I am currently reading the latest thriller by Steve Berry, The Malta Exchange, and just came across a passage mentioning stamps. The main character, Cotton Malone, is in Italy where he had a violent encounter with somebody he has discovered is a member of the Knights of Justice.  In the passage, Malone is thinking about what he has learned about the organization:

One hundred and four countries maintained formal diplomatic relations, including an exchange of embassies. It possessed its own constitution and actively operated within fifty-four nations, having the ability to transport medicine and supplies around the world without customs inspections or political interference. It even possessed observer status in the United Nations, issuing its own passports, license plates, stamps, and coins. Not a country, as there were no citizens or borders to defend, more a sovereign entity, all of its efforts focused on helping the sick and protecting its name and heritage, which members defended zealously.”

Palazzo di Malta, Via dei Condotti 68 Roma, headquarters of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Note the flags flying at half-staff after the death of the Grand Master Andrew Bertie. Photo taken by Willtron on February 11, 2008. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Sovereign Military Order of Malta – Yvert et Tellier #184: Baptism of Christ (June 25, 1980). Image sourced from active eBay auction.

Upon reading that, my first thought was, “I have never heard of ‘Knights of Justice’ stamps” but then I realized that Malone is referring to the Knights Hospitaller (founded in 1050 in Jerusalem) which are now officially called the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta and better known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM). It is a Roman Catholic order based in Rome.  A postal administration called the Poste Magistrali was set up for the order under a Decree of the Grand Master on May 20, 1966, with first stamps issued on November15 of that year. I have seen these referred to once or twice but always thought they meant the stamps of Malta, either as a British colony or independent republic.

Of course, now that I know about this issuing entity, I need to seek out some of their stamps. Unfortunately, postal agreements have been established with only 50 or so territories which allow mail sent, provided it is posted at the Magistral Post Office at Via Bocca di Leone 68, Rome. The United States doesn’t have such an agreement with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta nor is the order a member of the Universal Postal Union. As a result, many catalogues view these as Cinderellas or local post stamps and simply do not list them. In fact, the only two major catalogues for which I have found SMOM listings are the Italian-language Unificato and French-language Yvert et Tellier catalogues.

Australia – Queen Victoria Bicentennial gold coin

May 24 marks the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth and a number of entities are planning stamp issues as well as commemorative coins. In searching for new stamps in this topical, I came across a number of coins that I would love to obtain as well. I found the designs from the Perth Mint in Australia particularly beautiful. Oddly, I cannot find an announcement picturing the designs for Great Britain’s upcoming stamp set other than the one that accompanied press releases last December that described this year’s stamp programme.  However, there are several online dealers advertising their first day cover cachet designs picturing the stamps. One example is shown below:

Great Britain – Queen Victoria Bicentennial (May 24, 2019) first day cover
Jersey – Queen Victoria Bicentennial (May 24, 2019)

The set from Jersey is another of my early favorites. This is an island I began collecting about the same time I started my childhood collections of Pitcairn Islands and Tristan da Cunha (sometime around late 1978 or early 1979). My other great interest at this time was North Atlantic ocean liners and I had just started a correspondence with Noel R.P. Bonsor, an author who had a series of books that profiled virtually every passenger ship that had steamed across the Atlantic since the early days of Samuel Cunard’s beginnings. Bonsor divided his time between a residence on Jersey and a villa in Alicante, Spain, and we traded letters back and forth for many years. Eventually, he began sending me stamp issues (mostly in presentation packs) from Jersey. I stopped actively collecting the bailiwick’s releases sometime in the 1990’s when they began releasing far too many stamps to keep up with (or afford). However, I will try to add the Queen Victoria set. The souvenir sheet is particularly striking:

Jersey – Queen Victoria Bicentennial (May 24, 2019) souvenir sheet
Thailand – Coronation of King Rama X (May 4, 2019)

Here in Thailand, everybody is getting reading for this weekend’s Coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, usually referred to in the West as King Rama X. There have already been a plethora of ceremonies and events associated with the event and the King himself got married Wednesday afternoon to the head of his Royal bodyguard detail (his father, the much revered King Bhumiphol Adulyadej, similarly married Queen Sirikit just prior to his own coronation back in 1950). The actual coronation ceremony occurs tomorrow (May 4) but the grand procession through the streets of Bangkok is scheduled for Sunday afternoon and Monday is a special holiday for the Kingdom.  All government employees (myself included) are to wear the Royal color of yellow every day for the entire month of May. Thailand Post’s stamp for the Coronation will be released tomorrow; while there are special postmarks available from many of the post offices in Bangkok, I doubt any of the post offices here in Phuket will be open. I have to work all day anyway and it won’t be until next week that I will be able to buy any of the new stamps (and there are several due for release next Friday so I may just wait until then).

Canada – Sweet Canada (April 17, 2019)

I have a fair amount of stamps that make me hungry looking at them, particularly those from Thailand, Malaysia, and New Zealand that portray the wonderful fruit we have in this part of the world.  I now have the opportunity to add a few picturing sweets thanks to delectable sets released by Canada and Singapore, coincidentally (?) both on April 17.  The Sweet Canada set has received some controversy as confectionary “experts” claim the proportions of chocolate, custard and crumb crust are pictured incorrectly on the design featuring the famed Nanaimo bar. It still looks tasty to me!  The stamps in Singapore’s Traditional Confections set are just as mouth-watering.

Singapore – Traditional Confections (April 17, 2019)

I haven’t spent much time on the stamp blogs lately but I did read an excellent article by John M. Hotchner on the Virtual Stamp Blog about “Collecting On A Tight Budget“, something I totally relate to.  I also came across an essay that was originally broadcast on CBC Radio discussing “The Lost Art of Writing Letters“.

“May 5, 1862 and the siege of Puebla”, a 1901 image from the Biblioteca del Niño Mexicano, a series of booklets for children detailing the history of Mexico.”

Sunday is, of course, the 5th of May — a date which is celebrated in Mexico and the American Southwest as Cinco de Mayo. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. The victory of the smaller Mexican force against a larger French force was a boost to morale for the Mexicans. Oddly, the holiday has taken on a greater significance in the U.S. than in Mexico, and has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. These celebrations began in California, where they have been observed annually since 1863. The day gained nationwide popularity in the 1980s thanks especially to advertising campaigns by beer and wine companies. Today, Cinco de Mayo generates beer sales on par with the Super Bowl. I plan to celebrate in my own way with a nice meal of Mexican food, a real hit-or-miss affair in Phuket, Thailand. Luckily, one of the island’s best restaurants serving Mexican food in located not far from my home.

Mexico – Children’s Day (April 26, 2017)

I am also thinking about putting together a Cinco de Mayo article for the long-hibernating A Stamp A Day blog as I have several stamps that commemorate the Battle of Puebla. Over the past several months, I have added quite a few Mexican stamps to my collection, many are modern stamps commemorating various holidays and other annual celebrations, something I think they do consistently well (much better than some of the other entities I collect). There are a number of other Mexican holidays in May for which I have stamps including the birthday of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla — the initiator of the Mexican Independence War — on the 8th, Día de las Madres (Mother’s Day) on the 10th, and Día del Maestro (Teachers’ Day) on the 15th.

Thailand – Coronation 2019 (May 4, 2019)

Late this afternoon, March 14, Thailand Post revealed the design for the single 10-baht stamp commemorating the Coronation of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (มหาวชิราลงกรณ บดินทรเทพยวรางกูร), the Tenth of the Chakri Dynasty. This followed the unveiling earlier this week (March 11) of the Royal Coronation Emblem which is portrayed on the stamp along with a portrait of the King wearing his Royal Thai Army uniform. An image of the Royal Grand Palace in Bangkok can be seen in the background. The stamp design is meant to echo that of the set of eight stamps issued to mark the coronation of Rama X’s father, the late King Bhumiphol Adulaydej, on May 5, 1950 (Scott #275-282). His Majesty the King personally gave the final approval to the stamp design.

Three million copies of the stamps have been printed and are claimed to be the first in the world to utilize a special four-color glass foil printing technique. This has been used on the lettering for the country’s name, denomination, and Royal Coronation Emblem which produces an embossed effect. Preorder reservations for first day covers began today and will continue until March 29 at a price of 20 baht per cover at www.thailandpostmart.com. More information can be found on the Thailand Post website or by phoning THP Contact Center 1545.

Thai Channel 3 reporter Meow Petcharat posted following images to an an album on her Facebook page this afternoon. I presume the second one is of an actual sheet of printed stamps rather than a Thailand Post mockup:

The Royal Coronation will be held from May 4 to 6 with the actual coronation taking place on the first day. Monday the 6th is a holiday. According to an announcement by the Bureau of the Royal Household, issued on January 1, stated that Vajiralongkorn “had ascended the Throne as the King of Thailand, following the invitation of the President of the National Legislative Assembly, acting as the President of the National Assembly, on behalf of the Thai people” and that “His Majesty the King deems it appropriate that it is time for the Royal Coronation Ceremony to be conducted in accordance with royal traditions and for the joy of the people and the Kingdom on this auspicious occasion of the country.”

The lead-up to the Coronation will begin with a water-drawing rite conducted by the governors of each of Thailand’s 77 provinces on April 6. This water will be consecrated the following Monday and Tuesday and then transported to Wat Suthat Thepphawararam in Bangkok for further purification on April 18 and then taken by procession the following day to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. A number of other pre-coronation rites follow and the three days from May 4 to 6 are full of additional ceremonies. A royal barge procession is expected during the Royal Krathin ceremonies later in the year (October or November, probably). A detailed explanation behind many of these, as well as a schedule, can be found in the article “The Crowing of A King” published by The Nation on March 2, 2019, That article mentions that the Ministry of Culture website includes free downloadable guides to the Coronation ceremonies but I have yet to find them.

Royal Coronation Emblem for HM King Maha Vachiralongkhorn

Thai people have been officially “encouraged” to display the Royal Coronation Emblem up until the actual ceremonies. Recommended places include coronation-related publications, decorative flags/arches and worship tables. I have already seen polo shirts for sale in Phuket bearing this new cipher. The following is a translated description from the Bureau of the Royal Household:

The Royal Emblem marked the upcoming Coronation of His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn (Rama X) which will be held on 4-6 May 2019, contains the King’s monogram in the white trimmed with gold in the centre. The Royal Cypher is decorated with diamonds which denote the origin from which his name is derived, whilst the gold trimming of the cypher represents the colour of Monday when he was born, according to the Thai traditional colours of the day.

The cypher lies on a dark blue background which is the colour of righteous kingship, contained within a lotus bud frame marked out in gold and green. The mixture of which two colours signifies the power and might of the King’s day of birth. The lotus bud frame begets inspiration from the shape of its foremost predecessor – which enclosed the Great Unalome insignis of the Royal Seal of State which belonged to King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I the Great). Surrounding the outer parts of the frame are the Five Royal Regalia, deemed to embody the symbol of Kingship itself, which contains:

  • The Great Crown of Victory, represents the great burden bearing down on the King for the sake of his people’s happiness.
  • The Sword of Victory, symbolises the King’s responsibility to protect the Kingdom from all harms threatening.
  • The Royal Sceptre, signifies the King’s virtues to bring forth peace and stability to the Kingdom.
  • The Royal Whisk and Royal Fan, symbolise the King’s righteousness as a ruler in relieving the suffering and hardship of his duties.
  • The Royal Slippers, represent the King’s care in fostering the sustenance and welfare throughout the Kingdom.

The Great Crown of Victory with the Unalome insignia includes within the sequence of number of this reign. The sword and whisk lie on the right, while the scepter and fan on the left. And below the cypher rest the royal slippers.

Standing behind the Crown is the Great Umbrella of State trimmed with bands of gold. The nine-tiered umbrella has the lotus bud finial showing Brahma Faces on top, while the lowest tier is decorated with golden Champa bouquets representing the extension in all directions yonder of his writ and authority. On the lowest part stretches of green-gold ribbon, trimmed in gold, bearing the Thai language phrase which is translated as: “The Coronation, 2562 B.E. (2019 A.D.)”.

On the tip of the ribbon stands the purple Kojasi lion, holding up the seven-tiered umbrella representing the Armed Forces, while the white Ratchasi lion holds the same but represents the Civil Service. Altogether represent the two pillars of public service. Inside the shafts of both umbrellas have golden Naga snake traceries denoting the year of the dragon, which defines the King’s birthyear according to the traditional belief. The golden colour of Naga traceries signifies the prosperity of the nation and her people.