Persia 1929, If the old Royal family isn’t working out, lets declare an upstart commoner Royal

Persia was a wounded country with a young incompetent King and Britain exploiting the resourses and Russia a short march from the capital. 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 should like this stamp. A pompous ruler, pretending to be King, wearing an elaborate uniform with a sash. He even sports a silly mustache. What is not to like? Just that Persia was once a great country and a string of rulers like Reza Kahn, er ah Reza Shah Pahlavi, have left this country a backward…. well I won’t say shithole, but the President would.

Todays stamp is issue A42, a 6 Centimes stamp issued by the Kingdom of Persia in 1929. It was part of a sixteen stamp issue in various denominations and showed Reza Shah Pahlavi. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents.

The Qajar Dynasty had ruled Persia since the late 18th century. By the early 20th Century. the dynasty was about played out. Ahmad Shah had taken the thrown at age 11 in 1909 after his father was forced to abdicate. At first there was a regency, but the boy took power in 1914 at age 16. Persia had a deal that provided oil to the Royal Navy at a low rate and the northern Capital at Tehran was a short march from Russia. When the Czarist Russian army marched to the capital, the Shah’s Army did not put up a fight but mountain warlords did pushing out the Russians. The discredited the boy Shah if he ever had any credibility.

After World War I, the province nearest Russia declared itself the Persian Soviet Socialist Republic. The signaled their intent to march to Tehran with the support of the Red Army. Knowing Ahmad Shah was incapable of meeting this challenge the Persian Army rebelled under an officer named Reza Kahn. Kahn had been made an officer earlier by being the only person in his unit that could figure out how to use and keep functional a Russian made machine gun. The Shah was stripped first of his power and sent on an extended European tour that amounted to exile. The British then suggested that the national assembly name Kahn the new Shah which they did in 1925. The new Shah kept the oil deal with the British and signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union. Everyone was happy, well perhaps not the people. He did request in 1935 that other countries refer to Persia as Iran as it is known in the native language. His wife Queen Taj got wearing the veil banned in 1936.

World War II saw Reza Shah Pahlavi try to stay neutral and keep out all foreign troops. This was not acceptable to the British nor the Soviets and both invaded from north and south in 1941. The Army again refused to fight. Even after the Shah beat his General with his walking stick and put him in prison. Britain considered putting the son of the last Qajar Shah on the throne but he was a British national who did not speak Persian. So similar to 1909, Reza Shah’s son was put on the throne and the current Reza Shah Pahlavi abdicated and went into exile in South Africa. Queen Taj did not join him. Eventually his remains were returned to Iran in 1950 and placed in a mausoleum. During the 1979 revolution, the mausoleum was ransacked but the former Shah’s remains were not found. Recently what were believed to be his remains were found nearby the mausoleum and reburied. His third of five wives, Queen Now Mother Taj,  fled Iran before the Shah and attempted to stay at a family owned mansion in Beverly Hills. Two days after her arrival, Iranian students in the USA attacked the house and attempted to burn it. She had to flee again and spent her last days in Acapulco, Mexico.

Well my drink is empty and I am left wondering if Iran will ever have a decent government. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Imperial British East Africa Company 1890, Another Company fails to administer a colony

Trying to go beyond trading posts gets complicated. In theory building some infrastructure could multiply trade but involves more capital than quick returns. 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.

Todays stamp is not much to look at. The sun and crown are supposed to be symbolical of light and liberty. Whose light and liberty is not clear. If Great Britain truly cared about the area, they wouldn’t have sold off the rights to make something of it. The few adventures that came to make their fortune must have felt quite alone. Since the company was in possession of a Royal Charter, perhaps Queen Victoria would have been better placed on the stamp. The idea that the head of the most powerful nation on earth was on your side and looking out for you might have raised your confidence.

Todays stamp is issue A4, an eight Anna (Indian) stamp issued by the Imperial East Africa Company in 1890. It is part of a 17 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $6.75. A grey version of this denomination is worth $350. The blue version I have if it were overstampted British East Africa after the failure of the company is worth $115. If they mistakenly inverted the overstamp, the value goes to $8000.

Great Britain was awarded the territory of modern Kenya and Uganda by the treaty of Berlin in 1885. It was previously under the Sultan of Zanzibar. British goals at the time were more to do with southern Africa so the area was on the back burner. Sir William Mackinnon, a Scotsman who made a shipping fortune based on steamers that plied their trade first in the Bay of Bengal and later extending out to Aden, Zanzibar, and Mombasa in the new British territory. He proposed a company that would build a railroad and road between Lake Victoria and Mombasa to expand the ivory and agricultural trade while stamping out the still widespread slave trade and bringing Christianity to the local tribes. This was quite a tall order but the capital raised was far below what was needed.

The Imperial British East Africa company managed to set up administrative offices in Mombasa and hire Fredrick Lugard, a noted soldier and explorer. His task was to map out a route for a railway to Lake Victoria, build forts along the way and make treaties of friendship with local tribes along the way. To do this he was provided a supply of pre printed treaties that were enforceable by the British Empire. Interestingly, Lugard found that the most useful part of the treaty signings was a blood brother ceremony with tribal chiefs where both men receive small cuts that are bound together so that blood is shared. True to the shipping heritage a steamer was built in Scotland in kit form to use on Lake Victoria once the railroad was able to bring it.

Shortage of funds saw to it that progress on the railroad was slow. The interference in the local slave trade also angered local chiefs including Waiyaka Wa Hinga who was a blood brother of Lugard. This did not stop him from plundering and burning the fort Lugard had constructed nearby in preparation for the railroad. Lugard had to put together a new expedition to put down Wayaki Wa Hinga and other unruly chiefs. The expedition captured and killed Wayaki Wa Hinga and put down the rebellion but in doing so bankrupted the Imperial East Africa Company.

An 1892 cartoon in Punch magazine casting the expense of Uganda as a white elephant

William Mackinnon proposed abandoning the operation, but Lugard convinced British Prime Minister Gladstone to continue the efforts there as British East Africa. They eventually got the railroad built and got the ship, that had sat in kit form in a wharehouse in Mombassa for 10 years operating on Lake Victoria as intended. The area became a British  protectorate in 1894 and the Crown colonies of Kenya and Uganda in 1920.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to Willian Mackinnon for trying to accomplish an impossible task. There was enough of his fortune left upon his death in 1893 to endow a scholarship fund that to this day funds bursaries to young men from the Scottish West Highlands. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting

Armenia 1921,the Soviet Republic gets some iffy stamps out before the inevitable integration

Armenians had a terrible time around the time of this stamp. Armenians had suffered a horrible massacre in the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Finally a little hope when the Russian Revolution for a short period lost grip of Armenia. Only to have that grip come back a few years later. 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.

With it’s unusual paper and being imperferate, there is an air of this being a fake stamp. There is some reason to think this even though catalogs recognize them. The very short lived republic of Armenia ordered stamps printed in Paris but never actually delivered as the government fell so fast. Than the Soviet Republic that put out this issue was quickly folded into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federation with Georgia and Azerbaijan. They also had a few stamps till the Soviets just made them use the Russian issues. In fact only one denomination, the 25 Ruble, of this series even made it into post offices. The catalog does not even list a canceled version but urges the stamp collector to be on the lookout for fakes. I think perhaps sympathy for the Armenians plight might have lead the catalog to list a fake stamp. Just my opinion…

Todays stamp is issue A16, a 1000 Ruble stamp issued by the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921. The stamp displays a fisherman on the Aras River. It was part of a 17 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 40 cents. There is also a perforated version of the stamp but that does not effect it’s value either way. One can see the high denomination, later once the rampant inflation of the time was dealt with, there were overstamps of this issue with the new denominations. These tend to have a slightly higher value.

Armenia tried to get itself free from both Turkey and Russia at the end of World War I. The Turkish genocide of Armenians, many who had fought for czarist Russia, caused a migration of ethnic Armenians to the new country. The peace treaty between the Bolsheviks and the new nation of Turkey left certain areas in Turk hands that Armenians thought belonged to them. Soon the Red Army arrived in the area to bring Armenia and the other new countries back into the fold. After fighting a deal was struck with Armenia becoming an autonomous Soviet Republic in return for the Red Army guaranteeing the borders and no persecution of former non communists. When this last part was reneged upon, a new Armenian mountainous republic rebelled and held out for another year but without stamps.

The Soviet Union then had the idea of merging Christian Armenia and Georgia with Muslim Azerbiajan as the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic.  With atheism and Soviet nationalism being promoted, the Soviets had hope for this. Of course the divisions were too deep and eventually in 1936 the states were allowed to be separate Soviet Republics.

Interestingly, in 1922 the Soviets appointed Alexander Martuni as their leader on site. He was a scholor of Armenian arts and literature and even wrote books and articles promoting it. This allowed a separate Armenian culture to flourish and did much to lessen opposition. However Moscow began to worry that Martuni was not Sovietizing the place fast enough. In 1925 he was killed in a suspicious plane crash of the Junkers F.13 he was flying in. Some believe Minister of State Security Beria was behind the crash. Unusually for a Soviet era official, Martuni is still revered in modern independent Armenia, even getting a stamp issue honoring him in 2012. Armenia achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

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

Iceland honors King Christian one last time before the union with Denmark ends

Iceland had a rough time in the later years as a part of Denmark. So it might be natural for Iceland to go it alone, especially when Denmark is not in a place to contest. 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.

Todays stamp is just not the best. It just shows the then Danish King Christian X and the unfortunately generic to English speakers place name of Island. Sorry but world wide philatelists will need more information to get excited by a stamp. Iceland corrected this in a stamp issue a few years later with a stamp displaying a Viking sacrifice to the Norse God Thor. That is perhaps a little fantastic but at least puts you in a time and place.

Todays stamp is issue A8, a one Eyrir stamp issued by Iceland in 1920. It features Danish and then still Icelandic King Christian X and was part of a 21 stamp issue in various denominations, According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth $1.25 used.

The climate and volcanic activity had been rough on the Danish territory of Iceland in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. There had been a heavy migration out, often to the Canadian province of Manitoba. Danish power was on the decline with the separation of Norway and then the interruption of contact with Denmark in World War I and again in World War II. The Danes had granted ever more self rule and by 1918 only the Danish King was still the ceremonial leader of Iceland. Even this ended during World War II with Denmark falling unopposed to Germany and Britain  invading Iceland also unopposed. Iceland then declared King Christian incapable of fulfilling his duties to Iceland and removed him as King.

King Christian was trying hard to hold together a greater Denmark but not having much luck. The territory of Schleswig had both ethnic Germans and Danes but was in the possession of Germany. Denmark hoped to reclaim most of it after WWI and indeed the northern portion voted to join Denmark, the rest voted to stay German. This was not enough for the King and he ordered the elected Prime Minister to include the city Flensburg in the reunification. The Danish Prime Minister refused and resigned and the King appointed a new cabinet that would follow his wishes. What followed was a constitutional crisis that saw the King back down and call new elections and in future confine himself to ceremonial functions.

World War II saw another crisis for King Christian. Denmark did not resist the 1940 German invasion and the King and government remained in place in cooperation with the Germans. This was not good pr and the King hit on a way to appear to be resisting. He would ride daily through Copenhagen on a horse alone in full Danish Military uniform. The German occupiers allowed it and it got the peoples spirits up to see him. One legend as the King stopping his ride in front of a big hotel flying the Nazi flag as it was being used as a administrative center. The King confronted the German sentry stating that the flag must come down as it violated the armistice agreement. The sentry refused the King. The King then stated that a Danish soldier will come and pull down the Nazi flag if he did not. The German sentry then stated that the Danish soldier would be shot. The King then said that the He was the Danish soldier  and the sentry then took down the flag. Allied wartime propaganda ate this stuff up.

King Christian X during one of his wartime rides

The horse rides did not end well for the now elderly King. He took a spill in late 1942 that left him an invalid for the rest of his life, dying in 1947. His rides had restored his popularity and insulated him from the obvious charge of collaboration with the German invader. Iceland also aquiest to British occupation with Americans following and traditional Iceland neutrality was replaced by NATO membership postwar.

Well my drink is empty and faced with the choice of a horse ride of another drink, you can guess my choice. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Confederate States of America put their live President on the stamps

When an area of a country breaks away some traditions fall away. One American tradition that ended in the Confederacy was not putting current leaders on postage 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.

The stamp today is the most common issue of the Confederacy. It featured an engraving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis by Ferdinand Joubert. The first 12,000,000 copies were printed in London by De La Rue and the shipment to Richmond included printing plates and paper to continue production of the stamp locally. The English paper ran out and the plates became worn so over time the quality of the printing deteriorated. I believe my copy is a later printing.

Todays stamp is issue A4, a five cent stamp issued by the Confederate States of America in 1862. It was a single stamp issue. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $7 mint but with no gum on the back. Gum would have doubled the value and it would have doubled again used. There is a mistake version of this stamp with the image of President Davis printed on both sides of the paper. It is worth $2,500.

The post office of the Confederacy is the department of the civilian government that functioned the best. The Postmaster John Reagan sent an agent to Washington with letters offering jobs to Union postal officials. Many accepted. The use of American stamps was banned after 7 weeks and local postmasters issued provisionals until the definitive stamp issues were ready. The postal rates were set higher than the Union, five cents on this stamp is the equivalent of $1.36 and only was good for a letter going less than 100 miles. The post offices stayed in operation until the end of the war.

Jefferson Davis grew up in Mississippi under wealthy circumstances. He served in the US Army in the Mexican War and owned a plantation that used slave labor. His first wife died of malaria after 3 months of marriage. After 10 years single Davis remarried the granddaughter of the governor of New Jersey and they had 4 children. He got into politics and served as Senator from Mississippi where he argued against succession. At a Constitutional Convention after succession. Davis was appointed the President of the Confederacy. The only other candidate considered was Robert Toombs of Georgia.

The war dragged on for almost 4 years when Confederate General Lee surrendered to Union General Grant. Davis and his cabinet escaped Richmond and headed south. The idea was to set up the government in exile in Havana and continue resistance in the large area of the South that was still controlled. It wasn’t to be  and the Union caught up to him in Georgia. Southerners think the story that he was captured in female clothes trying to escape detection is a myth. He only had on his wife’s overcoat to keep off the cold. Okay then… He was held in irons awaiting trial for treason until Papal intervention and a large bail payment allowed his release. He lived for a time in Canada and Scotland before his legal troubles ended and he returned to the South. In Memphis, now separated from his wife he started an insurance company with former Confederate Officers as his agents. He also fought legally to reclaim his plantation which had been divided and rented out to his former slaves. Eventually his situation improved after the end of Reconstruction and Davis was able to write books and profit from Confederate nostalgia.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Postmaster Reagan. Putting together a successful post office in a new country during a war must have been a big undertaking. I can forgive him for breaking tradition and including President Davis on the stamps. Just founding fathers would not have done enough to make clear the Confederacy was something new. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Honduras 1987, Always a sucker for Latin American leaders in a sash

Finding the formula for good government in small poor countries is always a challenge. In the late 80s, Honduras tried to be more democratic and were I Honduran, I would have joined 27 percent of Hondurans who voted for the man with the sash. So 27 percent though, and he won? 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 like this stamp as a sort of mildly updated Latin American stamp of old. It usually was easy to distinguish left from right with just a portrait of the politician. A man of the right will deck himself out as a dime store fake Mussolini. A man of the left will put himself forward as a dime store Che Guevara. Today it is not so easy as there are more women involved in politics and the current generation is too self conscious to wear a costume. Already here in 1987 you see President Azcona wearing his sash with an ordinary business suit rather that a proper tuxedo.

Todays stamp is issue C754, a .85 Lempira airmail stamp issued by Honduras on February 2nd, 1987. It was a two stamp issue showing then President Jose Azcona del Hoyo and the Honduran flag on the first anniversary of the peaceful democratic transfer of power. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 85 cents in it’s used condition.

Honduras was more peaceful in the 80s than the countries around it such as Nicaragua and El Salvador. Both of the latter were plagued with well funded insurgencies acting out cold war politics. The Honduran military had done a better job clamping down on left wing elements and so was more stable. This allowed the USA to pay Honduras large sums to rout aid to the right wing contras through Honduras. The aid allowed the military to gain strength with American F5 fighters, C130 transports and Huey helicopters and Israeli training to use them properly.

Large amounts of aid from a superpower inevitably have strings attached and soon there was much pressure to  democratize. So in 1986 there was an election with very mixed results. The right of center political party could not get it’s act together and fielded four separate candidates, including Azcona. The left of center party had only one candidate who got 46 percent of the vote, the highest by far percentage. Instead of him winning or perhaps going to a runoff the vote totals of the four right wing candidates were combined and the one with highest vote total, Azcona at 27 percent. became president. This suited America well, as he was the pro business, more Spanish less indigenous leader they prefer to deal with.

Azcona’s term was less than successful. The Nicaraguan and El Salvadoran civil wars were winding down and with it aid from the USA. Azcona tried to be pro business development by trying to peg the Honduran currency to the USA dollar to prevent capital flight. This resulted in huge deficits and was ultimately unsuccessful. With more democracy it was harder to clamp down on decent and therefore the opposition became more violent. At the same time the military was shrinking and with less politics to argue about young disaffected youth turned to gang crime. This has been a plague throughout Central America and unfortunately one they seem intent on exporting north. It might make some want to build a wall.

Well my drink is empty. I paged forward in the Scott catalog and in 2005 there was another stamp of a then current Honduran President proudly wearing a sash. Good job, be proud of who you are. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.


Hindenburg goes on but is never able to recover from the stab in the back

When Germany did not recover quickly after World War I, it was natural to turn to an old national hero to get back on track. The key word is old though and his time had past. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage and sir back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

This stamp is very much in the style of a royalty stamp and indeed the 1920s era German presidency had duties that closely reflected a modern royal. The exception to that is that he stood for election and in that was lowered to that level with runoffs and coalitions to obtain power. Hindenburg himself claimed to personally favor a return of the Kaiser from his exile and he be allowed to return to his retirement.

Todays stamp is issue A64, a fifty pfennig stamp issued by Germany in 1933. The issue was originally to celebrate President von Hindenburg’s 85th birthday in 1932. The stamp was issued for many years and there was a black outlined version upon Hindenburg’s death in 1934. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $2,40 used.

Paul von Hindenburg was born in 1847 in what is now Poznan, Poland. He was of noble birth and could also trace his family tree to Martin Luther. Like his father, he was a Prussian officer who fought the wars with Austria and France and eventually became a Coronel General (equivalent to American 2 star) before retiring in 1911. He came out of retirement the first time in 1914 to replace a General who had lost his nerve when facing the large Russian Army early in the First World War. Hindenburg used his theories of maneuver warfare to surround and defeat the much larger Russian force at the Battle of Tannenberg. This was the site of a long ago defeat of Prussia by Slavs so was especially inspiring. Statues of Hindenburg rose throughout Germany made of wood that you could pay to put a nail in in support of war widows. Hindenburg was promoted to Field Marshall and sent to the Western Front where is theories on movement were not as applicable to the trench warfare.

The defeat in 1918 saw Germany shrunk, the Kaiser deposed, and German left wing element agreeing to very punitive punishments for Germany. Conservative elements in the country such as Hindenburg, again in retirement, saw this as a stab in the back to the noble German war effort. The “stab in the back” harkened back to the wonderfully titled 1876 Wagner opera Gotterdammerung. The left of course saw a disastrous war that severely bled the country of it’s men and treasure and discredited the old leadership. The early twenties saw the left in power and hyper inflation and continuing hardship among the people. The hard times lead to more radical right and left forces of Nazis and Communists that both agitated for ever more radical change. Into this, Hindenburg first in 1922 and again in 1925 offered himself as a presidential candidate that could unite the old and new right and bring back German greatness. He won in 1925 in a runoff but was not able to unite the country as the divisions were too deep. He was also unable to unite the right wing, Hitler thought him an old fool, and Hindenburg thought Hitler an uppity corporal with a funny accent. The situation became more unstable with the prospect of Hitler becoming Chancellor. In 1932, many on the left voted for Hindenburg hoping that he would prevent Hitler becoming chancellor. In the end he disappointed them by allowing Hitler to form a government. This might have been prevented as the Nazis were one of many parties and did not have a clear majority. It must be remembered that Hindenburg was quite old by then and his son Oscar had a lot of sway and was more amenable to Hitler. Hindenburg died in 1934 and the role of Chancellor and President were combined as the Nazis consolidated power.

One can see the pitfalls of even great military leaders venturing in to politics. As a head of state above politics, Hindenburg might have thrived. In an office that did not have much authority and had to consult rather than just order, Hindenburg was out of his element and forever tarnished his reputation. Both in allowing Hitler come to power and in not solving the national issues that were leading to such desperation.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast those paid to pound those nails to support war widows. They were the ones who the system failed, over and over. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.


Netherlands 1971, Prince Bernhard is honored for his part in Dutch aviation, before his reputation tarnishes

Consorting with German princes can lead to trouble. After everything though, one can respect a life well lived. 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 lot to like about the visuals of this stamp. First is that it looks at least 10 years newer than it is. Second that it shows the Prince as a man, with accomplishments and perhaps flaws. Then there are the airplanes. A Fokker F27 Friendship regional airliner showing off Dutch industry, and the KLM Boeing 747 reaching for the stars with it’s promise of worldwide travel.

Todays stamp is issue A123, a 25 cent stamp issued by the Netherlands on June 25th, 1971. It features Prince Consort Bernhard honoring him for his work in Dutch aviation and in other stamps in this issue, his work for the World Wildlife Fund. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents.

The Prince was born in 1911 in Germany as a Prince in the house of Lippe. The royal house became out of work after World War I but the family still had money. The Prince was educated and took a job! with IJ Farbin the large German chemical company. He also to his later embarrassment joined the Nazi Party and served in the SS in a reserve capacity. He met Dutch Princess Julianna at a winter Olympics in 1936 and was judged a worthy suitor as a proper Royal and a Lutheran. He married Princess Julianna in 1937 and with her fathered 4 daughters including future Queen Beatrix. His German background came back to haunt him when the Germans invaded in 1940 but he willingly fought for his adopted country by flying Spitfires fighters from Britain. Julianna and the children fled to the safety of Canada. The allies were nervous of him at first but over time he earned their respect. When Queen Wilhelmina erased the honorary from her son in law’s military title, something she did not technically have the right to do, the Dutch armed forces honored it. He had a brother who fought with his native Germans and many wondered of their wartime relationship.

In 1948, Queen Wilhelmina abdicated and Bernhard’s wife Julianna became Queen. He became a jet setter who actively promoted Dutch business around the world. He also became Inspector General of the Dutch armed forces. His jet setting later led to two further illegitimate daughters, one in 1952 by an American landscape architect and a second by a French model in 1967. He also helped found the World Wildlife Fund.

He also courted controversy. In the 1960s NATO countries pooled their resources to buy fighter planes for their air forces on better terms. The group chose the Lockheed F104 Starfighter for the large order despite the model being a failure in American service. It later became controversial for it’s many crashes, In Canada, it was called the widowmaker and in Germany the tent peg. Rumors flooded Europe that the order went to Lockheed because of bribes paid. Proof was found from Prince Bernhard of him demanding a 1 million dollar “commission” to him personally in return for the Dutch order for Starfighters. He tried to claim he was above answering questions on such things but later stepped down from the armed forces and other business interests to avoid criminal prosecution.

Dutch F104 Starfighter

He had earlier controversially planted stories in the German press about his wife the Queen for seeing a faith healer, which the article described as her Rasputin. The story was true and eventually Queen Julianna was forced by the government to cut ties from her. The Royals were divided as to whether he was taking desperate measures to help her or whether it was a German Putsch to have Julianna abdicate with Bernhard leading a regency for his young daughter.

The last controversy soiled his work with the World Wildlife Fund. The Prince sold some Royal paintings for $700.000 giving the money to the WWF. The WWF than gave $500,000 back to him to help form a mercenary army in Africa to fight poachers. How much they fought poachers and how much the collaborated with them is up for debate. Post apartheid South Africa believes the target was really the ANC and Zulu freedom fighters.

Prince Bernhard lived till 2004 and was considered somewhat of a character in Holland late in his life. He was awarded a full state Burial and outlived Former Queen Julianna by 8 months. The Dutch Air Force performed a missing man formation  with an old Spitfire, modern F16s, but no Starfighters.

Well my drink is empty and I will happily pour another to toast Prince Bernhard. The world needs a few characters. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.


For the first Latin American stamp with a woman, Mexico in 1910 picks “The sweet mother of the fatherland”

In 1910, Mexico celebrated 100 years of independence from Spain. So figures from the movement get their due in the form of a stamp issue. Among them the first female to be featured on any Latin American stamp. 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 another overly formal and impersonal Latin American stamp featuring a long gone figure. Leona Vicario was a young adventurous women of independent means who helped her country break away from Spain out of love for it and her man. This issue is from a long time ago and a different culture, but there should have been some way to include this history on the stamp. The 2010 200th anniversary Mexican issue does a better job with Miss Vicario.

Todays stamp is issue A37, a two centavo stamp issued by Mexico in 1910. The stamp features Mexican independence figure Leona Vicario and was part of an 11 stamp issue in various denominations on the centennial of Mexican independence. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents.

Leona Vicario was born to a wealthy Spanish merchant and his Mexican born wife. They died when Leona was 18 and she inherited their vast fortune. She bought a villa next door to her uncle but was free in a way that few women were in her time. At her Royalist uncle’s suggestion, she became engaged to a Spanish lawyer. When he transferred back to Spain without marriage, she took up with a pro independence lawyer named Andres Quintana Roo over her uncles objections. He was involved in the struggle for independence. She took up his cause and made donations and acted as a messenger for the movement.

Leona Vicario

When Leona’s activities were found out she fled and married her lover. At her uncle’s suggestion she returned to her villa but was detained by the Spanish authorities. With help from the rebels she was able to escape but this time she had her property confiscated. To partially make up for this the revolutionary Congress granted Leona a pension. Post independence she worked as the first female journalist and her husband was a prominent politician and judge. A Mexican state was named after him and Leona’s profile has graced a version of the Mexican 5 Peso coin. The two are buried together at the Independence Colum in Mexico City.

Well my drink is empty and I am left wondering how different Miss Vicario’s life would have been if her first intended hadn’t transferred back to Spain without her. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

South Korea 1970, President Park becomes more dictatorial but the economy thrives

How to judge a new countries leader. Freedom? Stability? Economic Performance? All of the above. 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 stamp with a countries flag on it seems at first pretty basic. There is often a USA bulk postage issue with the flag, the current postal rate, and not much else. That is essentially what this is. In its own way though it is a sign of progress. South Korea was only recently free of it’s Japanese colonial period and had suffered an invasion and devastating war that was only ended with a cease fire. The country was still on a war footing and troops deployed abroad in South Vietnam. Yet there was still enough economic activity to require a basic bulk stamp issue to serve people sending letters. It should be seen as the economic miracle it was.

Todays stamp is issue A324, a 10 Won stamp issued by South Korea in 1970. It was part of an 18 stamp issue in various denominations that were issued from 1969-1974. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used. The mint version is up at $1.60, showing that not many of this bulk issue were being preserved by collectors.

The Korean War ended in 1953 with the Korean peninsula divided between a Communist North and a Capitalist South. The South Koreans had tried democracy after the war but the result was much political instability. With the country still in a state of war and heavily armed, the armed forces had an unusual amount of power and they were nervous about the instability and feared the often protesting students would lead to a Communist overthrow of the government. Brigadier General Park felt this and when he found out he was to be retired he acted and lead a successful coup. He later formed a political party and his takeover was  ratified by an election. He then embarked on an export driven economic growth plan that financed a great deal of industrialization by borrowing from the outside.

The economic growth was very quick and resembled what was going on in Japan with a few very large companies involved in many industries with cross ownership. Relations with Japan were normalized and aid and capital began to flow from that source. South Korea also ventured out more into the world with troop deployments in South Vietnam and construction companies heavily involved in building the petro-dollar states of the middle east. The sophistication of the country was seen in the nuclear power plants being constructed. The military also was technically adept enough to operate new West German submarines and then state of the art F4 Phantom American fighter bombers.

The economic performance was not enough to insure President Park’s popularity. To stay in office he had to resort to ever more repression of his political enemies. Eventually the military felt that he was going too far and President Park was assassinated by the head of the defence intelligence agency during a private banquet. He is still a controversial figure in Korea especially after his daughter was elected President in 2013, only to be impeached and sentenced to jail for influence paddling.

Well my drink is empty and I an debating whether to pour another to toast the memory of President Park. I think I will as I regard bringing up the living standards of a large group of people more important that cowtowing to leaders who are long on complaints and short on solutions or achievements. The toast should happen privately though and not at a banquet. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.