stamp Collecting” a few days ago on The Virtual Stamp Club‘s blog. It’s written by the well-respected philatelic writer John M. Hotchner who received the Charles J. Peterson Philatelic Literature Life Achievement Award in 2013 and was added to the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 2017.He is in good company with other signatories to the Roll including King George V of England, Count Philip la Renotiere von Ferrary, Baron Arthur de Rothschild, John N. Luff, Frederick John Melville, Harry L. Lindquist, Lester G. Brookman, and John Kerr Tiffanym amongst many other philatelic luminaries. At any rate, the article is a must-read and I am proud to say that I have done a few of the suggested activities. I have long dreamed of hosting an in-school stamp club but such a thing would be better done at a private or international school as the majority of government schools (in which I work almost exclusively nowadays) are not air-conditioned; ceiling fans and open windows do not mix well with loose stamps. I do use flashcards picturing stamps whenever I need to do lessons on countries, nationalities, currency, and a number of other topics. Sometimes, the kids want to know about the stamps themselves and that always pleases me.

On that happy note, this Valentine’s Edition of “Weekly Phila-Bytes” comes to an end. I hope every one of you finds some love in your lives, be it a significant other or a particular stamp. To paraphrase the great Solomon Burke, “Everybody needs some stamp to love“…

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