A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar


A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Colombia - Bud's Big Blue

Colombia Earlies
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations
When its first adhesive stamps were issued, Colombia was known as The United States of Granada (rhymes with armada and Nevada, to be distinguished from Grenada which rhymes with cicada).   I didn’t have any of these earlies when these scans were made, but later found one (shown above in the middle of other newfounds). The placename Grenada pops up often enough in Central and South America, perhaps owing to explorers coming from the Spanish region of Andalusia, the location of medieval and present day Granada.

Political and economic turmoil ooze from Columbia’s stamps and serious collectors benefit from insights into these underlying instabilities, there being too many to list here. Specialists have long sought to sort through the philatelic rubble of sovereign states issues, consular overprints, local posts, private carriers, fakes, provisional issues, civil wars and revolts -- Panama’s independence providing one of many philatelic disarrays.

Much work remains, and generalist collectors can help. Items of uncommon historical interest sometimes turn up in feeder albums. Sadly, I see none in the following scans. Tell me if you spot any.

Census: 208 in BB spaces, 26tip-ins, 120 on supplement pages, six in header.

Jim's Observations
Many of the early Colombians through 1904 were issued in multiple perforation formats: imperforated, sewing machine perforation, and regular perforation. In fact Scott often, but not always, recognizes the Imperf variety as the major number; relegating the perforated and/or "sewing machine perf" to a minor number. 

With over 200 stamp spaces in Big Blue, one can hardly argue that the coverage is meager. But Big Blue ignores whole categories of stamps that any collector with a passing interest in Colombia should have. The most egregious absence are the Colombian States, which was dropped by the '69 editors.

Colombia Blog Post and Checklist

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ascension - a closer look at the stamps and issues

1924 Scott 10 1/2p black & gray
"Seal of the Colony"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2017 Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Ascension 1922-1949, 63 total major descriptive numbers. Of those major numbers, 41 were issued between 1922-1938, while 22 were issued between 1942-1949.

Of the 41 catalogue numbers between 1922-1938, only 6 (15%) are CV <$1-$1+. The 22 catalogue numbers between 1942-1949 yield 13 (59%) that are CV <$1-$1+.

Clearly, the 1922-1938 issues are somewhat expensive. If one raises the bar to $10+, then 22 (54%) are available for the 1922-1938 period.

The Ascension issues are perhaps a bit more interesting than most British island colonies, as the earlier issues are in a large pictorial format, and then the 1934- 1949 issues include plenty of George V & VI bi-color engraved pictorials.

The original blog post and checklist for Ascension is here.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 Pence = 1 Shilling
20 Shillings = 1 Pound
1922 Scott 3 1 1/2p rose red 
Stamps and Types of St. Helena 1912-22 Overprinted
Between 1855-1922, some 63 different British stamps on covers can be found with a datestamp of Ascension, which was used as a Royal Navy stopover between 1816-1922.  In Scott, these stamps have a number prefix "A", are quite expensive, are specialist territory, so I will say no more about them.

The first issue for Ascension consisted of nine stamps in large format released on November 2, 1922. They are stamps and types of St. Helena, overprinted "Ascension" in black or red. This makes sense, as the small volcanic island, with only a population of 100+, had been just annexed administratively to British St. Helena.

Ascension Island is found in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, and is located 800 miles from St. Helena!

The stamps show the Government House on the Wharf on St. Helena.

The 1/2p green & black, the 2p gray & black, the 8p dull violet & black, and the 3sh violet & black were special printings that do not exist without the overprint.

CV is a robust $7+-$30+ for six stamps.

And, as one can imagine, considering the small population and only one post office (Georgetown), "used" generally have a higher CV than "unused" during the classical era for Ascension.

1924 Scott 11 1p green & black
"Seal of the Colony"
Between 1924-1933, a twelve stamp issue featuring the "Seal of the Colony" was released. Actually, as Ascension was part of the St. Helena colony, the public seal of the colony is a scene from St. Helena, showing a three masted ship near the cliffs. In 1874, when the original badge was drawn, the flag depicted was a White Ensign.

Of interest, the SG Commonwealth & British Empire 1840-1970 catalogue illustrates some six constant plate flaws found for the issue. These are worth CV wise 10-20 X the base price, and the WW collector might want to check his/her collection.

CV is $6+-$20+ for eight stamps.

1934 Scott 26 2p orange & black
"Map of Ascension"
The 1934 engraved George V pictorial issue of ten stamps is one of the better pictorial issues produced, in my view, for British colonies. There were six scenes, and also a map of Ascension depicted, as shown above.

The (now protected) endemic Green Sea Turtle is also illustrated, which comes ashore to lay eggs from November to May.

Ascension Island
Here is a map of Ascension Island - 34 sq mi (88 sq km).

Charles Darwin, with his 1836 Beagle Voyage, described it as arid and treeless.

As the saying goes.."People of St. Helena know they live on a rock, but the poor people of Ascension live on a cinder"

1934 Scott 27 3p ultramarine & black
"Long Beach"
Long Beach is a golden sand beach near Georgetown. Although it looks inviting, the undercurrents make it unsafe for swimming. On the other hand, it is one of the main nesting sites for the Green Turtle.

1934 Scott 28 5p blue & black
"Three Sisters"
The Sisters are a volcanic outcropping 445 meters high (1,460 ft).

CV for the 1934 issue has seven stamps @ $1+-$5+.

1934 Scott 30 1sh carmine & black
"Sooty Tern Breeding Colony"
On Wideawake Fair (see map) was and is a Sooty Tern breeding colony. They are also known colloquially as "wideawake birds", because of their incessant calls.

What a great looking stamp!

1944 Scott 40 1/2p violet "Georgetown"
Between 1838-1953, a sixteen stamp George VI pictorial issue was released. Five scenes from the 1934 George V issue were recycled.

Three Scott major number stamps were released in 1938, one in 1942, nine in 1944, two in 1949, and one in 1953.

Various minor number perfs can also be found.

Of note, the SG 1840-1970 catalogue illustrates four constant plate flaws for this issue.

A Naval base was founded at Georgetown on Ascension in 1816, in order to prevent the French from making use of the island if they (the French) attempted to rescue Napoleon, who had been banished to St. Helena island.

Georgetown Today
Today, Georgetown consists of the Anglican St. Mary's Church, a pier, an athletics track, a post office, police station, hotel, library, hospital, dentist, and a small supermarket. The school is located three miles inland.

1938 Scott 41 1p green "Green Mountain"
Imported seeds, vegetables and fruit trees were planted on Green Mountain to supplement the turtle meat diet in the 1820s.

Today, it is essentially an artificial forest, what with all the introduced species put there over the years. But now, it is managed to conserve the remaining endemic species.

1944 Scott 42 1 1/2p red 
"Pier at Georgetown"
The Pier at Georgetown is where one would land if one wished to visit. The metropolis of Georgetown (200 people) awaits! ;-)

1949 Scott 43C 2p red "Green Mountain"
Perf 14
Green Mountain and "The Peak" is the highest on Ascension Island at 2,818 ft (859 meters).

For the sixteen stamp major number issue, eleven stamps are CV <$1-$3.

Deep Blue
1934 Issue "Scenes of Ascension" in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has seven pages for the 1922-1949 stamps of Ascension. All the major Scott numbers have a space. In addition, there is a page for the various minor numbers for the perforation varieties of the 1938-49 George VI pictorials.

1922 Scott 5 3p ultramarine
Stamps and Types of St. Helena 1912-22 Overprinted
Out of the Blue
I would like to visit, wouldn't you?

Note: Map and the "Georgetown Today" pic appear to be in the public domain.

Comments appreciated!

Monday, June 19, 2017

China - Bud's Big Blue

China Cinderella
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations
BB’s crowd of collectors ordinarily need not worry about asset-class stamp market trends.  We have a hobby, not a speculative investment portfolio. China is the exception.

While over the past decade or so CV for most stamps changed minimally, prices for China’s sky-rocketed. Some dealers say China sales have kept them in business while demand for the rest, except luxury stamps, declined. The Chinese now have more money than they used to, and fewer empty rice bowls. And they like collecting.

So, when’s the right time to fill BB’s blank China spaces? Today? Forty years ago? A hundred? Ten years from now?

 The following Table traces the rapid inflation of Chinese stamp prices.

Catalog Values ($s, used examples) for Selected BB China Spaces
Scott # / Year
10
11
16
18
28
78
79
total
1911
$0.36
$0.36
$0.12
$0.12
$0.08
$0.08
$0.08
$1.20
1933
0.50
0.35
0.75
0.60
0.20
0.25
0.50
3.15
1970
1.75
2.00
1.35
0.75
0.40
0.60
3.50
10.35
1993
10.00
10.00
6.00
3.00
5.75
50.00
70.00
154.75
2011
30.00
40.00
32.50
25.00
30.00
250.00
375.00   
782.50
2013
100.00    
140.00
47.50
37.50
32.50
300.00
450.00
1107.50
2016
100.00    
140.00
47.50
37.50
32.50
300.00
450.00
1107.50
2017
90.00
120.00
47.50
37.50
32.50
275.00
400.00
1002.50
                   Source: Scott catalogs

Depending on whether we’re retail shoppers or scavengers, speculators or compromisers, or just patient waiters, we require some plan of attack. Scavenging feeder albums worked for me but, in the 1970s, retail shopping would have been a better strategy. The recent slowdown in prices might suggest waiting a few years. But prices might boom rather than bust. Maybe it’s better to settle for damaged space fillers, or even fakes. My guess: old feeder albums are still the best shot at getting a bargain.

At some point I placed J25 on top of J7 so that the latter is not visible; that is now corrected.

Census: 214 in BB spaces, 29 tipped in, 64 in supplement

Jim's Observations
I really like classical era Chinese stamp issues.* I recall, as a young collector, the Chinese "Junk" stamps; a window into an exotic world not known by a provincial Minnesota boy. Even now, this "sophisticated" world wise collector finds them in the top ten of all time best designs.

But if one wants to be successful evaluating the Chinese issues, better plan on using all of one's philatelic tools and skill.**  Challenging, to say the least. It is true that Big Blue generally requires very little of the collector as long as the space "fits". No problem- this is a hobby after all.  But if one would like to identify which stamp one has out of several possibilities, then the use of the magnifying glass for all the secret marks and the re-engraving, the watermark tray, and the perforation gauge is necessary. 

* I am a member of the China Stamp Society

** And having a daughter-in-law who is a native speaker is helpful too. !

China Blog Post and Checklist

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Comments Appreciated!