While the week before was largely celebratory with a three-day local festival plus Valentine’s Day, this past week has been all about work as we prepare for the rapidly approaching end of the school year. While I am a classroom teacher (high school level in the Intensive English Programme this term), I am first and foremost an administrator. This means that in addition to preparing the students for their final exams and assessing them in a number of different categories, I also am in the middle of organizing various activities such as multiple-day English camps, school Open Houses, student entrance interviews for the next school year which begins in early May, and making sure that our current teachers are up-to-date with their own assessments. Since a number of them will return to their home countries soon after the school year ends, new teacher recruitment and interviews are in the near future. Add in the retirement of our head teacher and the impending relocation of my agency’s offices from the basement of a shopping mall into a compound of heritage buildings in the Old Town district will leave very little time for stamps in the immediate future.

People's Republic of China - Scott #2548a (1994) Ancient Pagodas souvenir sheet; ASAD article #970 today details the Iron Pagoda on the 2-yuan stamp from this set.
People’s Republic of China – Scott #2548a (1994) Ancient Pagodas souvenir sheet; ASAD article #970 today details the Iron Pagoda on the 2-yuan stamp from this set.

Yet, somehow I will find the time to relax with various philatelic pursuits. With today’s article on A Stamp A Day, I am now 30 posts shy of 1,000. I have long planned to take a hiatus from that blog once I hit one thousand articles. I have not missed a single day since July 1, 2016, and preparing for each one does take a significant amount of time each day. While taking a break from ASAD, I will attempt to get caught up on my New Issues pages (falling further and further behind right now) as well as such set-aside endeavors as cataloguing, creating album pages (both virtual and physical), and perhaps a bit of soaking and sorting as well.

Another detriment to stamp activities recently has been the current heat wave we are experiencing here in southern Thailand. It has been hotter than I have experienced in nearly 15 years of living in the tropics. I am seriously thinking of moving to a (much more expensive) location so that I can have in-home air-conditioning. I haven’t been able to sleep well due to the heat and even sitting at the computer for any length of time one becomes coated in sweat. It is not comfortable at all. Rather than sitting and writing, I find that I am positioning my laptop between my floor fan and ceiling fan and laying down to read.

A few of the many stamps, sheets, etc. to be released by Great Britain on March 14 picturing Marvel Comics.
A few of the many stamps, sheets, etc. to be released by Great Britain on March 14 picturing Marvel Comics.

There didn’t seem to be much in the way of stamp news over the past week. I think the most significant “event” was Royal Mail’s surprise announcement of a huge set (including expensive prestige books, sheetlets galore and more) depicting Marvel Comics characters. I have yet to find a single stamp blog that has mentioned these stamps in a positive manner. The British issue (due March 14) just looks like a complete money-grab to me; a block of four probably would have been sufficient for the subject matter. I never really cared for comic books growing up and have tired of seeing such designs grace a nation’s stamps. These stamps hold zero interest for me although I did learn the names of a few characters I’d never heard of before (Captain Britain?).

Much more to my liking is a single stamp released by Spain this week commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the creation of the Royal Ordinances of Charles III. The Correos website has a nice write-up in English for a change.

Spain - 250th Anniversary of the creation of the Royal Ordinances of Charles III (issued February 20, 2019)
Spain – 250th Anniversary of the creation of the Royal Ordinances of Charles III (issued February 20, 2019)

The only thing remotely philatelic I received in the mail this week was my first Postcrossing postcard of 2019. It came from the Netherlands and the stamp didn’t get postmarked. Hopefully, the next one will be a bit more interesting.

Articles published on A Stamp A Day over since the last update were:

  1.  February 15, 2019:  “Canada’s Maple Leaf Flag” (Canada — Scott #2808, 2015) 4,260 words
  2.  February 16, 2019:  “Day of the Shining Star / 광명성절” (North Korea — Scott #1906, 1980) 2,656 words
  3.  February 17, 2019:  “Castle Doria in Dolceacqua” (Italy — Michel #3978, 2017) 1,222 words
  4.  February 18, 2019:  “Huckleberry Finn” (Germany — Scott #B889, 2001) 3,022 words
  5.  February 19, 2019:  “Nicoalus Copernicus” (United States — Scott #1488, 1973) 3,022 words
  6.  February 20, 2019:  “John Glenn and his Orbital Flight aboard Friendship 7” (United States — Scott #1193, 1962) 11,757 words
  7.  February 21, 2019:  “International Mother Language Day” (Bangladesh — Scott #647, 2002) 1,857 words
  8.  February 22, 2019:  “The Iron Pagoda of Kaifeng” (China — Scott #2548, 1994) 1,709 words

Thus, we come to the end of this week’s “Phila-Bytes”. I am contemplating a name-change to something like “The Week in Stamps” or “My Philatelic Week”. Hopefully, I can find the time to brainstorm….

Teacher Mark at Plukpanya Municipal School, Phuket Town - January 2016This past November, I took over the position of Deputy Head Teacher for a large language school and teachers’ agency in southern Thailand.  In addition to overseeing some 40 teachers from five or so different countries and a myriad of administrative duties (i.e., staffing our contracted government-run schools, organizing local English camps, writing course syllabi, etc.), I am still required to teach a minimum of 75 hours per month.  Some of these classes are “in-house” (at the air-conditioned, in-a-shopping-mall language school itself) but most are substitute-teaching assignments for the regular teachers when they take ill or need to deal with periodic immigration requirements.  These lessons are in very hot (perhaps there’s a ceiling fan or two that actually work) wooden or concrete classrooms jam-packed with an average of 40-50 kids – most of whom couldn’t care less about learning English.

The end result of this workload is that I have had no time to spend with my stamps (or writing about them) since long before Christmas.  The month of March – the hottest in Thailand, a country already boiling twelve months of the year – brings the end of the school year and a general slowdown in duties.  Most of my in-house young students have gone on “summer holiday” and my business students mostly learn in the mornings or evenings.  I don’t have to worry about filling-in at one of the myriad of schools scattered about the island.

I finally have time for stamps once again.

I’m starting slowly with a few eBay bids here and there.  I’m still waiting for the stamps I’ve won to arrive but they represent two countries new to my collection (Austrian Offices in the Ottoman Empire and the Indian Feudatory State of Alwar) and a few to bolster my tiny collection of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands.

Cover Page for 'Stamps from (Almost) Everywhere' AlbumMy main collecting focus has shifted a bit.  I was attempting to obtain “A Stamp From Everywhere” but found that it was often difficult to pick just ONE stamp to represent an entire stamp-issuing entity.  In designing the album pages for my collection, I decided I didn’t like those that contained a single stamp.  I am now calling the collection “Stamps From (Almost) Everywhere.

That has necessitated a re-start to my album page design.  It is this re-start that have energized my recent boost in philatelic activity.  Each stamp issuer will have two introductory pages containing an information box, flag and map, and a one- or two-page summary of the entity’s political and postal history.  I’d like to obtain enough stamps from each place so that none of the stamps look particularly lonely.  I’ve found that four stamps is the absolute minimum I would like to have displayed on a single page (or one stamp and a postally-used item such as a nice cover or postcard).  There are a few countries that I may strive for completeness (Aden Colony and its Protectorate States, for example) but I am aiming for a “representation” in most instances.

Abu Dhabi - From the Collection of Mark Jochim, March 2016

I’m printing the stamps onto A4 paper as that’s the standard size available in Thailand.  I tried using 150gsm-weight card stock but these jammed in my printer (and the one at work as well) more often than not.  I am now using 120gsm card stock which seems fine.  I decided I liked a light beige color better than white.  For now, I have them in sheet protectors housed in a generic three-ring binder.  I’m trying to find a proper binder (preferably with a slipcase) but the shipping costs to Thailand are prohibitive.  I have more or less settled on a Lighthouse Classic Grande which I know my A4-sized pages will fit.  But I’m not willing to pay US $90 for shipping and import fees.  A proper stamp album binder may have to wait until I can visit someplace that actually sells them in the shops.  My next planned vacation is one to the United States in the autumn of 2017.  Can I wait that long?

First pages of Algeria housed in generic three-ring binder, March 2016

For my worldwide collection, I am trying to stick with those nations actually listed in the Scott Catalogue – although a few local posts will eventually be added.  To this end, I have been compiling the mother of all spreadsheets which has become a labor of love.  I have been going through my 2009 edition of the catalogue page by page – entering stamp-issuing entities in alphabetical order (moving, for example, entries such as the Confederate States, Hawaii, and Canal Zone out from under the United States umbrella) and including columns for years active, volume and page numbers, columns giving information about my own collection (numbers of inventoried, scanned, to be scanned, unlisted or bogus stamps), along with numerous “count” columns.  These last columns will include the number of stamps on EACH page of the catalogue for each country (divided into General Issues and the various Back of the Book items such as Air Post, Special Delivery, etc.).  I do page by page counts so that it is easier to backtrack if I lose count along the way.  I’ve been skipping the “Huge” countries for now and just counting those that only have en or less pages in Scott.

Screenshot of 'Stamp Issuers' Spreadsheet, March 2016

It is a monumental undertaking – I’ve been working on this spreadsheet on and off for about eight months and I’ve only just started on Volume 4 (out of six).  I currently have some 4,486 stamps in my collection (the majority of which have been obtained in just the past four years or so) representing 280 different stamp-issuing entities.  Of these, I have only entered 1912 into my inventory database (the wonderful but time-consuming StampManage) and there are 1529 stamps that have yet to be scanned.  These totals don’t include 210 duplicates and 33 that are either unlisted in Scott or “bogus” (read, counterfeit or facsimile).

It’s a grand-looking spreadsheet and I hope to share it once the “important” pieces are done (namely, the re-ordered countries).  In the meantime, if anybody would like to volunteer to count listed stamps (I am counting MAJOR numbers with a few minor exceptions) for particular countries please let me know.

As for the blog, I hope to resume my “Stamp Issuers” series at some point and will continue to report on new additions to my own collection (although probably not in a “Today’s Mail” format – perhaps as periodic wrap-ups).  I am looking for inspiration in writing other types of articles but I’m not really sure what aspect of philately I feel qualified to write about (I am intimidated by “How-To” articles and reviews).  Time will tell.  I just hope I won’t let another four months pass without an update.

Getting back to my stamps feels really good…