No stamps arrived in the mail today, but I did receive two additions to my slowly-expanding philatelic library. An American History Album: The Story of the United States Told Through Stamps is a beautifully-illustrated book using stamps to explain aspects of American history and society. Dictionary of World Stamps: Philatelic Atlas of the World is akin to a condensed version of Rossiter and Flower’s Stamp Atlas, the “dictionary” being an indexed gazetteer of the locations pinpointed on the maps in the first half of the book. Both were obtained at steep discount and significantly reduced shipping from charitable organizations in the UK.
Actually, this covers the past two weeks or so as my mail has been trickling in a piece or so at a time. In that period, I’ve only added 33 stamps to my collections from six different countries, two of which are new to my A Stamp From Everywhere project – Bermuda and The Roman States. I did receive two books I’d ordered, The German Occupation of Jersey (1940-1945) and the indispensible reference work that is Stamp Atlas. Rounding out the recent arrivals were several items for yet another thematic mini-collection based around my family history.
Let’s start with the A’s: I’ve become enamored with the engraved issues of Aden Protectorate and have been obtaining a few here and there, with 22mostly used values arriving recently – seven of the 1937 dhows issue (a couple duplicates of which are damaged) and the remainder covering the period between 1938 and 1959.
Next up are five stamps from Bermuda – beautifully engraved bi-colors which I just love. It’s going to be difficult to choose one stamp to represent the island in the ASFEW collection. The final British Commonwealth stamp in this batch is Scott #96 from Gibraltar, issued in 1931.
My Roman States stamp is a used copy – with a thin at the top – of Scott #4c, 1 bajocchi black on yellow buff paper, issued in 1852. Next to my Penny Black, I believe this is the oldest stamp currently in my possession. Catalogue value would be US $50 if the condition was much better than this space-filler for which I paid one cent.
A trio of stamps from the Straits Settlements also arrived. I’m really interested in this region with the Straits Settlements and Penang State stamps being particular favorites.
One of my mini-topical collections revolves around my family history including usages of my surname which was originally spelt Joachim. Long ago, I became interested in the mining community of Joachimsthal in the mountains of the Bohemian Erzebirge and currently known by its Czech name of Jáchymov. Czechoslovakia issued a stamp (Scott #1413) in 1966 calling the town the “Cradle of the Atomic Age” due as this was where pitchblende was first discovered. Marie Curie discovered the element radium in pitchblende ore and Joachimsthal was the world’s only source until the First World War.
Other items received this month on the Joachim theme include a couple of covers – one posted from Stiedra Stedra in Austria in April 1890 and backstamped Joachimsthal, the other featuring a commemorative cancellation during the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia during World War II – plus a poster stamp featuring the arms of another town called Joachimsthal that is situated north of Berlin.
Another area of interest is the German occupation of the Channel Islands during the Second World War and I’ve started purchasing a few non-stamp items including a small booklet published by the Jersey War Museum in the 1950’s.
I’d been perusing the Stamp Atlas section on the Sandafayre auction site for quite some time and so was positively thrilled when I found a good used copy on eBay for an excellent price and very low shipping cost. It’s much better than the Sandafayre excerpts and will be a much-treasured part of my slowly-expanding research library.
Finally, as I was putting the finishing touched on this article, a cover arrived from Eckerö in the Åland Islands. I’d recently met a collector from Åland in a Facebook group and was thrilled when he offered to correspond via snail mail…
My primary collecting focus right now is attempting to obtain A Stamp From Everywhere (ASFEW). The number of stamp-issuing entities depends on how they are separated out into territories, departments, offices, agencies, and the like.
When I started this endeavor, I made a spreadsheet based on lists found on the Linn’s Stamp News and Stamp Atlas web sites. This list had a total of 914 individual stamp-issuing entities. Since then, I’ve come across an even more complete spreadsheet on the Stamp World History blog that lists more than 3000 stamp-issuers. Another site I’ve seen claims more than 50,000 (!) but I think that includes many local posts and stamps issued by various schools, youth organizations and the like.
For the time being, I’m striving to complete my original list and my current total includes some 199 different entities. I started this particular collection just a little over two years ago so I feel I’m doing fairly well.
All of this was inspired by reading a review of an album called The Single Specimen World Gazetteer Stamp Album made by Terra Nova Publishing of Pennsylvania. This album includes some 600 entities with a space for one stamp from each place, along with a small map and brief synopsis of the stamp-issuer. These elements all inspired me to start a similar collection, albeit without a “proper” album due to high shipping costs.
As I began going after countries via the worldwide mixed packet route (and, more recently, targeting specific entities), I stored the stamps in blank stock books – a temporary solution until I’d found an album. After much deliberation on the matter, I recently decided to create my own album – designing pages that I could print as I added new countries and that would eventually be stored in a binder (or several). The former has proved far easier than the latter!
I tried out a number of free and trial versions of dedicated album page-making software but quickly grew frustrated with the results. It wasn’t until a month ago that I turned to the familiar Microsoft Word to see if I could create the pages I envisioned using that. I was very pleased with the ease with which I could design using Word and soon had a nice template in a two-page-per- entity format with a pleasing semi-modern border design.
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I knew I wanted the pages to include flags, maps and coats of arms for each country and it took me a while to balance these elements in an attractive way while still leaving room for the stamps and write-ups. The left-hand page includes an information box including location, government, estimated population, etc. along with brief political and philatelic histories. The right-hand page displays the stamp itself along with catalogue number and information, plus a brief write-up of the subject matter portrayed upon it.
It does take me about 90 minutes to create each page once I have the research notes for the write-ups. Most of this time is taken up by trying to condense the information into an interesting and coherent account of the stamp-issuer’s history. In the past month, I’ve made pages for seven countries so I am off to a fairly slow start. When I do have time, it is yet another enjoyable aspect of the hobby for me.
One of the difficulties involved in collecting A Stamp From Everywhere is deciding exactly which stamp should represent the entity. For many stamp-issuers, the only issues were overprinted stamps from whichever nation had sovereignty over it or they had fairly uniform designs of numerals or monarchs. In such cases, I tend to go with the earliest released stamp that I can easily afford. For those countries with a bit more longevity, I desire to show something of their local identity be it culture, clothing or symbols. So much the better if these are engraved single- or bi-colored stamps as these have always been my favorites. I try to avoid using issues such as British Commonwealth omnibuses which feature similar designs for all of their colonies.
Of course, there are many instances where I obtain full sets in order to get at that single representative stamp for a lower overall cost. Or, I simply fall in love with certain stamp-issuing entities and end up with more than just the one stamp I’d strived for. As a result I seem to be building something of a general worldwide collection alongside the A Stamp From Everywhere focus. That is one reason why I’ve finally purchased a proper album after several years of temporary stock book storage. This album, Scott Modern pages in a Stanley Gibbons binder, hasn’t yet arrived yet but it will bring me full-circle to my earliest collecting days as I’d received my mother’s old Scott Modern as a gift for my tenth birthday. Little did anybody realize that I’d still be collecting some four decades later…