It’s been a very fast two weeks which means it’s time for the second installment of “Phila-Bytes” – a compendium of interesting things I’ve stumbled upon in the stamp web.  This will be a fairly short edition as I’ve been very busy with work!

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First up, I should mention that today is the centennial of the U.S. National Parks Service.  I am preparing an article about the NPS for my other stamp blog, A Stamp A Day (insert shameless plug here).  I was somewhat surprised that Wikipedia doesn’t have a dedicated page for the 1934 National Parks Issue but there is plenty on the Internet about the recently-released set of 16 stamps including a page on the NPS site itself.  I have yet to obtain copies of these but will do so as soon as our monsoon season ends.  While I was hoping that my personal favorite — Chaco Canyon — would be included, it was still nice to see two other parks from my former home of New Mexico honored.

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This is, in fact, a year where there are many interesting issues I can add to my various topical collections. I’ve long been a voracious reader of crime fiction and have a number of stamps commemorating  the legacy of Sherlock Holmes as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  It’s refreshing, however, that a different favorite mystery writer is receiving the philatelic treatment this year.  I came across the news on the Commonwealth Stamps Blog that a set of six will be released on 15 September by the United Kingdom to “to commemorate the Centenary of the first murder mystery written by Agatha Christie (The Mysterious Affair At Styles featuring Hercule Poirot).  It’s a rather striking set and one now firmly included on my want list.

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I’m also a lifelong fan of rock music in (almost) all of its forms.  While Bruce Springsteen has been my favorite performer for almost as long as I can remember (which is a long time, actually), I’ve also enjoyed forays into progressive rock such as Pink Floyd (honored by a Royal Mail set earlier this year), Peter Gabriel-led Genesis, and both eras of Marillion (I prefer Steve Hogarth’s version of the band over that of Fish,  despite him being the singer for the first four years that I listened to them).  I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Yes throughout the years.  I remember buying the LP for Yessongs when I was attending college in central Kansas but I refused to buy the then-current 90125 for years as the hit single was overplayed and I found it really annoying!  It wasn’t until 1994 that I saw them perform live and became began buying their back-catalogue.

Sometimes the best thing about the albums were the covers created by Roger Dean, defining the visual image of the band, much the same way that Hipnogsis represented Pink Floyd.  Thus, I was quite pleased to find that a set of his artwork would be released on stamps by the Isle of Man.  They were issued on 19 August and I like the fact that the attention to detail extended to the fonts used as well.  However, much like the writer of Commonwealth Stamps Blog, I was underwhelmed by the final product.  These images just don’t translate well to the stamp format.  Truth be known, they don’t look that great CD-sized either.  Roger Dean’s work is best seen on the full 12-inch LP with gatefold sleeves.  Oddly enough, I don’t think the same for the Pink Floyd album covers (or previous issues showing The Beatles covers).  Perhaps if I was a bigger Yes fan, I’d think differently.  The set also includes one brand-new piece of artwork inspired by the Isle of Man as well as artwork for albums by The Blind Owl and Uriah Heap.

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The biggest news this week was perhaps the selling at auction of two of the rarest stamps in the world – the 1p and 2p “Post Office” Mauritius stamps of 1847. I mentioned in “Phila-Bytes” #1 that the copper plate used to print these stamps will be auctioned later in the year. The most-newsworthy aspect seems to be the fact that an unknown Czech investor was the winning bidder for an undisclosed sum thought to be in excess of US $4.1 million.  It’s unknown whether these are on-cover examples or singles.  The news article can be found here.

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That’s all for this time.  I’ll see you again in about two weeks…

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After a week or so of the barest of trickles, the floodwaters opened today and once again a nice-sized stack of mail awaited my return from work.  It was a bit of a card-oriented day – only one short set of “real” stamps and a couple of souvenir folders of local post issues from Lundy Island – and Great Britain dominated the senders’ countries.  In all, five pieces of mail from the UK, one from France, and two parcels from the U.S.

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The Qu’aiti State in Hadhramaut counts as a “new” country in my A Stamp From Everywhere collection as the sheikdom in Aden Protectorate had changed its name from the Qu’aiti State of Shihr and Mukalla.  These four stamps are the lowest values (Scott #29-32)  in a set of twelve released on 1 September 1955, the first with the new name inscribed. 

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Lundy Island is probably my favorite of the local posts that I collect.  The island itself is quite interesting and I particularly like the stamps portraying puffins which is also the “currency” used.  Some of the earlier issues portrayed the number of puffins equal to the stamp’s denomination.  Today, I received two similar souvenir folders – this one has the complete 1982 definitive set while the other has the three-stamp issue marking Winston Churchill’s death in 1965.

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Here we have a maxi-card bearing the lovely stamp issued by Monaco in 1977 marking the 50th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic, an addition to my “Pioneers of American Aviation” topical collection.

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This year marks the 175th anniversary of the world’s first stamp, the famed Penny Black.  A number of countries have issued stamps commemorating this anniversary but I have yet to obtain a single one (I celebrated by purchasing an 1840 Penny Black with my initials – MJ – as the control letters).  However, I just received this souvenir card issued at London’s Europhilex stamp show a couple of months ago.  It illustrates Sir Rowland Hill’s original sketches for what became the Penny Black.

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Although I am adopted, I am proud of my adoptive family’s name and wish that more was known of its early history.  The story that I remembering hearing as a child was that the “a” in Joachim was dropped when my grandfather emigrated to the United States (I believe through Ellis Island).  So I am always on the lookout for philatelic items bearing either of the spellings.  This card is one of a lot of posted-on-board items from Danish ferries.  I will write about them in some detail – starting with the M/F Prins Joachim, of course – on my postcard blog in the near future.

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Finally, I received three new rubber stamps for my own little local post – Muang Phuket LP.  The one on the left was intended as a first day of issue postmark for the ASEAN Day issue (8 August) but I ordered the 2-inch size which is too big; I’ll probably use it as a cachet instead and “cancel” the stamps using my generic “wave” postmark.  A tuk-tuk is a local mode of transportation; my rubber stamp supplier had a buy-one get-one for free promotion which is why I have two sizes of that…

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Happy Collecting!

Alderney COAAlderney Flag

Alderney, Channel Islands

LOCATION: Northernmost of the Channel Islands
GOVERNMENT: Dependent territory in the Bailiwick of Guernsey
POPULATION: 1,903 (est. 2013)
AREA: 3 square miles
CAPITAL: St. Anne’s

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 14 June 1983.

CURRENCY:
100 pence = 1 British pound

Alderney is a small English Channel island just ten miles (16 kilometers) west of the French coast, 20 miles (32 km) to the northeast of Guernsey and 60 miles (97 km) from the south coast of Great Britain. The island is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which has been a British crown territory since the mid-13th century.  Alderney is 3 miles (4.8 km) long and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide; it’s read of three square miles (7.8 km²) makes it the third-largest island of the Channel Islands.  The main town is St Anne which features an imposing church and an unevenly cobbled high street. There is a primary school, a secondary school and a post office, and hotels, restaurants, banks and shops. Other settlements include Braye, Crabby, Longis, Mannez and Newtown.  As of April 2013, the island had a population of 1,903 people and they are traditionally nicknamed vaques after the cows, or elselapins after the many rabbits seen in the island. Formally, they are known as Ridunians, from the Latin Riduna.

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Along with the other Channel Islands, Alderney was annexed by the Duchy of Normandy in 933. In 1042 William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy (later William the Conqueror, King of the English) granted the island to the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. In 1057 the Bishop of Coutances took control of the island.  After 1204, when mainland Normandy was incorporated into the kingdom of France, Alderney remained loyal to the English monarch in his dignity of Duke of Normandy.  From 1721 Alderney came under the control of the Le Mesurier family from Guernsey who prospered from privateering and built a jetty there in 1736.  The last of the hereditary Governors, John Le Mesurier, resigned his patent to the Crown in 1825, and since then authority has been exercised by the States of Alderney, as amended by the constitutional settlement of 1948.

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The British Government decided to undertake massive fortifications in the 19th century and to create a strategic harbor to deter attacks from France. An influx of English and Irish laborers, plus the sizeable British garrison stationed in the island, led to rapid Anglicization. The harbor was never completed – the remaining breakwater (designed by James Walker) is one of the island’s landmarks, and is longer than any breakwater in the UK.  At the same time as the breakwater was being built in the 1850s, the island was fortified by a string of 13 forts.

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On 23 June 1940, after the retreat from Dunkirk, the entire population of Alderney – about 1500 residents – were evacuated to Britain, since Alderney and the rest of the Channel Islands were considered by the British Government to be undefendable. On 2 July Alderney was occupied by German forces, who made it one of the most heavily defended fortresses in Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.  The Channel Islands was the only part of the British Commonwealth occupied by Germany during the Second World War.

The Germans built four concentration camps in Alderney, subcamps of the Neuengamme concentration camp. Over 700 of a total inmate population of 6,000 lost their lives before the camps were closed and the remaining inmates transferred to Germany in 1944. The Royal Navy blockaded the islands from time to time, particularly following the liberation of Normandy in 1944. Intense negotiations resulted in some Red Cross humanitarian aid, but there was considerable hunger and privation during the five years of German occupation, particularly in the final months when the Germans themselves were close to starvation. The Germans surrendered Alderney on 16 May 1945. The population of Alderney was unable to start returning until December 1945 due to the huge cleanup operation that had to take place simply to make the island safe for civilians. When the islanders returned home they were shocked to see the state of Alderney, with many houses completely derelict due to anything wooden, including front doors, having been burned for fuel by the Germans.

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The four German camps in Alderney have not been preserved or commemorated, aside from a small plaque at the former SS camp Lager Sylt. One camp is now a tourist camping site, while the gates to another form the entrance to the island’s rubbish tip. The other two have been left to fall into ruin and become overgrown by brambles. A series of tunnels also remain in place on Alderney, constructed by forced labor. These are in varying degrees of safety, but are left open to the public and the elements.

Alderney used the stamps of Guernsey following the release of the first regional issues in August 1958.  After it became postally independent and began issuing its own stamps in 1969, Guernsey made Alderney a sub-post office and handled its postal affairs. Alderney’s request to produce separate issues was rejected by Guernsey in 1975, but a later compromise allowed Alderney to issue occasional sets of stamps, the first of which appeared on 14 June 1983.  The island’s issues – typically about one commemorative set each year and a definitive set released every decade – are produced under the aegis of the Bailiwick of Guernsey Post Office in consultation with Alderney’s parliamentary finance committee. 

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Alderney is found in Volume 3 of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, right after the Guernsey listings in Great Britain (following the British Offices in Turkey), starting on page 373 of my 2009 edition.  I counted 325 general issue stamps with the most recent in my catalogue having been released on 2 August 2007.  This doesn’t count a number of minor-numbered perforation varieties or differing booklet pane format but does include various souvenir sheets.

I currently have five stamps from Alderney in my collection, Scott Nos. 37-41, released on 7 July 1989.  The set of five stamps, lithographed and perforated 13½x14, portray various maps of the island published between the 18th and 20th centuries.  For my A Stamp From Everywhere collection, I have chosen the 12p value which shows Henry Moll’s map of 1724.

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