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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.

Mauritius - 8 - 1858

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…

Mauritius p1

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?

Mauritius fakes

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!

Photo courtesy of NASA and USPS

I really don’t know how I missed this, but…

Like most people I know, I eagerly watched the recent fly-by of Pluto by the New Horizons space probe via news feeds on my Facebook page.  I’ve had the “space bug” ever since witnessing Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon via grainy black & white images when I was a wee lad of three-and-a-half (probably my earliest memory).  Mr. Armstrong even autographed a photo for me about ten years later.  I am still a geek at heart and in the 21st century, Facebook provides most of my space news via “likes” on numerous NASA and other science-related pages.

New Horizons cover 2015-07-14

But I completely missed the philatelic aspect.  It was only this week that I stumbled across an eBay listing that mentioned the fact that the 29-cent Pluto “Not Yet Explored” stamp issued by the United States on 1 October 1991 had been affixed to the exterior of New Horizons and sent on its way to Pluto and beyond.

Articles on Astronomy.com and collectSPACE tell the full story but the short version is that the Pluto stamp was part of a set of ten commemorating NASA’s exploration of the Solar System to that point.  Each of the nine planets (Pluto not yet having been demoted) and the Moon had their image accompanied by a depiction of one of the spacecraft that had studied it.  All, that is, but the Pluto stamp which bore the inscription “Not Yet Explored.”  Apparently, this rankled a few scientists during the First Day of Issue ceremony held at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  It may have even provided some motivation for a future mission.  At any rate, some of these scientists felt that the stamp needed to be included on the New Horizons probe.

Pluto 1991 FDC Auto by Designer

There are actually nine different objects hitching a ride on this mission – a few ashes from the cremated body of Clyde Tombaugh (the New Mexican who discovered Pluto); the names of some 434,000 people who participated in the “Send Your Name To Pluto” offer by NASA; a CD_ROM picturing the scientists who worked on the New Horizons development; state quarters from both Maryland (where New Horizons was built) and Florida (from where it was launched); a small piece of the Space Ship One private spacecraft; and two U.S. flags accompany the Pluto stamp.

Artist's concept of proposed New Horizons stamp

All that needs to be done now if for a new Pluto stamp to be issued by the United States Postal Service.  There is even a petition to that effect.

Happy Collecting!