Most people arm themselves with water cannons such as this in order to “celebrate” Songkran, the Thai New Year, during which huge amounts of water are sprayed at or dumped on complete strangers and friends alike.

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.

Possible t-shirt design for my participation at SINGPEX. At the very least, I will have a rubber stamp made of the postmark for adding and cancelling my local post stamps onto covers posted during my trip.

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.

Closed until 2020!
Singapore Philatelic Museum — Closed until 2020!

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.

Artsakh - National Birds, Europa (March 22, 2019) sheet of 10, 2 designs
Artsakh – National Birds, Europa (March 22, 2019) sheet of 10, 2 designs

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.”

Map and flag of the Republic of Artsakh

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:

United States – George H.W. Bush (June 12, 2019)

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.

I have never been a fan of bees.  I am not allergic to the sting but I find them quite unpleasant and have a long history of unpleasant encounters with them, not to mention hornets, wasps and the like.  At least we don’t seem to have such stinging pests in Thailand, at least not where I live.

United Nations Postal Administration (New York/Geneva/Vienna) - World Bee Day (May 20, 2019)
United Nations Postal Administration (New York/Geneva/Vienna) – World Bee Day (May 20, 2019) souvenir sheets

As an anti-bee person, I never gave their appearance on stamps a second thought despite their being a rather popular topical. That may change, however, with the recent release of an attractive set of bee stamps by Malaysia and a forthcoming set by the United Nations Postal Administration for all there of its issuing offices.  The latter will mark World Bee Day on May 20 and will be UNPA’s first “scratch-and-sniff” stamps with a honey scent on the flowers. Which makes me wonder, “Will the stamps attract real bees with the honey scent?” It is a good thing that nobody has issued edible stamps either (imagine the cataloging — “that’s the half-eaten variety”, “the regurgitated variety”) or I would be sorely tempted. Honey is one of the foods I miss; Thai-made honey is really the worst I have ever eaten and non-Thai honey sold here is extremely expensive (I once ordered a jar from Pitcairn Island — still the best I have tried — and the shipping cost was less than the average cost of a jar sold here).

Malaysia - Honey Bees of Malaysia (April 9, 2019) advertisements
Malaysia – Honey Bees of Malaysia (April 9, 2019)
New Zealand - Space Pioneers (May 1, 2019) se-tenant strip of 5
New Zealand – Space Pioneers (May 1, 2019) se-tenant strip of 5

Lately, it seems there have been a plethora of such “unusual” stamps with the fabric stamps from Luxembourg and the Vatican City, other odd-materials stamps made of items such as different forms of wood and metal and the ever-creative shapes such as Malaysia’s honeycombed-shaped stamps for its bee issue (not to mention a bee-shaped souvenir sheet as well). I am finding myself increasingly drawn to such non-traditional stamps and am looking forward to finding more. However, I will have to forego the recent issue from Liechtenstein that includes an attached 1-gram .999.99 fine gold ingot and probably Romania’s silver stamp issued for Easter.

One of the more unusual materials I have come across will be featured on the upcoming Space Pioneers set to be released by New Zealand Post on May 1. As soon as I saw the design, I became a fan of the se-tenant strip of stamps featuring portraits of various Kiwis who had contributed in some way to space exploration through discoveries, inventions or observation with the individual stamps forming a rocket shape (the portraits peering out of portholes in the fuselage). While the majority of space-themed stamps released in 2019 are designed to commemorate the Apollo 11 spacecraft or the astronauts who flew on that mission, it is nice to see New Zealand Post once again thinking outside of the box. What makes this set (and the accompanying 3D lenticular souvenir sheet) even more interesting is that they have been topped off with a sprinkling of crushed meteorite, creating stamps that are quite literally “out of this world”.

Faroe Islands - The Moon Landing 1969 (April 29, 2019)
Faroe Islands – The Moon Landing 1969 (April 29, 2019)

Another space stamp that I will definitely be ordering is the Faroe Islands commemorative for the Apollo 11 anniversary. There are several reasons for my interest, aside from the topical. I have avidly collected stamps and postal history from the Faroes since the late 1980s. It was one of my first completed country collections along with Åland Islands (I used to have nice Davo hingeless albums for both). However, upon reading the story about the artist who designed the single 17-kroner stamp makes it somewhat more personal. The stamp depicts one of artist Edward Fuglø’s first childhood memories — that of his father pointing out the moon at the time of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s arrival upon the surface. At the time, the Faroe Islands had no television access so those living there received news of the Apollo 11 mission via radio relays between Denmark Radio studios in Copenhagen and Útvarp Føroya, the Faroese radio station. Fuglø was just four years old at the time of the moon landing, as was I when my parents allowed me to stay up late for Armstrong’s historic “one small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind.” To this day, I believe those ghostly images to be my own earliest memory.

Edward Fuglø - The Seagull Has Landed (2012)[
“The Seagull Has Landed” painted by Edward Fuglø (2012)

In the description about the Faroe Islands Moon Landing stamp, it mentioned that Edward Fuglø had once “created a nine-meter-long satirical painting entitled ‘The Seagull Has Landed’, showing an astronaut planting the Faroese national flag on the Moon, while a group of other astronauts engage in the traditional Faroese chain dance on the Moon’s surface.” A portion of this is shown on Posta’s website but I just had to track down a copy of the original painting. I finally found it on Fuglø’s website (under Works\2012);I think it would make a mighty fine stamp in it’s own right.

United States - Scott #1805-1806 (1980) Letters Preserve Memories/P.S. Write Soon
United States – Scott #1805-1806 (1980) Letters Preserve Memories/P.S. Write Soon

An online article for Linn’s Stamp News this week reminds me that April is National Card and Letter Writing Month in the United States. I try to participate such activities as often as I can (although I missed A Month of Letters this February) and will request a few more addresses for Postcrossing this month. I have done quite a few activities during English lessons over the years revolving around writing (and designing) postcards over the years.  There are a few interesting lesson plans (with downloadable materials) on the Scholastic website associated with National Card and Letter Month, several of which I will try in classes in the upcoming school year (April in Thailand is a month-long holiday period). The card and envelope templates on the site are especially nice.

Finally, on this rather short weekly update (as I would like to get out and participate in some New Year’s Eve festivities — tomorrow is the Thai New Year), I wanted to mention that 12 years ago today the first of the FOREVER-priced stamps issued by the United States Postal Service was released.  The Liberty Bell housed at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was chosen as the first subject to be featured on such a  stamp which are sold at the current first-class postage rate, remaining valid even if that rate rises in the future. If you buy a Forever stamp at 49 cents per stamp and the first-class postage rate rises in six months to $0.55 per stamp, you are saving six cents for every letter you send. The first of the Liberty Bell stamps was issued on April 12, 2007. At the time, the USPS stated, “The Liberty Bell is an icon that resonates for freedom and independence for all of America, and those are exactly the qualities we want people to associate with the Forever stamp.”  Thirteen varieties of this design were released between 2007 and 2010; the stamp on the first day cover pictured in this article is Scott #4128 from the ATM booklet printed by Avery Dennison with serpentine die-cut perforations of 8.

United States - Scott #4128 (2007) first day cover
United States – Scott #4128 (2007) first day cover

The Forever stamp was so successful for the Postal Service that in 2011, they started using Forever stamps for almost all first-class stamps. In 2015, the postal service extended the Forever stamp concept to postcard-rate stamps and more. According to a 2015 notice from the USPS, the Forever Stamps eliminate “the need for customers and the Postal Service to acquire and distribute new denominated stamps in anticipation of price changes affecting these stamp types, each time a price change occurs.” It is hard to believe that all of this began just 12 years ago — AFTER I had moved away from the United States….forever.

See you next week.  And “Happy Thai New Year” (Sawasdee pii mai Thai) everybody!