Teacher Mark at Plukpanya Municipal School, Phuket Town - January 2016This past November, I took over the position of Deputy Head Teacher for a large language school and teachers’ agency in southern Thailand.  In addition to overseeing some 40 teachers from five or so different countries and a myriad of administrative duties (i.e., staffing our contracted government-run schools, organizing local English camps, writing course syllabi, etc.), I am still required to teach a minimum of 75 hours per month.  Some of these classes are “in-house” (at the air-conditioned, in-a-shopping-mall language school itself) but most are substitute-teaching assignments for the regular teachers when they take ill or need to deal with periodic immigration requirements.  These lessons are in very hot (perhaps there’s a ceiling fan or two that actually work) wooden or concrete classrooms jam-packed with an average of 40-50 kids – most of whom couldn’t care less about learning English.

The end result of this workload is that I have had no time to spend with my stamps (or writing about them) since long before Christmas.  The month of March – the hottest in Thailand, a country already boiling twelve months of the year – brings the end of the school year and a general slowdown in duties.  Most of my in-house young students have gone on “summer holiday” and my business students mostly learn in the mornings or evenings.  I don’t have to worry about filling-in at one of the myriad of schools scattered about the island.

I finally have time for stamps once again.

I’m starting slowly with a few eBay bids here and there.  I’m still waiting for the stamps I’ve won to arrive but they represent two countries new to my collection (Austrian Offices in the Ottoman Empire and the Indian Feudatory State of Alwar) and a few to bolster my tiny collection of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands.

Cover Page for 'Stamps from (Almost) Everywhere' AlbumMy main collecting focus has shifted a bit.  I was attempting to obtain “A Stamp From Everywhere” but found that it was often difficult to pick just ONE stamp to represent an entire stamp-issuing entity.  In designing the album pages for my collection, I decided I didn’t like those that contained a single stamp.  I am now calling the collection “Stamps From (Almost) Everywhere.

That has necessitated a re-start to my album page design.  It is this re-start that have energized my recent boost in philatelic activity.  Each stamp issuer will have two introductory pages containing an information box, flag and map, and a one- or two-page summary of the entity’s political and postal history.  I’d like to obtain enough stamps from each place so that none of the stamps look particularly lonely.  I’ve found that four stamps is the absolute minimum I would like to have displayed on a single page (or one stamp and a postally-used item such as a nice cover or postcard).  There are a few countries that I may strive for completeness (Aden Colony and its Protectorate States, for example) but I am aiming for a “representation” in most instances.

Abu Dhabi - From the Collection of Mark Jochim, March 2016

I’m printing the stamps onto A4 paper as that’s the standard size available in Thailand.  I tried using 150gsm-weight card stock but these jammed in my printer (and the one at work as well) more often than not.  I am now using 120gsm card stock which seems fine.  I decided I liked a light beige color better than white.  For now, I have them in sheet protectors housed in a generic three-ring binder.  I’m trying to find a proper binder (preferably with a slipcase) but the shipping costs to Thailand are prohibitive.  I have more or less settled on a Lighthouse Classic Grande which I know my A4-sized pages will fit.  But I’m not willing to pay US $90 for shipping and import fees.  A proper stamp album binder may have to wait until I can visit someplace that actually sells them in the shops.  My next planned vacation is one to the United States in the autumn of 2017.  Can I wait that long?

First pages of Algeria housed in generic three-ring binder, March 2016

For my worldwide collection, I am trying to stick with those nations actually listed in the Scott Catalogue – although a few local posts will eventually be added.  To this end, I have been compiling the mother of all spreadsheets which has become a labor of love.  I have been going through my 2009 edition of the catalogue page by page – entering stamp-issuing entities in alphabetical order (moving, for example, entries such as the Confederate States, Hawaii, and Canal Zone out from under the United States umbrella) and including columns for years active, volume and page numbers, columns giving information about my own collection (numbers of inventoried, scanned, to be scanned, unlisted or bogus stamps), along with numerous “count” columns.  These last columns will include the number of stamps on EACH page of the catalogue for each country (divided into General Issues and the various Back of the Book items such as Air Post, Special Delivery, etc.).  I do page by page counts so that it is easier to backtrack if I lose count along the way.  I’ve been skipping the “Huge” countries for now and just counting those that only have en or less pages in Scott.

Screenshot of 'Stamp Issuers' Spreadsheet, March 2016

It is a monumental undertaking – I’ve been working on this spreadsheet on and off for about eight months and I’ve only just started on Volume 4 (out of six).  I currently have some 4,486 stamps in my collection (the majority of which have been obtained in just the past four years or so) representing 280 different stamp-issuing entities.  Of these, I have only entered 1912 into my inventory database (the wonderful but time-consuming StampManage) and there are 1529 stamps that have yet to be scanned.  These totals don’t include 210 duplicates and 33 that are either unlisted in Scott or “bogus” (read, counterfeit or facsimile).

It’s a grand-looking spreadsheet and I hope to share it once the “important” pieces are done (namely, the re-ordered countries).  In the meantime, if anybody would like to volunteer to count listed stamps (I am counting MAJOR numbers with a few minor exceptions) for particular countries please let me know.

As for the blog, I hope to resume my “Stamp Issuers” series at some point and will continue to report on new additions to my own collection (although probably not in a “Today’s Mail” format – perhaps as periodic wrap-ups).  I am looking for inspiration in writing other types of articles but I’m not really sure what aspect of philately I feel qualified to write about (I am intimidated by “How-To” articles and reviews).  Time will tell.  I just hope I won’t let another four months pass without an update.

Getting back to my stamps feels really good…

Abu Dhabi Scott #1-8 (1964) VF MNH

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival – held each year since 1825 – kicked off yesterday with lots of screaming and beating of drums.  Check out my other blog at Asian Meanderings for a selection of photos of events over the next nine days or so.  As I am on holiday from work this month, I am stuck without a reliable WiFi connection at my home and am trying to post these blog entries and photos using my mobile phone.  It’s a bit hit-or-miss as the networks are often completely down and snail’s pace slow when they work at all.

At least today I only have two items of mail to talk about, eight stamps and a postcard.  As seen above, the stamps are from Abu Dhabi – eight from the sheikdom’s first set of eleven issued in March 1964 – mint, never hinged.  It is exceedingly difficult to obtain stamps from the British-protected era of Abu Dhabi at reasonable prices nowadays.  A once affordable country to collect has seen values heading upward recently as new collectors in the Arabian Gulf discover the pre-UAE issues.  There’s a lot of competition in the market right now…

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Next up is a postcard picturing a few of the princesses from King Chulalongkorn’s day.  That is the highly-revered King Rama V who is definitely the Thai people’s favorite king next to the present monarch, Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).  The postcard is from a Thai collector by the name of Jobbo whom I met via my “Please, Mr. Postman!” postcards-only blog.  Here he mentions the weekend market that is held in the parking lot of the old General Post Office building in Bangkok.

I’ve long wanted to spend a holiday in Bangkok searching out places to buy stamps, inspired in no small part by a vastly out-out-date guide originally compiled by Alan Cameron.  The following is an excerpt of the relevant sections:

“GENERAL POST OFFICE
Location: 1160 Charoen Krung Road
Map Grid: G-6

The GPO is an absolute must for a visiting stamp collector, not only for the sake of the building itself and the services provided there but also because the largest concentration of postage stamp stores in Bangkok is within a 1-2 minute walk from this location.

Let’s assume you get there early on a weekend morning, perhaps about 0800. The main hall that you enter is huge, and there are 39 service counters in front of you. At the extreme right end of the hall is the pack and wrap service area. There is also a doorway here entering into a room off of which are the restrooms, a staircase, and an entryway into the telegraph office. (Telegraph office is now closed and blocked off. There is a small counter just inside the main GPO entrance that now takes telegrams. Telegram service is rapidly being phased out of the Thai postal service.) Want a good photograph of the main hall? Go up one flight on the staircase and you’ll find a large window over-looking the hall.

At the other end of the main hall are the Post Restante facilities and the Philatelic section. You should go to the philatelic sales windows first because they’ll be hard to get to later after the crowds arrive. If the windows are already open you’ll find a basket of scrap paper on the counter. Take a piece and write down the code numbers of the stamps, souvenir sheets, first day covers, maximum cards, etc. displayed in the various cases and then get in line.

Why is the GPO located here? With all of the tall buildings around it’s hard to realize it but the back yard of the GPO is the Chao Phraya River, and the GPO was probably constructed here around 1940 because of its proximity to the river. You can get to the river by walking down some of the sois off of Charoen Krung Road. A new GPO Tower (high-rise building) has now been constructed behind the old GPO building. It has a unique “Broadcast Tower” on it’s top that can be seen from a great distance. The river is behind this new building.

THE GPO WEEKEND BOURSE
Location: In front of the General Post Office, 1160 Charoen Krung Road
Map Grid: G-6
Hours: Sat-Sun only 0900-1700. Some dealers start leaving around 3:00PM.

Almost 20 stamp dealers operate from an open-sided tent erected in the parking lot in front of the GPO on New Road every weekend. Sales start at 0900 or earlier but many of the dealers don’t arrive until near noon. Each dealer has his material spread out on a table and there are usually plenty of chairs so you can sit down and go through their stock books and boxes of covers and souvenir sheets. For those who like classical Thai stamps and postal history, pay a visit to Kitti Damrongvadhana, who has a large and interesting stock together with a vast knowledge of the subject. He also speaks excellent English, German and French.

This is a must stop, not only because of the large number of dealers here but also because many of them do not have stores where you can visit them.”

Someday….

Happy Collecting!

Abu Dhabi COAAbu Dhabi Flag

LOCATION: Arabia, on Persian Gulf
GOVERNMENT: Sheikdom under British protection
POPULATION: 25,000 (est. 1971)
CAPITAL: Abu Dhabi

FIRST STAMPS USED: British PAs in Eastern Arabia 1963
FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 30 March 1964
LAST STAMPS ISSUED: 3 June 1972.

100 Naye Paise = 1 Rupee (1964-1966)
100 Fils = 1 Dinar (1966-1972)

The town of Abu Dhabi, on an offshore island, was first settled in 1761 and signed its first treaty with the British in 1820. The sheikdom became a British protectorate in 1892 as did several other emirates in the area which collectively became known as the Trucial States. After lapsing into obscurity, Abu Dhabi’s fortunes soared with the successful prospecting of oil off Das Island in 1956-60.

Postal services were established in 1960 to service oil workers on Das Island and were run by the British Postal Agencies in Eastern Arabia through the Bahrain office. The first British Agency post office in Abu Dhabi itself opened on 30 March 1963. British “value only” stamps were used rather than the stamps issued specifically for use in the Trucial States; these were British stamps overprinted in local currency and are usually listed in catalogs under “Oman”. On 30 March 1964, Abu Dhabi began issuing its own stamps and took full control of its postal services on 1 January 1967.

The British treaty of protection ended when the sheikdom joined with the other Trucial States to form the independent United Arab Emirates on 2 December 1971. Abu Dhabi continued issuing its own stamps in 1972 with the first United Arab Emirates stamps appearing the following year. Today, Abu Dhabi is a major oil exporter and has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.

Abu Dhabi issued a total of eighty-four different General Issue stamps between 1964 and 1972, many of which are relatively expensive.  The sheikdom didn’t issue any stamps specifically marked for Airmail, Postage Due, or other services.  The final four stamps – a surcharge released on 8 December 1971 and a set of three picturing the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem released on 3 June 1972 – were issued after Abu Dhabi joined the United Arab Emirates.  Stamps of the UAE replaced those of Abu Dhabi in January 1973 with UAE Scott #1-12 used only in the sheikdom, except for the 10f and 25f values which were issued later in Dubai and Sharjah.

 Abu Dhabi Map 03

I only have one stamp from Abu Dhabi, which matches my goal of “A Stamp From Everywhere.”  Scott #40 was released on 6 August 1967, part of a short set of four (Scott #38-41) issued to supplement a set of 12 released at the beginning of April.  The 60f blue is perforated 14½x14 and printed by the photogravure method.  It pictures Sheik Zaid bin Sultan al-Nahyan who was the emir of Abu Dhabi starting on 6 August 1966 and was the principal driving force behind the formation of the United Arab Emirates. He was the first Ra’is (President) of the UAE, holding the post for over 33 years until his death on 2 November 2004.

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