Around two-and-a-half years ago, I set out to collect A Stamp From Everywhere (ASFEW).  The first step in this endeavor was to set some criteria:  For the most part, I am collecting only those stamps listed in the Scott Catalogue.  These aren’t always actual “countries”; many towns and cities, provinces, states, colonies, and organizations have issued stamps over the past one hundred and seventy-six years.  Because of this, I usually refer to “stamp issuers” or “issuing entities” when writing about them.

A second criteria concerns my budget.  My occupation as a teacher doesn’t make me rich in any sense of the word and as an English teacher in Thailand, I earn significantly less than I would in a more developed country.  Thus, there are certain issuers which will sadly always remain out of my collection.  An example of these would be the various Postmasters’ Provisionals issued by the Confederate States (and most of those by the U.S.A. as well).

I still do not have a grand total of stamp issuers.  I’ve been working on a spreadsheet designed to help me but it is a slow process.  I decided the best way to tackle that project was to go page by page through my Scott Catalogue (6-volume 2009 edition) and list all the stamp issuing entities and their page numbers, along with a great deal of additional information.  Bear in mind that each volume of this edition numbers around 1,300 pages and is not strictly alphabetical (Åland Islands is found after Finland, for example) with some entities even appearing in two different locations based on political status (Azores appearing both in Volume 1 at the end of the A’s and in volume 5 following Portugal to cite one instance).  Fairly often, I run into the question of whether or not I should separate an entity from it’s mother listing at all.

As I’ve added stamps to the collection, I’ve departed from the original goal of adding a single stamp from each issuer.  It is much more satisfying to look at an album page containing a set, for example.  For certain entities, I’ve also delved into covers (FDC’s, flight covers or the occasional bit of postal history) and the odd bit of unlisted postal stationery (I tend to go for the postal cards rather than envelopes).

I am (slowly) creating self-designed album pages for each entity which includes a map, flag(s) used, and a brief overview of their political and/or postal history.  While it all seems like a lot of work, it is probably the most satisfying of all of my collections that I’ve created over the past forty-plus years. 

While I didn’t set out to collect alphabetically, I’ve found that is the easiest way to search on eBay as well as giving me a greater sense of accomplishment as I near the completion of a letter of the alphabet.

While there may be a few more “A’s” in volumes 5 and 6 of the Scott Catalogue, I am confident that I can call the letter almost complete (minus nine Confederate Postmasters who issued provisionals from places such as Anderson Court House, South Carolina and Augusta, Georgia).

The following are the “A” stamp issuers, as I have sorted them in my collection, illustrated by a single stamp from each and listing the year range they issued stamps and the number of stamps I currently have from each (minus duplicates and unlisted stamps). 

*I will probably end up re-sorting the Aden Protectorate States in the K’s and Q’s to be consistent with how I’m organizing other states and territories.

Abu Dhabi [1964-1972]: 9 stamps owned
Abu Dhabi - 1 - 1964

 

 

 

 

Aden Colony [1937-1965]: 40 stamps owned
Aden - 23A - 1939

 

 

 

 

Aden Protectorate: Kathiri State of Seiyun [1942-1964]: 6 stamps owned*
Aden - Kathiri State of Seiyun - 1 - 1942

 

 

 

 

Aden Protectorate: Qu’aiti State of Shihr and Mukalla [1942-1955]: 2 stamps owned*
Aden - Hadhramaut - 31 - 1955

 

 

 

 

 

Aden Protectorate: Qu’aiti State in Hadhamaut [1955-1963]: 4 stamps owned*
Aden - Hadhramaut - 30 - 1955

 

 

 

 

 

Aegean Islands (Dodecanese) [1912-1945]: 1 stamp owned
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Afars and Issas [1967-1977]: 4 stamps owned
Afars And Issas - 321 - 1968

 

 

 

 

Afghanistan [1871-Present]: 3 stamps owned
Afghanistan - 689 - 1964

 

 

 

 

La Aguera [1920-1924]: 2 stamps owned
Aguera, La - 14 - 1922

 

 

 

 

Aitutaki [1903-1932, 1972-Present]: 9 stamps owned
Aitutaki - 33 - 1920

 

 

 

 

Ajman [1964-1972]: 9 stamps owned
Ajman - C9 - 1965

 

 

 

 

Åland Islands [1984-Present]: 14 stamps owned
Åland Islands - 72a - 1993

 

 

 

 

 

Alaouites [1925-1930]: 1 stamp owned
Alaouites - C17 - 1929

 

 

 

Albania [1913-Present]: 2 stamps owned
Albania - 232 - 1928

 

 

 

 

Alderney [1983-Present]: 5 stamps owned
Alderney - 37 - 1989

 

 

 

 

Alexandretta [1938]: 2 stamps owned
Alexandretta - J1 - 1938

 

 

 

 

Alexandria (French Post Office in Egypt) [1899-1931]: 1 stamp owned
Alexandria - 27 - 1902

 

 

 

 

Algeria [1924-1958, 1962-Present]: 83 stamps owned
Algeria - 1 - 1924 (1)

 

 

 

 

Alsace (German Occupation) [1940]: 2 stamps owned
Alsace - N29 - 1940

 

 

 

 

Alsace and Lorraine (German Occupation) [1870-1872, 1916]: 2 stamps owned
Alsace And Lorraine - N4 - 1870

 

 

 

 

Alwar [1877-1902]: 7 stamps owned
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Andorra (French Administration) [1931-Present]: 6 stamps owned
Andorra, French - 23 - 1932

 

 

 

 

Andorra (Spanish Administration) [1928-Present]: 4 stamps owned
Andorra, Spanish - 102a - 1978

 

 

 

 

 

Angola [1870-Present]: 19 stamps owned
Angola - 119 - 1914

 

 

 

 

Angra [1892-1906]: 6 stamps owned
Angra - 2 - 1892

 

 

 

 

Anguilla [1967-Present]: 1 souvenir sheet owned
Anguilla - 366a - 1979 (rs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anjouan [1892-1914]: 1 stamp owned
Anjouan - 4 - 1892

 

 

 

 

Annam and Tonkin [1888-1892]: 1 stamp owned
Annam and Tonkin - 1 - 1888

 

 

 

 

Antigua [1862-1981]: 2 stamps owned
Antigua - 84 - 1938

 

 

 

 

 

Antigua and Barbuda [1981-Present]: 9 stamps owned
Antigua & Barbuda - 746 - 1984

 

 

 

 

Antioquia [1868-1904]: 6 stamps owned
Antioquia - 123 - 1899

 

 

 

 

Arad (French Occupation in Hungary) [1919]: 1 stamp owned
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Argentina [1858-Present]: 3 stamps owned
Argentina - 551 - 1946

 

 

 

 

 

Armenia [1919-1923, 1992-Date]: 6 stamps owned
Armenia - 300 - 1922

 

 

 

 

 

Army of the North (Russian Civil War) [1919]: 5 stamps owned
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 Army of the Northwest (Russian Civil War) [1919]: 1 stamp owned
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 Aruba [1986-Present]: 3 stamps owned
Aruba - 266 - 2005

 

 

 

 

 

Ascension [1922-Present]: 4 stamps owned
Ascension - 46 - 1944

 

 

 

 

Australia [1902-Present]: 172 stamps owned
Australia - 1199 - 1991 (1)

 

 

 

 

Australian Antarctic Territory [1957-Present]: 5 stamps owned
AAT - L75 - 1986

 

 

 

 

 

Austria [1850-Present]: 75 stamps owned
Austria - 5 - 1850

 

 

 

 

Austrian Offices in Crete [1903-1914]: 6 stamps owned
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Austrian Offices in the Turkish Empire [1867-1914]: 6 stamps owned
Austria-Turkish Empire - 7F - 1876

 

 

 

 

Azerbaijan [1919-1924, 1992-Present]: 1 stamp owned
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Azores [1868-1931, 1980-Present]: 1 souvenir sheet owned
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So, the “A’s” portion in what I am now calling my “Stamps From (Almost) Everywhere” collection currently has some 552 stamps amongst 45 stamp-issuing entities.  The B’s appear to be about halfway completed as are the C’s and I suppose there is probably one more entity to go in the Q’s.  There are other letters in the alphabet that are nearing completion as well….

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With my recent promotion to Assistant Head Teacher of my school here in Phuket, Thailand, my leisure time has once again been drastically reduced.  In addition to administrative duties, I still have a number of teaching hours each week including a series of private three-hour Conversation lessons Mondays through Thursdays with a Thai man who is, at best, an Elementary level student.  That one lesson leaves me more exhausted than anything else I do and all I want to do when I return home in the evenings is eat dinner and go to sleep. It has been difficult to become motivated to do anything else!

Luckily, a few stamps arrived at the end of the week that have restored my interest in my philatelic pursuits.  Indeed, the covering envelopes were almost as interesting as the items contained within…

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Looking at the first, I knew I would be disappointed once I opened it.  The wrinkles from the water damage are apparent from this scan.  In southern Thailand we have just two seasons – the Dry Season (hot and hotter) and the Wet Season (hot and rainy).  This year, the monsoons have been particularly bad with the addition of being hammered by the outer spokes of at least four monster typhoons (AKA hurricanes).  I’m actually surprised that I haven’t received more soaked mail than I have – only three this year (all of which contained mint stamps ruined by the moisture).  As local mail deliveries are made by guys on tiny 110cc motorbikes, they often won’t make their rounds if the skies look threatening.  Occasionally the storms seem to come out of nowhere…

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What would have been the “A Stamp From Everywhere” addition for Azerbaijan didn’t survive a storm somewhere along it’s journey from a dealer in Bangor, Maine.  The containing envelope bore a purple marking in Thai (I’ll see if somebody at work can translate it) and the back flap is taped closed.  I have no idea if the marking – and possible resealing – of the envelope occurred in Bangkok or Phuket.  The stamp – Scott #350, 35 kopeck picturing flag on map of Azerbaijan, issued on 26 March 1992 commemorating the nation’s independence – is wrinkled and stuck to the inside of a glassine envelope.  Luckily, it’s not an expensive stamp (2009 catalogue value for MNH was US $1.25) and I should be able to track down another.  Makes me wonder if I should just not order anything during the six months or so of the Wet Season….

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Stamp dealers often affix older postage stamps to envelopes when mailing out orders but I’ve never seen an 11 year old First Day Cover recycled as was this one from Canada.  The cover bears a souvenir sheet (Scott #2027) issued on 26 March 2004 containing a C$1.40 stamp portraying Arctic explorer Otto Sverdup’s ship the Fram as well as two labels.  This was a joint issue with Norway and Greenland; I believe that the “NU” in the pictorial postmark stands for Nunavut, Canada’s Arctic province.  The dealer added three copies (one on the front and two on the back) of Scott #1812, a holographic self-adhesive stamp issued on 12 October 1999 to mark the Millennium, as well as a single copy of Scott #1856 issued 23 May 2000 to mark the Queen Mother’s 100th birth anniversary.

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The recycled FDC from the frozen Canadian north contained a folder of twelve stamps from the tropical islands of Hawaii.  Specifically, the stamps are:

  • Scott #35 (1875) 2c brown King David Kalakaua
  • Scott #42 (1883) 1c green Princess Likelike
  • Scott #43 (1886) 2c rose King David Kalakaua (a duplicate)
  • Scott #52 (1891) 2c dull violet Queen Liliuokalani
  • Scott #57 (1893) 2c dull violet Provisional Government overprint in red
  • Scott #66 (1893) 2c rose Provisional Government overprint in black
  • Scott #74 (1894) 1c yellow Coat of Arms
  • Scott #75 (1894) 2c brown View of Honolulu (a duplicate)
  • Scott #76 (1894) 5c rose lake Statue of Kamehameha
  • Scott #80 (1899) 1c dark green Coat of Arms
  • Scott #81 (1899) 2c rose View of Honolulu
  • Scott #82 (1899) 5c blue Statue of Kamehameha

I plan to design a few album pages to house these Hawaiian stamps on my next day off (currently, that MIGHT be next Friday) and would like to purchase a few more.  There are a number that are rather affordable but others that I can never hope to obtain.  It appears that the earliest stamp from Hawaii that I will be able to add would be Scott #10 (2009 value of US $25 unused), an official reprint issued in 1868 of an 1855 stamp picturing a rough rendition of King Kamehameha III.

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From the pre-statehood issues of one future U.S. state to a fantasy issue purporting to represent the republic era of yet another U.S. state, that of my birth – Texas.  These were created this year by Philosateleian, a local post operated out of Jacksonville, Florida, and probably the most visible of the American hobbyist posts.  To quote the designer:

The Republic of Texas never issued postage stamps. Indeed, it became part of the United States of America in 1846, the year before the USA issued its first stamps. But what if Texas had used postage stamps? What might they have looked like? I am creating a series of fantasy stamps for the Republic of Texas, and these are the first set in that series.

In 1916, W. L. Newsom wrote that the early Texas postal system had five basic rates for a letter comprised of a single sheet of paper:

– 6¼ cents (up to 20 miles)
– 12½ cents (20-50 miles)
– 18¾ cents (50-100 miles)
– 25 cents (100-200 miles)
– 37½ cents (over 200 miles)

The five fantasy stamps included in this lot match the rates listed above. They are ungummed.

No more than 280 copies (20 sheets of 14) of each of these stamps will be produced.”

I love the minimalist design of the stamps with the Lone Star of Texas dominating.  I look forward to additional “issues” in this series.  Another term for fantasy stamps, by the way, are Cinderella stamps.

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The front and back of the envelope containing the Republic of Texas stamps is a good example of what I enjoy seeing when I pick up my mail in my guesthouse’s lobby.  While most dealers cover envelopes with older stamps from the 1950’s and 1960’s (full sheets of these stamps being dirt-cheap), I would rather see recent stamps such as the new Elvis Presley and Paul Newman emissions issued this past August and September, respectively.  A nice addition is another Philosateleian local post stamp and appropriate markings.

Happy Collecting!

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Although it hasn’t felt like it, I have been on holiday for almost a week now. Because of the huge fires down in Indonesia, Phuket has been covered under thick smoke creating major health issues. They say that it is more dangerous than the worst of the L.A. smogs. It has been so bad that rhe hospitals have been distributing free facemasks. Thailand is a corrupt country and nothing is ever free (and refunds are never given), so you just know it is beyond bad.

You would think that being forced inside for a week would have led me to work on my stamps but I haven’t really been in the mood. However, the postman brought me no less than thirteen envelopes full of stamps this morning and I can feel my motivation-level moving up a few notches as I write this. Eight orders from the United States, four from the United Kingdom and one from New Zealand. They include stamps from Aden, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Russia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and the United States plus pre-stamped postal stationery from Hawaii and Mauritius. In all, just 30 philatelic items and three “new” stamp issuers (the Caribbean islands) for my A Stamp From Everywhere collection.

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First up is Aden. I’ve been putting together a nice collection of the then-British colony on the Arabian peninsula. While I previously bought used copies of several of the low values in the 1937 Dhows set, I now have the first five in Mint, lightly hinged, condition. Aren’t they beautiful?

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The first British representative is my first “Seahorse” stamp. These were first issued in 1913 with retouched values appearing in 1919 and then again in 1934. Three different printers were used during the course of these various releases. My copy is Scott #222 2sh6p brown from the 1934 series. A beautiful stamp picturing “Britannia Rules the Waves” with the portrait of King George V. I was inspired to purchase this stamp by reading about in in Nicholas Courtney’s excellent book The Queen’s Stamps: The Authorised History of the Royal Philatelic Collection.

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Another purchase inspired by Courtney’s book was that of Hong Kong’s 1946 Victory Issue picturing the Phoenix rising from the flames. Issued on 29 August 1946, Scott #174-175 was a significant departure in design from those issued by much of the rest of the British Commonwealth. Not only is the design quite striking but it was the story behind the stamps that intrigued me to purchase them. Briefly, the then Hong Kong Postmaster General, E.I. Wynne-Jones conceived the idea while he was himself a prisoner of the Japanese forces. He made a rough sketch of the design while interred at Stanley Camp.

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I have had a lifelong fascination with ships and the sea with the old transatlantic ocean liners being my favorite nautical interest. I have quite a few of the liners pictured on stamps and finally got around to purchasing Great Britain’s wonderful set issued on 15 January 1969 shortly before the maiden voyage of the Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth 2. Scott #575-580 is a lovely set; I’ve always preferred ship profiles to photographs or paintings of them at sea. However, I’ve often wondered why they chose the Mauretania over the Lusitania.

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Another “Columbian” arrived – Scott #234 5c chocolate Columbus Soliciting Aid from Isabella Mint with gum, hinged – coinciding with my resuming reading Erik Larson’s account of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, Devil In The White City after setting it aside for more than a year. I’ve long been interested in Columbus, something that may no longer be “politically correct” and is certainly at odds with my siding with Native American issues in most instances. In fact, I’ve slowly been building up a Columbus-themed collection with several items destined for that arriving today, just in time for the anniversary of his first landing in the West Indies. Most of these purchases were inspired by David Nye’s (Mr. Columbus) recent postings on several Facebook pages.

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The earliest is the stamp from Trinidad, Scott #91 2p gray violet and yellow brown. It was issued in 1898 to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ sighting of the island of Trinidad on 31 July 1498. The bicolor (green and violet) stamp from St. Kitts & Nevis is actually the first general issue – Scott #1 – for this former presidency of the Leeward Islands colony. It was issued in 1903. A solid green version was overprinted in 1916 to help fund Commonwealth involvement in the First World War. That is Scott #MR1, another of today’s arrivals.

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The Columbus issue by St. Lucia – Scott #49 – doesn’t mention him by name and pictures local landmark The Pitons. The 2p brown and green stamp was issued on 16 December 1902 to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of the island, something only indicated by the year range at top center.

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The final Columbus-themed stamp in this batch is a nice souvenir sheet issued on 18 March 1992 to mark the 500th anniversary of the so-called discovery of America. It’s catalogued as Scott #6075.

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I’m also pleased to add several more classic-era stamps from the United States starting with a nice lightly-cancelled example of Scott #11A, the 3 cent dull red, type II George Washington issued in 1851 (the difference being that the outer border frame lines were recut on both the outer and inner lines on Type II while Type I – Scott #11 – had just the outer lines recut). Next is a strip of three of Scott #182, 1c deep ultramarine George Washington, printed by the American Bank Note Company and released in 1879. Scott #306, 8c violet black Martha Washington, was released as part of a set of definitives from 1902 to 1903. This Mint, gummed and hinged, copy was obtained as a significant reduction from its 2009 catalogue value of US $45 due to its poor centering. I paid just over $3 for it and I’m happy to fill the space.

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Finally, the last of the U.S. stamps is a Mint example of Scott #324, the 2c carmine Thomas Jefferson, issued on 30 April 1904 for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis that year. Again, somewhat off-center, it was advertised as “original gum hinged” but I can find no evidence of a hinge mark. In fact, the gum looks so fresh that I suspect that it may have been regummed at some point. Time to look up how to determine if a stamp has been regummed… The value would be US $70 if it is in fact MNH; I paid $2.25.

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Last for today, we have several items of postal stationery which are unlisted in the Scott catalogues; still, I love adding these types of items to my regular stamp collection. First is a postal card from Hawaii – the three-cent preprinted stamp bears the same red Provisional Government overprint applied to regular stamps in 1893. Faulty corner and a very thick card. The two pre-stamped envelopes from Mauritius bearing Queen Victoria’s portrait are on rather thick paper and were probably issued sometime between 1882 and 1894 and the indicia are embossed, always pleasing to the eye. The final Mauritian envelope features the Coat of Arms design with 4c on 36c overprint, the same style as the overprinted stamps issued in 1925 during King George V’s reign.

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Yes, very nice stamp additions indeed.

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Happy Collecting!

SAM_7249The school term finally ended yesterday and I’m preparing to get back-on-track with my philatelic pursuits, including putting together another “Stamp Issuers” article for this blog in the very near future.  After a lengthy period of no mail deliveries, I had a nice batch trickle in during final exams week.  The mail brought a few more classic U.S. stamps and I was able to add three more countries to my “A Stamp From Everywhere” collection.

Annam and Tonkin - 1 - 1888

Country #273 in my collection is Annam & Tonkin, represented by a mint copy of Scott #1 issued on 21 January 1888 – 1c surcharge on French Colonies 2c brown on buff paper.  The protectorates of Annam and Tonkin were located in what is currently Vietnam with the China Sea forming the eastern border and Siam (present-day Thailand) to the west.  Annam’s capital was located at Hue while Tonkin’s was Hanoi.  For administrative purposes, the Protectorates of Annam, Tonkin, Cambodia, Laos and the Colony of Cochin-China were grouped together and called French Indo-China whose stamps superseded those of A&T in 1892.

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AntioquiaI received six stamps from the Columbian department of Antioquia, part of an eleven-stamp series featuring General José Maria Córdoba issued in 1899 (Scott #117, 119, and 123-126).  One of my favorite parts of collecting A Stamp From Everywhere is learning about places I’d never hears of before.  I’ve always been a real geography buff and I attribute that solely to receiving my mother’s old stamp album around the age of nine or ten; it was full of “Dead Countries” such as this.

The final “new” country received in the month of September was the nice set from Aruba – Scott #265-267 – depicting sunsets and issued on 31 May 2005.  Aruba was formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, lying in the Caribbean Sea just to the north of Venezuela.  In 1986, it achieved a separate status within The Netherlands and began issuing its own stamps.

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Finally, I received three more values from the United States beautiful set issued in 1893 to mark the World Columbian Exposition held in Chicago that year.  Scott #230, 1c deep blue, is titled “Columbus In Sight of Land” and is mint hinged.  The 2c chocolate “Columbus Soliciting Aid from Isabella” – Scott #234 – is used with a cork “fancy” cancellation while the Scott #236 8c magenta, mint hinged, depicts “Columbus Restored to Favor”.  I am now only missing four “Columbians” of those I consider to be within my budget (although I may be able to find an affordable copy of Scott #240 – the 50c slate blue – I doubt that I’ll ever be able to afford any of the dollar values). 

Moving backwards a bit, I also received an on-cover usage of Scott #65, 3c rose George Washington Perf. 12 issued 1861-62, with a nice CDS (circular date stamp) from Ashland, Ohio, as well as a lightly-cancelled Scott #11, 3c dull red Type I George Washington Imperforate issued 1852-57.

United States - 11 - 1855

I should also mention here that a British fellow teacher of mine journeyed to Penang, Malaysia, recently and returned bearing several postcards and a mix of Malaysian stamps found in a George Town bookshop.  She’d collected stamps during her childhood – particularly those depicting butterflies – and her interest has recently been restored through our break-time conversations.  It’s always thrilling for me to find a fellow collector here.  It happens so rarely!

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Happy Collecting!

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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!

France - COA (1953-Date)France Flag

French Territory of the Afars and Issas (1967-1977)

LOCATION: East Africa
AREA:  8,958 sq. mi. (23,200 sq. km)
Population:  367,210 (est. 1971)
GOVERNMENT:  French Overseas Territory
CAPITAL:  Djibouti

FIRST STAMPS:  French Colonies (1883); Obock (1892); Djibouti (1894); French Somali Coast (1902)
FIRST STAMPS ISSUED:  21 August 1967
LAST STAMPS ISSUED:  5 May 1977 (Replaced by stamps of Republic of Djibouti on 27 June 1977)

CURRENCY:  100 Centimes = 1 Franc

The French overseas territory of Afars and Issas existed as a stamp-issuing entity for just under ten years but had evolved out of the original Territory of Obock and then French Somaliland before finally gaining its independence in 1977 as the Republic of Djibouti, the name under which it exists to the present day.  It is located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Eritrea to the north, Ethiopia to the west and south, and Somalia to the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Afars and Issas map

The French first arrived in the region during an expedition led by Captains de la Merveille of Le Curieux and Champloret le Brun of Le Diligent which sailed along the Somali coast in December 1708.  They were poorly received and five sailors were killed during an ambush when they attempted to land at Berbera.  Le Curieux and Le Diligent entered the Gulf of Tadjoura soon afterwards during which an envoy arrived in the name of the King of Adel and Zaylah, offering safe entry at the port of Zayla. The French declined the offer and sailed on to Yemen in search of coffee plants.  The next visit by a Frenchman wouldn’t occur until 1838.

In January 1839, Great Britain established a protectorate over Aden which caused French explorers to scour the entrance to the Red Sea seeking a means to counterbalance the British presence before the opening of the Suez Canal.  In October 1855 the French Consul at Aden, Henri Lambert, visited Tadjoura and then Obock the following April where he was informed that he was the first European to land there as far the natives could remember.  Later in the year, Abou Baker Ibrahim, the Sultan of Tadjoura offered the French trading rights at Ras Ali and Obock.  Not long after, Henri Lambert made the mistake of involving himself in a rivalry between the Sultan of Tadjoura and Pasha Chermarké of Zayla.  He was thrown into the sea and drowned shortly after his ship docked at Moucha on 4 June 1859.

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Dini Ahmed Abou Baker, Sultan of the Afars, signed a treaty of alliance and friendship with France on 11 March 1862, ceding the lands surrounding Obock in exchange for 10,000 Maria Theresa Thalers.  For the next twenty years, the French presence was confined to the tricolor flag guarded by an elderly Danakil who received an occasional visit from a ship of the French Navy.

From  1862 until 1894, the land to the north of the Gulf of Tadjoura was known as the Obock territory and ruled by Somali and Afar Sultans, local authorities with whom France signed various treaties between 1883 and 1887 to gain a foothold in the region.  French Colonial general issues were used in the territory from 1883 with the first Obock overprinted stamps issued on 1 February 1892. 

Obock lost all importance after the settlement at Djibouti was founded in 1888 when the Côte Française des Somalis (French Somali Coast) protectorate was established.  The boundaries of the Côte Française were established between 1888 and 1901; the administration was moved to Djibouti in 1894 at which time the post office in Obock was closed.  Obock stamp issues were used in Djibouti starting in 1893 until supplies were exhausted.  Djibouti stamps were used from 1894 until they were replaced in August 1902 by issues bearing the title of the Côte Française des Somalis following the change in status from protectorate to colony. 

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The construction of the Imperial Ethiopian Railway west into Ethiopia turned the port of Djibouti into a boomtown of 15,000 at a time when Harar was the only city in Ethiopia to exceed that.  Although the population fell after the completion of the line to Dire Dawa and the original company failed and required a government bail-out, the rail link allowed the territory to quickly supersede the caravan-based trade carried on at Zayla (then in the British area of Somaliland) and become the premier port for coffee and other goods leaving southern Ethiopia and the Ogaden through Harar.  The railroad continued to operate following the Italian conquest of Ethiopia but, following the tumult of the Second World War, the area became an overseas territory of France in 1946.

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In 1958, on the eve of neighboring Somalia’s independence in 1960, a referendum was held in the territory to decide whether or not to join the Somali Republic or to remain with France. The referendum turned out in favor of a continued association with France, but on 19 March 1967 a second plebiscite was held to determine the fate of the territory.  Announcement of the plebiscite results sparked civil unrest, including several deaths. France also increased its military force along the frontier. 

On 5 July 1967, shortly after the referendum was held, the former Côte Française des Somalis was renamed to Territoire Français des Afars et des Issas. This was to recognize the two primary clans of people that live in the area.  The Afars are an historically nomadic people comprising about 35% of the population, and the Issas are a Somali-based clan with about 60% of the population. In the past, the two people-groups have been hostile to one another, politically, although tensions has eased in recent years.

Afars And Issas - 318 - 1968

The first stamps bearing the inscription of the newly-named territory were released on 21 August 1967 – two general issues and one airmail depicting birds.  The numbering in the Scott catalogue follow those of the Côte Française des Somalis (under “Somali Coast”, starting on page 29 of Volume 6 in my 2009 edition) and, thus, begins at Scott #310 for these 1967 issues.  The final Afars and Issas general issues were a pair (Scott #437 and 438) picturing fish and were released on 15 April 1977.  On 5 May 1977, the final airmail stamps (Scott #C104 and C105) were issued honoring the inventors Thomas Edison and Alexander Volta.

On 27 June 1977, a third vote took place. A landslide 98.8% of the electorate supported independence from France and the territory became the République de Djibouti. Hassan Gouled Aptidon, a Somali politician who had campaigned for a yes vote in the referendum of 1958, eventually wound up as the nation’s first president, remaining in office until 1999.

Afars And Issas - 319 - 1968

In all, Scott lists a total of 176 stamps bearing the Afars and Issas territorial name.  Of these, 116 are general issues, 56 for airmail and four stamps were intended for postage due.  Bearing the wonderful designs so typical of French stamps of the era, the majority range in value between US $2 and $10 in my 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue.  There are only six stamps priced at more than $20 in mint condition:  Scott #314 ($24.00), #C50 ($21.50), #C53 ($25.00), #C56 ($25.00), #C65 ($34.00), and #C102 ($24.00).  There are also imperforate varieties of many of the stamps which are unlisted in Scott.

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I currently have four Afars and Issas stamps in my collection, Scott #318-321 – a set released on 17 May 1968 portraying various fortresses established in the territory by the French.  The Scott catalogue lists these as “administration buildings”.  The 20 franc value – printed in slate, brown and emerald – shows the fortress at Damerdjog while that of Ali Adde is on the 25fr in bright green, blue and brown.  Dorra Fortress – brown olive, brown orange and slate – appears on the 30 franc stamp and the 40fr value colored with brown-olive, slate and bright green shows the Assamo fortress.   These stamps are all engraved and perforated 13.  Current catalogue value for the unused set is US $7.00.

Afars And Issas - 321 - 1968

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It’s been a rainy week with the summer monsoon finally kicking in with a vengeance.  Phuket has seen quite a few canals flooding, muddy landslides and downed power lines but once again we escaped the full brunt of the storm that brought wide-spread destruction to our neighbors to the northwest in Myanmar.  Our local postman wisely stayed at home for several days, only venturing out on Wednesday for the first mail delivery we’ve had since the dual Buddhist holidays last week.  I was happy to receive a small amount of mail, although a couple of the envelopes were somewhat water-damaged.  Luckily, the stamps within remained dry in their glassine envelopes.

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A dealer in New South Wales, Australia, sent me these three stamps issued by the Armenian republican government in 1920, part of s set of ten that never saw postal use.  The Scott catalogue doesn’t assign numbers for these but does note that some were used fiscally and values the entire set at US $10.  Scott further mentions that imperforate samples and reprints are also available. 

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My first Hawaiian stamp came, appropriately enough, from an eBay seller in the interestingly-named town of Captain Cook in Hawaii itself.  This is Scott #43 picturing King David Kalakaua, 2 cent rose issued in 1886.  I also received – by way of Portland, Oregon – the lovely postcard of Honolulu pictured below, bearing a U.S. stamp and a 1909 Honolulu cancellation depicting the U.S. flag some fifty years prior to statehood. 

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I’ve been buying a few Lundy Island items lately and felt that this postcard made a nice companion to the local post stamps.  I started collecting Lundy Island stamps upon stumbling across one of the early puffin issues which had the number of puffins pictured to match the stamp’s denomination.  In retrospect, I wish I’d followed a similar design plan for my own Muang Phuket Local Post as I could have had the currency valued in “gibbons” accompanied by pictures of the local primate population.  I suppose I could have a currency-change series, but I digress…

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Finally, from the pleasant-sounding Blue Jay, California, I received a mixed lot of 75 stamps from French Algeria, a sign that my original “A Stamp From Everywhere” collection is becoming a mite complicated.  Often, I will start off obtaining a single stamp from a particular country and then that stamp causes me to want to add more. Packets such as this one can make it easy to put together nice collections of certain stamp-issuing countries without spending a whole lot of money.

Happy Collecting!

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I apologize for the delay in publishing this edition of “Today’s Mail”.  Since they arrived on Wednesday (the last mail day before a four-day government shut-down due to the Buddhist holidays of Asarna Buja and Khao Pansa), I’ve been sorting and counting stamps, the majority of which came in a lot of 1500 off-paper stamps with no duplication.  This represents some 160 different countries, of which sixty-nine are “new” to my A Stamp From Everywhere collection.  I haven’t even begun scanning these stamps yet.  It will take me a bit longer to get that organized!

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The other orders which the Thailand Post mailman delivered (have I mentioned that they use tiny 150cc motorbikes?) were miniscule in comparison but represented four countries, three of them “new” to ASFEW – Afars & Issas, Anguilla and Anjouan.  I’ve started to put together yet another topical collection of Americana on stamps and I was quite taken by the set of three from San Marino.

There was also a packet of ten seven-row double-sided stock pages from Hong Kong.  Of note, the estimated date of delivery for this particular package was between the 9th and 17th of September, a rare occasion of something arriving much, much sooner than expected!  The cost, including shipping was quite reasonable and I will be ordering many more stock pages from this company in the near future.

Well, enough commentary this time around as I’d like to get back to the huge lot – it’s just too easy to get behind on these things.  I believe I’ll scan stamps from the “new” countries first…

Happy Collecting!

Allenstein COA-cropAllentstein Flag 1

Allenstein (1920)

LOCATION: East Prussia
AREA:  4,457 sq. mi.
POPULATION:  540,000 (1920 est.)
CAPITAL:  Allenstein

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED:  Overprinted Germany 3 April 1920

CURRENCY:
100 Pfennig = 1 Mark

Allenstein was a district in East Prussia centered upon the city of the same name (currently the Polish city of Olsztyn) which overprinted German stamps in April 1920 to publicize a self-determination vote known as a plebiscite.  The name is German for “castle on the Alle River”, construction of which was begun by Teutonic knights in 1347 and completed fifty years later.  Since 1999, the city has been the capital of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship in northeastern Poland; the river is now known as the Łyna.

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The area has changed hands numerous times throughout its history.  It was captured by the Kingdom of Poland during the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War in 1410, and again in 1414 during the Hunger War, but it was returned to the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights after hostilities ended.  Allenstein joined the Prussian Confederation in 1440 and rebelled against the Teutonic Knights in 1454 upon the outbreak of the Thirteen Years’ War, requesting protection from the Polish Crown. Although the Teutonic Knights captured the town the following year, it was retaken by Polish troops in 1463. The Second Peace of Thorn in 1466 designated Allenstein and the Bishopric of Warmia as part of Royal Prussia under the sovereignty of the Crown of Poland.

Castle at Allenstein, completed 1397 (postcard)

The astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus lived at the castle as administrator of both Allenstein and Mehlsack (now Pieniężno) from 1516 to 1521 and was in charge of the defenses of Allenstein and Warmia during the Polish-Teutonic War of 1519–21.  Allenstein was sacked by Swedish troops in both 1655 and 1708 during the Polish-Swedish wars, and the town’s population was nearly wiped out in 1710 by epidemics of bubonic plague and cholera.

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The town was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1772 during the First Partition of Poland. A Prussian census recorded a population of 1,770 people, predominantly farmers, and Allenstein was administered within the Province of East Prussia. It was visited by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807 after his victories over the Prussian Army.  The town became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the Prussian-led unification of Germany. In 1905, Allenstein became the capital of Regierungsbezirk Allenstein, a government administrative region in East Prussia. From 1818 to 1910, the community was administered within the East Prussia Allenstein District, after which it became an independent city.

During the latter part of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, Allenstein used stamps of Prussia, the North German Confederation and Germany.

Many inhabitants of the region had Polish roots and were influenced by Polish culture; the last official German census in 1910 classified them ethnically as Poles or Masurians. During the period of the German Empire, harsh Germanization measures were enacted in the region.

Allenstein was captured by troops of the Russian Empire shortly after the start of World War I in 1914, but it was recovered by the Imperial German Army in the Battle of Tannenberg. The battle actually took place much closer to Allenstein than to Tannenberg (now Stębark), but the victorious Germans, having been defeated in the medieval battle of Tannenberg, named it as such for propaganda purposes.

Allenstein Postal Card circa 1898

Following World War I, the Polish delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, led by Roman Dmowski, made a number of demands in relation to those areas which were part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1772 and despite their protests, supported by the French, President Woodrow Wilson and the other allies agreed that plebiscites according to self-determination should be held.  A number of disputed areas were placed under temporary League of Nations administration, pending plebiscites to determine which nation the populace wished to join.

Allenstein Foot Artillery, 1917

At the time, Allenstein had a population estimated at 540,000 mixed Germanic and Slavic people.  Although Allenstein had a sizable Slavic minority, these people were not Poles. They were Masurians who shared the Lutheran faith with the German-speaking Prussians.

The French and the British were looking for ways to strengthen the new Polish republic as a bulwark against the Soviet threat. The British and French tried to attach Allenstein to Poland, but the Germans objected strongly, so the East Prussian Plebiscite (Abstimmung in Ostpreußen) was called.  The vote in Allenstein was scheduled to take place on 11 July 1920 and was conducted by the German authorities.

Many German citizens of Polish ethnicity of the region voted for Germany out of fear that if the area was allocated to Poland it would soon fall under Soviet rule. According to several Polish sources the German side engaged in mass persecution of Polish activists, their Masurian supporters, going as far as engaging in regular hunts and murder against them to influence the vote. Additionally the organization of the plebiscite was influenced by Great Britain, which at the time supported Germany, fearing the increased power of France in post-war Europe.

Allenstein Postcard 1911

Articles 94 to 97 of the Treaty of Versailles defined the Allenstein Plebiscite Area as “the western and northern boundary of Allenstein Government Region to its junction with the boundary between the districts of Oletzko  and of Angerburg; thence, the northern boundary of the Oletzko District to its junction with the old frontier of East Prussia.” 

A five-member Inter-Allied Administrative and Plebiscite Commission for Allenstein was appointed to represent the League of Nations.  British and Italian troops under the command of this commission soon after 12 February 1920.  The local police forces were placed under the control of two British officers.  There was also a battalion from the Royal Irish Regiment and an Italian regiment stationed at Lyck (Ełk). Civil and municipal administration was continued under the existing German authorities who were responsible to the Commission for the duration of the plebiscite period.

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On 18 February 1919 the Allenstein-based Commission decreed that the Polish language would gain equal rights to the German language in the region.  The Commission had to eventually remove both the mayor of Allenstein and an officer of Sicherheitswehr after a Polish banner at the local consulate of Poland was defaced; the Polish side expressed gratitude for Allied protection of Polish rights and underlined its desire for peaceful coexistence with German-speaking population.

In April 1920 during a Polish theatrical performance in Deuthen (Dajtki) near Allenstein, ethnic Poles were attacked by pro-German activists; on the demands of the Allied Commission, the German police escorted Polish actors but ignored the attackers.  There were pogroms against ethnic Poles that month in the towns of Bischofsburg (Biskupiec) and Lötzen (Giżycko), the latter of which saw Italian forces sent to protect the Polish population.  In May several attacks on ethnic Poles were reported in Osterode (Ostróda), and included attacks on co-workers of the Masurian Committee.

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Shortly before the plebiscite, pro-Polish activists decided to boycott the preparations for electoral commissions to protest unequal treatment of the Polish and German side and pro-German terror.  This allowed German officials to falsify lists with eligible voters, writing down names of dead people or people who weren’t eligible to vote.

The plebiscite asked the voters whether they wanted their homeland to remain in East Prussia, which was part of Weimar Germany, or instead become part of Poland (the alternatives for the voters were not Poland / Germany, but Poland / East Prussia, which itself was no sovereign nation). All inhabitants of the plebiscite areas older than 20 years of age or those who were born in this area before 1 January 1905, were entitled to return to vote.

During the plebiscite Germans transported pro-German voters to numerous locations allowing them to cast votes multiple times. In Allenstein, cards with pro-Polish votes were simply taken away by a German official who declared that they were “invalid” and presented voters with cards for the pro-German side.  Voters were observed by German police in the polling stations.  Pro-Polish voting cards were often hidden or taken away and Polish controllers were removed from polling stations.  A large number of ethnic Poles – out of fear of repressions – didn’t attend the plebiscite at all.

The plebiscite ended on 11 July 1920 with a majority of the voters voting for East Prussia with only a small part of the territory awarded to Poland, the majority remaining with Germany.  The results were a hugely lopsided  362,209 votes (97.8%) for East Prussia and 7,980 votes (2.2%) for Poland.  After the plebiscite, attacks on ethnic Polish population commenced by pro-German mobs saw ethnically Polish priests and politicians driven from their homes.

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A total of twenty-eight stamps were issued to publicize the Allenstein plebiscite, with the first appearing on 3 April 1920.  These were German stamps overprinted with either of two styles. The first fourteen stamps were overprinted with “PLEBISCITE / OLSZTYN / ALLENSTEIN” while the second fourteen read “TRAITÉ / DE / VERSAILLES / ART. 94 et 95” referring to the Articles 94 and 95 of the treaty.   International use of the overprinted stamps ceased from 20 August 1920 and German stamps were used thereafter.

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Following the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, the Poles and Jews in Allenstein were increasingly persecuted. The city was made the seat of the Allenstein Militärische Bereich by the Wehrmacht in 1933. It was the home of the 11th Infanterie Division, the 11th Artillery Regiment, and the 217th Infanterie Division.  After the German invasion of Poland that started the Second World War, the Wehrmacht established an Area Headquarters for Wehrkreis I on 12 October 1939.  It controlled the sub-areas of Allenstein, Lötzen (now Giżycko) and Zichenau (Ciechanów). Beginning in 1939, members of the Polish-speaking minority, especially members of the Union of Poles in Germany, were deported to German death camps.

Allenstein was plundered and burnt by the invading Soviet Red Army on 22 January 1945 as the Eastern Front reached the city. Allenstein’s German population evacuated the region or were subsequently expelled. On 2 August 1945, the city was placed under Polish administration by the Soviets according to the Potsdam Agreement and officially renamed to Olsztyn. Polish stamps replaced those of Germany at that time.  In October 1945, the German population of Olsztyn was expelled by Order of the City Commanders of Olszty.

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The entire run of Allenstein stamps have a total value of US $49 unused, $105 mint never hinged and $91.90 used, according to the 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue.  The two most expensive single stamps are Scott #18 ($20 unused, $35 used) and Scott #4 ($5.50 unused, $9.50 used).  This is a 15-pfennig stamp in violet brown in each of the different overprint varieties which was issued some time after the initial 3 April 1920 release, replacing the 15pf dark violet shade.

Postmarked on the day of the Allenstein Plebiscite, 11 July 1920

Scott does list a few minor varieties – double and inverted overprints – and mentions that several other denominations of German stamps received the plebiscite overprints but weren’t actually issued.  These appear on the collector market from time to time and the Scott catalogue values them at between $75 hinged and $175 never hinged.

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Allenstein was the stamp issuer that first attracted me to early German stamps.  I currently have sixteen stamps in my collection, four of which are duplicates.  It won’t be difficult to obtain the remaining issues and Allenstein may just be my first “complete country” (Bohemia and Moravia is close behind).

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Happy Collecting!

Algeria COAAlgeria Flag

Algeria (1924-1958; 1962-Date)

LOCATION:  North Africa
AREA:  919,595 sq. mi. (2,381,741 sq. km)
Population:  39,500,000 (2015 est.)
GOVERNMENT:  Republic
CAPITAL:  Algiers

FIRST STAMPS:  France from 1849
FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 
8 May 1924

CURRENCY:
100 Centimes = 1 Franc (1924-1964)
100 Centimes = 1 Dinar (1964-date)

Algeria is the largest country in Africa, situated in the northern part of the continent on the Mediterranean coast.  The country was named after the capital city of Algiers, deriving from the Arabic الجزائر (al-Jazā’ir, “the islands”).  Today, the official language is Arabic, although about 40% speaks Berber and French is widely understood, being the language of choice for business and university-level education.Map of AlgeriaRemnants of hominid occupation dating to 200,000 BC have been found in the Ain Hanech region in Saïda Province and Neanderthal tool makers produced hand axes in styles similar to those found in the Levant dating to 43,000 BC.  Neolithic civilizations marked by animal domestication and agriculture developed in the Saharan and coastal regions between 11,000 and 2000 BC.  The various Northern African peoples eventually coalesced into a distinct indigenous population that came to be called the Berbers.  

Phoenician and Carthaginian settlements were established along the coast beginning around 600 BC but Berber power grew following the destruction of the city of Carthage in 146 BC.  Two Berber kingdoms were established in Numidia by the second century BC and were annexed by the Roman Empire in 24 AD.  The Romans ruled the region of Algeria for several centuries; it was one of the breadbaskets of the empire, exporting cereals and other agricultural products.  The Arabs conquered Algeria in the mid-seventh century.

Ruins at Djemila, Algeria

In the early 16th century, Spain constructed fortified outposts called presidios in the coastal regions of Algeria, taking control of several coastal towns.  Spain built a fort on one of the rocky islets in the harbor at Algiers in 1510.  Turkish privateer brothers Aruj and Hayreddin Barbarossa moved their base of operations to Algiers in 1516 and conquered the city from the Spaniards.  With the aid of a force of 2000 janissaries provided by the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Hayreddin Barbarossa conquered the whole area between Constantine and Oran in 1518; the city of Oran remained in Spanish hands until 1791.  The Ottomans ruled Algeria for the next five centuries.

Santa Cruz de Oran, Algeria

Despite usurpation, military coups and occasional mob rule, the day-to-day operation of Ottoman government in Algeria was remarkably orderly.  One major threat, however, was in the form of Barbary pirates who preyed on Christian and non-Islamic shipping in the western Mediterranean, capturing between one and 1.25 million Europeans as slaves between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Two pirate ships from Algiers sailed as far as Iceland in July 1627, raiding and capturing slaves as they went.  In 1629, pirate ships from Algeria raided the Faroe Islands.  Piracy on American vessels resulted in the First (1801-1805) and Second Barbary Wars (1815).

It is not known when postal services were first established in Algeria but letters sent by Europeans in Algiers date from 1690.  A postal marking from Spanish-controlled Oran is known from 1749.

French bombardment of Algiers, 1830

In 1830, the French invaded and captured Algiers followed by a conquest which lasted until 1848 and resulted in considerable bloodshed.   In 1834, France annexed the occupied areas of Algeria, which had an estimated Muslim population of about two million, as a colony. Colonial administration in the occupied areas – the so-called régime du sabre (government of the sword) – was placed under a governor general, a high-ranking army officer invested with civil and military jurisdiction, who was responsible to the minister of war. Marshal Bugeaud, who became the first governor-general, headed the conquest, making a systemic use of torture and following a “scorched earth” policy.  A period of pacification followed until 1871 and then a period of peace from 1872-1890 before the conquest of the Saharan oases.  Civil administration by France did not reach the desert provinces until 1902.

Biskra, Algeria in 1899

Regular postal services were introduced by France in 1830 when the military postal organization Tresor et Postes was established in Algiers.  This was opened to civilians in 1835 but still used military handstamps until 1839 after which datestamps with town names became standard.  The service expanded into the interior as French control spread.  There were 295 post offices in operation by 1880.

Initial postal services were by courier and by coastal steamboat service operated by the French navy which passed to Messageries Maritimes in 1866.  Starting in 1862, railways began slowly moving forward with the Constantine-Philippeville line opening in 1870 and Algiers-Oran the following year. 

Stamps of France were used for mail in Algeria starting on 16 January 1849 and were initially obliterated by dumb grille which are only identifiable as originating from Algeria when on cover.  Starting in 1852, these were replaced in 1852 by the so called “petit chiffres” (small figures), a lozenge of dots surrounding a number.  The “grande chiffres” (large figures) with new post office numbers replaced the small figures after 1863.  The numerical cancellations were replaced by circular datestamps incorporating the name of the post office from April 1876.

Algeria Scott #P1

On 8 May 1924, French stamps and postal stationery overprinted with “ALGÉRIE” were issued for the country.   Some thirty-two types were issued over the next two years.  The first stamps inscribed with the country’s name appeared in 1926, consisting of four typographed designs showing local scenes.  This series ultimately consisted of thirty-five types, ranging in denomination from 1 centime to 20 francs.  Algeria’s first commemorative stamp marked the centenary of French control and depicted the Bay of Algiers on a 10-franc value.

Postcard commemorating centenary of French control of Algeria

Following the armistice between France and Germany in 1940, Algeria continued to be governed by France.  The Allies first landed in North Africa on 8 November 1942 and the Comité Français de Libération Nationale (French Committee of National Liberation) took over the administration of Algeria on 13 March 1943.  Fezzan was captured by the Free French Forces of Chad in 1943 and used the stamps of Algeria between 1943 and 1946.

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After the Second World War, dissatisfaction among the Muslim population, which lacked political and economic status in the colonial system, gave rise to demands for greater political autonomy, and eventually independence, from France. A declaration that Algeria was to become an integral province of France led to open war on 1 November 1954.  The Algerian War led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Algerians and hundreds of thousands of injuries.

Postcard from Algeria

The use of Algerian-imprinted stamps ceased during the war and French stamps were used from 22 July 1958 until 27 June 1962.  The war lasted until a cease-fire on 18 March 1962. By referendum Algeria became independent on 3 July 1962.  Locally-applied overprints reading “EA” on stocks of French stamps in a wide variety of colors and typefaces were used from 4 July 1962 until 31 October 1962.  These were replaced the following day by a set of five designs showing local scenes and inscribed “REPUBLIQUE ALGERIENNE” in both French and Arabic which was the first appearance of Arabic on Algerian stamps.

Algerian traditional music

Today, Algeria is a semi-presidential republic of 48 provinces and 1,541 communes. Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been President since 1999.  The country supplies large amounts of natural gas to Europe, and energy exports are the backbone of the economy. According to OPEC Algeria has the 17th largest reserves of oil in the world, and the second largest in Africa, while it has the 9th largest reserves of natural gas. Sonatrach, the national oil company, is the largest company in Africa.  With an area of 2,381,741 square kilometers (919,595 square miles), 90% of which is desert, Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world and the largest in Africa.

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My 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue lists a total of 1605 Algerian stamps.  These are divided amongst 1388 general issue stamps, 115 semi-postals, 23 air mail releases, three air post semi-postal stamps, 74 postage due varieties, and two stamps for parcel post.  Algeria is considered to be a fairly inexpensive country to collect with the majority of issues valued at less than US $1.  The most expensive stamp listed is Scott #66, the 10-franc denomination issued in 1927 picturing the tomb of Sidi Yacoub, valued at $52.50 in 2009.

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In addition to the Scott-listed stamps, French postal stationery items consisting of envelopes, newspaper wrappers, letter cards, and postal cards were overprinted “ALGÉRIE” and issued in 1924. A total of eleven different newspaper wrappers were produced for use in Algeria between 1924 and 1943, four of these were by overprinting French newspaper wrappers and two by surcharging Algerian newspaper wrappers. These were followed by postal stationery printed for Algeria in 1927. Envelopes, newspaper wrappers and letter cards were discontinued in the early 1940s.  Upon independence in 1962, Algeria issued a single postal card plus aerogrammes in 1976.  There are also the Algerian Railways (Parcel Post) issues in five pictorial designs – Gare de Philippeville, Renault Railcar, Micheline Railcar in an Oasis, Viaduct, Gare de Bone – which are unlisted in Scott.

Algeria Scott #1

I currently have seventeen stamps from Algeria, including Scott #1 – eleven of the general issues, five airmails and one newspaper stamp (Scott #1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 173, 175, 176, 179, 182, 284, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, and P1).  With so many utilizing the French penchant for great design and the low cost involved, I would like to add more of these attractive stamps to my collection.  I still don’t have one which I would call the “perfect choice” to represent Algeria in my A Stamp From Everywhere collection.

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