Italy 1863, Victor Emmanuel II, the padre dela patria

To paraphrase the Beatles, Come together, right now under me. The Beatles had to be more popular than Jesus to pull that off. In Italy, Sardinian King Victor Emanuel II only had to be more popular than the Pope. 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 stamp shows so much influence of the original British penny black stamp of 1840. The leaders profile taken from a medal. The gummed paper. The corner letters from where on the sheet the original stamp was from. Another demonstration how right the British design was, especially in a European century dominated by royals.

Todays stamp is issue A5(numbered off of previous Sardinian issues), a 15 Centesimi stamp issued by the Kingdom of Italy in 1863. The stamp showed King Victor Emmanuel II and was a single stamp issue. Controversially  at the time, the King was still styling his name as for when King of Sardinia. Many thought he should be the first as the first King of Italy, not just that Sardinia conquered Italy. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $7 mint. A version with the stamp image mistakenly printed on both sides is worth $17,500. Only one of those is known to exist.

As a member of the Royal House of Savoy, Victor Emmanuel II inherited his fathers throne of the Kingdom of Sardinia and Piedmont. He was very much in favor of a united Italy but to achieve that he had to fight Austria, Papal Forces in Rome and the 2 Sicily Kingdom. He had to do more than fight, he had to be able to win at the negotiating table. The fighting with Austria did not go well and was awkward as his mother and wife were Austrian. The King was able to work around that by siding with Britain and France in the Crimean War in order to get concessions from Austria at the subsequent peace conference. He shared a mistress, Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglioni, with Napoleon III and was able to work out an agreement through her for French forces to pull out of Rome where they were defending Papal interests and allow Sardinia Venetia and Lombard from Austria. In return France got Nice and Savoy. This took a while to play out and were helped along by Austria being defeated by Prussia in 1866 and France following suit in 1871.

The Countess of Castiglione by Pierson from the 1860s

In addition to eight children via his Queen and two more by his morganatic second marriage to his favorite mistress. Victor Emmanuel fathered 6 further children by 4 other mistresses. He was excommunicated by the Catholic church. Not for all this womanizing but rather for ending Papal control of Rome, confining the Pope to Vatican City. Combined with the conquering of the 2 Sicilys, a united Italy with Rome as his capital was achieved. After the success, the King somewhat faded, He was more adept dealing in big country power games then dealing with unruly ministers and legislators. He died in 1877, soon after his excommunication was reversed.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast the Countess of Castiglione. She was famous at the time for coquettish Queen of Hearts outfits and pictures where she scandalously showed bare feet and legs. In addition to the King of Italy and the Emperor of France, she also had interactions with German/Prussian Chancellor Bismarck. Perhaps we should withdraw the Beatles song “Come Together” and replace it with “The Lady is a Tramp” in this article. Maybe not though. “Come together, right now, over me” seems to fit the Countess. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Pitcairn Islands 1967, An island with more stamps than people, this one overprinted in gold!

50 people on a hard to find group of islands. They must send a lot of letters as they have plenty of stamps. 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.

Obviously a postage stamp from a sort or real life Gilligan’s Island will mainly serve the international collector. That said, some of these tiny still English colonies do it right. The HM Armed Ship Bounty, that played such a central part of the islands history. Queen Elizabeth, youthful and crowned, looking out for her far off realm. The peace de resistance is the change to decimal currency being used for an overprint in gold, with an intricate representation of the Bounty’s anchor.

Todays stamp is issue A14, a one cent stamp issued by the British colony of Pitcairn Islands on July 10th, 1967. It was part of a 13 stamp issue in various denominations that overprinted a 1964 issue in the earlier currency. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 35 cents. The unoverprinted early version 1 penny version is worth 25 cents. There is a misprint of the 10 cent overprint that included the gold anchor but fails to include the 10 cent denomination. It is worth $2,000.

Pitcairn Island was first spotted by the HMS Swallow in 1767. It is named for Robert Pitcairn, a 15 year old midshipman on board who actually laid eyes on it. The Captain of the Swallow misrecorded the location so that Captain Cook could not find it again later. There is evidence of an earlier Polynesian colony but it had gone extinct. Who did find it were the mutineers of the HMS Bounty and their Tahitian wives and helpers. 21 people came ashore and the Bounty was scuttled in 1795. Their first years were rough with alcoholism and several murders but a mutineer with the ships Bible was able to establish a more Christian society of peace. A missionary that passed through in the 19th century found an active Christian congregation and temperance society.

Settler group photo 1916

The islands’ population peaked in 1937 at 137 but there has been some emigration to Australia taking the number down to 50. There has only been one child born on the island in the last 20 years. The main occupations are fishing, tourism and bee keeping. There are no hotels on the island but it is possible to stay with families and there is a boat that takes day trips to the island.

The 2000s have seen a sexual crisis on the island. A sex assault/ child porn ring caught up 15 locals that were convicted. Clearly the islands got internet. Britain built a prison on the island for them to serve their terms. Britain makes sure there is a police officer, a doctor, and a mayor on the islands but the expense is high and there are ever present questions on when the plug will be pulled and settlement on the islands ends.

Well my drink is empty, and so I will pour another to toast the mutineer with the ships Bible. Where was his descendant when the island got internet?. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Philippine Commonwealth 1936, Raising hope, tagalog, and changing style

The Philippines status changed in 1936. A 10 year process toward independence from the USA was begun. It was time to show the world who the Philippine people were and show the masses at home that things will get better going it alone. 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.

Looking at todays stamp, you can see the ambition or making the Philippines a great country. The majestic figures around the portrait of President Quezon do that. By showing the then current President, they are showing the simplicity with which they were facing the challenges. Reliance on an individual politician to get things done. Even in the best of times a political leader will be resented by a sizable minority. Portraits of political leaders in democratic places are better left till after their death. The partisanship is then dissipated and a legacy of good works can be honored by all. The USA puts no live figures on stamps, except actors in a role, but in 1936, the Philippines no longer had to listen to the USA.

Todays stamp is issue A69, a 6 Centavo stamp issued by the American Commonwealth of the Philippines on November 15th, 1936. It was a part of a 3 stamp issue celebrating the anniversary of the inauguration of Manuel Quezon as the second President of the Philippines. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents mint. All the variations of this issue have the same low value. Optimism can appear sad in retrospect when goals go unfulfilled.

The Philippines was granted a 10 year track toward independence by the USA in 1936. This was supported by the USA at the grass roots level because as a colony, Philippine sugar could be freely imported to the USA at a cost the American growers could not match. How many times around the world have we faced with the complications of sugar cultivation profitably without resorting to slavery. As part of the move toward independence, a long term legislator, Manuel Quezon was elected President. His parents were school teachers and he served the first Philippine President/Dictator Aquinaldo as a aide.

Quezon was interested in social justice and therefore took a half hearted stab at land reform. The Philippines had many American owned large plantations whose product was export crops. They were taken by the government and sold on into local hands. This still left the same system of absentee landlords, cash export crops, less local food production and few tenant farmer rights. This helped government revenue but did not raise the lot of the people fast enough. The Government promoted the native language Tagalog that it rebranded Filipino and tried to promote alongside English and the fading Spanish. Some feel this was a mistake as the ability to speak English is a marketable skill in the world market and of course the language emanates from Indian and Pacific Islanders who are a minority of the ethnicity of the Philippine people.

In 1941, Japan invaded and Quezon’s government fled into exile in the USA. The large American B17 bomber force stationed there had not succeeded in taking out the Japanese invasion armada as it was itself taken out in a daring Japanese air raid. The state of the Philippines was shown in that the bombers were parked together in a small area where they could be guarded from local looters not how they would be dispersed for use in wartime.

Quezon by now was old and sick with tuberculosis. His government in exile had little power and was bogged down in a power struggle with Quezon’s vice president who expected to take power. Quezon died in 1944. His political party, the Nationalists remained a important political force until Ferdinand Marcos in 1978 merged rival paries into one party, his own. Ironically in the mid 80s the party returned as a power base for the Laurel and the Aquino political dynasties. Both had got their start in the Second Philippine Republic, the Japanese puppet government of their occupation. This was after all a rival government to exiled Quezon.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast the legacy of President Quezon. He fell short but achieved much and remains a symbol of Philippine independence. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Jordan 1983, a Hashimite King tries to rule a substitute Palestinian homeland.

Coming out of a great military tradition, the Hashemites might seem poised to provide for a pan Arab vision to contend with Nasser’s Egypt. The country was changing though and growing with people who are not loyal to the great traditions that were of no benefit to 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.

Jordan had it’s King and it’s army. The population was poor but growing and mainly were displaced persons from the Holy Land. The Army was capable and the King flexible and the people are under marshal law.So why not celebrate King Hussein. No one would have predicted a long reign and a death by natural causes. People under marshal law can be made to say Long Live the King, but it is really something when it is achieved.

Todays stamp is issue A170, a 40 Fills stamp issued by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1983. It was part of a 6 stamp issue in various denominations that honor King Hussein, who was on his 30th year on the throne. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 40 cents mint.

King Hussein ascended to the thrown in 1953. The Hashemite tribe of Bedouin warriors had been defenders of the Saudi holy places until displaced by the House of Saud in that role. A relationship developed between them and the British that resulted in a quite capable military force and Hashemites on the thrones of Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, and even briefly Syria. However, one by one these territories faded to just Jordan. Hussein’s father was assassinated and his brother was removed from the Throne due to mental incompetence. No one saw a long rule from Hussein as he was only 18. The country was taking in so many refugees from Palestine that they were two thirds of the population. The area lacked oil and many of that generation saw a socialist pan Arab future that did not include Hashemite Kings. Israel saw a majority Palestinian country that could function as a homeland if they could just get rid of the Hashemite King. Not so fast though.

The army was competent. Enough so that Israel tried to avoid fights with it. When the local Palestinians armed Fedayeen(self sacrificer) fighters to attack Israel from Jordan and get rid of Hussein. The King ordered the Jordanian Army into action. The Fedayeen was defeated and sent to Lebanon, an allied with the Fedayeen Syrian relief force was quickly defeated and martial law was expanded. The King remained. The Palestinians tried to form a Black September Organization to exact revenge on King Hussein but the terrorism was only successful at uniting the world against them and they quickly promised attacks only on Israel.

So Hussein stays in power but without oil wealth and the majority of the people poor exiles it sounds pretty miserable. Well not entirely. He was King after all and while the people were kept under marshal law he was not. He had 4 Queens including one British and one American. Through them he fathered 12 children. He also had a child out of wedlock with American actress Susan Cabot. He flew fighter planes, rode Harley Davidsons through the desert and even collected stamps. He maintained enough of a relationship with all sides in the middle east that he was the go to for any peace talks. These efforts were perhaps his second greatest legacy, after surviving 36 years in power. His son Abdullah, by the second English Queen Antionette(titled Nuna) has now himself ruled 19 years and counting. Maybe pan Arabism under Hashemites would not have been so bad, unless you are the exile under marshal law.

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.

Bangla Desh 1971, maybe if we splinter again, things will get better

A small but populous nation splits off from a country. A generation before, Pakistan in the East and West, did the same, depriving post independence India of instant superpower status. 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.

The first stamp issue of an independent Bangla Desh. Notice the spelling. Writing Bangla Desh as two words only lasted for a few months. Surprising that at least in English it is not just called Bengal. But this stamp came after local politicians  had declared independence but while there was still a large Pakistani army and administration on hand that did not agree. That makes the stamp aspirational, which to me are the best kind.

Todays stamp is issue A1, a 1 Rupee stamp issued by the Awami League provisional government of Bangla Desh in 1971. It was part of an eight stamp issue in various denominations that aspirationally  imagined an independent Bangla Desh. The stamps featured maps, flags, slogans and potential leaders of the hoped for country. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth 30 cents mint. There was a later version with the new currency that were rejected by Bangladesh officials but then issued anyway by representatives in London during 1972, they are considered fake but have similar values.

The area of Bengal had been part of the Mughal Empire before the arrival of the British. Their East India Company took the area after the battle of Plassey in 1757. British India comprised modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. They also administered nearby Sri lanka and Burma. This large area would have been far and away the most populous country in the world and even in colonial times, the gross national product was larger than Great Britain itself. It was the intention of most independence advocates that after the British left, it would all be one country. These leaders were mostly Hindu though and the area contained many Muslims and peoples of different races and languages. A Hindu independent greater India was not to be and the British tried to limit bloodshed by dividing off mostly Muslim East and West Pakistan. This was less than ideal for several reasons. Though the same religion, East Pakistan was of a different race and language. In addition, it was separate geographically. Thus the Bengal territories did not feel itself a part of Pakistan. Independent India was sympathetic to the plight of the Bengals. In the 1960s, there was a socialist movement of Bengalis called the Awami league lead by Sheik Mujibur Rahman. He wanted more self rule and that Bengali become the official language of East Pakistan. When this movement was suppressed, independence was unilaterally declared and the Awami League started establishing the institutions of a separate state. There were 90,000 troops loyal to Pakistan in Bangladesh that contested the will of the people and it took a two week war with India for them to realize that they were far from home and their situation untenable. Pakistan’s surrender was the largest since World War II.

Independence was not an immediate panacea. The people were desperately poor and the British had set up the economy for large crops for export and not enough for local food. Independence leaders had all been trained by the British and were socialists. As such they took over the plantations but kept them operating now for the benefit of the state. However whatever revenue came from that was declining and with little getting to improve the lot of the average Bengali. There was a large famine in Bangladesh in 1974 and this lead to much tumult and fighting internally inside the Awami League and outside of it. Bangladeshi officers formerly aligned with the Awami Leaguge staged a coup killing Sheik Mujibar Rahman and his family in an attack on the Presidential Palace starting a long period of coup and counter coup. There are rumors that the coup was arraigned by the American CIA but I think that exaggerates Bangladesh’s importance to the USA.  Peoples hopes had been raised and the results were just not fast enough in coming, and with no more British to blame, it was natural to turn on the leaders.

Well my drink is empty and I may have a few more while I ponder how independence could have gone better. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Spain 1939, a local inventor’s contraption flies over Madrid

Getting mankind off the ground involved brave engineers testing their theories in some far off places. Some worked, most didn’t but things were eventually sorted out. 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.

The printing of this stamp really lets it down. The color barely lets you see the autogiro over Madrid. The autogiro was invented in Spain and must have created quite a stir in the 20s. I generally find the elaborate colors of modern stamps clownworthy, but in this case better printing and color choices would have helped. If Cierva had invented the autogiro in Argentina under Peron, the stamp engravers there would have known how to handle it.

Todays stamp is issue AP30, a 20 Centavo airmail stamp issued by Spain in January 1939. It was part of a 7 stamp issue in various denominations that honored Juan de la Cierva, the inventor of the autogiro. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 40 cents used. There are overptints of this issue denoting airmail or a stamp show in San Sebastian in 1948 that were applied privately and so do not effect value. There is also an imperferate version that is real and ups the value to $40.

Juan de la Cierva was born in 1895. By his late teens he was obsessed with a theory of sustained flight by the lift effect of the auto rotation of a rotor. This would allow the craft to take off without a runway to build speed and airflow around wings like a conventional airplane.  An autogiro differs fom a helicopter in that an engine propeller provides the airflow to turn the rotor rather than powering it directly. The flight controls are more like a conventional airplane and Cierva thought this a big advantage over a helicopter.

There were many issues around how to achieve the tilting of the rotor and how to transmit the engine torque. So several generations of flying prototypes were built. Cierva then moved to Britain after successfully demonstrating a prototype to the Air Ministry. With the help of Scottish industrialist and flight enthusiast James Weir, Cierva set up an aviation company. With this he was able to  license his technology to others working in the Netherlands and Germany and incorporate their advances. In 1936, Cierva was killed in a plane crash of a KLM DC2 on the way from Croydon to Amsterdam. Work on Cierva’s designs ended at the outbreak of World War II.

Post war, the company tried to continue where it had left off, only now with conventional helicopters. The prototype of the then largest helicopter in the world with 3 rotors on outriggers crashed in 1948 killing the pilots who were also the executives of the company. Juan de la Cierva was made a Spanish Count and a member of the aviation hall of fame posthumously.

Cierva War Horse, 3 rotor post war prototype


Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Juan de la Cierva. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Argentina 1954, Peron invokes Ceres to ennoble the Grain Exchange

Social Security, national health care, paid family leave, and urban Jews rising to prominence. Sounds like Argentina shifting left, but the image on this stamp tells the real story, Peronism was not just socialism but national socialism, albeit more Italian than German. 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.

Whatever else you think of him. Peron really unleashed his stamp designers. Under his brand of politics, professionals are part of a grand tradition to benefit the state above all. This stamp is for the 100th anniversary of a financial institution. As a comparison, look at this American stamp I covered here.

The stamp attempts to show a solid, useful institution but none of the over the top majesty of today’s Argentine stamp. This type of image was only under Peron. See also a before Peron bank anniversary stamp from Argentina I did here.  Just the founder and a stone edifice.

Now look at how the stamp engraver saw himself under Peron. See article on it here.

The stamp today is issue A242, a 1.5 Peso stamp issued by Argentina on August 26th 1954. It was a single stamp issue that marked the centennial of the Buenas Aires Grain Exchange. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents.

Juan Peron was elected President in 1946. He had served in the military and in political positions previously and been exposed to the by then defeated fascist governments of Italy and Germany that Argentina earlier had a flirtation with. His political movement was influenced by them but the Argentine masses were much poorer so his movement was more centered on elevating the poor. His policies were quite left wing but his image making was definitely from the right. He was thus able to attract support from both left and right which guaranteed reelection but made for an unstable alliance.

The massive government programs put in place created much inflation, which of course is terrible for those that are already established. Peron tried to clamp down on opposition via control of the press and arrests of his political opponents. Eventually there was a coup that sent Peron into exile in Franco’s Spain. His party was banned but  the string of grey men that replaced him were not able to bring stability or economic opportunity. Meanwhile Peron was able to issue missives from Spain telling how great thing would be after he returned. He eventually did return in 1973. When back in power he had to chose between his left and right wing supporters. He chose his right which splintered his base. He was by then a sick old man who died in 1975. He tried to will his movement to his young widow but soon the grey right wing generals were back in charge and embarrassing the country with their lack of achievement.

The stamp depicts the Roman God Ceres of Agriculture and female fertility. She comes up a lot in the imagery of right governments of the late 19th and early 20th century. In addition to this Argentine depiction. she appears on stamps of Napoleon III era France and on the money of the Confederate States of America.

Well my drink is empty and a may have another before consulting the crop report from the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange which still continues. I hope the harvest will not be drought effected yet again. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting


Charkhari Indian Feudal State 1931, Rajputs are a forward caste, the British know this, or at least hope it

These feudal states and there Maharajahs are fun. Not to live in them but how their history was used. 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.

An exotic palace in a tiny place in a huge country that was still a colony. The Feudal states are not, though that only seems to benefit their leaders. The result should be stamp gold. This is ruined by the fact that stamp making was a business by 1931. Therefore the numbers of stamps printed are vast and so the values remain low. The early stamps from Charkari were unprofessional enough that philatelist understand that they were improvised for actual postage use and their values are through the roof. My taste in stamps is more toward a window into the exotic place I will likely never see, so I will stick with the cheap and cheerful Imlia Palace issue.

Todays stamp is issue A5, a one Anna stamp issued by the Feudal Indian state of Charkhari in 1931. It was part of a nine stamp issue in various denominations that showed the sites of the small city state. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used. This value assumes that the cancelization is to order as the stamp was sold directly to stamp dealers. My stamp is definitely canceled to order as there is still gum on the back. The Scott catalog gives no value for the stamp with an actual postal cancelation. They must exist and are the ones I wish to had. Many of the feudal states played up the exoticness to western eyes on their stamps. So wouldn’t they have looked great on postcards home from western tourists of the time.

Charktari Feudal state came into being in 1765 after breaking the small city off from the Panna state. The Panna state itself formed when the Rajput people rebelled from the Mughal Empire. The Rajput were Bengals and Hindus of a higher caste. A Scottish historian and colonial administrator James Tod had spent a great deal of time with local leaders and chronicled the historic legends as told to him. His well produced and illustrated 2 volume “History of Rajistan” became a sensation in Britain and India. It put into print stories from earlier than Indian indigenous texts and promoted the Rajputs as an hereditary Indian nobility comparable to Britain’s own nobility. The East India Company that then ruled India was looking for local allies and the Rajputs seemed a natural and were awarded added honours.  This friendship became very useful during the Indian rebellion of 1857. The British East Indian army recruited it’s soldiers from Indians of higher castes and it’s officers from Great Britain. It was not a part of the British Army. Many of the soldiers did not like being judged by their caste in the army and even the higher caste resented that most officers were British. A new model Enfield rifle was the catalyst for a rebellion in the army. The round bullets had to be bitten before being loaded into the rifle. The grease on them contained both beef and pork fat that was seemingly designed to annoy Hindus and Muslims alike. One of the things that helped the British put down the rebellion were that the Rajput feudal states sided with the colonial administration. After the rebellion was put down the colony was put directly under Britain and the company was liquidated. The loyalty of the Rajput leaders was not forgotten though.

James Todd with a Jain Guru by the artist Gashi

These type of tribal/feudal arraignments were much more attractive to the British than the Indian people themselves. Most people do not come from the highest castes and therefore harbor resentment. It was not the system that was going to rule India post independence. The Feudal states were quickly pressured to join India after independence. The blow was softened somewhat by some recognition of the old titles and a stipend from the government that went along with it. All the states joined and it will surprise no one that the stipends ended in the 1970s under a reform package enacted by then President Indira Gandhi. Today the Rajputs are considered a forward caste that do not benefit, and thereby are punished by, India’s current affirmative action scheme.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast historian James Tod. Such people are not well remembered today, but I have a lot of respect to those that travel far, learn a great deal and then bring that knowledge back and spread it widely. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

300th Article, the library builds

I have been doing this for a little over a year now and this is the 300th article. The archives on the right of the screen allows you to look at past articles. It only gives you a thumbnail but if you click on the stamp picture it takes you to the full article. or you can just keep scrolling down on the screen to go back in time. So far, against advice, I have let the article each day run in it’s entirety with out the reader having to keep clicking a certain place to keep reading. This is just a trick to increase page views and ad impressions.

Anyway here are some links to some of my favorites.





Feel free to let me know in the comments which you  liked or didn’t. My to date high view day was a Danish bridge stamp that I thought was kind of a stinker, so I perhaps am not the best judge. Also let me know if there is a region or an era that you want me to cover more. Also fear not I am not nearly out of stamps and I only intend to decide if this website has a future once I have hit 1000 articles. If you are enjoying what I am doing, keep coming back and tell your friends. If you don’t, tell your enemies. Thanks for visiting.

Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic 1921, Triumphant, so claims the stamp

Things were unstable and had recently been violent. What was needed was that the people believe that things will get 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.

Stamps are a slightly idealized version of how a country sees itself. That is why I love them. This stamp could only be Russian. The hunting trophy looks fierce and noble, and the shirtless man, strong brave and going places. Not many places would portray things this way. Former American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently remarked about when similar shirtless pictures of Russian President Putin with a tiger, that it was a sign that the Russian President was insane. She always marketed herself as a Soviet expert, but Dr. Rice’s expertise apparently did not extend far enough to realize that this was a known Russian pose. As with most people, perhaps she would benefit from taking up stamp collecting.

Shirtless President Putin with Tiger. it’s better to have the stamp designer do it

The stamp today is issue A44, a 40 Ruble stamp issued by the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic on August 10th, 1921. It was a single stamp issue claiming the new Russia triumphant. The next year Russia was subsumed into the USSR. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $1.90 mint. A used version of the same stamp is worth $160. As can be seen from the already high denomination on the stamp, the Soviets had not yet gotten a handle on inflation. There are overstamped versions of this stamp from the same year with a 5000 Ruble denomination. They are worth much less used.

The Soviets took over from the Kerensky regime in October 1917. At the time it was hoped that the Communist Revolution would quickly engulf the world. For a time the Soviet regime in Russia had no official name and little foreign recognition. Opponents of the regime proposed Sovdepedia, mocking the many workers deputies. Instead the ruling Council of Peoples Commissars came up with the clunky above title.

The Council had a Civil War with Czarist White forces, land reform and many wars with neighbors to deal with. The whole class system of Russia was being upended with assets taken from the previous landowning classes. This quickly resulted in food shortages as few were tending the crops. The peasant class was then divided into the poor and the less poor and the less poor Kulaks were  targeted for hording food. The Council of Peoples Commissars contained Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and even a female, Alexandra Kollonta. With so many goals, and little time to show results, it is not surprising that many of the Commissars were short lived. Lenin and a few others died of natural causes, but most were executed during Stalin’s purges. Alexandra Kollonta was an exception, she was allowed to go abroad and serve in Scandinavia as a diplomat. She foresaw marriage being replaced in Russia with free love and children raising to be heavily involved with the state. This never quite happened and she held her tongue during the time of the purges, that had taken her ex husband and several ex lovers. Her ideas were pioneering among later feminists.

In 1922, the Soviet Union came together in 1922 under a government modeled on the Russian Soviet Federated Peoples Republic. In 1946, Council of Ministers was refashioned as the Council of Deputies.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast our hero on todays stamp. He can see a bright future, if he could only figure out for us on how to get there. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.