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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.

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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…

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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?

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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!

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My first fan mail!!  Actually, this was probably in response to my postcard-only blog and that is where I will publish a full write-up.  Must not let this go to my head…  Nah, my ego needs stoking on a rainy day such as this.  The fact that I’m receiving mail on consecutive days is all the stoking I really need, however.

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The remaining two items received today a bits of philatelic reading material.  I’ve collected paquebot covers off and on since my teens, mainly those of Cunard liners or originating from favorite ports.  I’d long been looking for a copy of Philip Cockrill’s classic Ocean Mails and at last I found one on eBay.  I’ve been buying a few of these types of older philatelic literature over the past couple of months as the price is often reasonable and shipping costs low.  I plan to scan those that are out-of-print and (probably) offer the resulting PDF’s as free downloads via Scibd if they are in the public domain.

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Last, but certainly not least, in today’s mail was a 50-page Stanley Gibbons compilation of articles published in their excellent magazine marking the 40th anniversary of Guernsey’s and Jersey’s postal independence in late 2009.  While I corresponded with a famous author who lived on Jersey in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s, I never really collected their stamps (I recall that my “penpal” sent me the Jersey presentation pack for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana but these are all I had, aside from those affixed to the numerous envelopes).  It’s only been in the last couple of years that my interest was piqued by a February 2013 article in The Philatelic Missive, by the Central Florida Stamp Club.  It concerned the German occupation of the Channel Islands and the stamps issued by Guernsey and Jersey during the occupation.

I now have a complete collection of the Jersey wartime issues and am working on those of Guernsey.  I also have a number of stamps released by each of these islands since their postal independence in 1969, as well as a few from Alderney (see my “Stamp Issuers” write-up) not to mention a few local post stamps from islands such as Herm and Jethou.  This book looks to improve my still somewhat limited knowledge on the subject.

I wonder what tomorrow’s mail will bring?

Happy Collecting!

Alderney COAAlderney Flag

Alderney, Channel Islands

LOCATION: Northernmost of the Channel Islands
GOVERNMENT: Dependent territory in the Bailiwick of Guernsey
POPULATION: 1,903 (est. 2013)
AREA: 3 square miles
CAPITAL: St. Anne’s

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 14 June 1983.

CURRENCY:
100 pence = 1 British pound

Alderney is a small English Channel island just ten miles (16 kilometers) west of the French coast, 20 miles (32 km) to the northeast of Guernsey and 60 miles (97 km) from the south coast of Great Britain. The island is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which has been a British crown territory since the mid-13th century.  Alderney is 3 miles (4.8 km) long and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide; it’s read of three square miles (7.8 km²) makes it the third-largest island of the Channel Islands.  The main town is St Anne which features an imposing church and an unevenly cobbled high street. There is a primary school, a secondary school and a post office, and hotels, restaurants, banks and shops. Other settlements include Braye, Crabby, Longis, Mannez and Newtown.  As of April 2013, the island had a population of 1,903 people and they are traditionally nicknamed vaques after the cows, or elselapins after the many rabbits seen in the island. Formally, they are known as Ridunians, from the Latin Riduna.

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Along with the other Channel Islands, Alderney was annexed by the Duchy of Normandy in 933. In 1042 William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy (later William the Conqueror, King of the English) granted the island to the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. In 1057 the Bishop of Coutances took control of the island.  After 1204, when mainland Normandy was incorporated into the kingdom of France, Alderney remained loyal to the English monarch in his dignity of Duke of Normandy.  From 1721 Alderney came under the control of the Le Mesurier family from Guernsey who prospered from privateering and built a jetty there in 1736.  The last of the hereditary Governors, John Le Mesurier, resigned his patent to the Crown in 1825, and since then authority has been exercised by the States of Alderney, as amended by the constitutional settlement of 1948.

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The British Government decided to undertake massive fortifications in the 19th century and to create a strategic harbor to deter attacks from France. An influx of English and Irish laborers, plus the sizeable British garrison stationed in the island, led to rapid Anglicization. The harbor was never completed – the remaining breakwater (designed by James Walker) is one of the island’s landmarks, and is longer than any breakwater in the UK.  At the same time as the breakwater was being built in the 1850s, the island was fortified by a string of 13 forts.

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On 23 June 1940, after the retreat from Dunkirk, the entire population of Alderney – about 1500 residents – were evacuated to Britain, since Alderney and the rest of the Channel Islands were considered by the British Government to be undefendable. On 2 July Alderney was occupied by German forces, who made it one of the most heavily defended fortresses in Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.  The Channel Islands was the only part of the British Commonwealth occupied by Germany during the Second World War.

The Germans built four concentration camps in Alderney, subcamps of the Neuengamme concentration camp. Over 700 of a total inmate population of 6,000 lost their lives before the camps were closed and the remaining inmates transferred to Germany in 1944. The Royal Navy blockaded the islands from time to time, particularly following the liberation of Normandy in 1944. Intense negotiations resulted in some Red Cross humanitarian aid, but there was considerable hunger and privation during the five years of German occupation, particularly in the final months when the Germans themselves were close to starvation. The Germans surrendered Alderney on 16 May 1945. The population of Alderney was unable to start returning until December 1945 due to the huge cleanup operation that had to take place simply to make the island safe for civilians. When the islanders returned home they were shocked to see the state of Alderney, with many houses completely derelict due to anything wooden, including front doors, having been burned for fuel by the Germans.

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The four German camps in Alderney have not been preserved or commemorated, aside from a small plaque at the former SS camp Lager Sylt. One camp is now a tourist camping site, while the gates to another form the entrance to the island’s rubbish tip. The other two have been left to fall into ruin and become overgrown by brambles. A series of tunnels also remain in place on Alderney, constructed by forced labor. These are in varying degrees of safety, but are left open to the public and the elements.

Alderney used the stamps of Guernsey following the release of the first regional issues in August 1958.  After it became postally independent and began issuing its own stamps in 1969, Guernsey made Alderney a sub-post office and handled its postal affairs. Alderney’s request to produce separate issues was rejected by Guernsey in 1975, but a later compromise allowed Alderney to issue occasional sets of stamps, the first of which appeared on 14 June 1983.  The island’s issues – typically about one commemorative set each year and a definitive set released every decade – are produced under the aegis of the Bailiwick of Guernsey Post Office in consultation with Alderney’s parliamentary finance committee. 

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Alderney is found in Volume 3 of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, right after the Guernsey listings in Great Britain (following the British Offices in Turkey), starting on page 373 of my 2009 edition.  I counted 325 general issue stamps with the most recent in my catalogue having been released on 2 August 2007.  This doesn’t count a number of minor-numbered perforation varieties or differing booklet pane format but does include various souvenir sheets.

I currently have five stamps from Alderney in my collection, Scott Nos. 37-41, released on 7 July 1989.  The set of five stamps, lithographed and perforated 13½x14, portray various maps of the island published between the 18th and 20th centuries.  For my A Stamp From Everywhere collection, I have chosen the 12p value which shows Henry Moll’s map of 1724.

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SAM_6522Actually, this covers the past two weeks or so as my mail has been trickling in a piece or so at a time.  In that period, I’ve only added 33 stamps to my collections from six different countries, two of which are new to my A Stamp From Everywhere project – Bermuda and The Roman States.  I did receive two books I’d ordered, The German Occupation of Jersey (1940-1945) and the indispensible reference work that is Stamp Atlas.  Rounding out the recent arrivals were several items for yet another thematic mini-collection based around my family history.

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Let’s start with the A’s:  I’ve become enamored with the engraved issues of Aden Protectorate and have been obtaining a few here and there, with 22mostly used values arriving recently – seven of the 1937 dhows issue (a couple duplicates of which are damaged) and the remainder covering the period between 1938 and 1959.

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Next up are five stamps from Bermuda – beautifully engraved bi-colors which I just love.  It’s going to be difficult to choose one stamp to represent the island in the ASFEW collection.  The final British Commonwealth stamp in this batch is Scott #96 from Gibraltar, issued in 1931.

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My Roman States stamp is a used copy – with a thin at the top – of Scott #4c, 1 bajocchi black on yellow buff paper, issued in 1852.  Next to my Penny Black, I believe this is the oldest stamp currently in my possession.  Catalogue value would be US $50 if the condition was much better than this space-filler for which I paid one cent.

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A trio of stamps from the Straits Settlements also arrived.  I’m really interested in this region with the Straits Settlements and Penang State stamps being particular favorites.

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One of my mini-topical collections revolves around my family history including usages of my surname which was originally spelt Joachim.  Long ago, I became interested in the mining community of Joachimsthal in the mountains of the Bohemian Erzebirge and currently known by its Czech name of Jáchymov.  Czechoslovakia issued a stamp (Scott #1413) in 1966 calling the town the “Cradle of the Atomic Age” due as this was where pitchblende was first discovered.  Marie Curie discovered the element radium in pitchblende ore and Joachimsthal was the world’s only source until the First World War.

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Other items received this month on the Joachim theme include a couple of covers – one posted from Stiedra Stedra in Austria in April 1890 and backstamped Joachimsthal, the other featuring a commemorative cancellation during the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia during World War II – plus a poster stamp featuring the arms of another town called Joachimsthal that is situated north of Berlin.

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Another area of interest is the German occupation of the Channel Islands during the Second World War and I’ve started purchasing a few non-stamp items including a small booklet published by the Jersey War Museum in the 1950’s.

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I’d been perusing the Stamp Atlas section on the Sandafayre auction site for quite some time and so was positively thrilled when I found a good used copy on eBay for an excellent price and very low shipping cost.  It’s much better than the Sandafayre excerpts and will be a much-treasured part of my slowly-expanding research library.

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Finally, as I was putting the finishing touched on this article, a cover arrived from Eckerö in the Åland Islands.  I’d recently met a collector from Åland in a Facebook group and was thrilled when he offered to correspond via snail mail…

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Happy Collecting!