I have never been a fan of bees.  I am not allergic to the sting but I find them quite unpleasant and have a long history of unpleasant encounters with them, not to mention hornets, wasps and the like.  At least we don’t seem to have such stinging pests in Thailand, at least not where I live.

United Nations Postal Administration (New York/Geneva/Vienna) - World Bee Day (May 20, 2019)
United Nations Postal Administration (New York/Geneva/Vienna) – World Bee Day (May 20, 2019) souvenir sheets

As an anti-bee person, I never gave their appearance on stamps a second thought despite their being a rather popular topical. That may change, however, with the recent release of an attractive set of bee stamps by Malaysia and a forthcoming set by the United Nations Postal Administration for all there of its issuing offices.  The latter will mark World Bee Day on May 20 and will be UNPA’s first “scratch-and-sniff” stamps with a honey scent on the flowers. Which makes me wonder, “Will the stamps attract real bees with the honey scent?” It is a good thing that nobody has issued edible stamps either (imagine the cataloging — “that’s the half-eaten variety”, “the regurgitated variety”) or I would be sorely tempted. Honey is one of the foods I miss; Thai-made honey is really the worst I have ever eaten and non-Thai honey sold here is extremely expensive (I once ordered a jar from Pitcairn Island — still the best I have tried — and the shipping cost was less than the average cost of a jar sold here).

Malaysia - Honey Bees of Malaysia (April 9, 2019) advertisements
Malaysia – Honey Bees of Malaysia (April 9, 2019)
New Zealand - Space Pioneers (May 1, 2019) se-tenant strip of 5
New Zealand – Space Pioneers (May 1, 2019) se-tenant strip of 5

Lately, it seems there have been a plethora of such “unusual” stamps with the fabric stamps from Luxembourg and the Vatican City, other odd-materials stamps made of items such as different forms of wood and metal and the ever-creative shapes such as Malaysia’s honeycombed-shaped stamps for its bee issue (not to mention a bee-shaped souvenir sheet as well). I am finding myself increasingly drawn to such non-traditional stamps and am looking forward to finding more. However, I will have to forego the recent issue from Liechtenstein that includes an attached 1-gram .999.99 fine gold ingot and probably Romania’s silver stamp issued for Easter.

One of the more unusual materials I have come across will be featured on the upcoming Space Pioneers set to be released by New Zealand Post on May 1. As soon as I saw the design, I became a fan of the se-tenant strip of stamps featuring portraits of various Kiwis who had contributed in some way to space exploration through discoveries, inventions or observation with the individual stamps forming a rocket shape (the portraits peering out of portholes in the fuselage). While the majority of space-themed stamps released in 2019 are designed to commemorate the Apollo 11 spacecraft or the astronauts who flew on that mission, it is nice to see New Zealand Post once again thinking outside of the box. What makes this set (and the accompanying 3D lenticular souvenir sheet) even more interesting is that they have been topped off with a sprinkling of crushed meteorite, creating stamps that are quite literally “out of this world”.

Faroe Islands - The Moon Landing 1969 (April 29, 2019)
Faroe Islands – The Moon Landing 1969 (April 29, 2019)

Another space stamp that I will definitely be ordering is the Faroe Islands commemorative for the Apollo 11 anniversary. There are several reasons for my interest, aside from the topical. I have avidly collected stamps and postal history from the Faroes since the late 1980s. It was one of my first completed country collections along with Åland Islands (I used to have nice Davo hingeless albums for both). However, upon reading the story about the artist who designed the single 17-kroner stamp makes it somewhat more personal. The stamp depicts one of artist Edward Fuglø’s first childhood memories — that of his father pointing out the moon at the time of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s arrival upon the surface. At the time, the Faroe Islands had no television access so those living there received news of the Apollo 11 mission via radio relays between Denmark Radio studios in Copenhagen and Útvarp Føroya, the Faroese radio station. Fuglø was just four years old at the time of the moon landing, as was I when my parents allowed me to stay up late for Armstrong’s historic “one small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind.” To this day, I believe those ghostly images to be my own earliest memory.

Edward Fuglø - The Seagull Has Landed (2012)[
“The Seagull Has Landed” painted by Edward Fuglø (2012)

In the description about the Faroe Islands Moon Landing stamp, it mentioned that Edward Fuglø had once “created a nine-meter-long satirical painting entitled ‘The Seagull Has Landed’, showing an astronaut planting the Faroese national flag on the Moon, while a group of other astronauts engage in the traditional Faroese chain dance on the Moon’s surface.” A portion of this is shown on Posta’s website but I just had to track down a copy of the original painting. I finally found it on Fuglø’s website (under Works\2012);I think it would make a mighty fine stamp in it’s own right.

United States - Scott #1805-1806 (1980) Letters Preserve Memories/P.S. Write Soon
United States – Scott #1805-1806 (1980) Letters Preserve Memories/P.S. Write Soon

An online article for Linn’s Stamp News this week reminds me that April is National Card and Letter Writing Month in the United States. I try to participate such activities as often as I can (although I missed A Month of Letters this February) and will request a few more addresses for Postcrossing this month. I have done quite a few activities during English lessons over the years revolving around writing (and designing) postcards over the years.  There are a few interesting lesson plans (with downloadable materials) on the Scholastic website associated with National Card and Letter Month, several of which I will try in classes in the upcoming school year (April in Thailand is a month-long holiday period). The card and envelope templates on the site are especially nice.

Finally, on this rather short weekly update (as I would like to get out and participate in some New Year’s Eve festivities — tomorrow is the Thai New Year), I wanted to mention that 12 years ago today the first of the FOREVER-priced stamps issued by the United States Postal Service was released.  The Liberty Bell housed at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was chosen as the first subject to be featured on such a  stamp which are sold at the current first-class postage rate, remaining valid even if that rate rises in the future. If you buy a Forever stamp at 49 cents per stamp and the first-class postage rate rises in six months to $0.55 per stamp, you are saving six cents for every letter you send. The first of the Liberty Bell stamps was issued on April 12, 2007. At the time, the USPS stated, “The Liberty Bell is an icon that resonates for freedom and independence for all of America, and those are exactly the qualities we want people to associate with the Forever stamp.”  Thirteen varieties of this design were released between 2007 and 2010; the stamp on the first day cover pictured in this article is Scott #4128 from the ATM booklet printed by Avery Dennison with serpentine die-cut perforations of 8.

United States - Scott #4128 (2007) first day cover
United States – Scott #4128 (2007) first day cover

The Forever stamp was so successful for the Postal Service that in 2011, they started using Forever stamps for almost all first-class stamps. In 2015, the postal service extended the Forever stamp concept to postcard-rate stamps and more. According to a 2015 notice from the USPS, the Forever Stamps eliminate “the need for customers and the Postal Service to acquire and distribute new denominated stamps in anticipation of price changes affecting these stamp types, each time a price change occurs.” It is hard to believe that all of this began just 12 years ago — AFTER I had moved away from the United States….forever.

See you next week.  And “Happy Thai New Year” (Sawasdee pii mai Thai) everybody!

 

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!

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Wrapping up the school term – just a week-and-a-half left – while Phuket is being battered by Typhoon Vamco has put most of my philatelic pursuits into a hopefully brief holding pattern.  The mail is unable to be delivered most days due to the heavy rains and high winds but I received a nice-sized stack mid-week.  All, aside from a postcard from China, contained stamp orders with my recently started collection of Mauritius gaining the most benefit with nearly 60 stamps from that island nation (including several dubious bonuses).  I was able to add four new countries (five if you count two different periods of German occupation), a couple topical first day covers, a few postal stationery items, and several classics from the nation of my birth.  Unfortunately, the end of the week brought my first-ever damaged stamps due to careless packaging.

Mauritius - 8 - 1858

The Mauritius stamps came from two small lots with a nice range dating from 1858 through 1946, including the unissued Scott #8.  While several have faults, they will look nice on the pages I recently printed.  While I have yet to find a decent binder (losing several eBay auctions for reasonably-priced Stanley Gibbons springback albums and winning one that never arrived), I recently found a good-quality heavy-weight paper in the local stationery shop.  Several months ago, I purchased a DVD-R containing over 24,000 album pages of a very pleasing, semi-classical design which I like better than the famous Steiner pages.  I’ve been printing some as-is and modifying others.  My Mauritius pages fall into the former category…

Mauritius p1

This sample of page one, obviously, features color images of the stamps none of which I could ever hope to obtain.  But wait a minute!  Didn’t that dealer send something that I could put into a few of those spaces?  I’ve never had a stamp seller send a “bonus” such as this and I’m a bit reluctant to mount them into an album of mine.  What do you think?

Mauritius fakes

They aren’t even very good fakes but there you have it – an eBay seller sent me examples of the 1d and 2d Post Office Mauritius (Scott #1 and 2) plus the successive Post Paid of the same values (Scott #3 and 4) completely free.  They don’t even have the “Copy” notification on the gum-side of the counterfeits.  At any rate, I don’t even think they would look all that great on the album page…

A bit higher status than counterfeit stamps but somewhat less than originally-issued emissions are reprints, especially those officially sanctioned.  Take the case of these Heligoland stamps that I received this week, a “new” entry in my A Stamp From Everywhere collection. 

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Scan_20150903 (10a)The one on the left just doesn’t look right but I would have to say that all three are probably reprints as mentioned in the Scott Catalogue, despite my paying a somewhat higher price than $1-2.  But they could be Scott #7 and 10, issued in 1873.

My second “new” stamp issuer this week is Alexandria, listed in volume 2 of the 2009 Scott catalogue under French Offices.  France maintained a post office in the famous Egyptian city which issued stamps from 1899 until 1928.  The one pictured below is Scott #27, the 50 centime bister brown with lavender center, issued in 1902.

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I received two postal cards from Angra in the Azores which are unlisted in Scott but the pre-printed stamps are the same King Carlos designs as the 25 reis green and 50 reis blue (Scott #5 and 7) issued in 1892.  What intrigued me was the design of the postal cards – something I’d never seen before:  they are folded in half with the outer rims gummed and perforated to provide some privacy, much like later aerogrammes.

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Yet another “new” country received this week were two sets (ships and aviation) from Antigua & Barbuda which I’m counting as separate from those stamps bearing the name of just “Antigua” and those bearing just “Barbuda.”

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The stamps of Alsace and Lorraine (1870 and 1916) as well as Alsace (1940, plus the now separate Lorraine issues) follow the listings of France in volume 2 of the 2009 Scott catalogue as these are “Occupation Stamps” and given the “N” prefix to their catalogue numbers.  Germany was the occupying force in each instance. German Empire stamps replacing those of Alsace and Lorraine from 1 January 1872 until the World War I surcharges which were also used in parts of Belgium occupied by the German forces. 

The 1870 series from Alsace and Lorraine are some of the dullest classical period general issue stamps that I have yet to come across.  I have Scott #N1 – the 1 centime bronze green – and Scott #N4 – 5 centime yellow green – on piece, the latter of which bears a nice CDS.

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The two stamps I received from the 1940 occupation of Alsace are overprinted German stamps from the 1933-36 series featuring  Paul von Hindenburg, the second president of Germany.  These are Scott #N29 – 5 pfennig bright green – and Scott #N31 – 8 pfennig vermilion.

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In the mail were two first day covers – one featuring the infamous Pluto “Not Yet Explored” stamp that was carried aboard the spacecraft which recently flew by the former tenth planet (autographed by the stamp’s designer and featuring a JPL Stamp Club cachet), the other honoring our “Stamp Collecting President” FDR.

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I’ve long been enchanted by the United States’ first “official” commemorative stamp series – the 1893 Columbian Exposition issue – but hadn’t purchased many until recently.  The first to arrive were Scott #231 (2 cent brown violet – Used pair plus Mint “broken hat” variety), 233 (3 cent green Used), and 233 (4 cent ultramarine Mint), plus #U349 (stamped envelope 2c violet Unused entire).

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I am starting to pick up a few other early U.S. stamps as well, filling in gaps with the less expensive stamps before working upwards a bit.  Here’s a nice pair of Scott #26, released in 1857, with New Orleans cancellation.

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Rounding out this week’s batch of mail were a set from the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic issued in 1921 (Scott #278-294) and the first real mail-order disappointment I’ve had in nearly 40 years of collecting.  I’d been trying for a couple of months to successfully bid on a stamp or two from La Aguera and finally won an auction last month featuring Mint copies of Scott #14 (1 centimo turquoise blue) and #15 (2 centimo dark green), issued in June 1922.  They arrived just today from Spain but the seller had taped them up into a little pocket of glossy newspaper advertisement.  I had to take great care cutting the tape so as not to damage the stamps but when I finally got out of the taped enclosure, they were stuck together by their gum.  I slid my tongs between to see if they would separate easily and the top stamp came away with much of the bottom one still attached!  Partly my fault, partly the poor packaging.  Luckily, there are a couple of the same stamps (with slightly better centering) currently on eBay so I’ll have a second chance…

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I certainly hope my next batch of mail brings a bit better luck and…

Happy Collecting!

Photo courtesy of NASA and USPS

I really don’t know how I missed this, but…

Like most people I know, I eagerly watched the recent fly-by of Pluto by the New Horizons space probe via news feeds on my Facebook page.  I’ve had the “space bug” ever since witnessing Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon via grainy black & white images when I was a wee lad of three-and-a-half (probably my earliest memory).  Mr. Armstrong even autographed a photo for me about ten years later.  I am still a geek at heart and in the 21st century, Facebook provides most of my space news via “likes” on numerous NASA and other science-related pages.

New Horizons cover 2015-07-14

But I completely missed the philatelic aspect.  It was only this week that I stumbled across an eBay listing that mentioned the fact that the 29-cent Pluto “Not Yet Explored” stamp issued by the United States on 1 October 1991 had been affixed to the exterior of New Horizons and sent on its way to Pluto and beyond.

Articles on Astronomy.com and collectSPACE tell the full story but the short version is that the Pluto stamp was part of a set of ten commemorating NASA’s exploration of the Solar System to that point.  Each of the nine planets (Pluto not yet having been demoted) and the Moon had their image accompanied by a depiction of one of the spacecraft that had studied it.  All, that is, but the Pluto stamp which bore the inscription “Not Yet Explored.”  Apparently, this rankled a few scientists during the First Day of Issue ceremony held at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  It may have even provided some motivation for a future mission.  At any rate, some of these scientists felt that the stamp needed to be included on the New Horizons probe.

Pluto 1991 FDC Auto by Designer

There are actually nine different objects hitching a ride on this mission – a few ashes from the cremated body of Clyde Tombaugh (the New Mexican who discovered Pluto); the names of some 434,000 people who participated in the “Send Your Name To Pluto” offer by NASA; a CD_ROM picturing the scientists who worked on the New Horizons development; state quarters from both Maryland (where New Horizons was built) and Florida (from where it was launched); a small piece of the Space Ship One private spacecraft; and two U.S. flags accompany the Pluto stamp.

Artist's concept of proposed New Horizons stamp

All that needs to be done now if for a new Pluto stamp to be issued by the United States Postal Service.  There is even a petition to that effect.

Happy Collecting!