I’m always excited this time of the year tracking down new Christmas stamps (and am preparing the last two entries for my “A Month of Christmas” series on A Stamp A Day) as well as following announcements of the upcoming stamps for the New Year. Of course, many of the first issues are the myriad of Chinese New Year releases (2019 is the Year of the Pig) some of which are quite attractive but some countries such as Hong Kong seem to go a bit overboard with these. I much prefer the single stamp releases by the United States or Thailand for this particular topic. There are a few blogs around that do a good job of keeping track of various new issues and I’ve been checking some of the various issuing entities’ websites as well. It can be difficult to find decent-resolution images of stamp designs prior to their release.
United States of America
While 2018 saw some quite interesting stamps from the U.S., 2019 is shaping up to be much better. January will see several releases brought upon by rate increases including a couple of nicely-designed Priority Mail stamps that I would be happy to add to my collection were it not for the extremely high face values (US $7.35 and $25.50!). I’m extremely interested in the Wild and Scenic Rivers issue (reminiscent to last year’s O Beautiful! set) and the Post Office Murals stamps (I have seen one of those portrayed in person). Other favorites from the recently revealed designs include those of the USS Missouri, Marvin Gaye and Woodstock’s 50th anniversary. The Alabama stamp actually makes me want to revisit the state as I never found it THAT attractive but the Cactus Flowers, Coral Reefs and Frogs stamps don’t do much for me. The County and State Fairs issue is interesting but the design reminds me a bit too much of the Thanksgiving Parade issue of a few years ago.
The United States Postal Service is issuing a new definitive stamp today — February 9, 2018 — at the American Stamp Dealers Association’s ASDA Winter Postage Stamp Show in Fort Lauderdale, FL 33310. The USPS’s two contract security printers — Ashton Potter of Williamsville, New York, and Banknote Corporation of America in Browns Summit, North Carolina — have each printed a coil and a double-sided pane, creating a total of four collectible varieties of this design. All four varieties are pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) and are Forever stamps to pay the First-Class Mail rate, currently 50 cents.
United States stamps picturing the national flag in vivid red, white and blue have been available to the public almost continuously since 1957. This eye-catching new issuance continues that tradition with a striking graphic design of the flag with two crisp folds. Ethel Kessler served as art director for this stamp, which features a digital illustration by Kit Hinrichs. It is one of two U.S. flag stamps currently scheduled for release in 2018, the other being a commemorative stamp in the same basic design to this definitive, marking the 200th anniversary of the Flag Act enacted by Congress on April 4, 1818. This final Flag Act (of three) provided for the modern rule of having thirteen stripes to represent the original thirteen colonies and having the number of stars match the number of states. It also provided that subsequent changes in the number of stars be made on July 4, Independence Day.
Mailers in the United States like to use flag stamps on their mail as it is thought they have a better chance of being opened; however, most volume mailers use non-denominated stamps to pay a base fee, 5¢ for example, then pay the remaining postage by check or balance transfer. So this stamp will be used mostly by small businesses and individuals.
Full technical details and information on ordering first day of issue postmarks (the deadline is April 9, 2018) can be found in USPS Postal Bulletin 22484 (January 4, 2018). Postal Bulletin 22486 (February 1, 2018) pictures a black & white pictorial postmark for the first day of issue.
It’s been nearly four months since I’ve last posted anything to Philatelic Pursuits; most of my free-time energies have been dedicated to putting together material for A Stamp A Day. That being said, I do have a few items in the works for this blog so please stay tuned. The first is a periodic overview of new stamp issues for a few of the countries that I’m interested in philatelicly such as Thailand (where I live and try to keep up with new releases) and the United States (which puts out so much material each year that I often don’t pay much attention). I may add other countries at times to serve as reminders to myself to seek out certain stamps that catch my eye.
Thailand has only released two stamps in 2018 and I have yet to get to the post office to buy either of them. Unusually, Thailand Post has only announced new releases only up until the end of May rather than the full year as it has previously. These include the regular annual issues such as “Symbol of Love”, “Thai Heritage Conservation”, “Thai Traditional Festival”, and “Visak Day” as well as a new entry in its long list of “Diplomatic Relations” stamps (Turkey this time) and a joint issue with Romania. Just announced is the first set of definitive portraying the as-yet-coronated King Maha Vajiralongkhorn (Rama X), due to be released on April 6. New coinage bearing his portrait has also been recently revealed but still no word on the new reign’s paper currency with the new series of King Bhumibol Adulyadej banknotes having been released at the time of his cremation last October.
As usual, January 1 saw the release of the annual Zodiac issue with a single 3-baht stamp marking the Year of the Dog (Thailand Post issue number 1141). Once again, the stamp features a painting by Her Majesty Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
The second Saturday in January is celebrated in Thailand as National Children’s Day and a set of four 3-baht stamps featuring traditional Thai crafts including kites and parasols was released on January 13 (Thailand Post issue number 1142). A number of post offices in the Bangkok area had Children’s Day activities and featured the usual myriad of individual first day of issue postmarks. Most of the handstamp devices are also available in the large atrium at Bangkok’s old General Post Office in Chinatown and many collectors go there and apply the various chops to their own covers rather than try to travel throughout the capitol, visiting each post office in turn.
The only upcoming stamp announced (so far) to be released in February is the annual “Symbol of Love” 5-baht emission due to be issued on February 7, just a week before Valentine’s Day (Thailand Post 1143). The design appears to be a crocheted heart. The next issues on the calendar are set for April 2 — a four-stamp Thai Heritage and Conservation set (Thailand Post 1144) — and April 4 — four designs for the Thai Traditional Festival set (Thailand Post 1145), which annually is released just prior to Thai New Year (Songkran, April 13). No images for either of these two set have been revealed yet and I suspect that we will also see releases soon for the annual Chinese New Year and Red Cross stamps.
The Thai-language Stamp magazine is the source for the image above — the first set of definitives depicting His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn who took the throne following the October 13, 2016, death of his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX). These range from 1 baht to 100 baht and will be used on the majority of stamped mail within Thailand for the next few years. While these have yet to appear on Thailand Post’s website or on the official release schedule, a Facebook post by a well-connected Thai collector mentions that they will be issued on April 6. I will attempt to create some unofficial first day covers as I doubt Thailand Post will sell official ones.
There are a number of very interesting stamps on the early release calendar of the United States Postal Service. Five stamps and one stamped envelope have been released in January so far and one more is due tomorrow (January 30). One of the reasons I long ago gave up trying to purchase one of each new stamp from the United States is the expense. The stamps released thus far this year have a total face value of US $39.60 (which is 1240.17 Thai baht, making it sound even worse!). While the designs are striking for the Priority Mail rate issues, I doubt I will ever purchase any. However, some of the U.S. stamps slated for later this year are ones I definitely want to pick up featuring such subjects as the end of World War I, scenes inspired by “America, The Beautiful” and British music legend John Lennon. I’m not excited by the Mister Rodgers stamp but to each, their own.
The United States’ Zodiac 2018 stamp was released on January 11 in Honolulu, Hawaii 96820, in a PSA pane of 12 printed by the Banknote Corporation of America. The Year of the Dog stamp is the 11th of 12 stamps in the current Celebrating Lunar New Year cycle. The artwork focuses on some of the common ways the Lunar New Year holiday is celebrated. It depicts an arrangement of lucky bamboo. On the red paper to the right, the Chinese character fu — meaning good fortune, rendered in calligraphy — is a common decoration on doors and entryways during Lunar New Year festivities.
Love Flourishes, the latest stamp in a series that goes back to 1973, was released on January 18 in Phoenix, Arizona 85026 in a PSA pane printed by the Banknote Corporation of America in panes of 20. It features a fanciful garden of colorful flowers surrounding the word “Love” in cursive script. The First Day of Issue site is Creativation, the annual Craft & Hobby Association convention that brings together the global creative products community from designers to manufacturers, some of whom may want to incorporate postage stamps in their designs. The flowers on the stamp include stylized roses, peonies, and dahlias in pink, coral, and yellow, with pale blue-green berries and gold fronds and leaves.
The 2¢ Meyer Lemons stamp is the latest in the current Fruits low-denomination definitive series. It was issued on January 19 in Kenner, Louisiana 70062, printed in coils of 10,000 by the Banknote Corporation of America. The Meyer lemon is native to China, and is thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange. It was introduced to the U.S. in 1908, but in the 1940s it was discovered that a majority of the Meyer lemon trees being cloned were symptomless carriers of a virus that had killed or rendered useless millions of citrus trees all over the world. Most of the Meyer lemon trees in the U.S. were then destroyed, after which a virus-free selection was developed in the 1950s and certified and released in 1975 by the University of California as the ‘Improved Meyer lemon’.”
The Byodo-In Temple — a popular tourist attraction in Hawaii, is featured on a $6.70 Priority Mail flat-rate envelope as well as a $6.70 stamp released in panes of four released on January 21 in Kansas City, Missouri 64108. These, and the following stamp, are the latest entries in the long-running American Landmarks series.
With this Priority Mail Express stamp in the American Landmarks series, the Postal Service celebrates the Sleeping Bear Dunes, a national park in Michigan that takes its name from a Native American legend. It was released in panes of four on January 21 in Kansas City, Missouri 64108.
Due for release on January 30 is a single stamp portraying Lena Horne in New York, New York. Horne is included in the USPS Black Heritage series as a trailblazer in Hollywood for women of color when in fact, her fame and her contributions were much broader. As a performer her 70-year career was capped by a one-woman show, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” which ran for more than three hundred performances on Broadway and then on tour across the United States. And as an activist, her defense of the civil rights of all Americans led to her being blacklisted during the infamous era of McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Released in panes of 20 printed by the Banknote Corporation of America, the stamp features a photograph of Lena Horne taken by Christian Steiner in the 1980s, with an added background reminiscent of Horne’s “Stormy Weather” album.
Next to be released by the United States are four Forever definitive stamps (currently 50 cents) in two double-sided panes of 20 and two coils of 100 scheduled for issue at Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33310 on February 9. I will provide images of that release, as well as more new stamps, next month.