Bophuthatswana 1985, The Tswana people get industrious in the Bop

South Africa granted a measure of self rule to several black enclaves. This did not satisfy world opposition to apartheid, but that does not mean there was not some achievement during the 17 years of existence. There was also complications when they were forced back in to the new South Africa. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

I do like stamps that show off otherwise unknown industry in far off places. Here we have a plastic bag factory. There must be a lot of those all over the world but I have never seen any. This issue also had stamps for a lady’s hosiery factory and a place that spray painted metal beds. Economic activity in the Bop, as it was unofficially known, is more remembered for platinum mines and the Sun City Resort, neither of which was part of the stamp issue. I am glad they showed more obscure endeavors. It does a good job of communicating that there is more going on than you know.

Todays stamp is issue A36, a 15 South African cent stamp issued by the semi independent Tswana people homeland of Bophuthatswana on October 25th, 1985. It was part of a 21 stamp issue in various denominations showing industry. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 35 cents.

The Bop got its independence in 1977. It was a string of disconnected enclaves. It had a black government including a tribal chief, Lucas Mangope, as an elected President. No country recognized the black South African homelands under UN pressure to oppose  Apartheid. The UN worried that recognizing the black homelands meant also recognizing white ruled South Africa. The reality was that the Bop had dealings with neighboring Botswana and Israel through De Beers. The homeland was better situated than many African areas with revenue from platinum and other mines. They also took advantage of their independence to open the Sun City Resort and Casino that provided revenue and much employment. Gambling was otherwise illegal in South Africa and Sun City was an easy drive from several large South African cities. It was open to white and black.

The revenue saw Bop build a large civil service and police. This added complication when white rule was coming to an end in early 90s South Africa. The intention was that the homelands would take part in the first multiracial South African elections and then rejoin new South Africa. People in the Bop including the civil service and President Mangope wondered what that meant for them, their jobs and their pensions. The ANC stroked the fears and the Civil Service went on strike. Mangope ordered his police to put down the strike and announced that they intended to skip the election and stay independent. The police mostly sided with the strikers. Mangope then invited in Right wing armed Boers to beef up what remained of his police. This was a big mistake as the police were not willing to work with them and the resulting looting was enough to bring in the South African police and end the Bop government. Interesting the looting was more aimed at the large shopping mall than the government buildings. Mangope was replaced in the interim by the South African Ambassador.

In modern South Africa, Mangope formed a small conservative. black political party that represented the Tswana tribe, He died in 2018 and his statue still stands in his hometown. It had been moved there from the old Bop government complex in 1994. So far at least, it is still okay to remember fondly the history of the Bop and it’s President.

Bop President Lucas Mangope statue

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to all the small forgotten factories that provide so much needed employment. More stamp issues like this please. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting

Liechtenstein 1967, celebrating the Royal Wedding and the economic miracle

Europe in the 19th century had many city states that mostly were absorbed by Germany and Italy. The ones that have survived often now thrive as they benefit from the stability of national institutions while having extra flexibility in areas such as finance. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

This souvenir sheet is the first one we have covered at The Philatelist. Liechtenstein is fairly unique in that  the Prince has more than ceremonial powers. So the small country might take extra interest in the Crown Prince starting his family. Prince Hans Adam II was marrying Czech Countess Maria Kinsky, who grew up mainly in Germany and is five years older than the Prince. The era of absentee landed nobility was newly ended and Hans Adam was the first Prince to grow up in Liechtenstein. So the people are closer to their rulers.

Todays stamp is issue A225, a souvenir sheet issued by the Principality of Liechtenstein on June 26, 1967 to celebrate the upcoming wedding of the Crown Prince. According to the Scott catalog, the sheet is worth $2.40. This value has not kept  pace with even inflation, showing how important a vibrant local stamp collecting tradition is to values, and tiny Liechtenstein,(population 20,000) can’t provide.

The name came from a castle in the area and a family rose to nobility as advisers to Holy Roman Austrian Hapsburg Emperors. The family converted to Catholic and were eventually granted the title Prince. The Napoleonic occupation ended the duty to pay an annual suzerainty  to the larger empire. There was a gradual shift in greater ties to also neighboring Switzerland. This came to a head in 1938 when the Royal line actually took up residence in Lichtenstein as Austria was absorbed by Germany and the Royal’s Jewish connections did not bode well for continuing to live in Vienna. At wars end the country took in Russians that had fought on the German side saving their lives and seeing to their resettlement in Argentina.

Large amount of family lands that rents and tributes were lost to the Liechtenstein royals when Czechoslovakia seized German held lands. The family had to resort to selling portions of their extensive art collections which had been moved out. Over time, the financial service industry brought about an economic miracle. The big player in this. LGT is personally owned by the royal house and makes it the richest royal house in Europe with a fortune over 7 billion dollars. Now Lichtenstein has more jobs than people with over 20,000 commuting daily to jobs in Lichtenstein.

The Prince and Princess are still married and are the parents of four and the grandparents of 15. Prince Hans Adam II began his rule in 1988 after having served in a regency earlier in preparation. His eldest son Prince Alois has served in a similar regency since 2004.

Well my drink is empty and so I will open the conversation in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Prussia 1861, the great questions will not be resolved by speeches and majorities, but by iron and blood

Prussia went from being an important region of German speakers to a Greater German Empire. Well it did have the best army, but it also had a leader with many tools and many enemies. So slip on smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The power of Prussia is not well presented by the stamps. Even in 1861 though, there are the signs of coming together. Lubeck does a version of this stamp and of course the eagle emblem will be common on German Empire stamps in later decades.

A note about currency and the transition. Prussian currency was not yet decimalized and a Silbergroshen as on this stamp was a coin valued at 12 Pfennig. 30 Silbergroshen equaled 1 Thaler, a large silver coin dating from medieval times. After decimalization, a 10 Pfennig coin replaced the Silbergroshen and there were no longer Thalers except as a  slang way to say 3 Marks. Dutch Daalers, Scandinavian Dalers and yes countries that use Dollars can trace these names to the Thaler.

Todays stamp is issue A7, a 1 Silbergroshen stamp issued by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1861. It was a 4 stamp issue in various denominations. There were 2 updated versions with the new currency in 1867. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth $1.60 used. This is the lowest value of any Prussian stamp, and I think too low as there are no Prussian stamps less than 150 years old. No doubt this stamp was common when issued. but this poorly printed on cheap paper had to survive in many collections in the many years between then and now.

In 1862, Prussian King Wilhelm I appointed Otto von Bismarck chancellor of Prussia. Bismarck was an aristocrat, then known as Junker. Being appointed, he was only responsible to the monarch and did not face election or interference from the legislature. His main goal was to unite the German people under a single government. That he was able to do this in 3 short victorious wars and through able diplomacy is quite impressive. The first was a war aligned with Austria, the big power in southern Germany against Denmark, taking German speaking areas. Those areas were at first jointly administered with Austria and the inevitable disputes were then used to start a war with Hapsburg Austria, really the only other viable rival to govern all Germans. This war left only France as an obstacle. Their army though was smaller and spread out over their vast empire. France was defeated and could no longer object to Germany coming together.

That does not mean the leaders of the individual German states did not object. Bismarck designed a Federal system for Germany that left some autonomy with the states and even refashioned Prussia as the North German Confederation to make the states feel less conquered.

The dark blue shows how small Prussia was and how little of it is in modern Germany

Once united, Bismarck sought to make Germany more unified. He offered the first safety net for workers to greatly improve their lot in life and to try to connect working class loyalty to the new state. He instituted tariffs to protect German industry. Innovative steps at the time and not what was expected of a conservative figure. At the same time he was aggressively opposed to non German speakers, Socialists and Catholics. This went as far as banning the Socialists and Jesuits who he thought were too tied to the Pope in Rome. After the wars, he promoted peace, having good relations with England and Russia and not challenging them for far flung Empires.

In old age he was replaced as he clashed with the new Kaiser who wanted empire and saw the socialists as less of a threat. Germany thus returned to a war like stance and sure enough Socialists overthrew the Kaiser after World War I. On his death bed in 1898 he made predictions that were prescient. He predicted Germany would last only 20 more years on it’s current foolish course and that war would come from some foolish thing from the Balkans.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast united Germany whether bigger or smaller. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Switzerland 1882, Helvetia looks down on a Swiss economic miracle

Switzerland is the globalist ideal. A multi language, multi religion place that is a peaceful, prosperous model for the world. It was not always this. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

As I write these articles, I become more and more enamored by these female embodiments of a nation that were so common on 19th century. Here we have Helvetia, the female Latin embodiment of Switzerland. Switzerland had just transferred more authority from the canton to the federal government. Without the human frailties of an actual person and slightly short of religious heresy, these images provided a united ideal to strive toward. It seems a little silly now, but then us moderns have lost a little of the ability to strive.

Todays stamp is issue A20, a 50 Centimes stamp issued by Switzerland in 1882. There are many versions of this stamp issued over 20 years. The early printing was the worst and the least valuable which I believe this stamp displays. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $25 used.

The 19th century did not start out well for the Swiss. They were conquered by Napoleon. The many changes to the legal and business structure took years to undo. There was also discord between Catholic areas in the south and Lutheran areas in the north. Lutheran appropriation of Church land and a takeover of the educational system lead several Catholic Cantons to form a rival “Sonderbund” to the weak federal government. The Sonderbund counted on support from Catholic France and Austria but in 1848 they had there own issues. When the Federal army moved to bring the Sonderbund cantons back into line, the Sonderbund quickly folded. The Federal government was strengthened and the Jesuits banned.

The post 1848 government seemed to find just the right balance of enough autonomy for the different people in the different cantons and yet still with a national identity. It was the time of industrialization and of people moving to the cities. Even in this Switzerland was lucky. Many of the new factories were textile, that offered opportunities to women, and the paychecks did much to raise their lot. At the same time, high end watchmaking took off that offered great rewards for people who learned the intricate skills.

The working classes doing well coincided with a great deal of growth in finance. The tradition of neutrality meant that the Swiss Franc  was often left as the only readily convertible currency during a crisis/war. Large amounts of gold especially from Germany were transferred to Switzerland in exchange for Swiss Francs that could be used to fund needed imports. This is in addition to all the private wealth moved in for preservation. The fees collected for this safekeeping were quite high. All was not profiteering, the Red Cross was founded in Switzerland and the country took in wounded veterans and political dissidents from all sides during both World Wars.

While you still see her red cross shield regularly on Swiss stamps, Helvetia herself no longer appears. The newest I could find was 1922 on an overprint of an earlier issue. This Philatelist is ready to welcome her again on a stamp. Perhaps one of the Europa Cept issues were all the nations display once more their Latin female embodiments.

Well my drink is empty and the $25 value of todays stamp would cover a few more rounds. Decisions! Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

San Marino, in a small surrounded country political violence in dangerous, so think twice while you admire our prison

Staying independent is job one for a small state. Sometimes modifying behavior to get along is necessary. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Here is something you never see on a postage stamp, the state prison. Now San Marino’s prison was really an ancient fortress on a hill so worth a look. The year before though, there was a political murder that threatened relations with Italy. Showing the prison may make the point that San Marino could handle any crime itself.

Todays stamp is issue A24, a 5 Centesimi stamp issued by San Marino in 1922. It displayed the Roca state prison and was part of a 19 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth $1.50 unused.

San Marino  and Vatican City were the only city states that maintained their independence during the unification of Italy in the 1860-70s. The people are Italian and the population is small. After the devastation of World War I, politics in Italy turned toward the extremes. This was understandable as mainstream politics had just been completely discredited by the war, not just in Italy. San Marino had remained neutral in that war but did not completely avoid the wars deprivations or the political radicalization. In 1921 radical leftists murdered a prominent doctor, Carlo Bosi, who was known to have fascist views. This greatly angered Italians and there was a great fear that San Marino would be invaded by gangs of Squadrismo. Squadrismo were localized groups of blue shirted fascist that often responded in kind to Socialist violence, they were right wing rivals to Mussolini’s black shirts. Among methods they were known for was forcing people to take castor oil a strong laxative, leaving victims naked tied to a tree, and made to swallow a live toad. San Marino quickly asked the Italian state police to send 30 officers to help keep the peace. In 1923 a fascist government was elected and a government was formed under a fascist who had voluntarily fought for Italy in World War I.

Once elected radicals become undemocratic and the fascists remained ensconced  until 1943 when the fascists fell in Italy. It was then the turn of the communists to get elected and then overstay their welcome. There was a governing crisis in 1957 when the communist lost their majority but refused to yield power until threatened with violence from Italy.

Rocca prison on todays stamp ceased being a prison in the early 1970s. It is now a tourist attraction as an 11 century fortification. It regularly fires off 19th century cannons to the delight of spectators. San Marino, now quite wealthy is somewhat known to have very few prisoners. So few that it is easier to have their food catered by a restaurant than maintain a cafeteria. There are periods where a prison sentence means solitary confinement because there are no other prisoners. What happens when a small town is it’s own country.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast the diplomats of San Marino. It must require the great skill of many generations of diplomats to keep San Marino from being swallowed. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Japan 1942, saluting the Japanese pilot

The fact of World War II was that most pilots gave their lives to the cause. Even in victory, the British pilot death toll was 46%. For Germany and especially Japan that toll was even higher. For a few, including todays subject, their skill was so great it saved them. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

A pilot saluting his flag. It must be remembered that this portrait is not a kamikaze. This pilot was expected to win and come back home to tell about it. In general, that was too optimistic. Without misplaced optimism, how many wars would be started.

Todays stamp is issue A150, a 15 Sen stamp issued by Imperial Japan in 1942. It was part of a 16 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $1.50 used.

Today I will tell the story of Japanese Naval Lieutenant Tetsuzo Iwamoto who was one of Japan’s leading fighter aces. According to his diary from the time, he shot down 202 aircraft with his Mitsubishi Zero fighter. Iwamoto was an ace even before Pearl Harbor having been based in Nanking, China and scoring 14 victories against Chinese flown, Russian made Polikarpov I-15 fighters, an out of date biplane fighter. 1942-1944 saw Iwamoto stationed at Rabual in New Guinea where he was in almost constant combat with Australian and American flown fighters. Here his diary credited him with 48 Corsairs, 7 Wildcats, 29 Hellcats, 4 Spitfires, 4 P38s, and 75 various model bombers. The Zero became more out of date as the war went along but never lost it’s unparalleled agility in the hands of an expert pilot. Iwamoto stated that he knew how to beat the American fighters but was impressed how much punishment the heavier fighters could take and keep flying, much more so than his light Zero.

Iwamoto was promoted through the ranks and commissioned as an officer. In 1944 he was transferred back to Japan to train Kamikaze pilots and perform air defense missions including over Okinawa. Unlike Germany where some of the surviving aces were issued jets in the last days of the war hoping for a miracle, Iwamoto flew Zeros till the end.

Tetsuzo Iwamoto, Japanese Zero Ace

Iwamoto was not treated well by his homeland after the war. Called in for questioning several times by the occupation forces, he was not charged with war crimes. He was however blacklisted for employment. There was much pacifist propaganda that viewed the veterans as the pawns of warmongers. Though he desired to fly again for the rest of his life it was not to be. He suffered a misdiagnosed pendacites and then died of sepsis in hospital at age 38 in 1954. The Japanese Self Defense Force Air reformed that same year.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Lieutenant Iwamoto. I think enough time has passed that we can admire the skill and bravery of veterans of all sides of World War 2. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Crete, less than satisfied by a Danish/Greek Prince, the Cretans revolt with fake stamps

A Greek island rebels against Turk rule, sounds like a job for a Danish, no excuse me Greek Prince? I don’t think so and neither did the Cretans, but the Great Powers thought they knew better. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

This is a fake stamp. Issued at the time of the Theriso revolt, and of no postal value and does not have any catalog value. Being therefore a revenue raiser. I would have expected less ostentation and more revolutionary zeal.

Crete was a Christian/Greek island that was long a part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1897 the Cretans revolted against the Turks. At this point the Great Powers stepped in with troop deployments ending Turk rule, though a suzerainty to the Ottomans was still paid. This occupation was under a High Commissioner, Prince George, the second son of the King of Greece and also a Prince of Denmark. He was a lot more Danish than Greek and so many Cretans were less than satisfied with the arrangement. Prince George was quite imperious, immediately demanding the Cretans build him a palace. Where after all is a Royal to lay his weary head. He also proved unable to get the Great Powers to agree to union with Greece. The Cretans rebelled against Prince George and a civil war was on. This was not what the Great Powers signed up for and they ended up paying the Cretans for the right to leave and to take Prince George with them. Greece sent another high commissioner, this time an actual Greek and then the Cretans unilaterally declared union with Greece.

Prince George ended up settling in France where he married Marie Bonaparte. She was perhaps more famous than he was. She was chronically unsatisfied sexually despite 2 children with allegedly homosexual Prince George, and many affairs with Princes, Prime Ministers and stablemasters. She began a formal study of the then important psychological issue of female  frigidity in conjunction with Sigmund Freud. She studied the sexual histories of several hundred women and the physical distance between their clitoris and vagina. She discovered the greater the distance the greater chance of frigidity. She published the findings under the pseudonym A. E. Narjani in a medical journal. If the distance between the organs was greater than 2.5 centimeters, orgasm was difficult to achieve. She thought herself having this condition, she twice attempted corrective surgery. Her frigidity  remained.

Princess Marie

Well my drink is empty and I am left shaking my head. I intended my articles on stamps to be wide ranging but I never thought I would get that far afield. I may need another drink. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting


Slovakia 2000, interesting how the EU liked dealing with the old communists

When the old system broke down and even the country split, it is understandable that everyone gets nervous. So when a bland figure from the past offers his services, maybe you give him a try. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

You may have to do a double take on this stamp. It really has a strong resemblance to the old Czechoslovakian stamps of the communist era. I doubt Slovakia was doing this consciously, but perhaps it fits with an official from that old regime is returned to power as a compromise leader. This time he would be dealing with the EU instead of COMECON, but I bet that COMECON experience was useful. This fellow even had a German name.

Todays stamp is issue A190, a 5.5 Koruna stamp issued by the independent republic of Slovakia on June 15th, 2000. It was a two stamp issue several years apart honoring Slovak President Rudolf  Shuster. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp was worth 25 cents used.

Slovakia broke away from Chechia in 1992. The 20th century had seen many border changes And so Slovakia also contained Carpathian German and Hungarian minorities. These ethnic minorities added to the massive number of political parties that formed in Slovakia after independence. In Czechoslovakia remember there was only one party the Communists. Elections work best with a clear majority, and that became difficult with the plethora of parties.

This was handled by coalition governments. There was also the issue of the old Communists wanting to stay in the game. One such fellow was an ethnically Capitanian German ex Communist named Rudolf Shuster. The Carpathian Germans were evacuated by Germany with the approach of the Red Army in 1945 but some returned post war submitting to a Slovakisation process. With the help of an old crony Pavel Rusko, that came to own a TV station, he was able to put together a new left party of civic understanding. The selling off of government assets had not gone well with the stench of corruption and this tainted the Slovak bid to join the EU. Why not add Shuster to put a new, old face on the government to be a point man on EU integration. Shuster got that job done and Slovakia joined the EU in 2004.

By then Rusko had lost interest in Shuster and the party of civic understanding. He formed a new party that more directly featured himself. Rusko was later able to cash out of his media empire with it becoming part of the international operations of AT&T. Shuster ran for reelection in 2004 as an independent but came in fourth. After this he retired from politics. He was a popular figure with the EU, despite just being just a front man. What does it say about the EU about there willingness to deal with front man, and also that when picking a front man both sides look to the old failed Communists?

Well my drink is empty and I will open the conversation in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.


Swaziland Protectorate, What Africa would look like if it were never colonized?

The key word on this stamp is protectorate. The Swazi tribe and the local King survived the colonial division of Africa in the 19th Century. The still present Protectorate status prevented it from being dragged into Apartheid South Africa and protected it even after independence from Zulu incursions from modern South Africa. As such it shows a unique more traditionally African situation. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

So if Swaziland was so independent with even it’s own King, why is British King George V on the stamp. In my mind, he shouldn’t be but lets be realistic about who was mailing and receiving letters in Swaziland in 1922. People from Britain and South Africa concerning business and administration. The stamps like the people described above came from London. Today Swazi stamps do a better job of showing the local King, with only an occasional nod to the Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth.

Todays stamp is issue A2, a half Penny stamp issued by the British Protectorate of Swaziland in 1922. It was part of a 10 stamp issue of various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents.

In the South Africa of the 19th century, the area was divided into English and Boer areas and included several African tribal homelands including Swaziland. The Swazi tribe had their own King, Sobhuza II, who ruled from 1899-1982. This is the longest royal rule ever recorded.

It was intended for Swaziland to transition into South Africa after World War II. This was against the King’s wishes and when South Africa broke ties with Britain to maintain white rule, Britain changed their mind and was now in favor of Swaziland independence under it’s King. Those in London that know better still required a new council that empowered urban educated socialist over the King. Four years after independence the King dissolved the council in favor of traditional tribal leadership. The urbans were a small minority so this worked out. The revenue for Swaziland comes mainly from a Southern Africa Customs Union that dates from colonial times. The population grows almost as fast as the economy so the place is fairly poor.

The King during a tribal reed dance.

Current King Mswatti III has been on the thrown since 1986. He has 15 wives and 35 children. The first two wives were picked for him by the tribe and their children are in the line of succession. In Swaziland, a prospective wife is called a bride until she becomes pregnant, then she is a fiancé and the marriage ceremony can go forward. In an effort to curb AIDS, the King decreed that Swazi teenage girls retain virginity until age 18. He then violated his own rule by recruiting a new under age bride. He was duly charged with the violation and paid the fine, a cow. There has been some controversy as to the Kings lifestyle, most notably a Maybach automobile. The King responded to the controversy by making it illegal to photograph the King’s cars. Things are not perfect, but they are much more stable and secure that the rest of Africa with it’s colonial legacy and the local crooks that now man it.

The Japanese First Lady with 6 of the King’s 15 wives. Imagine how impressed Madame Abe would have been with full attendance.

In 2018, the King became concerned that some people may confuse Swaziland with Switzerland. Therefore he renamed his Kingdom Eswatini, which is Swazi for land of the Swazis.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast the the Dlamini Royal House of the Swazi tribe. No it is not perfect, but a much better reflection of African heritage. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting

1924 Paris Olympics, the last of the modern Olympics that paid homage to the ancient Greeks

The ancient or the modern. It is easy to both idealize the ancient and get bogged down with the modern. It was understandable that a modern elite might view backwards toward Greece as a roadmap toward self improvement. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering of The Philatelist.

An athlete celebrating his victory wearing a toga. Not how the Olympics are seen today. A fitting way to show the games as they were the last ones organized  by the Frenchman Pierre, Barron de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics. Coubertin believed that emulating the ancients was a way to uplift modern elites to be better. The 1928 Olympic stamps showed modern athletes and showed additional modernity by having a surcharge to help pay for the elite’s games. I don’t think the Barron would have approved.

Todays stamp is issue A27, a 50 Centimes stamp issued by France on April 1st, 1924. It was part of a four stamp issue for the Olympics in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $5.75 used. A imperforate version of this stamp is worth $1,000.

Pierre de Coubertin was a French nobleman who was dismayed by the French loss in the Franco-Prussian War. In the same period the British Empire was at it’s height. He attributed the relative success of Britain to the elite public school system that many of it’s leaders passed through. The English public schools had played each other in athletics modeled after how they imagined the ancient Greek Olympic games. Coubertin thought the lack of athletics in the equivalent French schools left the aristocracy worthless and weak. He conceived a revived Olympics as a way to turn the system around. The events chosen were demonstrations of manly strength and soldierly skills. Intrinsic in the vision were amateur athletes and gentlemanly sportsmanship that tended to keep out potential participants from the working classes.

Coubertin’s vision of the modern Olympics was naturally watered down after his retirement. One of the most famous stories from the 1924 Olympics was told by the movie “Chariots of Fire” from 1981. The movie told the story of a Jewish English runner who competed and won despite his wealthy but less than Noble background. He further offended by hiring a coach as part of his training, that some felt violated the spirit of the amateur athlete. The story is told as a hero overcoming anti-Semitism and was that, but also demonstrates that the times were changing.

The 1924 Olympics were played at the Stade Olympique de Columbas first built in 1907. The stadiums renovations have seen it shrink from 50,000 to 15,000 seats. It is still slated to host the field hockey event when Paris hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics. The 1924 Olympics only had revenue of 50 % of the costs of the games, despite large crowds. The much more commercial 1928 games, after Coubertin’s retirement, almost broke even. Something gained, something lost.

Well my drink is empty and I pour another to toast the participants of all the modern Olympic games. The Barron believed that participating was far more important than who won. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.