I don’t have very many stamps in my collection depicting my preferred musical genre of rock and roll and none at all honoring my three favorite performers — Marillion, Bruce Springsteen and U2 — all three of which are still regularly playing shows and releasing great music. That will change a bit on May 2 when Ireland releases a set of four stamps commemorating Great Irish Songs. U2 is included in this set recognizing “With Or Without You” from 1987’s The Joshua Tree. This album, perhaps their greatest, was the first to be released after I’d become a die-hard U2 fan.
My younger sister had gotten me interested in the band by way of their 1983 Live at Red Rocks EP and video; I believe she’d bought the War sometime before that. I purchased The Unforgettable Fire soon after it’s release in the autumn of 1984 but became an super-fan upon witnessing the band’s performance at 1985’s Live Aid (I’d been recording the live radio and TV simulcasts on cassette and VHS throughout that day). I was hooked and finally got to see them play a concert at Kansas City’s Kemper Arena nearly two–and-a-half years later in the midst of The Joshua Tree tour.
By then, I was purchasing their 7-inch and 12-inch singles as soon as possible upon their release (all with B-sides not on the album itself, all of which were as good as any song on the album). For a long time, they just kept getting better and more popular it seemed. One of the things I miss about living in the United States is attending great concerts such as those that U2 produce; of course, my sister still tries to attend as many as she can (most recently being that marking the 30th anniversary of the release of The Joshua Tree.
I will, of course, be purchasing these stamps. In addition to the U2 stamp, the others recognize “Dreams” by The Cranberries (another big favorite; oddly, their later song “Zombie” is HUGELY popular here in Thailand — one of only two or three Western songs EVERYBODY here knows), “Danny Boy” by John McCormack, and “On Raglan Road” by Luke Kelly.
Fairly early on, I enjoyed collecting stamps from “obscure” and remote islands. Perhaps the first of these was Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean. In late 1978 and early 1979 (and beyond), my other great interest besides stamp collecting was the classic ocean liners that once crossed the Atlantic as well as those big passenger ships that still existed at the time. One of my favorite side-line hobbies was writing to various shipping companies to request brochures (they didn’t seem to be the big collectible they are now and I really wish I had retained those). Chief among these were the booklets sent to me from the Cunard Line with nice foldout cutaways and deck plans of their then-flagship RMS Queen Elizabeth 2.
Thus, I was doubly-interested when I discovered that Tristan da Cunha planned to release several stamps marking the QE2‘s visit to the tiny island on her 1979 world cruise including one picturing the RMS Queen Mary, a favorite due to several visits to Long Beach, California, where she has been moored since 1967, during family vacations. Perhaps what piqued my interest was the fact that a beautiful profile of the QE2 would be featured on what at the time was the world’s widest stamp (or longest, if you prefer).
This was in the days before the Internet made obtaining new issues from such far-off lands as easy as a few clicks of the mouse so I found the address of Tristan da Cunha’s philatelic bureau (on the island itself rather than an agency in the UK or elsewhere) and duly wrote a request for stamps and covers along with a postal money order for what I estimated to be the total amount. Months later, I received the stamps in a presentation pack (which had been autographed by representatives of each family still living there as well as several first day covers. That transaction began a forty-year love affair with the island and her stamps and I still admire the designs and the conservative issuing policy. The latest release from Tristan da Cunha continues the trend of attractive designs and relevant topics with a set of four due later this week marking the island’s lobster industry, a very important part of the local economy.
Another island that I have avidly collected since childhood could be considered the Pacific Ocean equivalent of Tristan da Cunha. I do not recall if I first saw the Charles Laughton and Clark Gable movie or read the books by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall but I became quite interested in the entire story of the Bounty mutiny not long after I turned ten years old. My birthday that year included not only my first stamp album but a copy of Nordhoff and Hall’s Bounty Trilogy (the edition with the N.C. Wyeth illustrations). While I loved reading the events of the mutiny and Bligh’s small boat voyage to Timor, I was particularly enthralled with what happened to Fletcher Christian and the other mutineers once they arrived on Pitcairn Island. A bonus to my budding interest at the time was the fact that the album I received (which had been my mother’s childhood album) contained one or two stamps from Pitcairn, starting another lifelong philatelic (and bibliographic) pursuit. It was only two or three years ago that I finally completed the initial 1940-1951 definitive set of ten stamps by obtaining MNH copies of Scott #5A and #6A which are a bit pricier than the others.
The islands (the name on the stamps including the others in the administrative territory although all but Pitcairn are uninhabited) continue a fairly conservative issuing policy based on local interests. The most recent Pitcairn Islands release appeared on February 27, a beautiful set of four stamps depicting paintings of the HMAV Bounty.
Of course, now that I live in Thailand I avidly collect the Kingdom’s stamps and eagerly await each new issue. Last week saw only the fourth stamp release of 2019 but the schedule will heat up somewhat in May with several issues due. The annual Thai Heritage Conversation set rarely disappoints and I walked over to the Phuket Philatelic Museum on April 2 to make my purchase. It was the first time I had been inside the old post office building (established in a building previously used as somebody’s home back in the early 1930s) since the roof collapsed during a monsoonal storm in the middle of last year. The redesign looked pleasant enough, although somewhat sparse and I am quite pleased with the new pastel yellow exterior. I was happy to see the Muslim clerk back in her rightful environment (she seemed so out-of-place during the restoration when she sold stamps from a back room in the main post office building next door).
My usual new issue purchase of Thai stamps consists of full sheets of each design (roughly one U.S. dollar each) as well as three first day covers, one of which I get postmarked with the local date stamp if I am there on the release date. However, I wish they wouldn’t let me cancel my own cover as I am hopeless at it having never mastered the very odd dry ink used. On this occasion, I heavily over-inked the device and brought all my weight down upon it making for a rather messy postmark. The clerk was so distraught that she probably would have given me another cover to make a second attempt on had I asked; I simply said mai bpen rai (roughly equivalent to “No problem”) and made my exit.
While at the museum, I found the only edition of the Thailand Post new issues bulletin published thus far in 2019. It covers the first three releases of the year, useful in that I was able to gather the names of the stamp designers. I also enjoy reading the English version of the issue information; these are somewhat better than those generated by Google Translate but still produce a bit of humor or puzzlement when reading them. You can right-click to view the images in the slideshow below if you would like to see what I mean.
My other big “pursuit” of the past few days has been to try and get caught up on my New Issues pages. This seems to be a never-ending task as I am constantly finding about stamps that were released months ago. I was barely finished “celebrating” my completion of the January page when I came across a large batch of first day covers bearing the date of January 1, 2019, supposedly from Madagascar. These are very similar to those “released” by the Republic of Chad on the same date (with probably the exact same CDS device used on those). With these and others from agencies such as the Intergovernmental Philatelic Corporation, I am sorely tempted to NOT include these borderline issues. After all, they will probably never see usage on mail deriving from the entity imprinted thereon and certainly won’t be included in certain major catalogues.
However, somebody must collect this stuff or why spend the money to print them in the first place? Although I find them quite tedious to add to my listings due to the sameness in their appearance, I have decided to include all such stamps that I can find decent-quality images of. I am aiming for completion on the Stamps of 2019 pages and I hope I can maintain them throughout the year (and beyond?). At some point, I may even add a few local post issues if I can track down a few more of those. It is hard work but I enjoy (most of) it.
Other than seeing a bunch of new stamp issue announcements (many through my Facebook new feed) and noticing a list of new Scott numbers for recently-issued United States stamps, there really hasn’t been much news in the philatelic world that I have noticed. My favorite stamp bloggers have been fairly quiet and I just got around to reading the latest by The Punk Philatelist among others. Due to changing my Google account, I only just found out that Graham of Exploring Stamps — hands down, the best philatelic channel on YouTube — is already six episodes into Season 3. I will need to do some binge-watching this weekend to get caught up. For those who haven’t discovered the joys of this vlog (and his other forays on social media), have a look at his landing page which has links to each corner of his empire. I wish more of us would do something similar to bring our hobby back to the masses.
Have a great philatelic week….
It gives me great pleasure to announce the issuance of the first souvenir sheet to be released by Republica Phuketia. The sheet contains a block of four se-tenant 50-farang stamps which together form a outline map of Phuket Island which lies in the Andaman Sea off the west coast of southern Thailand. The Republica Phuketia seal is featured at the center of the stamp design so only a portion of it appears on each stamp. The stamps are also the first to be inscribed with the full name of the local post-operating micronation, REPUBLICA PHUKETIA. The background design of the souvenir sheet is a photograph taken by myself on October 13, 2008, at Kata Yai Beach on the west coast of Phuket Island. It portrays a rain squall approaching the beach; a long-tail boat in visible in the center background. The sheets were printed by Yoursetamps in Berlin, Germany, using high-resolution laser printing technology, comb perforated 13½ x 13.
Because of my job as an English teacher in Thailand, it can be difficult for me to make a trip to the post office during business hours. This morning, however, I was able to stop by the Phuket Philatelic Museum on my way to work and buy all of those issues that have been released since my last visit back in April. In fact, the only item that was unavailable was the first day cover for Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s 60th birthday. I was surprised that they had today’s new release – a sheet of ten depicting Thai numerals – along with the first day cover. Bangkok is getting much better at supplying the provinces!
I was able to buy three months’ worth of stamp singles, sets, souvenir sheets, and first day covers plus Thailand Post’s monthly stamp magazine – well illustrated but I can’t read a lick of it – all for 353 Thai baht. That’s just a bit over $10 in U.S. currency. Where else can you do that?
As I mentioned, the Thai numerals set was released today – 29 July – which happens to be National Thai Language Day. According to Thailand Post’s quarterly new issue bulletin, “Thai numbers constituting the numeric system in Thai is considered to be one of the national identities. Their curvy, wavy, and gentle lines indicate the values of Thai art, the beautiful cultural heritage and the prosperity of the nation for having its own numbers and alphabets for over 700 years. The numbers were designed by King Ramkhamhaeng, who adapted them from the Khmer numbers, which were derived from the Indian Devanagari.
“Currently, the government has a policy to encourage the use of Thai numbers in official documents, according to the resolution of the cabinet in 2000, along with the use of fonts in the computer and the internet. School students are also encourage to familiarize with the written Thai numbers to uphold the value of this Thai heritage. This stamp series is the continuing series of Thai Alphabets in 2011. The images depict Thai numbers from 0 to 9, together with 10 colorful numeric symbols on 10 stamps, which may also be used as a learning media for children. This series will be launched on the National Thai Language Day on this 29 July.”
Aside from use on Thai government documents, the Thai numerals are also used to denote room numbers in government-operated schools. Knowing these numbers has helped me on numerous occasions when I’ve had to substitute at a new school and couldn’t find anybody to ask the location of classrooms.
I’m happy I was able to go to the post office today as they will be closed tomorrow and Friday for the twin Buddhist holidays of Wan Asanha Bucha and Wan Khao Phansa (the ban on selling and consuming alcohol begins at one minute past midnight tonight).
The Phuket Philatelic Museum will be closed all of next week as the staff will travel to Bangkok for the resumption of THAIPEX –- the National Stamp Exhibition – for the first time since 2011. Held at the Grand Postal Building in Bang Rak, the show will be presided over by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and will see the release of several stamps during it’s run from 3-9 August. Admission is free, by the way.
Unfortunately, this means that I probably won’t be able to have the ASEAN Day Muang Phuket Local Post covers dual-cancelled with the Phuket postmark on 8 August. They are receptive to my doing such things at the Phuket Philatelic Museum but counter clerks at the regular post office deny this sort of service. It’s a bit of a shame as Thailand Post is issuing a very nice ASEAN Day stamp of their own next Saturday and I’d planned to make a few special first day covers. We’ll see what happens…