It’s been a very fast two weeks which means it’s time for the second installment of “Phila-Bytes” – a compendium of interesting things I’ve stumbled upon in the stamp web. This will be a fairly short edition as I’ve been very busy with work!
First up, I should mention that today is the centennial of the U.S. National Parks Service. I am preparing an article about the NPS for my other stamp blog, A Stamp A Day (insert shameless plug here). I was somewhat surprised that Wikipedia doesn’t have a dedicated page for the 1934 National Parks Issue but there is plenty on the Internet about the recently-released set of 16 stamps including a page on the NPS site itself. I have yet to obtain copies of these but will do so as soon as our monsoon season ends. While I was hoping that my personal favorite — Chaco Canyon — would be included, it was still nice to see two other parks from my former home of New Mexico honored.
This is, in fact, a year where there are many interesting issues I can add to my various topical collections. I’ve long been a voracious reader of crime fiction and have a number of stamps commemorating the legacy of Sherlock Holmes as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s refreshing, however, that a different favorite mystery writer is receiving the philatelic treatment this year. I came across the news on the Commonwealth Stamps Blog that a set of six will be released on 15 September by the United Kingdom to “to commemorate the Centenary of the first murder mystery written by Agatha Christie (The Mysterious Affair At Styles featuring Hercule Poirot). It’s a rather striking set and one now firmly included on my want list.
I’m also a lifelong fan of rock music in (almost) all of its forms. While Bruce Springsteen has been my favorite performer for almost as long as I can remember (which is a long time, actually), I’ve also enjoyed forays into progressive rock such as Pink Floyd (honored by a Royal Mail set earlier this year), Peter Gabriel-led Genesis, and both eras of Marillion (I prefer Steve Hogarth’s version of the band over that of Fish, despite him being the singer for the first four years that I listened to them). I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Yes throughout the years. I remember buying the LP for Yessongs when I was attending college in central Kansas but I refused to buy the then-current 90125 for years as the hit single was overplayed and I found it really annoying! It wasn’t until 1994 that I saw them perform live and became began buying their back-catalogue.
Sometimes the best thing about the albums were the covers created by Roger Dean, defining the visual image of the band, much the same way that Hipnogsis represented Pink Floyd. Thus, I was quite pleased to find that a set of his artwork would be released on stamps by the Isle of Man. They were issued on 19 August and I like the fact that the attention to detail extended to the fonts used as well. However, much like the writer of Commonwealth Stamps Blog, I was underwhelmed by the final product. These images just don’t translate well to the stamp format. Truth be known, they don’t look that great CD-sized either. Roger Dean’s work is best seen on the full 12-inch LP with gatefold sleeves. Oddly enough, I don’t think the same for the Pink Floyd album covers (or previous issues showing The Beatles covers). Perhaps if I was a bigger Yes fan, I’d think differently. The set also includes one brand-new piece of artwork inspired by the Isle of Man as well as artwork for albums by The Blind Owl and Uriah Heap.
The biggest news this week was perhaps the selling at auction of two of the rarest stamps in the world – the 1p and 2p “Post Office” Mauritius stamps of 1847. I mentioned in “Phila-Bytes” #1 that the copper plate used to print these stamps will be auctioned later in the year. The most-newsworthy aspect seems to be the fact that an unknown Czech investor was the winning bidder for an undisclosed sum thought to be in excess of US $4.1 million. It’s unknown whether these are on-cover examples or singles. The news article can be found here.
That’s all for this time. I’ll see you again in about two weeks…
Although it hasn’t felt like it, I have been on holiday for almost a week now. Because of the huge fires down in Indonesia, Phuket has been covered under thick smoke creating major health issues. They say that it is more dangerous than the worst of the L.A. smogs. It has been so bad that rhe hospitals have been distributing free facemasks. Thailand is a corrupt country and nothing is ever free (and refunds are never given), so you just know it is beyond bad.
You would think that being forced inside for a week would have led me to work on my stamps but I haven’t really been in the mood. However, the postman brought me no less than thirteen envelopes full of stamps this morning and I can feel my motivation-level moving up a few notches as I write this. Eight orders from the United States, four from the United Kingdom and one from New Zealand. They include stamps from Aden, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Russia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and the United States plus pre-stamped postal stationery from Hawaii and Mauritius. In all, just 30 philatelic items and three “new” stamp issuers (the Caribbean islands) for my A Stamp From Everywhere collection.
First up is Aden. I’ve been putting together a nice collection of the then-British colony on the Arabian peninsula. While I previously bought used copies of several of the low values in the 1937 Dhows set, I now have the first five in Mint, lightly hinged, condition. Aren’t they beautiful?
The first British representative is my first “Seahorse” stamp. These were first issued in 1913 with retouched values appearing in 1919 and then again in 1934. Three different printers were used during the course of these various releases. My copy is Scott #222 2sh6p brown from the 1934 series. A beautiful stamp picturing “Britannia Rules the Waves” with the portrait of King George V. I was inspired to purchase this stamp by reading about in in Nicholas Courtney’s excellent book The Queen’s Stamps: The Authorised History of the Royal Philatelic Collection.
Another purchase inspired by Courtney’s book was that of Hong Kong’s 1946 Victory Issue picturing the Phoenix rising from the flames. Issued on 29 August 1946, Scott #174-175 was a significant departure in design from those issued by much of the rest of the British Commonwealth. Not only is the design quite striking but it was the story behind the stamps that intrigued me to purchase them. Briefly, the then Hong Kong Postmaster General, E.I. Wynne-Jones conceived the idea while he was himself a prisoner of the Japanese forces. He made a rough sketch of the design while interred at Stanley Camp.
I have had a lifelong fascination with ships and the sea with the old transatlantic ocean liners being my favorite nautical interest. I have quite a few of the liners pictured on stamps and finally got around to purchasing Great Britain’s wonderful set issued on 15 January 1969 shortly before the maiden voyage of the Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth 2. Scott #575-580 is a lovely set; I’ve always preferred ship profiles to photographs or paintings of them at sea. However, I’ve often wondered why they chose the Mauretania over the Lusitania.
Another “Columbian” arrived – Scott #234 5c chocolate Columbus Soliciting Aid from Isabella Mint with gum, hinged – coinciding with my resuming reading Erik Larson’s account of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, Devil In The White City after setting it aside for more than a year. I’ve long been interested in Columbus, something that may no longer be “politically correct” and is certainly at odds with my siding with Native American issues in most instances. In fact, I’ve slowly been building up a Columbus-themed collection with several items destined for that arriving today, just in time for the anniversary of his first landing in the West Indies. Most of these purchases were inspired by David Nye’s (Mr. Columbus) recent postings on several Facebook pages.
The earliest is the stamp from Trinidad, Scott #91 2p gray violet and yellow brown. It was issued in 1898 to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ sighting of the island of Trinidad on 31 July 1498. The bicolor (green and violet) stamp from St. Kitts & Nevis is actually the first general issue – Scott #1 – for this former presidency of the Leeward Islands colony. It was issued in 1903. A solid green version was overprinted in 1916 to help fund Commonwealth involvement in the First World War. That is Scott #MR1, another of today’s arrivals.
The Columbus issue by St. Lucia – Scott #49 – doesn’t mention him by name and pictures local landmark The Pitons. The 2p brown and green stamp was issued on 16 December 1902 to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of the island, something only indicated by the year range at top center.
The final Columbus-themed stamp in this batch is a nice souvenir sheet issued on 18 March 1992 to mark the 500th anniversary of the so-called discovery of America. It’s catalogued as Scott #6075.
I’m also pleased to add several more classic-era stamps from the United States starting with a nice lightly-cancelled example of Scott #11A, the 3 cent dull red, type II George Washington issued in 1851 (the difference being that the outer border frame lines were recut on both the outer and inner lines on Type II while Type I – Scott #11 – had just the outer lines recut). Next is a strip of three of Scott #182, 1c deep ultramarine George Washington, printed by the American Bank Note Company and released in 1879. Scott #306, 8c violet black Martha Washington, was released as part of a set of definitives from 1902 to 1903. This Mint, gummed and hinged, copy was obtained as a significant reduction from its 2009 catalogue value of US $45 due to its poor centering. I paid just over $3 for it and I’m happy to fill the space.
Finally, the last of the U.S. stamps is a Mint example of Scott #324, the 2c carmine Thomas Jefferson, issued on 30 April 1904 for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis that year. Again, somewhat off-center, it was advertised as “original gum hinged” but I can find no evidence of a hinge mark. In fact, the gum looks so fresh that I suspect that it may have been regummed at some point. Time to look up how to determine if a stamp has been regummed… The value would be US $70 if it is in fact MNH; I paid $2.25.
Last for today, we have several items of postal stationery which are unlisted in the Scott catalogues; still, I love adding these types of items to my regular stamp collection. First is a postal card from Hawaii – the three-cent preprinted stamp bears the same red Provisional Government overprint applied to regular stamps in 1893. Faulty corner and a very thick card. The two pre-stamped envelopes from Mauritius bearing Queen Victoria’s portrait are on rather thick paper and were probably issued sometime between 1882 and 1894 and the indicia are embossed, always pleasing to the eye. The final Mauritian envelope features the Coat of Arms design with 4c on 36c overprint, the same style as the overprinted stamps issued in 1925 during King George V’s reign.
Yes, very nice stamp additions indeed.
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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…
I certainly hope my next batch of mail brings a bit better luck and…
Earlier this month, my teaching agency asked me to substitute teach in a large high school for the seven weeks remaining in the term. As a result, my workload increased to the point that I’ve had very little time to devote to working on my collections or writing about them. Unfortunately, the school doesn’t even have an Internet connection so articles here will be few and far between until early October.
In fact, I’ve only received one philatelic item in the mail over the course of the past two weeks – this unused copy of the one-cent green Hawaii stamp featuring Princess Likelike, Scott #55, issued in 1893 with a red Provisional Government overprint.
I did receive a trickle of Postcrossing postcards over the past few days – one from the Ukraine, one from Russia and my first piece of mail from Turkey. A card also arrived from my sister who had been vacationing along the California Pacific coast. Her card from Avila Beach featured several stamps from the Harry Potter booklet – again, sadly they missed cancellation. I will (eventually) write about these and a few other recently-arrived cards on “Please, Mr. Postman!”
I had been winding-down my online stamp purchases but that has picked up a bit in the past few days. I picked up a nice set of classic Mauritius stamps, inspired by my current reading of Helen Morgan’s fascinating Blue Mauritius: The Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Stamps. I also picked up a few more countries under the letter “A” – Alsace and Lorraine, Alexandria, Annam & Tonkin, and Antigua & Barbuda amongst them. However, I was outbid for a pair from La Aguera in the last seconds of an eBay auction. That particular stamp-issuer is proving rather elusive!
Of course, you will see these stamps once they arrive in my mailbox – probably in around a month’s time.