This October, I have been celebrating (U.S.) National Stamp Collecting Month with near-daily articles about different aspects of the hobby and mail delivery on my A Stamp A Day blog. Today’s article about the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. was my last on the subject, my 23rd in a month of 31 days. Tomorrow’s post will be Halloween-themed. After that, I will be taking a two-month break from lengthy ASAD articles. I will still post an image of a stamp from my collection each day during that time, but the descriptions will be extremely bare-boned (probably just the stamp’s caption and a line or two about the subject portrayed). There are several reasons for this, and I will explain them in my article on that blog on November 1.
In the meantime, I’d like to share the photos NOT used in today’s National Postal Museum article. This is a place I haven’t yet visited but I will definitely remedy that on my next trip to the United States. These photos help to remind me why I want to go. It might take me a few more years, but I will get there eventually….
Although I have lived in southern Thailand with its myriad of Royal and Buddhist holidays for going on 14 years now, there are a few American observances that I steadfastly cling to such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving (school is always in session during Christmas and the weather is so hot that I try to avoid the holiday altogether unless I am called upon to wear the Santa Claus costume to the delight of kindergarteners).
My favorite American “celebration”, of course, remains National Stamp Collecting Month each October. It is a rather philatelic month elsewhere as well containing such stamp-related observances as International Letter-Writing Week, World Post Day and several nations’ Stamp Days. In years past, I have promoted the stampy nature of October with a beginning-of-the-month article here on Philatelic Pursuits and the creation of a banner used on my personal Facebook page. For 2018, estimated to be my 35th year as a collector, I plan to step things up a notch or two.
NOTE:This article also appears, virtually the same, on Asian Meanderings — my main blog about my life in Thailand.
Since 1981, the month of October has been celebrated as National Stamp Collecting Month in the United States and Canada. November is National Stamp Collecting Month in the Philippines.
I began collecting stamps around the age of nine years old; counting a few breaks for other pursuits (girls, music, travel to name but three), I estimate that I have been involved in the hobby for a little more than 30 years. I promote it whenever and wherever I can these days, having begun collecting again following my move to Thailand more than a decade ago.
At the beginning of July 2016, I started a blog called A Stamp A Day on which I feature a different stamp (usually from a different place) each and every day. Different countries and territories have been included in a more or less alphabetical order and historic anniversaries and birthdays have been marked on occasion with an appropriate stamp. The write-ups (background histories on the issuing entities and details about the stamps) are often quite lengthy!
“ASAD” is my second stamp blog; Philatelic Pursuits is still active with a post or two each month. I also have a blog dedicated to postcards that I receive through Postcrossing, trades, or traveling friends and family members. I feel that the hobbies of philately (stamps) and deltiology (postcards) compliment each other. I recently changed the name of my postcard blog (for the third time) and it is now called Postcards to Phuket.
I live in Phuket, an island province in the south of Thailand. It wasn’t long after I’d arrived here that I discovered the Phuket Philatelic Museum in the administrative capital of Phuket Town. My first visit was in the midst of celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the reign of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I’d already been struck at how Thai people worshiped the king as a deity and had been swept up in royal fever. Seeing the beautiful stamps issued in his honor spurred me to return to the hobby.
While never much of a museum (a few dusty displays of telegraph equipment and several frames of stamp “reproductions” at the present), the Phuket Philatelic Museum contained a large shop which was filled with Thai stamps dating back to the early 1970s (all sold for face value), first day covers for the previous year’s releases, albums and supplies in a dedicated room.
About three years ago, the shop was moved to a counter in the museum lobby to make room for Thailand’s first drive-thru post office. Many of the supplies such as albums and ornate stamp pages plus older stamps were gone but at least I could still purchase the new-release stamps and first day covers (going back a year or so) as well as the annual yearbooks. The main clerk spoke good English and was extremely helpful. She was reassigned about a year ago, replaced by a woman who speaks very little English but is quite cheerful and always let me go through the stock books.
I recently visited the Phuket Philatelic Museum for the first time in quite a while and was told that they weren’t selling stamps anymore. There were a few first day covers remaining (most of which I already had). The clerk told me she didn’t know if they would receive any stamps in the future. She seemed quite upset about it. I’m actually worried that the museum itself might close down as I believe the sales counter was the only income source. There’s a meeting room that I believe used to be used by a local stamp club but I could never get any information about meetings, etc. I’ve had ideas in the past to organize a Postcrossing meeting there amongst members who live on the island or to form my own stamp club, but I just haven’t had the time.
I am now unable to purchase any Thai stamps locally; one visit to a nearby post office left me wondering if the two clerks on duty even knew what a stamp was!) I will have to rely on mail order until I find someplace else. It’s a shame as there have been some very interesting stamps issued by Thailand recently. I am looking forward to finding out what Thailand Post has planned to mark the one-year anniversary of King Bhumibol’s death; there’s already been an extensive series of banknotes and coins announced by the Royal Thai Mint.
The whole of October leading up to His Majesty’s cremation at the end of the month will be a period of intensified mourning in Thailand. The initial period lasted from his death on October 13, 2016, to the beginning of December (his birthday) when his son formally accepted the succession and became King Rama X.
While a number of people have remained wearing black for the entire year (including all teachers such as myself), it will once again be expected in public starting (I believe) today. Since midnight last night, all Thai television stations are broadcasting in black and white only; most of my Thai friends have changed their Facebook profile and cover photos to greyscale today. The public are requested not to engage in any festivities during the month of October and many entertainment and sporting events will be canceled. There will be many other signs of mourning and I will put together another article in the near future detailing some of those.
I plan to do my part by combining my celebration of National Stamp Collecting Month with a memorial to the late king. I’ve decided to feature only Thai stamps on A Stamp A Day during the month of October, mainly those portraying King Bhumibol. I plan to keep the commentary to a minimum so that I’ll have the time (and energy!) to write a few how-to-collect articles for Philatelic Pursuits and add a few things to Postcards to Phuket as well.
NOTE: This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on my “other” stamp blog, A Stamp A Day.
October is my favorite month, Here in Thailand, the long monsoon season is just coming to an end and I usually refer to the month as one of black and white: the nine-day Vegetarian Festival (thetsakan gin jeh — เทศกาลกินเจ) sees everyone dressed entirely in white while the month ends with Halloween which Thai women mark by wearing the skimpiest of little black dresses and donning black lipstick coupled with very white face powder in their version of a witch. Even better, October sees the annual celebration in the United States of National Stamp Collecting Month which was first designated some 35 years ago.
National Stamp Collecting Month began in 1981 as a joint venture between the United States Postal Service and the Council of Philatelic Organizations. Then-Postmaster General William F. Bolger had made the initial announcement in the Postal Service’s internal Postal Bulletin, calling stamp collecting “the world’s most popular hobby,” and urged “employees and customers alike to discover the joy of stamp collecting — the hobby of a lifetime.” The USPS often issues special stamps designed to promote the hobby among youngsters and numerous post offices and local stamp clubs hold activities during the month of October. The National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. often has special exhibits centered around National Stamp Collecting Month.
I’m not sure which new stamp release is this year’s designated NSCM release; I suspect it’s the four designs to be issued on October 7 portraying comic book heroine Wonder Woman. However, I am a big fan of the four Jack-O-Lantern stamps released on September 29 which are the most overtly Halloween-themed stamps ever released by the United States (1974’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow release — Scott #1548 — would be a close second and I’d group others in there including the five Classic Movie Monsters stamps of 1997 — Scott #1368-72).
The American Philatelic Society, which bills itself as “America’s Stamp Club”, has a number of great suggestions for things one can do to help promote the hobby during the month (and, indeed, all year round). You can download a printable version (PDF) here. The October 2012 issue of The American Philatelist included a brief origin of National Stamp Collecting Month which you can read by clicking here. I try to promote the hobby each day of the year through my articles on A Stamp A Day and occasional musings on Philatelic Pursuits.