Friday, July 25, 2008

7 Things You May Not Know About Charlie Chaplin

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, 1999

Entertainer Charlie Chaplin was probably the most well-known actor of the early 20th century. After adopting his trademark Little Tramp costume, consisting of baggy pants, bamboo cane, bowler hat, and over-sized shoes, Chaplin became a Hollywood icon. He was the most popular draw in the early days of silent film and, even to this day, when a list of early movie comedians is given, Chaplin is often the first name mentioned.

Chaplin lived a complex life. He could act in a lovable and unassuming manner in his slapstick sketches, or he could be politically defiant, as witnessed in his railing against the rise and rule of Germany's Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictator. He frequently found himself at odds with American political and social mores of the time, which ultimately led to his self-imposed exile to Switzerland, where he died in 1977.

Most Hollywood scholars know the basics of his life, yet there are many interesting facts about Charles Spencer Chaplin that the general public does not know.


  • He was the first actor to appear on Time magazine. Chaplin appeared on the July 6, 1925 issue of Time magazine, a U.S.-based news magazine. He was the first actor ever to appear on the magazine known for its influential cover photo.


  • He won only one non-honorary Oscar, and it was 21 years "late". Chaplin won an honorary Academy Award ("Oscar") in 1929, during the first presentation of awards. Originally nominated in a couple of categories, his name was withdrawn and he was presented instead with a special award. He also received an honorary award in 1972. The next year, however, he won a Best Music Oscar for Limelight, a film he had made 21 years earlier, yet had not been shown in Los Angeles until 1972, thus enabling his nomination and subsequent award.


  • He purposely avoided dialogue in two "talkies". Chaplin wrote, produced, and acted in two movies in the 1930s, well after conversations were prevalent in the "talkies" (motion pictures in which sound was added). Surprisingly, the actors did not talk in these two movies, relying instead on the musical score to set the tone for the movies, and the few spoken words coming from objects such as a radio.


  • He had a fondness for young wives. Chaplin was married 4 times. He was 29 and his first wife was 16 when they married. His second marriage was to 16-year-old Lita Grey, when he was 35. His third and possibly fictional marriage to Paulette Goddard, was rumored to have occurred when he was 47 and she was 28. He married his last wife, Oona O'Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill, shortly after Oona turned 18. Chaplin was 54.


  • He was ordered to pay child support for a child that was not his own. In the 1940s, Charlie had a brief relationship with actress Joan Barry. Several months after their breakup, she claimed that Chaplin was the father of the child to which she had just given birth. When blood tests proved that Chaplin was not the father of the child, Barry's attorney moved to have the tests ruled inadmissible as evidence. Because there was little historical precedent to admit the test results into the trial, the judge did not allow them to be used as evidence of Chaplin's non-paternity. After a mistrial and a retrial, Chaplin was ordered to pay Barry $75 per week for child support, a respectable amount in those days.


  • His corpse was stolen. Three months after Chaplin died on Christmas, 1977, his body was stolen in an effort to extort money from his family. Chaplin's body was recovered 11 weeks later after the grave-robbers were captured. He is now buried under 6 feet of concrete to prevent further theft attempts.


  • He has an asteroid named after him. Four years after his death, Ukrainian astronomer, Lyudmila Karachkina, named an asteroid after him. Ms. Karachkina, discoverer of 131 asteroids, named one of them 3623 Chaplin. It resides in the asteroid "belt" between Mars and Jupiter and appears as a magnitude 12.1 object, making it visible in a moderately strong telescope.


Bonus Trivia:

  • His daughter portrayed his mother in the movie Chaplin. The accomplished actress, Geraldine Chaplin, is Charlie's daughter with his last wife Oona. In the 1992 Hollywood movie adaptation of Charlie Chaplin's life, Chaplin, she portrayed Hannah Chaplin, Charlie's mother.









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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Happy 30th Birthday, "In Vitro Baby," Louise Brown!

Note: This post originally appeared on Stamps of Distinction on June 4, 2008. I have pulled it from the archives because Friday, July 25th is the 30th birthday of Louise Brown, the first in vitro baby.

As this post describes, Portugal has issued what is thought to be the first stamp explicitly addressing the heartbreak of infertility faced by numerous couples. The design of their stamp is a poignant reminder of the feeling of emptiness that many couples have to endure.




Portugal, 2008
Is this the world's first
infertility-themed stamp?

In March, 2008, Portugal's postal authority CTT Correios de Portugal, S.A. may have made postal history when it issued the stamp shown on the left. It is thought that this stamp was the first ever stamp specifically issued to raise awareness of the struggles of infertility. In a March, 2008, article in Linn's Stamp News, the de-facto industry standard for philatelic news, suggests that this is, in fact, the first stamp on this topic.

Infertility is the inability of a couple to conceive a child or, if conceived, the inability to successfully carry the child to delivery. The condition is usually associated with strong emotions such as angst, grief, anger, a sense of incompleteness, and depression. The emotional impact to the affected individual or couple can be devastating.

For years, there were only three primary options available to infertile couples. One was to try home-remedies and "quack" cures, which had successes rates attributable to simple luck. Another was to accept their childlessness, which many did reluctantly. The last, and in my opinion, most noble option, was adoption.

As doctors searched for additional options for this debilitating illness, a new technique, called in vitro fertilization, or IVF, was successfully pioneered by British doctors, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards. On July 25, 1978, their technique led to the birth of Louise Joy Brown, the first baby to have been conceived outside of her mother's body.

Louise's parents had tried for a number of years to conceive a child, but with physically blocked Fallopian tubes, Louise's mother was unable to conceive through natural methods. By removing her eggs, fertilizing them outside of the body, and then implanting them, Louise's mother was finally able to become pregnant and bear a child.

This event became a watershed event in the efforts to find a cure for infertility. It meant that couples who had previously been unable to conceive due to physical impairments stood a much-greater chance of conception. While in the best case, it offers about a 50% success rate in younger women, such a percentage is a marked improvement over the miniscule success rates without IVF. It offered a ray of hope and led to more attempts in finding a cure for the illness.

Unfortunately, the high cost of in vitro fertilization has kept the procedure out of reach of many infertile couples. But each year advances are made and many procedures have come down in cost.

The stamp issued by Portugal is beautifully designed and conveys the hopes of infertile couples with its imagery. The stamp shows a stylized silhouette image of a man and woman embracing a child. The image of the child is almost ghost-like in appearance, symbolizing the hope for the child, yet at the same time highlighting the fragility of conception for infertile couples.

The stamp is denominated as 0.30 Euro (approx $0.47 USD). It is currently available for purchase from Portugal's postal authority.


As an interesting side note, Louise Brown, the first in vitro baby will turn 30 years old on July 25, 2008. She currently works for Great Britain's Royal Mail postal authority. I wonder if she collects stamps?


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ernest Shackleton, Antarctic Explorer

Sir Ernest Shackleton led one of the most incredible Antarctic survival stories of all time. In an epic struggle of man versus nature, Shackleton showed superior skills in protecting his men from certain death at the hands of unbearable cold. In the process, he became immortalized as one of the Britain's epic explorers.

As an accomplished explorer of the Antarctic, Shackleton was granted knighthood in 1909 after reaching the southern-most latitude ever, a scant 112 miles from the South Pole. The journey back to their home base required that he and his crew live off reduced rations, in order to stave off near-certain death. He ultimately return to the United Kingdom a hero.

Even if his story ended there, he would still be fondly remembered as a great explorer of the Antarctic, at a time when many explorers were trying to map the region. But, with exploration in his blood, Shackleton launched his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition as an effort to cross Antarctica, a feat which had never been done.

Men signed up for the expedition at a fevered pitch, but only 56 men were finally selected. Half of that number would actually trek across the continent, while the other half started from the opposite side and placed supply depots at strategic locations. These depots would store food, fuel, and other supplies that would sustain the trekkers as they crossed the continent; without them, the expedition would be doomed.

The expedition ran in to trouble early on, as Shackleton's half of the men, on board the ship Endurance, became hopelessly trapped in an ice jam. The depot-providers, aboard the ship Aurora, had their own difficulties, in which several men perished.

With their ship wedged solidly in the ice, Shackleton had no choice but to weather out the winter season. The hope was that the spring thaw would break up the ice and the journey could continue to their designated starting point for the cross-continent trek. Unfortunately, after about 6 months of being surrounded by ice, the thawing and moving ice pack began to crush Endurance. In November of 1915, the ship sank below the sea, leaving all 28 men on that portion of the expedition stranded on the ice.

Endurance
Trapped in Antarctic ice

For the next 5 months, the crew of Endurance, who had managed to salvage almost everything from the ship, survived on the ice floes. When the ice began to split, they boarded three lifeboats that they had retained and headed for nearby Elephant Island.

Elephant Island is a desolate, ice-covered place, with no natural shelter. Dense fog and strong winds made it inhospitable to almost everything living thing other than migratory penguins and seals. Shackleton knew that he and his crew had no chance for rescue from such an isolated place, so he forged his rescue plan.

Upon landing his men at Elephant Island, plans were established for Shackleton and four other men to sail one of the lifeboats to the island of South Georgia, 800 miles away, through some of the most treacherous waters on Earth. After a brief period to prepare the crew and to ready the lifeboat James Caird for the momentous crossing, the 5 men set sail in a desperation journey in which their failure would probably doom the 23 men left behind on Elephant Island.

Clearly theirs was a last-ditch effort at rescue. The odds for a small boat to cross the storm-tossed waters were infinitesimally small. Yet Shackleton knew that it was the only hope that he and his crew would have.

After two weeks of sailing, including dealing with monstrous waves that threatened to sink the tiny boat, the men spotted the island of South Georgia. Unable to navigate to the harbors on the island, Shackleton was forced to land on the opposite side of the island and climb over mountainous terrain to the tiny village of Stromness. In doing so, Shackleton and his sole companion, having left their three colleagues with the beached lifeboat, became the first people to climb over the mountain to reach the village.

After acquiring supplies and a sailing vessel, Shackleton was able to go back after his men on Elephant Island. Miraculously, not one man on his portion of the expedition had died. The same could not be said for the depot supply team, which had lost 3 men during the mission. The surviving shore party was surprised when Shackleton landed his ship to pick up the survivors.

Ultimately, Shackleton's goal of trekking across the continent did not occur; the rough weather and circumstances had forced Shackleton to abandon his expedition. But he is fondly remembered as a fearless explorer who cared about his men to the point of risking his own life to make sure they were rescued.

Great Britain, 2003
Shackleton, his men, and Endurance

Shackleton's story does not end there. Several years after returning to England, where he wrote his account of the expedition, Shackleton once again got the urge to explore. This time, he set about gathering funding and public support for his plan to circumnavigate Antarctica. While heading south, he began to experience health problems, yet continued on, against his doctor's advice. Then, while preparing for the final push to the start of his expedition, he landed at South Georgia, where 7 years earlier he had arrived via the lifeboat James Caird. But this current visit would be his last, as he died of a fatal heart attack, one day after landfall.

Shackleton was honored by Great Britain as part of their Extreme Endeavours stamp issue. Consisting of 6 stamps, the set was issued on April 29, 2003. Shackleton is depicted on the 42 pence stamp, along with a picture of the doomed ship, Endurance, and several men awaiting rescue.

Other notable people appearing in the set include aviation pioneer Amy Johnson, Mt. Everest conquerors Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, travel writer and Arab explorer Dame Freya Stark, sailor Francis Chichester, and Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott.






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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stamp Issuer Datasheet - Aruba

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


































































































































































Aruba
Basic Philatelic Information
Date of first recognized stamp issue 1986
Date of last recognized stamp issue Active
Previous Stamp Issuer None
Subsequent Stamp Issuer (if a "dead country") N/A
Regular Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 308 Mint Used
Catalog value of first listed stamp $0.25 $0.20
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.25

(Scott #1)

$0.20

(Scott #1)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$7.50

(Scott #192)

$7.00

(Scott #192)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $560 $438
Semi-Postal Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 75 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $1.25

(Scott #B7, B45)

$0.60

(Scott #B7)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$5.50

(Scott #B52)

$3.25

(Scott #B44)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $159 $115
Air Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Special Delivery Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postage Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
War Tax 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
Postal Tax Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postal Tax Due 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.

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.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Stamp Issuer - Aruba

Aruba, 1986 (Scott #1)
Traditional House

The country of Aruba is a small, beautiful island located in the southern Caribbean, just a few miles north of Venezuela. Being outside of the usual ocean and wind currents that prevail in the Caribbean, the island typically has warm and dry weather, causing it to be a favorite spot for tourism, as the weather is much more predictable than many of the other islands of the area.

Native peoples from South America and the Caribbean initially settled the island. The first Europeans to discover the island were explorers sailing for Spain. Their discovery led to the Spanish colonization of the island in the 1500s. Later, in the 1630s, the Dutch began administering the island.

For years, Aruba was part of the Netherlands Antilles, a collective of islands administered by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. After a long diplomatic struggle, the island of Aruba was granted a level of independence in 1986 as a constituent member of the Kingdom, effectively putting it on an equal par with the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles, the other constituents in the Kingdom. Recent moves toward complete independence were scheduled, but have have been delayed, and it is probably only a matter of time until Aruba gains full independence.

Far and away, tourism is the most dominant source of revenue for the island. Its year-round warm temperatures and beautiful white sand beaches make it a popular destination for tourists heading north from Venezuela and south from the United States.

Aruba, 2000 (Scott #196)
250th Anniv. of Alto Vista Church

From a philatelic standpoint, Aruba is an excellent country to collect. After their separation from the Netherlands Antilles into a constituent state of the kingdom, the island nation began issuing stamps. Because this independence status happened in January, 1986, there are only slightly more than 20 years of stamps to collect for the country. All of the stamps are affordable, with the most expensive stamp cataloging at $7.50 (USD) mint and $7.00 used.

Another benefit of adding Aruba to your stamp collecting focus is that they put out a respectable number of stamps each year. They seem to release between 3 and 7 issues per year, with about 3 stamps per issue. Their stamp issuing policy is much better than some small countries who seem to run the printing presses day and night to flood the market with stamps.

Have a great time collecting the stamps of Aruba.




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Friday, July 18, 2008

10 Facts You Didn't Know About Houdini

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, 2002
(Scott #3651)

It is the epitome of fame when one can be identified solely by one name. Mention the names Elvis or Sinatra, and everyone knows that you are referring to the famous entertainers. Mention Washington or Lincoln, and most will quickly realize that these are U.S. Presidents. The same can be said for Houdini, the world-famous magician.

Harry Houdini is likely the greatest and most well-known magician of all time. While his tricks are not mind-shattering by today's standsards like they were during the early days of vaudeville, he was the master showman of his field. He knew how to promote himself and his efforts are still studied by innumerable magicians of today.

His life has been well-documented by various histories and biographies, but a lot of public misconceptions remain. How well do you know Houdini? Chances are that only true magicians or advanced historians will know all of the facts listed below.

  • Houdini was a stage name. Harry Houdini was not his real name. His real name was Erik Weisz and he was born in Hungary in March 1874. His name was Americanized to Ehrich Weiss on immigration papers when his family moved to the United States.


  • Houdini took his stage name from a magician's wife. From his earliest days, Weiss admired the French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. Robert-Houdin had been very popular and was considered a forerunner of the modern magician. Weiss took the stage name Houdini, adding the "i" at the end to indicate that he was "like Houdin".

    But the French magician's real name was Jean Eugene Robert; Houdin was the last name of his wife, which he had added to his own name. Harry Houdini unwittingly derived his stage name after the French magician's wife, and not the magician himself.


  • Houdini falsely claimed he was born in America. Houdini claimed on several occasions to have been born in Appleton, Wisconsin, in the United States, and not Budapest, Hungary as his birth record indicates. It is likely that xenophobia immediately before and after World War I, led him to claim to be a native-born American.


  • Houdini produced and starred in movies. To a master showman seeking a wide audience, cinema provided an unequaled opportunity for fame. Houdini starred in several silent films before establishing his own studio. From there, he produced and starred in two silent films, before realizing that his efforts were not very profitable.

    Collections of his films have recently been released on DVD.


  • Houdini debunked spiritualists. In the early 1900s, many people were caught up in spiritualism as a way of contacting deceased relatives. People who were grieving would often pay enormous sums of money in order to contact the dead. Houdini recognized the spiritualist mediums for what they really were ... charlatans preying upon the delicate emotions of the recently bereaved. Because he was familiar with sleight of hand and other ways of manipulating audiences into believing the impossible, he was able to expose their tricks, which he often did.


  • Houdini did not die due to a failed Chinese Water Tank trick. It is a common misconception that Houdini died either in the famed Chinese Water Tank trick, or immediately after being rescued from the device. This is a myth based in part by a popular 1953 Hollywood semi-biographical movie starring actor Tony Curtis. In reality, Houdini was nowhere near a stage when he died; he died at a Detroit, Michigan hospital, one week after his last performance.


  • Houdini did not die due to a punch in the stomach. The purported cause of Houdini's death is a punch, or more accurately, several punches, to his abdomen by a Canadian college student trying to test Houdini's self-professed ability to "take a punch". When the student delivered repeated punches to Houdini's unprepared abdomen, the magician was staggered and was in pain. Shortly thereafter, he was admitted to Detroit's Grace Hospital and surgically treated for a ruptured appendix. There seems to be little doubt by medical historians that Houdini already had appendicitis, prior to the punches, and that the appendix was not ruptured by the punches, as they are not known to rupture due to trauma. More likely, the sharp pains Houdini felt were due to the appendix already being inflamed, and the rupture being an inevitable side-effect.


  • Houdini died on Halloween day. It seems coincidental that one of the most famous spiritualism skeptic would die on Halloween. Some conspiracy theorists have even advanced the notion that he was poisoned by pro-spiritualists whose livelihoods have been threatened by his debunking of their craft.

  • Houdini and his wife are buried in different places. Houdini was Jewish and was buried in Queens, New York, in a large plot with an elaborate tombstone. His wife, who was a stagehand and often part of his act, survived him by almost 17 years and wished to be interred beside him. At her death, she was denied this wish. It is speculated that because she wasn't Jewish (she was Catholic), she was barred from being buried in the Jewish burial plot. Another speculation involves her surviving families' wishes; they felt it would put her at risk of not going to heaven because of her being buried with a Jew. Regardless of the reasoning, these two performers, who worked together for all of their married life, were interred in two different cemeteries, in two different counties in New York state.


  • Houdini's U.S. postage stamp contains a hidden image. Magic is the art of deception -- everyone knows that a magician doesn't actually make anyone disappear; they just seem to. To honor Houdini's deceptive prowess, the U.S. Postal Service put a hidden image on their 2002 commemorative stamp shown above. With a special viewing lens that could be obtained from the post office (no longer available), one could see the image of Houdini wrapped in chains.







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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why Do We Collect Stamps?



A recent spate of articles on the internet have promoted several themes as to why humans collect things. Written by psychologists sociologists, these articles attempt to explain some of the complex interactions that take place inside the human mind. They explore why some people will dabble in collecting and others will obsessively collect any and every item they can get their hands on.

Why do we collect stamps? This article will try to explore some of the reasons why stamp collectors choose to collect stamps, and more importantly why collectors continue to do so, once started.

  • We want to de-stress. Stamp collecting can be a perfect way to unwind at the end of a busy and stress-filled day. The time spent looking through stamps, finding and filling empty holes in an album, or on other, sometimes menial, collecting tasks help us to reduce the stress of the day. Of course, for the obsessive-compulsive collector, stamp collecting may actually increase stress, as the person struggles with their inner self.

  • We are obsessive. Blank album pages pose a challenge to many collectors. Sometimes, while putting stamps in albums, we see a few "holes" that just beg to be filled. We know we will have to get on an auction site, trade with others, or jump through several hoops just to complete the one page. In fact, some collectors can't seem to rest until they have that special stamp.

  • We like orderliness. "A place for everything and everything in its place" is the perfect motto for folks like these. Some collectors will arrange and re-arrange their collection, especially thematic collectors, as their collection expands.

  • We want to connect. The very essence of philately presupposes communication with others, otherwise there would be no purpose for stamps nor letters. Many collectors make lifelong friends and trade stamps, correspondence, and other paraphernalia in the servicing of their hobby. As a hobby stamp collecting requires that a person establishes connections with others in order to acquire material for their collection. It gives us a sense of belonging.

  • We want to avoid boredom. Imagine a life without stamp collecting. For many, the world would be a much less exciting place. Non-collectors probably won't understand, but those who are active in the hobby know that philatelic pursuits chase out boredom and is the perfect antidote to rainy days, or long winter evenings. There is always something left to be done to a collection; it is never finished.

  • We want praise. Imagine the excitement that a person feels when their stamp exhibit garners the praise of their family, their colleagues, and other collectors. Likewise, personal websites where people share their particular aspect of philately with others.

  • We want to learn. Many collectors will study their stamps and seek out additional information about certain topics. This quest for knowledge can be triggered by something as innocent as seeing a stamp and wanting to learn more about the topic. And stamp collecting is well-known for its ability to lead one to a treasure trove of information about geography, history, nostalgia, and the geopolitical forces that shape countries.

There are many other reasons that people collect stamps. There is a connection to wealth, as we hope to accrue a collection that is worth more next year than today. There is also a connection to permanence and remembrance, since some will want to leave a legacy to their children. But for most of us, the prevailing reason is that we like it! What other reason is needed than stamp collecting is enjoyable?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Story Behind "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"

In America, baseball is called the national pastime. Organized baseball was well into its glory years before other sports such as football, basketball, hockey and soccer were drawing much of an audience. Baseball has infected the American culture with its heroes, its jargon, and its cult of personality. It is only natural that one of America's most popular sing-along songs relates to the sport.

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is a simple tune that tells of a girl who wants her beau to take her to a baseball game instead of to another popular spot. The song turns 100 years old this year, and the United States Postal Service has commemorated the event with a beautiful new stamp.

The song is instantly recognizable to most of those in the U.S. In fact, the song is frequently credited as the third most popular sing-along song in America, after the national anthem and Happy Birthday.

United States, 2008

Incredibly, the author of the song, Jack Norworth, had never been to a baseball game when he wrote the song. He was riding on the subway in New York, when he saw a sign advertising "Ballgame Today - Polo Grounds". The Polo Grounds was the name of the stadium used most notably by the New York (later San Francisco) Giants baseball team.

During the 30-minute subway ride, Norworth, an accomplished songwriter, dashed off the words to the song. Soon thereafter, he took the lyrics to composer Albert Von Tilzer who created the popular tune, which later that year, became a #1 hit.

Around 1910, the song began to be played during baseball games, even though there was a certain irony to singing about being taken to a ballgame, while at a ballgame. Over time it became an anthem to the national sport.

Norworth supplemented his original song of 1908 with new lyrics in 1927. Few people know that there is a story to the song, and most only know the chorus. For those unfamiliar with the song, here are the lyrics to the chorus:

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowds;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.


When the 50th anniversary of the song rolled around in 1958, Major League Baseball presented Mr. Norworth with a lifetime pass to get into any ballpark. It's a shame they waited so long; Norworth died the following year. It is likely that he rarely used his pass, as it took 32 years after the song was written before he had seen his first Major League baseball game.

In 1976, Chicago White Sox announcer Harry Caray unwittingly altered the course of baseball history when he started singing the song during the 7th-inning stretch, an extended break in the action during the middle of the 7th inning of a ball game. Caray would often sing to himself or others in the broadcast booth while it was being played by the stadium's organist. Someone turned on his microphone, unknown to him, and his singing was broadcast to the fans in the stadium. The fans loved it and soon thereafter began to sing with him; singing along to the chorus became a Chicago tradition. Later, when Caray moved to the broadcasting duties of the crosstown Chicago Cubs, whose games were broadcast nationally by superstation WGN, the sing-along started becoming a national occurrence. Soon, fans from every stadium were singing along to the song during the 7th inning stretch.

Today, July 16, 2008, the United States Postal Service issues a 42-cent stamp commemorating this popular song. Drawn in the style of baseball trading cards popular during the song's early days, the stamp design captures a nostalgic essence of the song. It interweaves period typography and even shows the first 6 notes of the song on a music staff.

You can order this beautiful stamp, while supplies last, at http://shop.usps.com






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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stamp Issuer Datasheet - Armenia

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


































































































































































Armenia
Basic Philatelic Information
Date of first recognized stamp issue 1919
Date of last recognized stamp issue Active
Previous Stamp Issuer None
Subsequent Stamp Issuer (if a "dead country") Transcaucasian Federation, Soviet Union (1923-1991)
Regular Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 658 Mint Used
Catalog value of first listed stamp $2.75 $2.75
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

very few

$0.20

very few

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$300.00

(Scott #357)

$300.00

(Scott #357)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $8320+ $8320+
Semi-Postal Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Air Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 2 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $1.00

both

$1.00

both

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$1.00

both

$1.00

both

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $2.00 $2.00
Special Delivery Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postage Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
War Tax 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
Postal Tax Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postal Tax Due 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.

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.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Stamp Issuer - Armenia

Armenia Overprint
One overprint used on
early stamps

Armenia is a small, mountainous, landlocked country bordered by Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. It is the smallest of the republics that gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, of which it was a member.

The country is called Hayastan in the native language. The country's name is thought to derive from Hayk, who, legend has it, founded the Kingdom of Armenia in 2493 BC. Hayk was reputed to be a direct descendant of Noah, and the kingdom he formed encompassed Mount Ararat, the biblical resting spot for Noah's Ark. Mt. Ararat is now part of Turkey, but Armenians still use the symbol as part of their national identity.

Armenia was the first country to officially accept Christianity as their national religion, circa 300 A.D. The country is now officially a secular country, but the Christian roots go very deep, so much so that over 90% of the country are of the Armenian Apostolic church.

Militarily, the country has been conquered many times throughout its history. The Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, and Arabs have all controlled the land at various times. The most brutal oppressors, by far, were the Ottoman Turks, who in the period of 1915 through 1917 are thought to have massacred 1.5 million Armenians. The passage of time has only barely dimmed the pain of this event and Armenia still memorializes this tragedy.

Following Turkey's defeat in World War I, Armenia gained its independence in 1918. Two years later, the Soviet army annexed the country, and by 1922, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan formed the Transcaucasian Federation of Soviet Republics. This federation was absorbed into the Soviet Union. Armenia remained a part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

Armenia, 1992 (Scott #430a)
Part of first set issued
after Soviet Union collapse

From a philatelic standpoint, the postal history of Armenia follows its militaristic history. From 1918 through 1920, overprinted stamps of Russia were used in the region. Following the Bolshevik Revolution, Armenian stamps were printed and used for postage. Then, with the creation of the Transcaucasian Federation, Armenian stamps ceased to be issued after 1922 and stamps of the Soviet Union were used.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union into its constituent republics in 1991, Armenia once again began issuing stamps. After several early years in which just a nominal number of stamps were issued, Armenia has recently started issuing a larger number of stamp designs at more frequent intervals. Clearly, the country has recognized the revenue potential of stamp issues.

Because there were many varieties of stamps issued following World War I, the country is expensive to collect. Scott lists 308 regular stamps in the relatively short period of 1918 through 1922. These stamps have a total catalog value of over $7650 (US), which would indicate an average cost of almost $25 per stamp. Many stamps are much cheaper than the average, but many are more expensive, as well. Fortunately, the stamps issued after 1991 have a more moderate cost.

An interesting fact can be noted about the catalog values of Armenian stamps, as valued by Scott's Standard Postage Stamp Catalog, 2009 Edition. With the single exception of a 1993 4-stamp set, in which the used stamps in the set are 50 cents (US) cheaper than the mint stamps, the catalogue values for every stamp of Armenia, from the earliest overprinted Russian stamps through the two "back-of-the-book" stamps, are identical for both mint and used stamps. You cannot save money by collecting only used stamps for this country, like you can with most other countries.

Have fun collecting the country of Armenia!



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Friday, July 11, 2008

The Bank That Was Sent Through the Post Office

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.



"The Parcel Post Bank"
Vernal, Utah

The U.S. Post Office allows its customers to mail many things besides the familiar letter. A customer can send plants, insects, some types of live animals and some dead ones, too. A direct marketing research company surreptitiously mailed a football, a claw hammer, and even a water ski, with nothing other than adequate postage and a delivery label attached to it, just to see what happened. All were delivered with some chastisement from the destination postal clerk about the items needing to be properly wrapped. But the strangest thing to be sent through the mail was a bank. And not a child's piggy bank, but a savings institution.

Of course, the entire bank couldn't be sent through the mail system, as there are the obvious logistics of moving the building. But the next best thing was mailed -- all of the bricks used to construct the bank, all 80,000 of them.

On January 1, 1913, Parcel Post Service was inaugurated in the United States. This service provides for the shipment of packages between two places. Parcel post service was ideal for rural Americans, who could now use the post office as a delivery method to get packages sent through the mail. Farmers and rural craftsmen especially loved the convenience that it afforded them to get their products to market. City dwellers also used the service at a phenomenal rate. It was one of the most popular services added to basic mail service.

"it is not the intent of the United States Postal Service that buildings be shipped through the mail."
Mr. W. H. Coltharp, a young businessman in the town of Vernal, Utah, wanted to build a building and dedicate it to the memory of his father. After consulting with the directors of the local lending institution in the city, Coltharp proceeded with plans to build a building in which the front corner would be used as a new bank.

The bricks which Coltharp selected were made by the Salt Lake Pressed Brick Company, located about 120 miles away from Vernal, Utah by straight line, and even longer on the trails that weaved through Utah. Coltharp's problem was that the freight costs to haul 80,000 bricks from Salt Lake City to Vernal was prohibitive. The freight charges to ship the bricks to Vernal were about 4 times more expensive than what the bricks cost. In a stroke of creative genius, Coltharp decided he would have the bricks mailed to the small town, taking advantage of the cheap parcel post rates.

In order to meet the postal regulations of the day, Coltharp had the bricks carefully packaged in crates weighing less than 50 pounds, the upper limit of what the post office would permit. News accounts indicate that 40 or so crates were shipped each time, meaning that each attempted shipment was equivalent to one ton.

The trek from Salt Lake City had to take a very circuitous route in order to get to Vernal. First, the bricks were sent to Mack, Colorado, using the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. From there, they went to Watson, Colorado by way of a narrow gauge railroad. Finally the bricks were hauled the final 65 miles to Vernal by freight wagon. The total length of this route was over 400 miles.

As the post offices began to get overwhelmed by the cartons of bricks, the postmasters began to get frantic. Ultimately the entire quota of bricks were delivered, but the post office changed their regulations. The new rules stipulated that the sender and receiver could only ship or receive a total of 200 pounds of goods in a single day. In a clarification of the rule, the postal administration indicated that "it is not the intent of the United States Postal Service that buildings be shipped through the mail."

The Bank of Vernal was completed and was nicknamed "The Parcel Post Bank" by some of the town's residents. The building still exists and is still used as a bank; it now serves as a branch office of Zion's Bank and is located on West Main Street in the city of Vernal.








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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Website Spotlight - BPMA Philatelic Glossary

BPMA Philatelic Glossary

From time to time even the most experienced philatelist will come across a word or phrase with which he or she is not familiar. This might be due to a new technology that is being developed or an area of philately that they have just now started to delve into.

The British Postal Museum and Archives (BPMA) has set up a section of their website where users or groups of users can create pages of information. In popular internet parlance, such sites are called a "wiki", the most famous of which is the popular, user-editable encyclopedia called Wikipedia. One of the wikis on the BPMA website is the Philatelic Glossary.

The Philatelic Glossary wiki is a user-controlled website in which dictionary entries for philatelic terms are listed. The glossary's entries are intended to be a brief description and not an encyclopedic entry. The site's intent is to give a short definition and not bog the user down with (usually) unneeded details.

However, the beauty of a wiki, and also its detriment, is that anyone can edit a wiki's definitions. Suppose you are an expert in pneumatic tube mail. There may be some terms that you find missing from the Philatelic Glossary that you think should be added. The Philatelic Glossary allows you to create new entries for the benefit of others. It is an excellent way of experts sharing their knowledge with more novice philatelists.

When editing the glossary, the user has access to an online HTML editor that allows the simple text manipulations. The user can choose to emboldened a word, italicize some text, or do several manipulations to make it more user friendly.

There is also a Google Group for discussion about the Philatelic Glossary wiki (and other wikis that are available from the BPMA website). I would strongly recommend that you participate in that group before making changes to the hard work that the others have done. I'm sure your ideas would be welcomed.

For its efforts in expanding the knowledge of philatelist everywhere, Stamps of Distinction is proud to recognize the BPMA Philatelic Glossary with a Website Spotlight.

The site can be reached at http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/wiki/PhilatelicGlossary.




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, July 9, 2008

The Hoopoe

Austria, 2008
The hoopoe

Unless you live in Europe, Asia, or Africa, it is very unlikely that you have ever seen a hoopoe (pronounced hoo'-poo or sometimes hoo'-poh). Austria Post has made the bird more readily available to those outside of its native range with a recently issued set of two stamps advocating environmental protection. One of the stamps in that set depicts the hoopoe.

The hoopoe has quite a unique look. With its distinctive coloration, a fan-like crest atop its head, and a mouth dominated by a long, slightly down-curved beak, the hoopoe is instantly recognizable.

Even its call is quite recognizable as a three syllable oop-oop-oop. The "oo" sound in its call has led to its name of hoopoe and well as its scientific name of Upupa epops (pronounced oo-poo'-pa ee'-pops).

The magnificent crest as shown on the Austrian stamp is not usually upright unless the bird is alarmed or otherwise excited. Normally, the crest lays down nearly flat and the plumage that is upright when the bird is alarmed will protrude rearward.

When the hoopoe flies, its flight is not always direct and it will sometimes flit to and fro. This flight is not as carefree as one might think, as hoopoes are able to avoid trained falcons who chase after them.

Humans have been in contact with the hoopoe for a long time, and the bird has even been identified in several religious texts. In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, for example, the hoopoe is listed among the birds, such as eagle, the great owl, and the vulture that are not to be eaten.

Even though the bird is not kosher for Jewish food, it is well known in Israel. In late May, 2008, in a contest to pick the Israeli national bird, the hoopoe won with a majority of votes.

Austria Post released this stamp, as well as one showing the bee hawk-moth, part of its environmental protection stamps, on June 13, 2008. Each stamp has a face value of 0.75 EUR (about $1.18 US). The stamps can be purchased from Austria Post at http://www.post.at.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Stamp Issuer Datasheet - Argentina

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











































































































































































































































Argentina
Basic Philatelic Information
Date of first recognized stamp issue 1858
Date of last recognized stamp issue Active
Previous Stamp Issuer None
Subsequent Stamp Issuer (if a "dead country") N/A
Regular Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 2453 Mint Used
Catalog value of first listed stamp $1.50 $30.00
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

many

$0.20

many

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$7,500.00

(Scott #10)

$4,500.00

(Scott #15A)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $30,000+ $16,000+
Semi-Postal Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 192 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

many

$0.20

many

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$400.00

(Scott #B11)

$250.00

(Scott #B11)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $775.00 $585.00
Air Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 154 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

few

$0.20

many

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$700.00

(Scott #C29)

$500.00

(Scott #C29)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $1570.00 $917.00
Air Post Semi-Postal 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

(major Scott Numbers only)

$22.50

(Scott #CB6)

$14.00

(Scott #CB6)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $66.00 $49.00
Special Delivery Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postage Due Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
War Tax Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Official Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = ~150 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.20

many

$0.20

many

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$200.00

(Scott #O21)

$150.00

(Scott #O21)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $665.00 $444.00
Newspaper Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Parcel Post Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = 3 Mint Used
Catalog value of least expensive stamp $0.75

(Scott #Q1)

$0.75

(Scott #Q1)

Catalog value of most expensive stamp

(major Scott Numbers only)

$22.00

(Scott #Q3)

$22.00

(Scott #Q3)

Estimated total catalog value of recognized issues $36.75 $36.75
Postal Tax Stamps
Number of Stamps in Catalog = None
Postal Tax Due 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.

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.


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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Friday, July 4, 2008

9 Facts That You Might Not Know About the Statue of Liberty

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.


The first face that many late 19th and early 20th century immigrants to the United States saw upon entering her waters was that of the Statue of Liberty. Her solemn eyes and iconic countenance promises the hope of a new life for those leaving one of despair. As America welcomed the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses, our Lady Liberty, graciously given by the French over 120 years ago, has raised her torch as a beacon of hope for those New York bound passengers.

Formally called Liberty Enlightening the World, this world-renown statue has been a symbol of freedom throughout the world. And for millions of immigrants, she represented their new home, one filled with possibilities and yet, at the same time, fraught with anxiety. Many came penniless, or nearly so, hungry, and beaten down, longing for change and hoping upon hope that their tomorrows in this new land would outshine their yesterdays.

Here are some facts that you might not know about this great statue:

  • The statue was assembled twice. The statue was designed by Frenchman Auguste Bartholdi. After designing smaller scale working models, he and his crew built the full-size statue in Paris. Once fully built, the statue was disassembled, crated up, and shipped across the Atlantic for re-assembly in the United States.


  • Civil War General Sherman selected the statue's location. General William Tecumseh Sherman, Union leader during the U.S. Civil War who famously conducted his "march to the sea" to help end the war, was appointed to select the site for the statue. He chose Bedloe's Island, later renamed Liberty Island, as the location.


  • The statue functioned as a lighthouse. In 1886, U.S. President, Grover Cleveland, ordered that the statue serve as a lighthouse. After several failed attempts using the then-new electrical technology, the electric arc lights were eventually lit and were able to be seen from a distance of 24 miles away. The statue functioned as a lighthouse for the next 16 years, until March 1, 1902.


  • The statue was the tallest iron structure ever erected. In 1886, when the statue was assembled, Lady Liberty was the tallest iron structure ever built. Even though the outside is clad with copper sheets, an iron infrastructure was used to create the framework of the statue. Designed and created by Gustave Eiffel, the inner framework served as a sort of proving grounds for his later iron creation, the Eiffel Tower.


  • The copper "skin" is only 3/32ths of an inch thick. The copper cladding that covers the statue is surprisingly thin. Since the weight of the structure is carried by its internal framework, the metalsmiths were able to reduce the thickness of the copper. The copper sheets were originally 1/2-inch thick, but were hammered down the 3/32ths of an inch during construction, which is less than the thickness of 2 U.S. pennies.


  • The U.S. Congress once appropriated money to paint the statue. In 1906, the Congress of the United States voted to appropriate $62,000 to paint the statue. The original copper had started developing its beautiful blue-green patina, and some politicians were upset with the change. Public outcry kept the statue from being painted.


  • The copper patina is preserving the statue. Copper develops its patina as a result of exposure to air. Once the pristine copper has turned blue-green ("patinated") the patina serves to reduce further oxidation. Thus the patina serves to protect the copper from further deterioration. Studies have revealed that only the top 5% of the skin has oxidized in the first 100 years, with most of that occurring in the first 10-25 years through a process called early oxidation.


  • The flame has been changed three times. Bartholdi's original design of the flame was for it to be constructed of copper and clad in gold. Hoping to make it more of a navigational beacon, it was first changed so that portholes could be added and it could appear to be lit from within. When that idea failed, Gutzon Borglum, who later went on to design and create Mount Rushmore, made the second change by adding glass panels and copper framing. This design leaked terribly and caused further deterioration within the statue. Finally, as part of the 1986 restoration project, Bartholdi's original flame design was recreated and installed and is visible today.


  • Lady Liberty stands amidst broken shackles. Due to the placement of the statue, and the height of the pedestal, visitors cannot see Lady Liberty's feet. She is standing among a broken shackle and chains, symbolic of freedom from oppression that she represents.




I'm not sure if America has fulfilled every hope for all of the immigrants who first glanced Lady Liberty's torch, but I know that America tries to offer the best chance. America is a nation of immigrants. Over 300 million people call this land home and with the exception of a relatively small number of Native Americans, every single one of them is either an immigrant or descends from one. And even those Native Americans arrived to this land via the Bering Strait, so I suppose we all are immigrants.

Some other country may offer better health, while another country may offer nicer living conditions. Still, others may offer lower taxes, less crime, fewer politics, or greener grasses, but none seem to offer the kind of hope that extends from Liberty's uplifted torch and reaches its pinnacle in the heart and soul of the people of America. It is a hope that was best expressed by Emma Lazarus:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus" (1883)








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Thursday, July 3, 2008

A 19th Century Ship Built in the 21st Century

Sweden, 2008
Tre Kronor af Stockholm

The death knell for sailing ships was sounded with the dawn of the steam engine. As the merchant trade demanded faster and more reliable means of transportation, wind-driven cargo ships started their long slide into obscurity. Today, just a tiny fraction of the ships that ply the seas are wind-driven, and almost all of those are used for recreation or historical purposes.

From an idea conceived in 1993, the Stockholm Brig Society (Sweden) has supported efforts to build a sailing ship modeled after an 1857 Brig named Gladan. Brigs are two-masted sailing ships with square sails. For their size, they are easy to maneuver and with their sail configuration can move quickly through the water.

By the late 1950s, the last authentic Swedish brig had been scrapped. So, the idea was born to create a replica sailing brig and the builders chose to model their new ship on the brig Gladan. The shipbuilders had access to the rich documentation of the Gladan including original plans and photographs.

Sweden, 2008
Gunilla

Even though the new ship, named Tre Kronor af Stockholm (Three Crowns of Stockholm), was modeled after the 1850s Gladan, modern methods of construction were used. The plans for the new ship were developed from the Gladan's original plans using advanced computer technology. Plus, the shipbuilders used modern technologies such as chainsaws and electric tools during the ship's construction. Even though the ship reminds contemporary folk of the glory days of sailing ships and its rich history, traditional tools gave way to modern tools in order to expedite her construction.

Sweden honored its sailing ships on a 4-stamp set of stamps issued on May 15, 2008. The stamps depicted are the schooners Falken and Gladan (not the same as the brig described above), the barque Gunilla, the ketch Gratitude, and the topic of this entry, the brig Tre Kronor af Stockholm.

The stamps have a face value of 11 Swedish kronor, about $1.85 US, each.

You can order these stamps from Sweden Post at http://www.posten.se/m/startpage (English).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Are Number 1 Stamps Affordable? - Part 2

Aden, 1937 (Scott #1)
First stamp for Aden

It has been a couple of months since I started investigating the cost of collecting "number 1" stamps. You can find my original article, dated April 23, 2008, here.

As a refresher, a number 1 stamp is the first stamp listed in a catalog for a specific stamp issuer. As reader Svend astutely pointed out in the comments to my original article, classifying a stamp as number 1 can depend on various factors.

One of the factors is obviously catalog selection. I use Scott's Standard Postage Stamp Catalog, but many collectors prefer other catalogs. Each catalog determines their stamp numbering by several characteristics, so a number 1 stamp in Scott may not be the same stamp as a number 1 in the Michel catalog or a number 1 in the Stanley-Gibbons catalog.

Further complications arise due to how the stamps are listed. Generally, stamp catalogs list a series of stamps in order of increasing denomination, starting with the lowest face value of the series. For these catalogs, a series of stamps will have the lowest denominated stamp listed as number 1. This may not be the first stamp issued, as sometimes the first stamp is a higher value, with lower denominations being "filled in" as the situation warrants.

There is also the complication of how you determine a stamp is a number 1 stamp when the country achieves independence from another country. When the country of Afars and Issas (modern day Djibouti) started issuing their own stamps, instead of using stamps of French Somililand, the Scott stamp catalog continued numbering the stamps from their original numbering scheme. Thus the earliest stamp for Afars and Issas is number 310. Even though there is no #1 stamp for Afars and Issas, some collectors will consider stamp #310 as the "#1" stamp for the country.

Finally, some stamps that at one time were labeled as a number 1 stamp are later found to be a local issue and are removed from the catalog. This step leaves a vacant spot in the numbering scheme. For example, Afghanistan does not have a stamp listed in Scott as number 1, probably because the stamp Scott had originally labeled as number 1 was later found to be of very limited availability. Most major stamp catalogs will not list stamps that had limited use and were not available to sell to the general public.

Collecting number 1 stamps should be tailored by the individual and not be a set of rules. I have chosen to go with the first stamp listed for each country recognized by the Scott catalog, but you may choose others. However, consistency will be the key. In the data table that follows, I have tried to be consistent in my approach.

Here is an updated list of the number 1 stamps for each of the countries that have been documented in this blog. The list has been updated to include the 2009 Scott catalog values, whereas the previous article used an earlier version. As always, the values are quoted in U.S. Dollars


Issuer
First Stamp
Year of Issue
Mint
Used
Abu Dhabi
#1
1964
$2.50
$3.25
Aden
#1
1937
$4.50
$2.75
Aden, Kathiri State of Seiyun
#1
1942
$0.20
$1.00
Aden, Quaiti State of Shihr and Mukalla
#1
1942
$1.50
$1.00
Afars and Issas
#310
1967
$4.00
$3.00
Afghanistan
#2
1871
$500.00
$25.00
Aquera, La
#1
1920
$2.60
$2.60
Aitutaki
#1
1903
$4.75
$7.00
Ajman
#1
1964
$0.20
$0.20
Alaouites
#1
1925
$2.25
$2.75
Albania
#1
1913
$725.00
$600.00
Alexandretta
#1
1938
$2.00
$2.00
Algeria
#1
1924
$0.20
$0.20
Allenstein
#1
1920
$0.40
$0.80
Andorra, French Administration
#1
1931
$0.70
$0.70
Andorra, Spanish Administration
#1
1928
$0.55
$0.55
Angola
#1
1870
$2.25
$1.40
Angra
#1
1892
$5.00
$2.75
Anguilla
#1
1967
$45.00
$32.50
Anjouan
#1
1892
$1.25
$1.25
Annam and Tonkin
#1
1888
$40.00
$32.50
Antigua & Barbuda
#1
1862
$950.00
$600.00



There are 22 stamp issuing countries (or entities) listed in this table. Surprisingly, only 2 countries have number 1 stamps in used condition that are prohibitively expensive (Albania and Antiqua & Barbuda). If you go for mint stamps, then only 1 more country (Afghanistan) would be considered expensive. All the rest are affordable, and some would be considered very affordable with a vast majority under $5.

As I noted in my initial review, the results truly surprised me and I promised that I would return from time to time to see if number 1 stamps are still considered affordable. I wanted to see if my initial sampling was in some way biased and not indicative of reality. However, with a total of 22 stamp issuers, the conclusion still remains that number 1 stamps are affordable.

As more countries are analyzed, I will conduct more analysis to see if the theory that number 1 stamps are affordable continues to be true.

So far, so good.