Bonus: Stamp Ramblings and Musings

Active stamp collecting means keeping your tongs in play, enjoying the hobby when time permits. Every now and then I dip into the online stamp market, or go to the local stamp show. I also bid on stamp auction lots at my beloved Syracuse Stamp Club (and occasionally sell a few lots myself). .

Today I received a packet from an efficient stamp-man in Salem, Oregon. I spent an affordable $26.87 for my lots, which resulted from an online pitch from a dealer collective over the internet. I didn’t score any particular deals, or add significantly to my collection. It’s been lots of fun, though. Here’s  what I bought:

fullsizeoutput_1e50** A South Africa set from the late apartheid era. It is not very valuable. though it is a very pretty set of birds, plants and fish — a desirable item for topical collectors, I would think. On second thought, though, it poses a challenge to topical cllectors, in that it combines three specialties — birds on stamps, plants on stamps, fish on stamps. Then again, topical collectors may not care about complete sets. I’ll have to find out some day …

fullsizeoutput_1e4b** A long, incomplete set from the 1980s Falkland Island Dependencies. The stamps were cheap, probably worth little if anything — but oh! What scenes of desolation:  “Shag rocks” … “Bird and Willis Islands” … “Twitchern Rock and Cook Island” …  These stamps purportedly were printed for use on the forlorn islands of Sandwich and the South Shetlands, closer to Antarctica than the southeast coast of Argentina. Interestingly, it was also in the 1980s that Argentina went to war with Great Britain over these islands, along with the relatively nearby Falkland Islands. The British prevailed, and in this set reaffirm their claim to the Falkland Island Dependencies. Argentina, the loser, has never given up its claims. (For more about this, see my post on Stamp Wars, October 2017.)

fullsizeoutput_1e4c** A souvenir sheet from Togo, 1961, This fills a large space on a page of my Togo collection, which is far from complete. Indeed,  I have no great ambitions for my Togo collection. Still, Togo’s role in colonial and post-colonial Africa grabs my interest. The slogan on this set of stamps — Commission Economiques des Nations Unies Pour L’Afrique (Economic Commission of Nations   United for Africa) — sounds poignantly hopeful and naive, even deluded, given what has happened in Togo and west Africa, and Africa generally, over the last 50 years.

Togo has an improbable philatelic history, having endured German, British and French colonial dominion before gaining independence in the 1960s. I pretty much stopped collecting Togo — or many other African countries — after the 1970s, when their stamp-issuing habits starting going off the rails. (For more about this, see my series of posts on illegal stamps, which began in September 2017.)

fullsizeoutput_1e4d** The 250 franc from Upper Volta (1968) cost a couple of bucks. In a beautifully engraved, multi-color cameo, it depicts a satellite in space, over the West African capital city’s relay station. The inscription reads, “Ouagadougou — Station Spatiale.”   There is a spot in my Africa albums for this stamp, though I harbor no ambitions ever to assemble a valuable collection from Upper Vola (now Burkina Faso) or most other countries. What draws me is the history of post-colonial Africa. I cling to the fond hopes portrayed in these stamps of international cooperation, progress, peace and human development. What breaks my heart is that these hopes soared more than 50 years ago, then came crashing down in the ensuing decades.



** These stamps from Pakistan also fill spaces in my stamp book. I started my collection as a youngster after my father, a U.S. foreign service officer,  was posted to Dacca, East Pakistan, in 1957. I haven’t paid much attention to stamps for Pakistan — or what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh — since we left n 1960. On impulse, I decided to add a few of couple of missing issues from the 1950s that were harder-to-get for a penniless, pre-teen collector. They cost me less than six bucks today, thereby filling spaces that have remained blank for decades. Some fun!

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**   Uhuru Zanzibar 1963! Another fond hope, this time from the east African island nation of Zanzibar. For better or worse uhuru (independence) didn’t last long. By 1964, the sultan had been deposed, and a “revolutionary” government had united with Tanganyika on the mainland, creating the new nation of Tanzania.

fullsizeoutput_1e51** The Guernsey set (1-7) may look pretty dull, but I was attracted by the color varieties and the sense of completeness about this historic set; or rather two sets,  one with watermarks, one without. Notice that these sets, like GB stamps, do not carry the name of a country. In a way that seems somehow ineffably English, it seems Great Britain, having invented stamps, never had to stoop so low as to  flaunt its name on its postage labels — or those of its channel islands (though Guerney, Jersey and the Isle of Man soon did put their names on their stamps.) Indeed, the islands in the English Channel developed philatelic cottage industries, with colorful and fullsizeoutput_1e56collectible stamps down through the years. Guernsey’s first philatelic presence came during World War II, when the Nazis occupied the island, along with neighboring Jersey — so close, yet so far from Winston Churchill’s citadel.  These newer stamps, from the 1950s, featured the pretty young Queen Elizabeth II. They only cost a couple of bucks, yet they seem to herald the modern, post-war era.

These are the kinds of ramblings and musings that stamp-collecting invites. What a hobby!


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