Week Two is another strong week for New Issues with a number of heavy-issuers (such as the United States, France and Russia) releasing their first stamps of 2020. Thailand has its second set of the year scheduled for Saturday, 11 January, although this may be shifted back a day or two.
As of today (5 January), there are three issues for the forthcoming week that I have not yet been able to find images for (Hungary, Russia and UN-Geneva). I created a few place-holder articles with an “Image Unavailable” design so it will be easy to update once I do find artwork.
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.”
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.
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:
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:
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).
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.
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“.
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.
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.
There were quite a few new stamp issues announced over the past week as I fall farther and farther behind on my listings of the year’s stamps. In fact, I have not done anything to these pages in perhaps two weeks and am trying to push myself to get back on-track. Part of the “problem” has been the extreme heat wave that we have been trying to endure here in Thailand. There has been very little rain since December in Phuket and the reservoirs that hold our daily-use water are all but dry. We had a brief respite for Thai New Year (Songkran) which has become a nationwide all-out water fight when nobody cares about conserving what little water there actually is. I often wake up around four or five in the morning to find the temperature already hovering at 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and it only goes up from there. Luckily, I do have air-conditioning at my office (my home has two powerful fans but they just move the hot air back and forth). The heat saps your energy and it is a struggle to do anything at all.
However, I did find a burst of motivation mid-week as I began “formally” preparing for my participation at SINGPEX 2019. The 36th Asian International Stamp Exhibition will occur from July 31 through August 4 at the SUNTEC Convention Centre in the Lion City and will be my first big stamp show since Pacific 97 in San Francisco twenty-two years ago. This is also my first trip outside of Thailand since I journeyed to Cambodia (Angkor Wat!) in April 2013. I booked my accommodation early in the week; Singapore is EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE and I ended up with a room in a capsule hotel which, I suppose, is one step up from a dorm bed in a hostel. I am watching my budget closely on this trip as I plan to stay in Singapore for six days and want to have enough cash for plenty of stamps and supplies (my main goal is to find some decent albums and update a few catalogues). I am really looking forward to the show.
As I didn’t have any classes on Thursday, I began the day working on company-logoed polo shirt designs for my teachers’ agency. This naturally led to my designing a few shirts to print for my Singapore trip, playing around with back print designs with various Thailand stamps that have been issued promoting Phuket (there are not very many of these, unfortunately). This, in turn, led to my designing a commemorative postmark which became a design to use for cancelling my local post stamps while attending the exhibition as an addition to any covers and postcards I may send while there. I briefly thought about designing special REPUBLICA PHUKETIA stamps for SINGPEX as well but I still have quite a few remaining definitives and commemoratives from last year’s print run with yourstamps of Germany. I suppose I could create a rubber stamp overprint should I feel I need to add anything.
I am disappointed to discover that the Singapore Philatelic Museum closed in March for renovations that are planned to last until the end of 2020. I had been looking forward to a return visit to this, perhaps the best stamp museum in Southeast Asia, during my upcoming trip. My last visit was back in October 2006 while I was in Singapore obtaining my first long-stay Thai visa but I was not able to fully explore the museum due to time constraints. While there will be plenty to see and do (and buy) at SINGPEX, I was hoping to obtain some dual first day cancellations there as well as purchase a few souvenirs.
Two of the topicals that I have been avidly following in 2019 are those stamps released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing and this year’s EUROPA stamps which all relate to “National Birds”. While perusing newly-released stamps of the latter topic was a set from a stamp-issuing entity that I initially didn’t recognize, the Republic of Artsakh (Արցախի Հանրապետություն — Artsakhi Hanrapetut’yun in Armenian). A quick view of the Wikipedia page told me this is the place I already knew under the name of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but is closely linked in every way to Armenia and accessible only through Armenia. Having released stamps under the latter name since 1993, the “republic” has been recognized only by three other self-proclaimed and unrecognized states, Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. Although Armenia supports Nagorno-Karabakh economically and militarily, they have not recognized the region’s independence.
According to the europa, cept, norden & sepac stamps information blog,
“The stamps issued by the Republic of Artsakh aren’t recognized on an international level, not by the UPU nor by PostEurop. Those stamps are listed in most stamps catalogues (Gibbons, Yvert & Tellier, Michel) and most Europa stamps collectors collect those stamps even if they aren’t official stamp issues.”
The change in name to Artsakh came about in 2017 and the stamp designs are reminiscent of those of Armenia (the same designers and printers?) . I have recently become interested in Armenian stamps which are fairly easy to find on eBay. There are also at least two websites selling them, Armenian Stamps.com (which lists Karabakh stamps up to 2017) and Stamps of Armenia (which does not seem to list any of the issues by the various break-away states). The region seems like an interesting one to visit; although the city of Stepanakert does have an airport, flights are not allowed to land or take off due to Azerbaijan’s threats of shooting them down. Access is easy by road from Armenia; if you plan to visit Azerbaijan, you should go BEFORE entering Armenia or Artsakh as visas from those places will either see you turned away at the border or arrested. The people in Artsakh are said to be quite friendly and hitch-hiking is a recommended form of exploring the area.
Other recently-issued and forthcoming National Birds/EUROPA stamps that have caught my eye have been those from Ireland (April 11), Faroe Islands (April 29), Monaco (May 6), and Åland (May 9). These, and more, are included in the slideshow below:
The only recent addition to the United States Postal Service program for 2019 was the announcement and design revelation for the expected stamp to honor former U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush,, who passed away December 1, 2018, at the age of 94. He was born June 12, 1924, and U.S. custom is that former presidents are honored with a stamp on their first birthday after their death. The design of the nondenominated (55¢) commemorative Forever stamp was revealed Saturday, April 6 and will be sold in panes of 20 starting with the first day of issue ceremony on June 12 at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.
I have long collected the stamps of France, particularly less-than-recent issues which were extremely beautiful in their designs the majority of which continued utilizing intaglio engraving long after other stamp issuers ceased doing so. My affinity for Paris, in particular, has been strong since my high school days learning the French language in the U.S. Midwest. As a result, I have amassed a nice collection of stamps portraying such iconic sites of Paris as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, and Notre-Dame Cathedral. The first news that reached me of the latter’s burning last Monday came via a philatelic page on Facebook and I became increasingly saddened as a scrolled further along the page finding additional details and mourning over the tragedy from all quarters — childhood and school friends in Texas and Kansas, news sites from around the world (including Thailand) as well as numerous Facebook groups (in additional to many in the stamp world, I am also a member of various Francophile, history and archaeology groups all of which had something to offer about Notre-Dame in the fire’s wake). Here is my small tribute to Notre-Dame with some of the stamps and postcards coming from my own collection, others found on eBay:
I hope that the next week brings happier events.