Monday, July 7, 2008

Stamp Issuers - Argentina

Argentina, 1951 (Scott #594)
Map showing Antarctic claims

Argentina is the second-largest country in South America and the eighth largest in the world. Reaching from the central part of the South American continent, the country extends almost all the way to the continent's southernmost tip. The country also claims a quadrant of Antarctica, although there are some countries that do not recognize the entirety of this claim.

Long settled by indigenous peoples, Argentina began to see European explorers by the early 1500s. Spain established the colonial city of Buenos Aires in 1580. Spanish influence was strong in the early days and remains strong today, as many Argentinians are of Spanish heritage.

In 1810, following the overthrow of Spain's monarch, Ferdinand VII, by Napoleon, Buenos Aires declared its independence from Spain. After several years of skirmishes and discussion among the provincial governments of the region, the Congress of Tucumán was held, and on July 9, 1816, formally declared independence, forming the nation of Argentina.

For years after its founding, Argentina ushered in a strong economy, based largely on its agricultural products. By the 1920s, the country was one of the 10 richest countries in the world.

Argentina, 1946 (Scott #552)
Honoring Peron's Inauguration

After World War II, in which Argentina managed to stay neutral, Juan Peron was elected leader in 1948. With the help of his much-beloved wife, Evita (or Eva), he was able to help the working classes. Following her untimely death at the age of 33 from uterine cancer, Juan Peron's political forces began to weaken. He was ultimately deposed in a coup less than 3 years following Evita's death.

For the next twenty years, various military coups and weak governments traded power in the country. In the early 1970s, many of the citizenry demanded that Juan Peron return from exile in Spain. He was ultimately appointed president in 1973, but was in the position only one year until his death. Following a short stint where Peron's last wife, Isabel, succeeded to the presidency, the country once again fell into the military hands.

The very short war between the British and Argentinian fighters over the Falkland Islands, occurred in 1982. Following the Argentinian defeat, the military lost its effectiveness to govern, and democracy was restored.

From an economic standpoint, Argentina has had its share of ups and downs. The country follows the political booms and busts just like most countries. However, the 1990s and early 2000s brought about massive inflation, currency devaluation, and economic collapse. Remarkably, with the introduction of swift and strong economic reforms, the country, in just about 5 years has emerged from near bankruptcy to one of economic growth. The country seems that it is once again entering a period of sustained economic growth.

From a philatelic standpoint, Argentina's stamps have been quite prolific, as the country has issued almost 2500 regular stamps. Lately, the country issues about 25 stamps per year, with many of those being in the form of souvenir sheets. Stamp themes include political leaders, flora and fauna, industry, and agriculture.

The early stamps on Argentina are expensive. Several stamps are in the thousands of dollars (US) range. A complete set of regular issues catalogs for $16,000 in used condition, with a mint set being double that value. Most collectors will be hard-pressed to complete a collection of stamps.

Argentina also issues quite a few "back-of-the-book" stamps. Semi-postals, air post stamps, and even the combination of the two (air post semi-postals) have been issued. The country represents a rich diversity of collecting interests.

Good luck with your Argentina stamps. I hope you are able to complete (or nearly complete) a collection of them.

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