I am certainly no fan of stamps released by the various agencies that are so maligned by the majority of philatelists. These include Stamperija (or, Stampera as they are calling themselves now) out of Vilnius, Lithuania, the Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation (IGPC) of Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A., and Philatelic Collector Inc. (PCi) which has its headquarters in Sag’s Harbor, also in New York State. I tend to be a bit more forgiving of PCi as they only have a handful of clients and release relatively fewer issues per year. Rather than trying to list 30-90 new issues at a time as with Stampera announcements, there are usually three or four new issues per territory announced at a time.

Reflecting the amount of space most agency clients take up on my Stamp Programme pages, I have decided to move all of those territories to Agency Release pages starting with those of PCi, completed earlier today and viewable here. The company only has seven active clients — Aitutaki, the Cook Islands, Niuafo’ou, Penrhyn, Rarotonga, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Another of their clients, Samoa, has not released any stamps since 2017.

Of these, Tonga is the heaviest issuer so far this year with seven separate issues (eight if you count one that is not listed on PCi’s website and was possibly illegally produced elsewhere). The Cook Islands has released five separate issues in 2021, Aitutaki and Niuafo’ou have four each, and there have been three each from Penrhyn and Vanuatu. Nothing has been released yet this year bearing the name of Rarotonga.

Each issue typically comprises several stamps (four being the average) and at least one souvenir sheet or miniature sheets (six being the average amount of stamps in the miniature sheets). Almost all issues are released in both perforated and imperforate varieties and can be ordered cancelled to order (CTO), mint, or on first day covers. Frustratingly, they rarely announce actual issue dates and their website does not provide images of the FDC’s or cancellations. Thus, in my listings the date is usually given as “TBD”, meaning they have been released but the actual date is “to be determined”.

I usually do not do full New Issues articles for agency releases although I have made exceptions in the past (mostly pandemic-themed stamps). I came close to not including them at all on the schedule pages this year due to their sheer numbers but I also feel that a list of ALL stamps in a given year MUST include them. Almost all of these types of stamps portray popular topicals in an effort to lure collectors into buying them; however, the themes rarely have anything to do with the country, the proceeds from the stamps never benefit the local economies, and the majority of designs are poorly executed.

An example of how other philatelists regard stamps released by agencies can be read in a recent article on The Commonwealth Stamps Opinion Blog entitled, “Vanuatu Falls to Philatelic Collector Inc.” Indeed, I often become exasperated on social media due to collectors new to the hobby seemingly enthralled by various agency releases, particularly the pandemic- and Olympic-themed issues. My belief is that there are enough “real” stamps issued by actual postal administrations employing local printing companies and carriers to completely discount anything released by an agency based in New York or Lithuania. Most of their stamps will never make it to the territories whose names they bear, although there are a very few exceptions. Spend your collecting budget on non-agency stamps before even considering the alternative.

That all being said, I do find a number of PCi stamps bearable. The design execution is a cut above the majority put out by Stampera, for example. The current batch of announcements are quite attractive. One hallmark of PCi stamps is that many include a foundation’s logo (the World Wildlife Fund being one example). All of the stamps in the most recent announcement (and including the first 2021 releases from several of their clients) bear the logo of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

I grew up with the Smithsonian. I loved the magazine (and still read it when I can find an issue) and loved visiting the various museums (all free of admission) whenever we visited D.C. while I was growing up. I have a number of beautifully-illustrated books published by the Smithsonian. There are a number of websites for Smithsonian museums and departments and all are a wealth of information and images. I find these stamps to be worthy of the great work done by the organization. I just wish they weren’t agency stamps.

Will I buy any of them? Well, I am currently not buying any stamps due to the continuing situation in Thailand. When I can fully return to work, there are a great number of other stamps I would rather spend my money on. However, I don’t mind adding images of them to this site. You might say that I am collecting them digitally. I must say that I particularly like those depicting the Mercury Friendship 7 spaceflight; having recently watched the entire first season of the History Channel/Disney+ series “The Right Stuff”, the topic is very much in my mind right now.

In lieu of separate New Issues articles as I usually create, I present all of the 2021 PCi Smithsonian designs below. I only have images of the perforated stamps and sheets. I do not have first dates of issue for any of these; if any readers come across first day covers, please let me know the dates of the cancellations in the comments below…

Aitutaki

Asian Elephants — Elephant Walk at National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.

Mercury Freedom 7 / National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Best of Smithsonian

Cook Islands

American Bison — American Bison Exhibit at National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.

Mercury Freedom 7 / National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Best of Smithsonian

Niuafo’ou

Clouded Leopard — Asia Trail at National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.

Mercury Freedom 7 / National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Best of Smithsonian

Penrhyn

Mercury Freedom 7 / National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Best of Smithsonian

Kingdom of Tonga

Giant Panda — Asia Trail at National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.

Science of Rocketry / National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Best of Smithsonian

Vanuatu

Red Panda — Asia Trail at National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.

Satellites and Rockets / National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Best of Smithsonian

I do not know how long Philatelic Collector Inc. has been issuing stamps bearing the Smithsonian logo (hopefully, it is properly licensed). I first noticed it on the issues commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 2019. If this a true partnership, I would not mind seeing a few more issues of this caliber despite it feeling wrong that these are being released bearing the names of a handful of islands scattered throughout the South Pacific. It would be nice if there would be a set released focusing on the collections of the National Postal Museum. That is an issue I might actually purchase. For now, I will admire these particular agency stamps from afar.

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