Friday, May 30, 2008

12 Things You May Not Know About the Nobel Prizes

It's Fun Friday -- time for some fun for the weekend. Enjoy today's post and I'll see you back here on Monday with more philatelic news and notes.


Sweden
Scott #2415a-d

Sweden was home to Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and other explosives. He left most of his fortune to endow the annual Nobel Prize awards in the disciplines of physics, chemistry, literature, physiology or medicine, and peace.

Sweden has been a prolific issuer of stamps related to Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes. In 2001, Sweden commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first Nobel Prizes awarded by issuing stamps depicting Nobel and the actual medals.

The 4-stamp set was engraved by master engraver, Czeslaw Slania. He expertly depicted Alfred Nobel in profile view, as well as the fine detail of the medals. This set of stamps is a beautiful addition to any collection due to its historical commemoration and the sheer beauty of the engravings.

If you are like most people, you may be under the impression that only the best of the best get awarded Nobel Prizes. You may think that the carefully thought out opinions by the selection committees would highlight lasting improvements in the sciences and the peace process. You may also be aware that the Nobel Prizes are never given out posthumously. If you believe any of those, like I did, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Here then are some curious facts about the Nobel Prizes, the recipients, and the non-recipients that may challenge your knowledge.

  1. Technically, the prize awarded in Economics is not a Nobel Prize, as it was not specified in Alfred Nobel's will. It has been nicknamed the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, and is selected by the same committee that selects the physics and chemistry prizes, but has only been awarded since 1969. It is award in memory of Alfred Nobel.

  2. Nomination records are sealed for fifty years, and except for "leaks" in the process, the nominees are not publicly acknowledged. Agents and publicists will often tout a person's nomination, but until the records are unsealed fifty years later, there is no way to confirm or deny this.

    In a related story, I've been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the past several years. :)


  3. Nominations for the Nobel Prizes can only be made for living persons. However, should a person die after their nomination, they can still be awarded a Nobel Prize. This has occurred two times, most recently in 1961 when Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously, after dying in a plane crash in Africa.

  4. Provided that the individual is living at the time of the nomination, anyone can be nominated. Incredulously, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin were all nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize!

  5. Amazingly, the person probably most likely to have deserved the Nobel Peace Prize was never awarded one. Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi, Indian leader who advocated non-violence in the struggle for Indian independence from colonial rule, never won the award. He was nominated five times, but failed each time. He was assassinated just two days before the nominations for the 1948 prize were due, which, since he was deceased, disqualified him from the nomination and, therefore, the prize.

    The Nobel Peace Prize Committee considered selecting Gandhi for the award in spite of the rules, but because he left no legal heirs, they were not sure of who to award the prize to. Instead, the committee elected to withhold the award that year, stating that "there was no suitable living candidate" for the award, a clear reference to the recently-deceased Gandhi.


  6. Winning a Nobel Prize will bring lasting fame throughout one's lifetime. Pity poor William Vickrey, who, just 3 days after being selected for the 1996 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, was found slumped over the steering wheel of his car, dead of an apparent heart attack.

  7. Some prizes are awarded to technology that on later review just doesn't seem to pan out. Consider Antonio Moniz's 1949 Nobel Prize in Medicine for leukotomy, the brain-altering operation that was the forerunner of pre-frontal lobotomies.

  8. Likewise, the award given to Johannes Fibiger wasn't very prescient. His 1926 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was for discovering that parasites had caused cancerous tumors in laboratory mice, prompting many to believe a cure for cancer was just around the corner. The trouble was, upon further review, the tumors were caused by simple vitamin deficiencies.

  9. Julius Wagner von Jauregg won the 1927 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery that, by purposely injecting syphilitic patients with fever-causing malaria, the patients were sometimes cured. Sometimes, however, the malaria cure was as bad as the original illness.

  10. Not all Nobel Peace Prize recipients have backgrounds in diplomacy or political science. For example, the 1970 winner, Norman Borlaug, won for his efforts in plant pathology/genetics which led to better worldwide food supplies, and, so the argument went, a more peaceful world.

  11. The United Nations' Peacekeeping forces have won the Nobel Peace Prize, even though rapes, bribery, bullying, and other crimes have been allegedly committed by the so-called peace keepers.

  12. At least one Nobel Peace Prize recipient has admitted to embellishing her autobiography, which had obviously helped her to win the prize. Rigoberta Menchú, native of Guatemala and 1992 recipient, acknowledged making changes in her autobiography I, Rigoberta Menchú that details atrocities performed by guerrilla forces in her native Guatemala. While her cause is just, her augmentation of her background, exposed by researcher David Stoll, has given a black eye to her cause. In an effort to ease the situation, the Nobel Prize committee has since declared that her award was not based solely on her autobiography, but on the aggregate of her efforts.








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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Italy's 2009 International Philately Festival Stamps

Italy, 2008

In 2009, Italy will host the Italia 2009 International Philately Festival in Rome. The exhibit will be open for 5 days between October 21 and October 25 at the Congress Center (Palazzo dei Congressi).

The exhibition is being organized by Poste Italiane, Italy's postal authority, in conjunction with the Federation of the Italian Philatelic Societies (FSFI)and the Association of Italian Philatelic Traders (AFIP). Together these three groups are handling all aspects of the international philately exhibition and competition.

According to Poste Italiane's informative website, the competition is open to those from European and other Mediterranean countries, Canada, the United States, Argentina, South Africa, and Australia, i.e. "namely countries particularly close to Italy due to the large communities of Italian immigrants and their descendants."

Italy, 2008

Poste Italiane has created a stunning set of stamps to promote this philatelic exhibition. The two-stamp set features pen-and-ink style drawings of Roman architectural sites as a backdrop to the exhibition data.

The lower-denominated stamp, 0.60 EU, shows the host location for the exhibition, the Congress Center. Across the top of the columns, the date of the exhibition and the host city is displayed. The side of the Congress Center is stylized as a perforated stamp declaring the exhibition name.

The higher-denominated stamp, at 0.65 EU, shows the most familiar landmark of old Rome, the Colosseum. Originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum is probably the most-recognized architecture in all of Italy.

The stamp depicts, in iconic form, the standing remains of the Colosseum on the left side. On the right side, another stylized stamp serves to portray the shorter standing wall.

These stamps are beautiful examples of stylized designs. They should go nicely in architecture-themed collections, and would be worthy additions to anyone's stamp albums.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stamp Issuer Datasheet - Angola

This chart represents a detailed analysis of stamps issued by Angola, as supported by the 2009 issue of Scott's Standard Postage Stamp Catalog.









































































































































































































































Angola
Basic Philatelic Information
Date of first recognized stamp issue 1870
Date of last recognized stamp issue Active
Previous Stamp Issuer None
Subsequent Stamp Issuer (if a "dead country") N/A
Sold canceled-to-order (CTO) stamps? No
Regular Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 1297 Mint Used
Catalog value of first listed stamp $2.25 $1.40
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

(few)

$0.20

(few)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$350.00

(Scott #223)

$350.00

(Scott #223)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $7000+ $4000+
Semi-Postal Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 2 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $1.10

(Scott #B1)

$1.10

(Scott #B1)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$2.10

(Scott #B2)

$2.10

(Scott #B2)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $3.20 $3.20
Air Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 37 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.40

(few)

$0.20

(few)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp $825.00

(Scott #C20)

$650.00

(Scott #C20)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $2230+ $1260+
Special Delivery Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postage Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 42 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

(few)

$0.20

(few)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp $12.50

(Scott #J9)

$7.50

(Scott #J9)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $72+ $50+
Official Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Newspaper Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 1 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $1.00

(Scott #P1)

$0.70

(Scott #P1)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp $1.00

(Scott #P1)

$0.70

(Scott #P1)

Total catalog value of recognized issues $1.00 $0.70
Parcel Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postal Tax Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 30 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

(few)

$0.20

(few)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp $9.00

(Scott #RA6)

$1.75

(Scott #RA4, #RA6)

Total catalog value of recognized issues $33 $14
Postal Tax Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 3 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $1.10

(all)

$0.95

(all)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp $1.10

(all)

$0.95

(all)

Total catalog value of recognized issues $3.30 $2.85







Notes:

All stamp data is determined from analysis of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog, issued 2009. Other catalogs may have additional stamps, different costs, or different methodologies of labeling and identifying stamps.

All values are in U.S. Dollars.

All stamp valuations include major Scott numbered stamps, and exclude errors, variations, and stamps so rare as to be unattainable by all but the most advanced collectors.

Scott frequently uses a single catalog number for souvenir sheets or strips of stamps that were sold as a single unit. In these cases, the sheet is only counted as one unit and the component stamps are not counted individually.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stamp Issuer - Angola

Angola, 1921 (Scott #139)
Portuguese Colonial Stamp

Angola is a African country located on the Atlantic side of the continent. It is located about midway below the "bulge" of Africa and the southernmost tip. The country borders Namibia, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is a small, disputed province of Angola, called Cabinda, which is completely separate from the country and surrounded by neighboring country, Republic of Congo.

Angola was an early colony of Portugal. As early as 1483, Portugal had established a base of operations in the Congo River region of Africa. By the 1500s, Portugal had created the colony of Angola. Except for a brief occupation by the Dutch in 1641 to 1648, Portugal administered the colony for almost 500 years. All that changed in 1975.

Portuguese administration over Angola ended on November 11, 1975, when independence was achieved and the country became known as the People's Republic of Angola. As Communist and non-Communist factions fought for control of the newly established republic, civil war broke out that lasted for the next 27 years. Finally, in 2002, the Angolan Civil War was ended, but not before it destroyed much of the infrastructure of the country and cost the lives of at least 500,000 Angolans. Considering the depths of the economic, militaristic, and political upheaval cause by war, it is encouraging to note that Angola has had one of the fastest growing economies in the world since 2002.

Angola, 1955 (Scott #386)
Map of Angola

As a stamp issuer, Angola presents several challenges to the collector. One of those challenges is affordability -- some of the stamps of Angola are expensive. There are some minimum value stamps, but not many of the 1300 regular issue stamps fall into that category.

Also, the difference in catalog value of mint and used stamps, especially during recent years, is non-existent. Used stamps, which typically help keep stamp collecting affordable for many, are the stamp price as mint stamps for most issues of the past 20 years or so.

Finally, one series of Air Post stamps costs over $2100 (US), making a complete "Back of the Book" collection out of reach of many collectors.

A collector will find that some early issues of Angola, bearing the tell-tale look of Portuguese stamps, are affordable. There seems to be a great dichotomy in catalog prices -- some stamps in a series catalog for $1 or less, while other stamps in the same series catalog over one hundred times that amount.

Angola represents a tough challenge for most collectors. The stamps simply do not seem to be readily available. Hopefully as the civil unrest in the region becomes a long-forgotten memory, the high cost of collecting Angolan stamps might also be forgotten.


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Monday, May 26, 2008

From the Archives: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

In the United States, the last Monday in May (May 26th, this year) is celebrated as Memorial Day, a time to reflect on the sacrifices of the valiant men and women who served their country militarily. It is with this backdrop that I repeat an earlier post that remembers a stamp that memorializes one of the great military photos of all time.


Possibly the most famous photograph of World War II, and possibly of all time, was Joe Rosenthal's masterpiece, Raising the Flag On Iwo Jima. It depicts 6 American men (5 Marines, 1 Navy Corpsman) struggling to lift the flag atop Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945, signaling the high-water mark of one of the fiercest battles of World War II in the Pacific.

United States, 1945
Scott #929


Due to its proximity to Japan, the island of Iwo Jima was used as a Japanese early warning station to help prevent Allied-led surprise attacks on the mainland. It is situated near the halfway point between Japan and the Mariana Islands, a staging point for American long-range bombers. Any planned attack on Japan from the Pacific would almost inevitably be spotted by Japanese installations on Iwo Jima.

As America tightened the net on Japanese forces, Iwo Jima became a ripe target. If the U.S. could take and hold Iwo Jima, they would gain a foothold for launching further attacks. Thus the battle for Iwo Jima became a critical point in the battles of the Pacific.

On February 19, 1945, U.S. forces began fierce bombardment of key positions on Iwo Jima, as a means to soften Japanese resistance. After a lull in fight, American Marines landed on the island and were barely able to withstand the Japanese onslaught. The heavily reinforced Japanese inflicted high casualties upon the landing Americans. One hundred thousand men fought on an island with a total areas of 7.5 square miles.

Mount Suribachi is the highest point on Iwo Jima. Capturing the mountain, and its strategic birds-eye view of the island would go a long way toward ending the battle. On February 23, U.S. forces took control of the mountain and raised a small flag on top of it which was hardly visible from the islands beaches. Later that day, a larger flag was lifted in the second flag-raising on the mountain. It was this flag-raising that was immortalized by the photograph by Joe Rosenthal.

United States, 2002
Scott #B2 (Semi-Postal)

The photo was an immediate success. It was awarded the 1945 Pulitzer Prize in Photography, the only photo to win in the same year that it was taken. It also became the subject of a 1945 U.S. stamp commemorating the event. It was an extremely popular stamp issue and holds the distinction of being one of the few U.S. stamps to depict living individuals. The U.S. Postal Service currently waits a minimum of five years after a person's death (one year for U.S. Presidents) before using their image on a stamp, although this rule has sometimes been overlooked, such as on the Heroes of 9/11 stamp issued in 2001, pictured at right.

Of the six men raising the flag, only three made it home alive -- Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon, and John Bradley. Two of the men, Mike Strank and Harlon Block, died within hours of each other less than a week after the famous photo was taken. Franklin Sousley, the last one to die on Iwo Jima, died three weeks later.

Rosenthal's photo was later used as the basis for the United States Marine Corps Memorial statue at the Arlington National Cemetery.

For further information, visit http://www.iwojima.com/

Friday, May 23, 2008

Postage Stamp Shows 3-Second Sports Clip

It's Fun Friday -- time for some fun for the weekend. Enjoy today's post and I'll see you back here on Monday with more philatelic news and notes.


Austria, issued May 2008
Slower connections ... please wait

Take a good look at the approximately 3-second sport clip shown to the left. It shows three different perspectives of the winning soccer (football) goal scored by Andreas "Andi" Herzog for Austria in 1997. This goal provided a sense of strong national pride for Austria as their team defeated Sweden 1-0 in route to their 1998 World Cup appearance. The Austria postal administration has immortalized this television broadcast clip on a postage stamp issued May, 2008 in honor of the upcoming Union of European Football Associations' 2008 series.

By using advancements in existing technology, Austria Post has managed to put the moving image of this goal onto a postage stamp. While the initial technology to do so has been around over 60 years, and has even been applied to stamps before, this is the first time that such a detailed moving image has been put on a stamp.

The technology used is called lenticular printing. This printing method relies on a special lens, called a lenticular lens, to produce its magic. First, a total of 48 snapshots, or frames, of the original television broadcast were printed in a way so that tiny strips of the original images were alternated (interlaced). When a lenticular lens is attached to this interlaced image, it allows only one set of the 48 image strips to be seen from each viewing angle. By subtly changing the viewing angle, different images are displayed; if the angle is moved steadily, the image appears to move.

Lenticular printing is not new. Most people can remember getting prizes out of Cracker Jack snacks that would change when viewed from different angles. Some American breakfast cereal manufacturers put lenticular baseball cards in their products as an enticement for youngsters to purchase their cereal. Even some simple 2-dimensional dolls and similar knick-knacks had eyes that would blink based on the viewing angle. All of these were early forms of the lenticular printing process.

Those early lenticular images were somewhat crude and the motion produced was very jerky. The technology at that time permitted only a few images interlaced together, usually 2 or 3, and because of this, each image had to show a great range of motion. The human eye requires 16-24 images per second in order for it to be considered smooth movement.

This is by far the most complex lenticular image ever to appear on stamps. Other countries, such as Finland, Ireland, and Switzerland have produced lenticular images in the recent past, but those images are not as involved as the Austrian stamps.

The stamp is valid for postage, although I think it doubtful that people would use the stamp to mail something. I doubt that anyone would use such a novel stamp to mail something, preferring to hoard the stamp as a keepsake. Also, the stamp is of a large denomination, 5.45 Euros (about $8.50 US), that is would not be used for typical mail, but for packages or expedited services.

The stamp is very large. It measures 6.5 cm (2.6 inches) wide by 4.7 cm (1.9 inches) tall. With its size, denomination, and the novelty of moving images, it is sure to stand out in a stamp collection.

The stamp can be purchased from Austrian Post's online shop at cost (5.45 Euros) plus a small handling fee.





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Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Issue - Australia's Hot Air Balloons

Australia, 2008

Australia Post has recently issued a series of 4 postage stamps depicting hot-air ballooning. Released on May 6, 2008, the stamps celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first successful balloon flight in Australia. One-hundred fifty years ago, no one could have imagined that stamps would someday fly across the world attached to letters and carried on jet airplanes.

On February 1, 1858, William Dean piloted a hot-air balloon for a total flight of about 25 minutes across the Yarra River, becoming the first person in Australia to fly a lighter-than-air craft. The original plan was for Dean and friend, C. H. Brown, to jointly lift off. However, it was discovered that a valve had malfunctioned, resulting in insufficient hot air to lift both men. Dean, who had previous experience in piloting a hot-air balloon, remained in the balloon's basket while Brown jumped out. Dean then lifted off and piloted the aircraft about 8 miles (13 km).

Hot-air balloons were a great novelty that drew large crowds. In fact, an Australian attempt a few years earlier nearly resulted in a riot, when the paying crowd failed to see the pilot lift off of the ground due to some technical problems. The quick-on-his-feet aviator was able to outrun upwards of 4000 people and hide out while the disappointed and unruly crowd set fire to his balloon and equipment.

Ballooning was, and is, a graceful way to fly. Because hot-air balloons have to rely upon wind currents for navigation, they have never received lasting success for most commercial ventures. But they did inspire mankind to find other ways to fly and are considered one of the foundations of the aeronautic age.

This 4-stamp set honors both the free spirits and daring-do of Australia's hot-air balloon pioneers as well as the beauty of these graceful aircraft. Each stamp depicts a colorful balloon hovering in front of and over Australia landmarks and terrain.

The stamps are available in both self-adhesive and gummed versions, as are typical of most Australian stamps.

The lithographed stamps are issued as a set of four 50-cent stamps, so the total purchase price will be $2 (AU). These stamps are sure to be popular with topical collectors and quite a few would-be pilots.

The stamps can be ordered from Australia Post.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Data Sheet - Andorra, French Administration

This chart represents a detailed analysis of stamps issued by the French Administration of the Principality of Andorra, as supported by the 2009 issue of Scott's Standard Postage Stamp Catalog.


The Spanish Administration's data sheet can be found here



























































































































































Andorra, French Administration
Basic Philatelic Information
Date of first recognized stamp issue 1931
Date of last recognized stamp issue Active
Previous Stamp Issuer None
Subsequent Stamp Issuer (if a "dead country") N/A
Sold canceled-to-order (CTO) stamps? No
Regular Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 625 Mint Used
Catalog value of first listed stamp $0.70 $0.70
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

(few)

$0.20

(few)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$290.00

(Scott #22)

$325.00

(Scott #22)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $2500+ $1800+
Semi-Postal Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 1 Mint Used
Total catalog value of recognized issues $20.00 $20.00
Air Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 8 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.75

(Scott #C5)

$0.75

(Scott #C5)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp $100.00

(Scott #C4)

$65.00

(Scott #C4)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $216.75 $145.20
Postage Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 62 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

(several)

$0.20

(several)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp $160.00

(Scott #J14)

$160.00

(Scott #J14)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $720 $705
Official Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Newspaper Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 1 Mint Used
Total catalog value of recognized issues $0.75 $0.75
Parcel Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None








Notes:

All stamp data is determined from analysis of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog, issued 2009. Other catalogs may have additional stamps, different costs, or different methodologies of labeling and identifying stamps.

All values are in U.S. Dollars.

All stamp valuations include major Scott numbered stamps, and exclude errors, variations, and stamps so rare as to be unattainable by all but the most advanced collectors.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Data Sheet - Andorra, Spanish Administration

This chart represents a detailed analysis of stamps issued by the Spanish Administration of the Principality of Andorra, as supported by the 2009 issue of Scott's Standard Postage Stamp Catalog.






















































































































































Andorra, Spanish Administration
Basic Philatelic Information
Date of first recognized stamp issue 1928
Date of last recognized stamp issue Active
Previous Stamp Issuer None
Subsequent Stamp Issuer (if a "dead country") N/A
Sold canceled-to-order (CTO) stamps? No
Regular Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 333+ Mint Used
Catalog value of first listed stamp $0.55 $0.55
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

(few)

$0.20

(several)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$275.00

(Scott #12)

$275.00

(Scott #12)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $1500+ $1000+
Semi-Postal Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Air Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 4 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.30

(3 of 4 issues)

$0.20

(3 of 4 issues)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp $30.00

(Scott #C1)

$4.25

(Scott #C1)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $31 $5
Special Delivery Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 5 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $5.75

(Scott #E5)

$4.50

(Scott #E5)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp $100.00

(Scott #E1)

$95.00

(Scott #E1)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $200 $170
Postage Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Official Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Newspaper Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Parcel Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None







Notes:

All stamp data is determined from analysis of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog, issued 2009. Other catalogs may have additional stamps, different costs, or different methodologies of labeling and identifying stamps.

All values are in U.S. Dollars.

All stamp valuations include major Scott numbered stamps, and exclude errors, variations, and stamps so rare as to be unattainable by all but the most advanced collectors.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Stamp Issuer - Andorra, Principality of

Spanish Andorra Overprint
Used on 1st Series, 1928

The Principality of Andorra is a small landlocked country nestled in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. It is one of the smallest countries in the world, with only 15 countries smaller than its 468 sq. km. (181 sq. miles).

Because of its rugged, mountainous surroundings, Andorra was virtually isolated for much of its history. That began to change as technology improved transportation methods. Plus, as the country transformed itself into a tourist haven by offering duty-free items to go with its beautiful scenery, it has made itself into a hot spot for tourism. Today, tourism accounts for 80% of the Andorran Gross Domestic Product.

French Andorra Overprint
Used on 1st Series, 1931

Politically, Andorra is a co-principality; there are two princes who are the heads of government -- the President of France is one and the Bishop of Urgell, Spain is the other. Of interest to philatelists is that both the French and Spanish administrations of Andorra issue stamps. The two postal administrations offer their own designs and are treated as two distinct stamp issuers.

On January 1, 1928, Spain opened post offices within the principality. The Spanish Administration overprinted stamps of Spain for use in Andorra. With the second series of stamps, issued in 1929, the name of the country appears as an integral part of the design of stamp.

In 1931, the French Administration of Andorra issued overprinted stamps of France. Like the Spanish Administration, France only used overprinted stamps for the first set; with the second set of stamps issued, the name of the country was part of the design of the stamp.

Neither administration is a heavy issuer of stamps. The Spanish Administration has averaged less than 9 stamps per year over the past 10 years. The French Administration fares worse, averaging 14 stamps per year over the last 10 years.

Spanish Andorra, 2003 (Scott #289)
Andorran Flag

During the 1960s and 1970s, both administrations started producing very colorful commemorative stamps. Each continues this practice today, producing very scenic and colorful stamps illustrating Andorra's heritage.

As far as Back of the Book (semi-postal, air post, postage due, etc.) stamps, neither administration has produced many, with the lone exception being the French Administration's 62 Postage Due stamps.

All in all, Andorra would be a great country to collect for many philatelists. It might not be ideal for beginners, as there are several costly, early issue stamps. However, with the minimal annual issues and the high number of beautiful commemoratives, it is definitely a nice country for an intermediate collector to try to complete.


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Friday, May 16, 2008

10 Things You Don't Know About Ol' Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra

It's Fun Friday -- time for some fun for the weekend. Enjoy today's post and I'll see you back here on Monday with more philatelic news and notes.


United States
Frank Sinatra

On March 13, 2008, the United States Postal Service issued a 42-cent stamp depicting world-renowned entertainer, Frank Sinatra. The stamp for "Ol' Blue Eyes" was issued one day prior to the tenth anniversary of his death. It features a wonderful depiction of a young Sinatra wearing a fedora and flashing those trademark blue eyes.

The stamp is certain to be popular, especially with non-collectors, and it might be a good thing to go ahead and purchase the stamp now.

Sinatra is probably best classified as entertainer extraordinaire. In addition to his mellow crooning voice, he acted in several well-received movies, including The Manchurian Candidate, From Here to Eternity, and The Man with the Golden Arm. He also acted in several TV shows including the critically acclaimed Our Town.

The legend of Sinatra is larger than life. Here are some lesser-known facts about the "Chairman of the Board" that you may not be aware:

  • At birth, baby Frank was thought to be stillborn until he was thrust under cold water and began to move about.

  • Forceps used during his birth caused permanent damage to his left earlobe, cheek and neck.

  • Early in his career, Sinatra was asked to change his stage name to Frankie Satin, an obvious play on words for his smooth, crooning voice. He refused.

  • During his short-lived marriage to actress Mia Farrow, Sinatra stunned Farrow when he served her with divorce papers in front of cast and crew of Rosemary's Baby.

  • In the early 1990s, when Mia Farrow was publicly humiliated by her long-term lover's, Woody Allen's, marriage to their adopted daughter, Sinatra offered to have Allen's legs broken, an obvious connection to Sinatra's Mafia relationships.

  • Sinatra's final and longest-lasting marriage was to Barbara Marx, the ex-wife of the comedy troupe The Marx Brothers member, Zeppo Marx.

  • The son of a Democratic-party ward boss, Sinatra was a fervent supporter of the Democrats, ostensibly until being snubbed by President John F. Kennedy, when Kennedy stayed at Bing Crosby's house, instead of staying at Sinatra's house. Within a few short years, Sinatra switched his alliance to the Republican party.

  • Sinatra refused to play in Las Vegas, Nevada, hotels and casinos where African-Americans could not entertain nor patronize. He was such a money-maker for the entertainment industry and had such clout that his efforts spurred increased racial desegregation in the state.

  • When his only son, Frank, Jr., was kidnapped and the kidnappers demanded that Frank, Sr., call from untraceable pay telephones, he began a life-long habit of carrying a roll of dimes (the cost of a pay-phone call at that time) in his pocket. He is reputed to have been buried with a small roll of dimes.

  • The song title "The Best is Yet to Come" is engraved on his tombstone. Ironically it was also the last song he sang in public, at the age to 79.



And, as a bonus, a bit of trivia only tangentially related to Sinatra:


  • Sinatra was a member of the Rat Pack, a group of famous entertainers including Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. Unknown by many, is that Norman Fell, who portrayed the penny-pinching, wisecracking, goof-ball, landlord Stanley Roper on the late 1970's sitcom Three's Company was also included in the Rat Pack for a period of time.







Previous Fun Friday Posts


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Website Spotlight - Space and Astronomy Stamps

"Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away, if your car could go straight upwards."

— Sir Fred Hoyle

Or, to add to the quotation, space is only a few clicks away, if you were to point you browser to the Space and Astronomy Stamps website. It is a wonderfully rich site that is deserving of this week's Website Spotlight.

Space and Astronomy Stamps
http://www.spaceandastronomystamps.com

One of the things that impresses me about this site, besides the sheer number of stamp issues covered, is its design. The site's layout is uncluttered, even minimalistic, and this simple design is marvelous for a site dedicated to stamps. Stamps are shown on the site, not clutter.

The webmaster, Ed Locke, is like most of us ... he collected stamps as a youth, then put them away during his early adulthood. He then resumed the hobby, but instead of collecting any and everything, he shifted his focus to astronomy-related stamps. Based on his dedication to his website, you can tell that he enjoys what he is doing.

The site was started in the mid 1990s as a vehicle for Ed to hone his HTML skills while at the same time promoting his self-described "obsession" for space-related stamps.

From the main screen, you will notice a menu across the top of the page. This is your key to navigation on the site. For example, you can select the country's stamps that you wish to view by selecting the starting letter in the country name.

When you select a country, you will be taken to a list of stamp issues for that country. Wherever Ed has the stamp images in his possession, you can then click on them to get to a detailed stamp page which shows the stamp. The site has 13,000 images of 7000+ stamps, so you will end up doing a lot of browsing.

In the right sidebar of the stamp page are a couple of search windows. One provides the ability to search the site for stamps that are related by topic to the stamp being displayed. The other search option is to search the web for information relating to the topics of the currently displayed stamp. This allows the viewer to research a specific topic that they might find interesting.

From the menu at the top of each page, you can also see New Additions to the site. The site is updated monthly with new stamps -- with the information about the stamp, and images if they are available. From the main menu, you can also search by topic or issue date.

Even if you are not interested in collecting these topics, I encourage you to visit Space and Astronomy Stamps to see some beautiful stamps. Be sure to drop Ed an e-mail to tell him that you visited his site. I'm sure he'd like to hear from new viewers.



Would you like to nominate a website for a Stamps of Distinction Website Spotlight? If so, read and follow the instructions on this link.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Skylab - The United States' First Space Station

United States (Scott #1529)

On May 14, 1973, the United States launched Skylab aboard a 2-stage Saturn rocket. It was the first U.S. launch of an orbiting space station.

The Soviet Union was first in deploying a space station with the launch of Salyut 1 in April, 1971. This station lasted less than 6 months, however, and re-entered the atmosphere in October of that year.

The Soviets tried another secretive military space station two years later, but it experienced problems from the outset and it burned up while re-entering Earth's atmosphere just over a month later.

Skylab, on the other hand, was launched and remained in orbit for 2,249 days, a record which would last until the late 1980s when the Soviet Union's Salyut 7 surpassed that mark. For all but 171 days, however, Skylab was unoccupied.

Skylab encountered several problems during launch that threatened the entire mission. One minute after liftoff, the meteoroid shield, which also served to shade the space station and regulate its temperate, deployed by mistake and the subsequent atmospheric drag caused it to be ripped away. When this occurred, it led to one of Skylab's two solar arrays to be physically torn away. And, to make things worse, debris from the meteoroid shield prevented the remaining solar shield from opening properly.

Gabon (Scott #934)

For a period of 10 days, engineers worked frantically to devise repairs for the damaged space station. Because the remaining solar array was so inefficient, a careful balance had to be made between maximizing the limited power by placing it directly in the sun, and keeping the crippled station's temperature at a reasonable level. The first manned flight to the station, at the end of those 10 days, was one of repair. That mission kept SkyLab functioning and habitable.

A total of 3 trips were made to Skylab, each of increasing duration. During its lifetime, Skylab aided in scientific research of the sun and of micro-gravity. It also served as a mechanism for on-the-job training of making in-flight repairs. This knowledge has proven to be especially fruitful with later space missions, including missions to the International Space Station.

Quite a few stamps have been issued that depict Skylab. The United States issued a 10-cent stamp on May 14, 1974, to honor the 1st anniversary of the launch of Skylab. Gabon also issued a beautiful stamp (shown nearby) to commemorate America's first venture with a space station.

Skylab famously returned to earth in July, 1979. Debris from the station reigned down on parts of the Indian Ocean and into Australia. When debris turned up in Esperance, a town in the southern part of Western Australia, the municipality fined the United States $400 for littering.

The fine has never been paid.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stamp Issuer Datasheet - Allenstein

Here is a detailed analysis of stamps issued for Allenstein.












































































































Allenstein
Basic Philatelic Information
Date of first recognized stamp issue 1920
Date of last recognized stamp issue 1920
Previous Stamp Issuer None; Plebiscite vote only
Subsequent Stamp Issuer (if a "dead country") None; Plebiscite vote only
Sold canceled-to-order (CTO) stamps? No
Regular Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 28 Mint Used
Catalog value of first listed stamp $0.40 $0.80
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.40

(many)

$0.80

(many)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$20.00

(Scott #18)

$35.00

(Scott #18)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $48 $92
Semi-Postal Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Air Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postage Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Official Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Newspaper Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Parcel Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None






Notes:

All stamp data is determined from analysis of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog, issued 2009. Other catalogs may have additional stamps, different costs, or different methodologies of labeling and identifying stamps.

All values are in U.S. Dollars.

All stamp valuations include major Scott numbered stamps, and exclude errors, variations, and stamps so rare as to be unattainable by all but the most advanced collectors.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Stamp Issuers - Allenstein

Allenstein, 1920 (Scott #1)
Overprinted Germany Stamp

Allenstein (Olsztyn, in Polish) was a district in East Prussia (basically present day Germany). Following the end of hostilities of World War I, the population of Allenstein was allowed to determine whether they would be part of East Prussia or Poland.

As World War I ended, Allenstein was administered by the Allied Forces. The Treaty of Versailles, which marked the formal end of World War I, specified in Articles 94 and 95 that Allenstein could hold a vote to determine their national alignment. This vote for self-determination is called a plebiscite.

In April, 1920, 28 German postage stamps were overprinted with messages calling attention to the upcoming vote. The first 14 stamps were overprinted with "PLEBISCITE / OLSZTYN / ALLENSTEIN" while the second 14 read "TRAITÉ / DE / VERSAILLES / ART. 94 et 95" referring to the Articles 94 and 95 of the treaty. Both overprints are shown nearby. The 14 stamps in each run are identical, except for which overprint was used.

On July 11, 1920, the plebiscite was held. Almost 98% of the voting population chose to remain with East Prussia. The area remained under German control until the end of World War II when it was subsumed by Poland, to which the area remains allied to this day.

Allenstein Overprints

The plebiscite stamps were not valid for postage very long. By August 20, 1920, they were invalidated. Thus the stamps, and hence the district's total stamp issuance, had a lifespan of not quite 5 months.

Interestingly, these stamps are not very expensive, in either used or unused condition. One would think that with such a short period of time and such a short period of postal validity that they would have achieved a certain rarity. However that is not the case.

The 28 stamps issued by Allenstein catalog for under $45 (US) for mint condition according to the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog (2006). Used Allenstein stamps catalog for about double that amount. The bulk of the value for the Allenstein stamps comes from the two overprinted 15-pfennig violet brown stamps, Scott #4 and #18. Together these two stamps account for over half of the catalog value for the entire set.

For No. 1 collectors (those who collect the 1st catalog-listed stamp for a country), the first stamp should be easy to find for under $1 (US).

All in all, Allenstein stamps represent a fun little niche to collect. It is easy for any level of collector to afford the entire set of issued stamps.



Previous Stamp Issuer Topics:

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Seashell Lottery and the Birth of Tel Aviv, Israel

It's Fun Friday -- time for some fun for the weekend. Enjoy today's post and I'll see you back here on Monday with more philatelic news and notes.


Tel Aviv is an ultra-modern city located on the Mediterranean coastline of Israel. From the appearance of the city, it is hard to fathom that the city is officially just 100 years old. Even harder to believe is the story, some will say legend, that the original settlers determined which plots belonged to which settlers by virtue of a "Seashell Lottery"!

The Birth of Tel Aviv

The story of Tel Aviv begins in the city of Jaffa. Jaffa is an ancient port city in Israel that in the 1850s and beyond was largely populated by Arab peoples.

Starting in the 1880s, there were several waves of migration of Jews into Palestine called aliyah. The primary causes for the migrations can be traced to persecution, especially in Tsarist Russia, and anti-semitism is other areas. As the Jews returned to the area, several settled in Jaffa.

By the late 1890s, about 1500 Jews lived in the city and yearned for a place of their own. Several banded together in the hopes of creating a Jewish garden suburb on the outskirts of the town.

In 1906, that dream began to become reality as the "Ahuzat Bayit" Association was forming. The name means "homestead" which is what the Jewish association members were desperately wanting.

Three years later the group consisted of 60 families. The association had recently purchased 12 acres of land from Bedouins and wanted to distribute the land equitably to its members. The method used to distribute the land has been called the the "Land Lottery" or the "Seashell Lottery."

According to the story, during the time of Passover, in 1909, Mr. Akiva Aryeh Weiss, chairman of the "Ahuzat Bayit" Association, retrieved 60 white seashells and 60 gray seashells from the nearby beach. Inside the white seashells, he wrote the names of the each family that was part of the association . In each gray seashell, he wrote the plot numbers to the land.

A young boy and girl were chosen to select one of each color shell. For sixty times a white and gray seashell was paired together. By matching the family name inside the white shell and the plot number inside the gray seashell, the land was distributed without favoritism.

By 1911, 60 dwellings had been built in the city now known as Tel Aviv.


Some historians believe that the story of the founding of Tel Aviv by Seashell Lottery is just a romanticized story. It does seem to hold true that the land was distributed by lots, but whether seashell or some other method may be open to more scholarly research.

Some historians point out that the foundation for the city may hinge upon how you define the city proper. They point to the existence of earlier neighborhoods such as Neve Tzedek.

Avraham Soskin's Photo of
The Founding of Tel Aviv

There is a photograph that is purported to be the Seashell Lottery, although it does have the appearance of having been staged. The picture was taken by Avraham Soskin and is the basis for the January, 2008, Israel stamp celebrating the founding of Tel Aviv.

Israel Post issued the stamp to mark the approaching centennial of the founding of Tel Aviv. In the foreground of the stamp, a simple depiction of Soskin's photo shows the families attending the lottery to divide the land. Above this setting is a vignette of the modern skyline of Tel Aviv, showing how in just 100 years, the city has grown from a small settlement on a sand dune, to the largest city in the Middle East, and the 17th largest city in the world.

The stamp is available from Israel Post.

Thanks to Philippe and Guido Poppe of Poppe-Stamps for the idea that lead to this article.






Previous Fun Friday Posts


Thursday, May 8, 2008

From the Archives - A Faroese Beauty



Note: This post originally appeared on Stamps of Distinction on February 1, 2008. Readership at that time was very small in comparison to today, so it was very likely missed by most readers. The content of the post was very brief, as I was attempting multiple posts and just did not do enough justice to the stamp nor the world-famous engraver, Czeslaw Slania.






The Faroe Islands are a group of 18 small islands clustered together in the North Atlantic about equidistant between Iceland and Norway. Visited in the 6th century by Irish settlers who brought sheep to the islands, the natural ecology of the land has helped the the sheep to thrive. In fact, sheep outnumber people in the Faroe Islands, which, incidentally, translates to "Sheep Islands."

In 1979, prolific stamp engraver Czeslaw Slania created a masterful stamp depicting the Faroese Ram. The artistic detail of the stoic looking sheep is simply mesmerizing with its rich detail and the engraver's brilliant use of shading.



The ram does not look flat in appearance, but looks three dimensional. In particular, notice how Slania engraved the left corkscrew-shaped horn to make it appear to lift off the page. By using and excluding the use of engraved lines, the engraver creates dark and light areas.



Every collector should try to obtain a copy of this stamp (Scott #42), which can be obtained for about $5.00 USD on popular auction sites like eBay or StampWants.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

U.N.s Endangered Marine Species

The United Nations Postal Authority issued a 12-stamp set depicting endangered marine species on March 6, 2008. The stamp set shows various types of marine life that are in danger of becoming extinct, primarily due to human causes.

As many collectors know, the United Nations Postal Authority issues stamps through three offices -- New York, Vienna, and Geneva. Each location will issue a unique set of 4 stamps, thus making the 12 different stamps being offered. All of the stamps will have the same theme and all of the subjects depicted are of similar species. Each 4-stamp set showcases a coastal mammal, a seahorse, a coral, and a whale.

Canadian artist Suzanne Duranceau designed the 12 stamps being issued. Her beautifully-rendered illustrations showcase each species in vivid coloring. Her faithful attention to detail makes each stamp a collectible piece of artistry.

The 4-stamp set issued by the New York Office is shown nearby. One of the stamps it features is the longsnout seahorse which is the subject of this entry.

The longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi) is commonly found in shallow parts of the Caribbean. They exist in various colors, usually in variations of reds and yellows. Frequently they have darker spots on their skin.

Seahorses are novel creatures in that they female deposits her eggs in a small pouch in the male's abdomen, where they are fertilized and incubated. The male will then give birth to the babies when they are mature enough the be expelled from the pouch.

Unfortunately, of the thousands of seahorses born to a mating pair, most will not survive to adulthood due to natural predators. It is estimated that only 1 or 2 seahorses will survive long enough to produce their own brood of children. This means that the parents are replaced by the children one for one under ideal situations.

But the situation is not always ideal ... seahorse populations are rapidly declining due to a number of factors. The aquarium trade, folk medicinal usage (more common in Asian countries), and even religious uses, have depleted the fragile population of seahorses, especially the longsnout seahorse. Even mechanical causes like boating and fishing, have disrupted the lives and territories of these seahorses, thus their placement on endangered species lists.

With this 12-stamp issue, the United Nations is trying to make the world aware of marine populations that are dwindling. The U.N. has long taken up the cause of making the public aware of endangered species -- they have issued stamps annually for the past 15 years depicting those species that might soon become extinct.

Let's hope that these beautiful stamps are the only extinction that we see during our lifetime.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Spotlight - Philatelic Mineralogy

Philatelic Mineralogy
http://mineralstamps.rbnet.net

Many philatelists love topical collecting. Rather than trying to collect all the stamps of one country or of one era, these collectors collect stamps and covers regarding specific topics. Richard Busch has created a very nice site if you are interested in collecting stamps with minerals, gems, or rocks on them.

Busch started his website, Philatelic Mineralogy, about 10 years ago. While the site hasn't been updated recently, due to some pressing work-related demands, the webmaster hopes to update it soon. He has "many more mineral stamps to scan and upload." What he has already made available will keep you busy for quite a while.

Busch's love of mineralogy started about 45 years ago. It was about a dozen years ago that he branched into collecting mineral stamps.

The site states that the stamps have been scanned in at 150% of their actual size. I did find a few that I suspect might have slipped through the cracks and be closer to actual size. Regardless, all of the stamps on the site are depicted in a large enough size to give you plenty of opportunity to admire the natural beauties imprinted on the stamps.


Macedonia
Scott #106, 107
From the front page, the site is divided into two main indexes ... stamps by country of issue, and stamps by mineral name. The default arrangement is by country, but you can select by mineral if you wish to look for specific topics. Based upon your selection, a list of countries or mineral names appear in the left scrolling sidebar.

I counted almost 70 countries represented and over 130 different minerals by name. Clearly, Busch's love of minerals has transfered to his stamp collecting.

By clicking on a link for a specific country, you are presented with a few facts about the country, its currency and its natural minerals. Below this, the mineral stamps for that country are displayed. When viewing the stamps by mineral name, the layout is similar, but technical information about the mineral is listed instead.

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) link gives quite a bit of information about mineralogy and philately topics, including some research that the author has done on internet topics such as picture quality of stamp images. The site also includes links to other commercial and non-commercial sites relating to minerals.

Whether you collect minerals, gems, or rocks on stamps or not, I encourage you to visit Philatelic Mineralogy at http://mineralstamps.rbnet.net.



Would you like to nominate a website for a Stamps of Distinction Website Spotlight? If so, read and follow the instructions on this link.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Stamp Issuers - Algeria


Algeria, 1924 (Scott #2)
Overprinted French Stamp
Algeria is the second largest country in Africa. It is located on the northern part of Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and is surrounded by a total of seven other countries around its perimeter. The Sahara Desert claims much of the land of Algeria.

Algeria's 19th and 20th century political history, like much of Africa, was dominated by colonization. France began colonization efforts in 1830 by invading its capital city, Algiers. Fierce resistance prevented an orderly takeover of the country. By 1850 the northern parts of Algeria had been taken over, but it took about seventy years, into the 1900s, for France to fully conquer the land and peoples of Algeria.

In 1849, stamps of France were used for mail in Algeria. The cancellation is the only way to identify that the stamp was posted in Algeria.

In 1924, French stamps overprinted with "Algerie" were issued for the country. These stamps are very affordable, with the entire set of 32 Scott-recognized issues cataloging under $10 US. The Scott #1 stamp catalogs a measly 20 cents for either mint, never hinged, or postally used.

By 1926 the first stamps were issued bearing the country's name. The stamps of the early years were inscribed with "Algerie" and bear the tell-tale appearance of French design.

On Sept 1, 1958, Algeria became a part of France and French stamps were used. Four years later, on July 3, 1962, Algeria became an independent country and started issuing their own stamps.


Algeria, 1927 (Scott #66)
Highest Catalog Value
Regular Issue Stamp
Almost every collector should be able to buy the regular issue stamps of Algeria, if you exclude the errors and variations. For example, the regular stamp with the highest catalog value tops out at about $50 for the 10-franc "Marabout [tomb] of Sidi Yacoub" stamp. The second highest catalog value for a regular issued stamp is half of that amount for the 1958 Coat of Arms stamp inscribed "Republique Francaise". How many countries are there where you can purchase the two highest valued stamps for a total of $75? Most of the other stamps, especially those pre-1970 are under $1 with a very high number being at the minimum catalog value.

Once you get into the 1970s and beyond, this changes slightly as higher denominated stamps become more prevalent. But even then the high values in most sets are only a couple of dollars. This country might be a great choice for a budding world-wide collector to start. By using internet auction sites or stamp circuit books, these stamps should be very affordable.

Algeria's semi-postal stamp issues break that trend, though. Many of these stamps are valued at $5 and above. The total catalog value for the semi-postal issues, calculated off-the-cuff, is about $325 for about 115 stamps. For comparison purposes, that same amount would purchase all the regular stamps issued prior to Algerian independence in 1962, which includes the $75 for the two highest value stamps!

The Air Post stamps of Algeria are similarly expensive, although, with one exception, not as bad as the semi-postal stamps. Excluding a variation of the 20-franc "Plane over Algiers" semi-postal stamp that catalogs for $150 in MNH condition (the key stamp for all Scott-recognized stamps of Algeria), the Air Post stamps average about $3 each. Many are around $6, but quite a few are under $1, which helps to lower the average.

Algeria also issued 3 Air Post Semi-Postal stamps, 68 Postage Due stamps, and 2 Newspaper stamps. All of these have low to medium catalog values as well.

All in all, Algeria presents an affordable option for someone wanting to attempt to start a country collection.


Previous Stamp Issuer Topics:

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Incredible Postal Workers Aboard RMS Titanic

It's Fun Friday -- time for some fun for the weekend. Enjoy today's post and I'll see you back here on Monday with more philatelic news and notes.


"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" is often cited as the motto for the U.S. Postal Service. It is not; while this saying is engraved above the Farley Post Office in New York City, it is not the official motto of the U.S. Postal Service nor any postal service for that matter. Yet it does represent the spirit of mail carriers throughout the world. And nowhere does this spirit seem more real than by the actions of the postal workers aboard the R.M.S. Titanic on the night of her demise.

The Royal Mail Ship (R.M.S.) Titanic, was conceived and built as mankind's efforts to tame the seas. She was called unsinkable by many and she represented the apex of what was thought to be man's domination over nature. She sailed in April, 1912, full of hope and promise and triumph as the greatest ship ever built.

As a Royal Mail Ship, Titanic had been commissioned to transport and handle mail from the United Kingdom's Royal Mail postal service. This type of service, called Sea Post, offered postal authorities an opportunity to process the mail during the transit time of the ship's passage, and it offered the ship's owners a reliable and predictable source of income. On board Titanic was a state of the art Sea Post Office where mail would be sorted and canceled in route to the ship's destination. Incredibly, over 3000 mailbags were ultimately loaded onto Titanic for her fateful journey.

On April 10th, Titanic left Southampton, England and set sail for its ultimate destination, New York City. Below decks, five Sea Post workers started their task of sorting the mail.

The five men represented some of the best postal workers of two nations. Americans John March, Oscar Woody, and William Gwinn worked alongside British clerks John Smith and James Williamson on the voyage.

The Accident and The Postal Workers

Late in the evening of April 14, 1912, the ship struck an iceberg and suffered irreparable damage. While the magnitude of the disaster was unknown at the time, the ship was doomed as compartment after compartment began flooding.

"I urged them to leave their work. They shook their heads and continued."
The postal workers rushed to the mail room to begin rescuing the mail. It has been estimated that the workers retrieved up to 200 sacks of registered mail and had carried them to the upper decks on the slim chance that it might get rescued. Even as water began to fill the post office, the men admirably answered the postal workers call of duty to save the mail from destruction. Their admirable efforts might have cost the men their lives; as they tried to get the mail above deck, their chances of getting aboard one of the precious few lifeboats, while slim at best, vanished completely as the chivalrous call for women and children first seized the day.

The men were claimed by the frigid Atlantic waters in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. Coincidentally, it was postal worker Oscar Woody's 44th birthday.

The Aftermath

None of the mail was ever recovered. The icy Atlantic had doomed these five gallant men and claimed all of the mail. But two life-jacketed bodies were later recovered floating in the detritus of the shipwreck. Birthday celebrant Oscar Woody and fellow American John March were recovered. Woody, whose body had badly decomposed was quickly buried at sea after his effects were removed. The body of his fellow co-worker, John March, had fared better; it was able to be interred in a cemetery in New Jersey in the United States. The bodies of the other three men were never located.

Inside Oscar Woody's coat pockets were found facing slips. These pieces of paper were used by the postal workers to label sacks of mail that had been sorted. When attached to a mail sack they would indicate the delivery destination and the sorting clerk's name for tracking purposes. Apparently, Woody had stashed a handful of the facing slips in his pockets while he had been working.

"I saw them no more."
Also found on Woody's body was a chain with some of the ship's mailroom keys on it and the letter assigning Woody to service on the Titanic. These items are the only postal items recovered from the disaster.


So far, no mail has been recovered from salvaging operations. The debate remains unsettled as to whether any of the mail could even be intact after being underwater for such a long time. Ocean currents, tremendous pressures, biological elements, and even the rusting hulk of metal that was once a proud ship would all serve to harm any mail. It seems doubtful that nearly 100 years after the disaster that any mail would have survived.

Honoring the Postal Workers

As word began to spread about the last hours aboard the doomed ship, stories of heroes began to emerge. The incredible story of the postal worker's last actions did not go unnoticed.

Numerous memorials were offered by two grieving countries. Southampton, initial point on Titanic's maiden voyage was also home to most of the ship's crew. The town suffered an incredible loss of 549 lives.

A memorial to the five postal workers aboard Titanic was installed in the High Street Post Office. It was forged from a spare propeller donated by shipbuilder Harland and Wolff. The plaque reads:

This tablet is erected by the Postal and Telegraph Service to the honor and memory of John R. Jago Smith, James B. Williamson, British Sea Post officers, and their American colleagues William H. L. Gwinn, John S. March, [and] Oscar S. Woody who died on duty in the foundering of S. S. Titanic April 15, 1912
"Steadfast in Peril"


In April, 2008, the High Street Post Office was closed. A controversy arose since it was possible that the plaque that adorned the walls would be sold at auction like numerous other Titanic memorabilia. However, Southampton city council members have directed that the memorial be placed in Southampton's Civic Center, thus thwarting any plans to profit from the disaster.


At the time of the disaster, U.S. Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock noted the "bravery exhibited by these men in their efforts to safeguard under such trying conditions the valuable mail intrusted [sic] to them should be a source of pride to the entire Postal Service."

Indeed.