January was yet another philatelic-filled month and I added quite a few stamps to my various collections. Most were obtained online and I made two trips to the Phuket Philatelic Museum to buy new Thai stamps. I received a flurry of postcards at the start of the month but, alas, no further Christmas cards. I only received one this past holiday despite mailing almost forty which is more than a little discouraging! Perhaps the biggest event of the entire month was (finally) finding a stamp inventory program that I like and it’s caused me to make some real changes.
The first Thai stamp issued this year was the annual Zodiac issue, released on 1 January to mark the Year of the Goat. The local post office was closed on New Year’s Day so I purchased a couple of sheets the following week. This year’s stamps mark the beginning of a new series of designs, based on sketches drawn by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. On the 10th, Thailand Post released a set of five stamps for National Children’s Day, continuing their ASEAN theme with forms of transport found in each of the member nations. On my second visit to the philatelic museum this month (I buy all of my new issues at the sales counter there), I noticed that the 2014 stamp yearbook was already available. Priced very reasonably at 790 baht, it was still beyond January’s stamp budget but will be my first purchase in February!
Very few days went by that didn’t see me searching eBay for stamps. Since I’ve recently returned to the field of philately, I’ve become a fan of mixtures where I can buy up to 100 or 200 mixed stamps for less than a couple of hundred Thai baht (about US $6.00). Most of these lots work out to a cost per stamp of two or three cents and the majority are valued at the Scott catalogue minimum of 25 cents; I’m still very happy to have them and, occasionally, I find something a bit more valuable such as Canada #37 – the 3c orange red “Small Queen” issue of 1873. It’s worth about $2 in this condition.
In January, I bought a couple of mixtures of worldwide stamps, one British Commonwealth, two of Canada, and I closed the month with about fifty stamps from Penang. Until recently, I never knew that this Malaysian state had issued its own stamps and was very pleased to add a “new” country to my list. Next on my radar is to find some decent mixed lots of U.S. stamps as I have very, very few from the nation of my birth.
While there are many late twentieth-century and early twenty-first century stamps that I enjoy collecting, my primary interests lie amongst the “classics” starting with the very first postage stamp – Great Britain’s “Penny Black” of 1840 – and continuing through about World War II. There’s more history involved, for one thing. I especially love the beautifully-printed engraved stamps of the early years and those country’s that continued this type of quality much later than mid-century are to be applauded (France and Sweden, to give just two examples). This month, I went after a couple of these “classic” stamps in addition to my mixture purchases. I added my first “Large Hermes Head” from Greece and my first stamp from the Confederate States of America (although the latter certainly doesn’t fall into the “beautifully-printed” category). I plan to pursue a Penny Black of my own within the next month or so and would like to add a U.S. No. 1 by the end of the year.
Even more significant than my stamp purchases is my complete revamping of my cataloguing process. When I collected stamps in my youth, I rarely kept records of my holdings. If I wanted to know what I had (or, more importantly, what I lacked), I simply paged through my albums. Of course, I had plenty of shoeboxes and envelopes full of stamps and covers that never made it into those albums but I somehow knew more or less what was in my collection. At one point, I did make an attempt at inventory – using pre-printed sheets and pencil. That didn’t last long.
When I returned to collecting full-tilt a couple of years ago, I started to record new purchases using an Excel spreadsheet which proved very useful. Unfortunately, I didn’t always include purchase date and price (NONE of my early Siamese stamps include this information and I have a few dating back to the very first set released in August 1883). From time to time, I downloaded free trials of various stamp inventory programs but found them either lacking ascetically or hugely complicated. Until two weeks ago. I stumbled across a piece of software that I’d never heard of before and which had proved to be the stimulation I needed to ascertain that I added EVERY stamp and piece of philatelic ephemera I own into it’s database.
I’m so happy with this software that I’ve taken on the Herculean task of scanning every single stamp and cover in my collection so that I can inventory it. It’s a fairly labor-intensive process and I have a long way to go but it’s getting done. I’m still on the 30-day trial but plan to purchase the program before that expires. I’m also planning to write at least one article for this blog detailing my new cataloguing process and reviewing the software. Stay tuned for that sometime in February…
In the first two weeks of January, eight postcards arrived through Postcrossing, including three from Germany and my first-ever cards from Hong Kong, Latvia and Poland. I mailed cards destined for Finland, Taiwan, China, the United States, Poland, Russia, and Germany. Throughout the month, I maintained my blog-a-day schedule at my postcard-only site, “Please, Mr. Postman!” Check it out if you haven’t already done so.
I released one “stamp” for the Muang Phuket Local Post in January – a single issue marking the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black in conjunction with World Local Post Day. I put the planned ASEAN flag series on temporary hold; the first of eleven monthly releases now scheduled for late February or early March.
February looks to be more of the same.
Thailand Post has three issues scheduled for the month: a single 3-baht stamp for the 72nd Anniversary of Kasetsart University on 2 February, a 5-baht Symbol of Love stamp and pair of 5-baht Chinese New Year stamps all due for release on the 9th. The actual Chinese New Year follows that by ten days. In Phuket, that coincides with the annual Old Town Festival – a three-day “open house” of sorts promoting the rich history, culture and food of my neighborhood. The staff of the Philatelic Museum always mans a street-side booth during the festival and it pleases me each year to see how many visitors it receives – kids and adults. Yes, philately is alive and well in Thailand!
One more thing: I am planning to participate in A Month of Letters throughout February. This is my first time taking up the challenge of writing (and posting) a letter each day of the month (well, 23 days of it anyway). Most of these will be postcards; if you would like to receive one from my, please send me an email request at markjochim at gmail dot com.