Less than a week ago, I decided the primary focus of Philatelic Pursuits for the upcoming year of 2020 would be new stamp issues. I attempted something similar last year but began much too late to ever get caught up and I made a few early bad decisions.  I soon became overwhelmed and had all but given up just a few months into 2019.

Part of the problem with my previous approach was trying to update via pages dedicated to each month.  The page for January became difficult to edit due to the time it took images to load.  One had to scroll quite a ways to find new content.  I felt that that solution was to post blog entries for each new stamp encountered, much in the same way as other New Issue blogs.  In addition, there will be a page dedicated to each entity issuing stamps during the year.  These pages will serve as indices to the stamps themselves, linking to the individual entries.  I believe that I will be able to post updates much more quickly this way. Menus in the header and on the sidebar of the blog allow for easy navigation.

In the last five days, I have added 51 entries to the blog — one for each stamp issue that I have either an image or a date of issue for.  These are from 14 separate stamp issuers:

Åland | Alderney | Canada | China | Denmark | Faroe Islands | Finland | Greenland | Guernsey | Hong Kong | Iceland | Macau | United Nations | United States

Currently, I am caught up on these. I will start creating pages for other countries/entities as I await further programme and individual issue announcements. Each time I add a country, the initial page takes a bit of time as I have decided to include images of flags, postal administration logos with links to their philatelic bureaus, and coats of arms. Once that’s done, the individual entries are relatively easy (and quick) as they retain that formatting.

I have also created a Google Calendar to help keep track of the issues throughout the year.  My only real gripe is that it doesn’t offer enough different colors for events and categories. I have also added those stamp issues scheduled for the remainder of 2019 (November and December). Check it out below and in the sidebar.

[googleapps domain=”calendar” dir=”calendar/embed” query=”src=j6te8dfj6j2s8dqi6067itucn8%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=Asia%2FBangkok” width=”800″ height=”600″ /]

I hope that you like the new focus for Philatelic Pursuits. Along the way, there will be occasional articles marking various holidays (I just realized that I managed to miss Día de los Muertos — one of my favorite holidays — but there’s always next year).  Please feel free to contact me with any information and images that I can include on this blog. The dedicated email address is PhilatelicPursuits -at- gmail dot com.

For now, I am caught up and feel I deserve a bit of a rest.  It feels good….

With new stamp issues for 2020 starting to be announced coinciding with the imminent end of my months’ long busy period, I am now thinking about a return to (semi-) regular blogging.  I plan to concentrate on the New Issues of 2020 as much as I am able to.  My approach will be similar to that on the Gulfmann News blog giving illustrations of the stamps as they are announced or the Virtual Stamp Club by adding to the original blog entry once further information becomes available. The pages, then, will serve as chronological indices to the blog entries about the stamps.  Hopefully,  this method will be a bit easier for me to maintain.

I am pleased that my prolonged period of intense work is coming to an end. Or, at least, a lightening. I have been itching to get back to my stamps and other postal activities (such as Postcrossing). In fact, the first postcard I have received in months happened to be my first from North Korea, something I blogged about on my postcard blog when it arrived.

Purchasing stamps and first day covers at the Phuket Philatelic Museum, Phuket, Thailand, on 28 October 2019.

Despite the heavy workload of the past several months, I have been able to go to the local post office several times each month to obtain new Thai stamps (many of these on the first days of issue adding the local postmark on my covers).  This is the first year since I moved to Phuket in which I have purchased every stamp issued thus far; I am only missing the first day cover of King Vajiralongkorn’s Coronation Day stamp which quickly sold out.

In recent weeks, I have also been actively purchasing various items on eBay. These are mostly first day covers from the U.S. that I missed the first time around (such as the various Transportations Coils and Celebrate the Century stamps) and non-U.S. covers of some of my favorite themes (including Apollo 11, caves and caverns and Americana). There have been a few random postcard purchases as well, principally 1930’s and 1940’s cards from places I once lived (Texas, Tennessee, Kansas, and New Mexico).

Some of these new purchases may make their way into future articles for A Stamp A Day (although it will never again be a daily endeavor) or here on Philatelic Pursuits.

At any rate, it is nice to be able to pursue philatelic endeavors once again…

scan_20170202-33

I am spending this February tropical day (a bit overcast with a cooling breeze, 23° C at 12:15 in the afternoon) in Phuket, Thailand, trying to think of ways to resurrect Philatelic Pursuits as a frequently-updated blog.

My philatelic blogging focus since the beginning of July 2016 has been A Stamp A Day (ASAD). I have been successful at posting at least once entry each and every day of the past six months. The articles have become much longer over time and I am now including maps, flags, coats of arms, and occasional other images.

The research for each ASAD article takes quite a bit of time (more so for certain more complicated entities than others), although my primary source is always Wikipedia with a lot of cut-and-pasting. Much of the time, it takes multiple Wikipedia articles to combine into one entry. I try to supplement the postal and philatelic histories from a variety of other sources.

All of this work is done in my limited free time outside of my full-time job as the deputy head teacher for a large language school (we contract teachers out to most of Phuket’s government-operated educational facilities). It can often be difficult getting online and uploading images (all of my scans are done at 1200 dpi) as the Internet at my location in Thailand is often dismally slow (and seems to have been throttled-down significantly by the government since the beginning of this year). Time-outs and dropped connection are the order of the day.

My other blogs — The POSTCARD TRAVELLER (formerly, “Please, Mr. Postman!”) and Asian Meanderings — have fallen by the wayside as well. It’s not that I don’t have a strong desire to maintain each of these sites, it’s just that I’m committed to A Stamp A Day and the process often leaves me exhausted.

That said, I do not want these blogs to die off completely. The articles I’ve been posting on ASAD have essentially replaced the “Stamp Issuers” series I began here on Philatelic Pursuits. I have thought about reprinting the ASAD articles here, reformatted and including more scans from my collection. That’s a lot of work made much more difficult due to the lack of reliable Internet speeds. If you are interested in a particular entity, I refer you to the Index page on ASAD (I try to update it once or twice every few weeks).

Other ideas include “How To’s” (I’ve wanted to write one about my inventory process for quite some time) and “Collection Galleries” for certain entities which I have nearly complete collections of. I’ve only recently delved into topical collecting (none of which yet have very many stamps) and I would like to feature some of my favorite themes.

At any rate, I hope to make a “return” to this blog sometime very soon. If I can manage two or three entries here each month, I will be happy.

Any suggestions for what YOU would like me to include on Philatelic Pursuits are most welcome!

A Stamp A Day -- Visit my new blog

In an effort at trying to force myself into a more regular posting schedule, I have started a new blog.  A Stamp A Day highlights a single stamp, each and every day, with a brief write-up.  With my main collecting focus of “Stamps From (Almost) Everywhere”, I am posting the stamp issuers currently in my collection alphabetically.  From time to time, I will deviate from that format by spotlighting a stamp representing a particular holiday, special event, or from one of my favorite topical collections.

I will continue to post lengthier articles here on Philatelic Pursuits, particularly additions to my “Stamp Issuers” series.  I tend to write those at the same time I design new album pages for the issuing entity in question.

Please check out A Stamp A Day and let me know what you think in the comments.

00 Mark Jochim Collection (2)

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…