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 by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Minkus Supreme Part 4 US-Zanzibar: 1967-70 - A Review

Part 4: 1967-70 Minkus Supplements
Beyond the Classic Blues
Although my collecting interest has been heretofore discovering the WW classical stamp era, I've turned my focus recently to the stamp issues of the 1940s through the end of the 1960s.

If you would like to read more about the rationale, review the recent Beyond the Classic Blues: An Introduction post.

Yet the question remains: If one is going to collect WW beyond the classics - what would be a good cut-off date?... If any?

Every WW collector will answer that question in a different way, depending on their own interests, their tolerance for "stamp relevancy", and their willingness to drink more and more water from a fire hose (Increasing volume of stamp issues), to use a metaphor.

What is mine? Let's explore...

Yvert Les Semi-Modernes 1941-1960 WW Two Volume Catalogue
Yvert has a catchy term for the immediate post classical era: The Semi-Modernes. I agree that the 1941-1960 stamp period was a simpler time - the stamps were (still) mono-colored for the most part, the stamp themes had relevancy for the country, and postal authorities had not yet figured out in a systematic way how to financially exploit the collector to the max.

And this is the period of WW II and the aftermath. New countries came into existence. Some found themselves under the hegemony of the Soviets.

The cold war was born.

This was also the era where home grown patriots began to throw off colonial shackles, although this effort often lasted for another 5-20 years.

And the stamps themselves are generally inexpensive during this time.

Me? I'm all in. 

Stanley Gibbons 1840-1970
Well, what about the 1960s up to 1970?

Stanley Gibbons has an interesting catalogue (pictured above) that covers the British Commonwealth countries until 1970. Why until 1970? Because, by then, many of the British Commonwealth countries has achieved nominal independence, or were well on their way to that goal.

New countries were free to have their own themes on stamps, not just showing another stodgy monarch, or a design primarily dictated by the mother country.

Should be a no-brainer for the WW collector, right?

Well, there were countervailing tendencies that give a collector pause.

* The rise of topical collecting, with the increasing flood of issues featuring bird, flower, painting, space, Olympic etc themes. If the topical issue is directly relevant to the country, that would be generally acceptable for many collectors. What about issues that have only tangential topical relevance for the country? And then consider the rising volume of topical issues (and expense to collect)!

* The rise of postal administrations who view the collector as a cash cow. If one is a poor country with a small literate population, how many issues before it is exploitative?

* The sheer volume. Even if the stamps are relevant culturally, will they become a chore to collect because of the increasing output? (Drinking from a Fire Hose problem.)

I don't have a great definitive answer, but my gut feeling is WW collecting ran into trouble in the 1980s. Too much of the negative variables outlined above. Of course, one could still collect countries that did not succumb.

Frankly, I'm also ambivalent about the stamps of the 1970s. For one, I don't care much for some of the stamp designs. I find the U.S. stamps of the era often positively ugly. Sorry, but there is no accounting for taste. 

But, I am naturally interested in history that I lived through (Vietnam War era), and I am still very much fascinated by culturally and geographically relevant stamps, regardless of when they were issued. So, I haven't yet made up my mind about the 1970s.

And so we finally come to the direct question for this blog post - a review of the 1967-70 stamp era using the Minkus Global pages.

Let's take a look....

Big Red
Minkus Supreme Global Stamp Album Pages
Part IV: Contains 1967-70 Supplements
Thick paper; 631 2-sided sheets
Amos Advantage offers the 1967-70 supplements for the Global Supreme album ("Big Red"), and calls them "Part 4"(Cost: $255). They are on thick paper, and are two hole punched for Minkus two post binders, and three hole punched for the standard (American) three hole ring binder. I take advantage by putting the pages in 1 1/2" heavy duty Avery D-ring binders. Pages can be quickly moved or added (quadrilled pages), and clear interleaving  sheets can be added as needed. The 1 1/2" D-ring binders are easily handled, compared to the large heavy 4 inch Minkus binders stuffed with pages. It takes four of the D rings to house the typical pages found in one Minkus binder.

One can get a feel for the volume increase in WW stamp production by considering that the 1967-70 supplements take up 631 2-sided pages, while the Minkus 1953-1963 (Part 2) pages, a span of eleven years, have only 599 2-sided pages.

Note, Amos Advantage, at the time of this post, only offers Minkus Supreme supplements without a break through 1978; after that the availability is spotty throughout the 1980s-90s time period, and then the availability picks up again in the 2000's.

Index of Countries 1967-70
Number in (   ) represents number of pages for each country
The 1967-70 supplements bundle has an index page where all countries in the supplements are listed alphabetically, AND with the number of pages for a country is enumerated. I think it would be interesting to look at the number of pages for selected countries and to comment on that.

For that purpose, I have divided the Index into five scanned strips.

Let's begin..
Index Scanned in Five Strips
Click on Scan of Interest for Enlargement
What stands out here are the number of pages required for Russia (30). Soviet sphere Albania (22), Hungary (24), Poland (24), and Romania (20) also have a high number. It should come as no news to collectors that the Soviets used stamps as a propaganda tool glorifying their achievements. And, perhaps to add some needed cash from collectors.

Actually, I have no problem with the stamp topics themselves during the cold war era for the Soviet countries, as the stamp topics, themes, and subjects are relevant to them.

A more normal stamp production for the era is reflected in the United States (10), Argentina (6), Austria (8), and Portugal (6).

But why does Qatar have 12?

Gold/Silver foil round stamps, Kennedy stamps, Olympics, Astronauts,World Cup, Apollo project, boy scouts, and more astronaut stamps.

"Postage Stamp" San Marino has 6, Italy (4), Brazil (8), India (4), and Israel(4).

Then Bhutan has 20!

What a shame. I would have enjoyed culturally relevant stamps with a reasonable output from Bhutan.

Gold foil round stamps, boy scouts, girl scouts, astronauts, Olympics, butterflies, fish, insects, birds, Apollo 11 moon landing, paintings (western - no cultural relevancy to Bhutan), and a 12 stamp imperforate pictorial set depicting the history of steel making.

Sweden has 6, Switzerland(4), and China (10).

This might be a good time to relate what is NOT in the 1967-70 supplements, and other Minkus time era supplements.

* "China" only consists of the "Nationalist Government in Formosa" (Taiwan) coverage.  And prior 1950-67 coverage of the People's Republic of China (PRC) is non-existent also. No doubt lack of coverage of PRC  is a Minkus cold war legacy. I asked  Amosadvantage about this, and they graciously sent me the Minkus Specialized "Peoples Republic of China" pages 1950-1973, printed on one side. 

Other lack of coverage lacunae because of the "cold war" include:

* Cuba's pages are not included after 1960-61.

* North Korea pages are not included. 

* North Vietnam pages are not included.

One may need to add quadrilled pages or stocksheets to supplement the missing coverage.

Getting back to the excessive pages theme, Burundi has 22!

Fish, scouts, multiple stamp sets of paintings ( western- no cultural relevancy to Burundi), moon probe, butterflies, and moon landing.

Denmark only requires 4 pages, while the Cook Islands 10!

Do you see what is occuring? The healthy allure of collecting culturally and geographically appropriate stamps is getting overwhelmed by counties (unfortunately, often the poor and/or newly born ones) who metastasize out, like an uncontrolled "stamp" cancer, essentially culturally irrelevant stamp issues. 

The golden goose of general WW collecting is dying here.

Of interest, the Index does not include a significant addition to the 1967-70 supplement: 39 2-sided pages for the Trucial States (1961-68), consisting of the Omani States - Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai,Fujeria etc. 

France has 8, Norway (2), and Great Britain (8).

In contrast, Paraguay has 32! This "stamp cancer" is quite virulent.

What is a WW collector to do? Well, every collector has their own opinion, but, for me, if  I continued with a WW collection into the 1970s, 1980s, or beyond, I would "prune" the countries of interest to those with a reasonable issuing policy, and those with relevant (for the country) stamp subjects. 

France 1967-68
How do the Minkus pages look for 1967-70?

One can see for France that Minkus does tend to put a lot of stamps on a page, but perhaps not as many as they did for earlier years. Personally, I don't mind a "full" page: in fact I find it satisfying.

France 1967-68
The lower row of semi-postal stamps here celebrate the 10th Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, France.

I must say I REALLY like French stamps (subjects + designs), and France would be one of the few countries I would have no problem with collecting their stamps all the way to the present. !!

German Federal Republic 1967-68
Note that German stamps reflect the German culture: quite solid, if somewhat square. ;-)

I do like the stamp issues.  I wouldn't say I love the stamp issues.

1967-68 Issues
The upper row of semi-postals from 1967 depict a fairy tale (Frau Hollie). Now, this is a lovely set!

Greece 1967-68
Celebrating the long tradition of athletics in Greek culture is a fine subject for the 1968 Balkan Games issue.

Soldier and Rising Phoenix
Current history finds its way onto stamps: the Revolution of April 21, 1967.

Iceland 1969-70
The "modern" stamps of Iceland, like the country, are both hot and cold. Some of the stamps are a little too plain.

Top row: Snaefellsjokull Mountain Issue
I do like, though, the spare and clean design of these Iceland stamps.

Russia 1969
Russia's output, of course, is on the high side. But I dare say that the stamp designs and subjects are more interesting then the U.S. stamps of the same era.

1969 Middle stamp:"Vostok on Launching Pad"
Space themes,,a Russian high point for propaganda, is well represented for issues. Nicely done here.

Sweden 1967-68
Swedish stamps have a reputation for quality: Many are engraved.

Lower row: 1968 Nordic Wild Flowers set
The 1968 Nordic Wild Flowers set is outstanding in design.

Togo 1967
Togo's stamps are colorful, perhaps because of the French connection. The topics, though, sometimes are borderline irrelevant. Why images of dogs on the 1967 UNICEF issue?

1967 French Achievements in Space Issue
The 1967 French Space issue is  nicely done, design and color wise, but I would rather have stamps more specific to Togo.

Not shown are well crafted 1966 "Arts and Crafts" and "Dancer" issues (ten stamps): now, these are appropriately designed relevant issues!

Tonga 1967 Scott 179 "Coat of Arms"
Lithography; Embossed on Palladium Foil
Tonga has been well known, since 1963, for their uniquely shaped stamp issues. And along with the eye catching shapes, their stamp issues are, with some exceptions, fairly relevant to their culture. 


France 1967-68
Out of the Blue
Historically, collectors of the era had the same mixed feelings about output and relevancy, as evidenced by the American Philatelic Society's Black Blot program.

Well, you can tell that the stamp issues of 1967-70 WW are a mixed bag, from my point of view. But there are some gems; probably enough to make the collecting worthwhile overall.

What is your opinion?

Note: Bhutan map appears to be in the public domain.

Comments appreciated!


  1. I agree with your feelings on more densely packed pages. I don't care for the look of a set of 8 stamps spread out over a whole page.
    I also share your feelings about French stamps, but I'm put off by the excessive number of issues. I solved that problem, though, by, instead, collecting St Pierre & Miquelon. You get the aesthetic beauty of the French issues (many of them engraved), plus relevant themes of a more exotic locale, and you don't go broke trying to keep up with new issues.

    1. Ted- That sounds like a good plan!

      The problem I have is I haven't been able to "give up" collecting the whole world, hard as I've tried. ;-)

  2. Jim,

    thanks for a fun read. It was great to see a 'classic' collector reviewing the semi-modern era with scrutiny.

    I hope you don't make too harsh judgements on specific countries based on their past. For example Bhutan, Burundi and Paraguay are all prime examples of a countries which have gone through the good, the bad and the ugly phases of stamp production more than once.

    The way I justify collecting 'wallpaper' to myself is that even these stamps reflect a stage in each nations history. Often times there are very specific (political or economical) reasons why a country has went with philatelic agency or otherwise overboard with stamp production. The more you study and learn about the backgrounds, the more interesting the big picture becomes. Or maybe I'm just losing my marbles, LOL.


    1. Keijo - your remark that countries can go through bad patches, and then revert to a better stamp policy is encouraging. I will remember that.

      I feel more sorrow than anger when a country (often poor, with lessor resources) sells out to a philatelic agency with "Elvis" stamps etc. I feel sorrow as I would very much be interested in stamps reflecting that country's own history and culture, and it is a missed opportunity.

  3. A thoughtful post, as always, Jim! I can almost live with a cutoff date of 1960, but I shudder going beyond that. And indeed France and colonies are so beautiful, it would be shameful not to appreciate them. But, the more forward in time one goes, the more complex it gets! And then there is the issue of time spent on the hobby and how socially isolated one becomes. The number of stamps on the radar screen becomes overwhelming and to deal with it takes a commitment I can't do. Unless, that is, I go to prison for a long term of incarceration!

    1. John - good comments!

      I agree that a 1960 cutoff date would generate little controversy, as the 1950s was a "sleepy time" for stamps and countries, often still recovering from WW II.

      I definitely share your concern about the "drinking from the firehose" problem (high volume stamp production), and the time suck that entails for social/family life.

  4. I'm a WW collector and my solution to the problem of countries that issue excessive stamps is just to collect what I like, ignore what I don't, and keep them in stockbooks or on Vario pages. It can be quite liberating if one doesn't feel the collection *must* be complete. I'll save at least one example of any stamp I happen to acquire randomly, but I don't feel the need or compulsion to seek out and purchase stamps I don't like just to fill a space.

    1. Steven - collecting what you like is indeed a great way to go.

      For me, I will probably just keep the post 1970 date stamps in feeder albums.

  5. Jim I agree with Keijo, many nations that in the sixties and seventies were considered "philatelic prostitutes" at the hands of agencies cleaned their act up in the 80s and beyond. This is why I personally can't set "hard" end dates but rather go country-by-country.

    Another reason is that while the 1970s overall tended to be a design wasteland for many countries, the 1980s would see a return to much better design. Think of USA stamps issued in the mid-late 1980s vs those of the mid-late 1970s for an easy comparison.

    And for the most part design has improved over the past couple decades. This is one reason I tend to like new issue stamps, design wise many stamps issued around the world in 2017 are simply gorgeous.

    Since you have the Steiner pages, you could always just choose to print off certain nations post-1970 to continue should you find yourself looking wistfully at some countries stamps issued after the end of Big Red 4.

    1. Gene - thoughtful and illuminating as always.

      It is really good to know that a number of countries of the 1970s either cleaned up their act and /or improved the stamp designs by the 1980s.

      That, of course, then makes it just that more difficult to stop a WW collection after a certain date. ;-)

      Nevertheless, my plan for the moment is a soft stop at 1969, with continuance for select countries - probably remaining in feeder albums as a bow to time constraints and family life.

    2. "philatelic prostitutes"

      Now, that's the first time I've heard those two words used together :>)

  6. Hi Jim,

    I can't explain why, but these types of posts are my all time favourites. It must be the anticipation of a new journey, where the journey is more fun than actually arriving. :)

    The comments are top notch too. When I read your post I thought of just scrapping countries like Bhutan all together but Keijo's comment gave me hope.

    It might all be moot anyway. Would I ever find a Bhutanese record stamp or 30 pages of Disney stamps from Micronesia in a feeder collection? Or if I did, would I buy it?

    Maybe that's why I love the post so much. All those pristine album pages speak to the potential of the next phase of your collection, not the pitfalls or tough decisions.


    1. Mark - I sure agree that the journey is the most fun - I have been having a blast with the new, for me, 1941- 1969 WW era. It feels like I am back at the start, much like the excitement of beginning the 1840-1940 era.

      There are enough fine legitimate stamps issued that I do not to need to face the vexing concern about questionable issues, at least for a long time. And then, perhaps like Keijo, I can be more philosophical about them- we will see, ;-)

  7. I have a few of those Bhutan steelmaking stamps from a feeder album. They are printed on steel!

    1. Cool! The Bhutans are most unusual and very collectible.