I have never been a fan of bees. I am not allergic to the sting but I find them quite unpleasant and have a long history of unpleasant encounters with them, not to mention hornets, wasps and the like. At least we don’t seem to have such stinging pests in Thailand, at least not where I live.
As an anti-bee person, I never gave their appearance on stamps a second thought despite their being a rather popular topical. That may change, however, with the recent release of an attractive set of bee stamps by Malaysia and a forthcoming set by the United Nations Postal Administration for all there of its issuing offices. The latter will mark World Bee Day on May 20 and will be UNPA’s first “scratch-and-sniff” stamps with a honey scent on the flowers. Which makes me wonder, “Will the stamps attract real bees with the honey scent?” It is a good thing that nobody has issued edible stamps either (imagine the cataloging — “that’s the half-eaten variety”, “the regurgitated variety”) or I would be sorely tempted. Honey is one of the foods I miss; Thai-made honey is really the worst I have ever eaten and non-Thai honey sold here is extremely expensive (I once ordered a jar from Pitcairn Island — still the best I have tried — and the shipping cost was less than the average cost of a jar sold here).
Lately, it seems there have been a plethora of such “unusual” stamps with the fabric stamps from Luxembourg and the Vatican City, other odd-materials stamps made of items such as different forms of wood and metal and the ever-creative shapes such as Malaysia’s honeycombed-shaped stamps for its bee issue (not to mention a bee-shaped souvenir sheet as well). I am finding myself increasingly drawn to such non-traditional stamps and am looking forward to finding more. However, I will have to forego the recent issue from Liechtenstein that includes an attached 1-gram .999.99 fine gold ingot and probably Romania’s silver stamp issued for Easter.
One of the more unusual materials I have come across will be featured on the upcoming Space Pioneers set to be released by New Zealand Post on May 1. As soon as I saw the design, I became a fan of the se-tenant strip of stamps featuring portraits of various Kiwis who had contributed in some way to space exploration through discoveries, inventions or observation with the individual stamps forming a rocket shape (the portraits peering out of portholes in the fuselage). While the majority of space-themed stamps released in 2019 are designed to commemorate the Apollo 11 spacecraft or the astronauts who flew on that mission, it is nice to see New Zealand Post once again thinking outside of the box. What makes this set (and the accompanying 3D lenticular souvenir sheet) even more interesting is that they have been topped off with a sprinkling of crushed meteorite, creating stamps that are quite literally “out of this world”.
Another space stamp that I will definitely be ordering is the Faroe Islands commemorative for the Apollo 11 anniversary. There are several reasons for my interest, aside from the topical. I have avidly collected stamps and postal history from the Faroes since the late 1980s. It was one of my first completed country collections along with Åland Islands (I used to have nice Davo hingeless albums for both). However, upon reading the story about the artist who designed the single 17-kroner stamp makes it somewhat more personal. The stamp depicts one of artist Edward Fuglø’s first childhood memories — that of his father pointing out the moon at the time of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s arrival upon the surface. At the time, the Faroe Islands had no television access so those living there received news of the Apollo 11 mission via radio relays between Denmark Radio studios in Copenhagen and Útvarp Føroya, the Faroese radio station. Fuglø was just four years old at the time of the moon landing, as was I when my parents allowed me to stay up late for Armstrong’s historic “one small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind.” To this day, I believe those ghostly images to be my own earliest memory.
In the description about the Faroe Islands Moon Landing stamp, it mentioned that Edward Fuglø had once “created a nine-meter-long satirical painting entitled ‘The Seagull Has Landed’, showing an astronaut planting the Faroese national flag on the Moon, while a group of other astronauts engage in the traditional Faroese chain dance on the Moon’s surface.” A portion of this is shown on Posta’s website but I just had to track down a copy of the original painting. I finally found it on Fuglø’s website (under Works\2012);I think it would make a mighty fine stamp in it’s own right.
An online article for Linn’s Stamp News this week reminds me that April is National Card and Letter Writing Month in the United States. I try to participate such activities as often as I can (although I missed A Month of Letters this February) and will request a few more addresses for Postcrossing this month. I have done quite a few activities during English lessons over the years revolving around writing (and designing) postcards over the years. There are a few interesting lesson plans (with downloadable materials) on the Scholastic website associated with National Card and Letter Month, several of which I will try in classes in the upcoming school year (April in Thailand is a month-long holiday period). The card and envelope templates on the site are especially nice.
Finally, on this rather short weekly update (as I would like to get out and participate in some New Year’s Eve festivities — tomorrow is the Thai New Year), I wanted to mention that 12 years ago today the first of the FOREVER-priced stamps issued by the United States Postal Service was released. The Liberty Bell housed at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was chosen as the first subject to be featured on such a stamp which are sold at the current first-class postage rate, remaining valid even if that rate rises in the future. If you buy a Forever stamp at 49 cents per stamp and the first-class postage rate rises in six months to $0.55 per stamp, you are saving six cents for every letter you send. The first of the Liberty Bell stamps was issued on April 12, 2007. At the time, the USPS stated, “The Liberty Bell is an icon that resonates for freedom and independence for all of America, and those are exactly the qualities we want people to associate with the Forever stamp.” Thirteen varieties of this design were released between 2007 and 2010; the stamp on the first day cover pictured in this article is Scott #4128 from the ATM booklet printed by Avery Dennison with serpentine die-cut perforations of 8.
The Forever stamp was so successful for the Postal Service that in 2011, they started using Forever stamps for almost all first-class stamps. In 2015, the postal service extended the Forever stamp concept to postcard-rate stamps and more. According to a 2015 notice from the USPS, the Forever Stamps eliminate “the need for customers and the Postal Service to acquire and distribute new denominated stamps in anticipation of price changes affecting these stamp types, each time a price change occurs.” It is hard to believe that all of this began just 12 years ago — AFTER I had moved away from the United States….forever.
See you next week. And “Happy Thai New Year” (Sawasdee pii mai Thai) everybody!
Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year, known popularly as Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival (simplified Chinese: 春节; traditional Chinese: 春節; pinyin: Chūn Jié). For a number of years, my adopted home of Thailand issued Zodiac stamps usually on January 1 and then a Chinese New Year set (often depicting various deities) a few weeks later. Last year, there was no Chinese New Year stamp and that has been repeated this year as well. Many nations have released Year of the Dog stamps, most with a distinctive Chinese slant, and a few have released issues more focused on the Spring Festival itself. If you are a dog lover, there are some very attractive topical stamps issued so far in 2018. To read more about the background of Chinese New Year, please have a look at my article on A Stamp A Day.
BHUTAN: Year of the Dog, released January 20, 2018
CANADA: Chinese New Year, released January 15, 2018
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA: Year of the Dog, released January 5, 2018
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA: Spring Festival, released January 10, 2018
CHRISTMAS ISLAND: Year of the Dog, released January 8, 2018
FRANCE: Happy New Year, released February 2, 2018
FRENCH POLYNESIA: Year of the Dog, released February 16, 2018
GIBRALTAR: Year of the Dog, released January 30, 2018
GUERNSEY: Year of the Dog, released February 3, 2018
HONG KONG S.A.R., CHINA: Year of the Dog, released January 27, 2018
INDONESIA: Chinese New Year, released February 1, 2018
ISLE OF MAN: Year of the Dog, released February 8, 2018
JERSEY: Year of the Dog, released January 5, 2018
KAZAKHSTAN: Chinese New Year, released January 1, 2018
KYRGYZSTAN: Chinese New Year, released January 30, 2018
MACAU, CHINA: Year of the Dog, released January 5, 2018
MALAYSIA: Working Dogs, released January 13, 2018
MONGOLIA: Year of the Dog, released January 5, 2018
THE NETHERLANDS: Year of the Dog, released January 29, 2018
NEW CALEDONIA: Year of the Dog, released February 16, 2016
NEW ZEALAND: Year of the Dog, released January 10, 2018
SINGAPORE: Year of the Dog (personalized stamps), released January 5, 2018
SLOVENIA: Year of the Dog, released January 26, 2018
TAJIKISTAN: Year of the Dog, released January 26, 2018
UNITED NATIONS: Chinese New Year personalized sheet, released February 2, 2018
UNITED STATES: Zodiac Year of the Dog, released January 11, 2018
WALLIS & FUTUNA ISLANDS: Year of the Dog, released February 16, 2018
One of the best things about this wonderful hobby of philately is that I am constantly learning new things — not only about the stamps themselves but about the subjects portrayed upon them, the entities that issued them, and so on. In the course of my daily research for A Stamp A Day, I come across a great number of previously unknown (to me) webpages and blogs, some philatelic in nature, many about history or culture. It can indeed be a bit frustrating as I simply do not have enough time to read everything that I stumble across.
Take blogs, for example. Just in the past two weeks, I have found (and subscribed) to the following: Barbados Stamps, Executed Today, EWorld Stamps: Worldwide Stamp Collection, My Native Belarus, My Philatelic Passion, and Stamps of Armenia. All are worthy of further perusal. I hope I can find the time someday soon.
One great resource of information on older stamp issues are auction catalogues and I really appreciate firms that archive .pdf versions of their previous catalogues on their website. One such auction house is that of Robert A. Siegel whose catalogue often include introductory essays on the stamps included in a particular auction. Auctions for the 1893 Columbians and Hawaii Missionaries immediately spring to mind. While looking around the site recently, I came across a number of shorter (one- to four-page) summaries of numerous U.S. issues including an excellent timeline of the American postal system from 1632-1792.
One thing that really fascinates me is the beginnings and evolution of stamp collecting itself. While I have never seen a comprehensive work on the subject, I have come across bits and pieces in the philatelic literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and brief mentions on various websites. I just found a nice site with articles on early collecting in the United States. It’s called Stamping American Memory: Collectors, Citizens, Commemoratives, and the Post — and is a scholarly study of philately in the U.S. I’m looking forward to reading all of the pages.
A recent article in Linn’s Stamp News reminded me of the Philatelic Truck that traveled around the United States between May 1939 and December 1941, promoting stamp collecting to the youth of America. Because I was never really interested in poster stamps, Cinderella stamps, or local post stamps during much of my philatelic life, I never obtained a copy of the souvenir sheet printed by the Bureau of Engraving & Printing given to visitors to the truck. My collecting interests have, of course, changed over the years and now I am very interested in buying one of these (and will be placing a bid on eBay shortly). It was in my quest to find out more that I came across the Stamping America’s Memory site mentioned above. There is also a book about the truck, the tour and the sheet written by John H. Bruns, a former director of the National Postal Museum, that I’d also like to track down.
There are a number of significant anniversaries coming up in the next few months, including the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the 25th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. No doubt these will be commemorated philatelicly (but I have yet to see any announcements). Much sooner than those, actually released today (September 9) for the nation’s Stamp Day, is a four-stamp mini-sheet marking the 25th anniversary of Croatian independence which will occur on October 8. One million of the 11 kuna stamp have been printed, bearing a hologram using a special technique to produce a “real 3D” effect — supposedly the first stamps to bear such an image.
Another recent issue commemorating an anniversary is that of Poland marking the 75th anniversary of the first airdrop by the Cichociemni, elite special-operations paratroops of the Polish Army in exile that were created in Great Britain during World War II to operate in occupied Poland. Designed by Ewa Szydłowsk, the 3.70 złoty stamps were released on September 1 in sheets of 35.
Much closer to home is a set of three stamps and a mini-sheet to be released by Malaysia on October 21, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Penang Free School. I have fond memories of strolling the campus of PFS while on several visits to George Town several years ago. While I did absolutely nothing philatelic (not even the purchase of a postcard) during these trips, I will definitely purchase this set and accompanying first day covers.
It’s not often that Royal Mail disappoints me with a stamp design for a subject that I’m interested in, but what’s with the graphic novel approach on the recent Great Fire of London set? The really ugly set of four was released on September 2 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the fire.
As a teacher, I avidly collect stamps portraying aspects of my profession particularly those picturing students and/or teachers. I am thrilled with the release earlier this week (September 6) of a set of four plus mini-sheet by Hong Kong Post titled “A Tribute to Teachers.” This is just in time for the annual celebration of Teacher’s Day (September 10) in the Chinese Special Administrative Region. The stamps depict chalkboard drawings, something I used to create on an almost daily basis (most Thai classrooms are now equipped with whiteboards which don’t provide quite the same effect). There is a nice range of products (postcards, maximum cards, presentation pack, regular and color cancellations, etc.) available for this issue.
Finally, one of my favorite stamp blogs — Big Blue 1840-1940, which covers the classic period of stamp issues as collected in the Scott International Part 1 albums or on Steiner album pages — earlier this week contemplated the question “Which Stamp Album is Best for WW Collectors?.” Blogger Jim, by the way, is almost finished with his survey of the “T” countries with an article at the end of August about the Turks and Caicos Islands. He started the blog about five-and-a-half years ago.