Aripex, sort of

I went off today to the only stamp show in Arizona, the annual Aripex. It is put on by the Federated Philatelic Societies of Arizona, or some such name.

Before I went I took a look at their very uninformative website. Most of it dates from one or three years ago.

There was something about the American Philatelic Society pulling their World Series of Philately standing for exhibits. In my mind, unfortunately, I did not properly translate to “no exhibits.” It was not explicitly stated. So I was disappointed to find no exhibits.

Online, they have the schedule for their presentations, for 2022. So it wasn’t until I arrived that I found I’d missed everything.

The bourse was much smaller in area than the last time I visited. And only about 2/3 full of dealers.

The five local stamp clubs all had big empty tables, because none of them bothered to show up.

And the Phoenix club didn’t even have a spot.

I don’t know what goes into getting table space here, but in other venues it’s usually only given if asked for.

So, with nothing going on, and no exhibits to look at, I left after ten minutes. I must in fairness say bourses generally don’t interest me at any kind of show or convention. I hate shopping.

They did not offer my $8 entry fee back, but I didn’t ask.

But I also think that really was my last stamp show.

Burns Night

January 25 is Burns Night, a celebration of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

I’ve put together something about him, illustrated by stamps. It’s too long for a blog post. And there are plenty arts that don’t fit in a video, so I’ve made a booklet.

It takes the form of an 8 page pdf. I hope you’ll take a look, and enjoy it.

The cover

Intro to the Belgian Congo

A Brief Postal History of the Belgian Congo

The Belgian Congo occupied the area of western Africa now covered by the Democratic Republic of Congo. The area was first colonized in 1885 when King Leopold II of Belgium founded and ruled what he named the Congo Free State. The King used the Congo as a personal colony, exploiting its resources and labor for his financial gain.

The postal system was established soon after.

Leopold II of Belgium

First Stamp of the Congo Free State, featuring the profile of Leopold II

Issued 1/1/1886

Like the earliest message systems in many places around the world, one of the earliest types of “modern” postal communications in the Belgian Congo was the use of “bush posts.” This was operated by private individuals who carried mail to remote areas. These bush posts were often operated by traders or missionaries and were not officially recognized by the colonial government.

In 1895, the Belgian government established the first official postal service in the Congo, with post offices and mail routes being set up in the major towns and cities. The postal service was primarily used for official government business and communication between the colonizers and Europe.

This postal system was not well developed, and mail often took months to reach its destination. It continued to rely on the bush post, due to a general lack of infrastructure, and the difficulty of transporting mail in the vast and largely inaccessible territory.

In 1908, King Leopold was forced to turn over the Belgian Congo to the government of Belgium, which renamed it the Belgian Congo.

As the colony developed, the postal system improved and more post offices were established. By the early 20th century, the postal service had expanded to cover most of the colony, and the first postage stamps under the new name were issued in 1909.

These palm trees appear on one of the first stamps of the renamed Belgian Congo

During World War II, the Belgian Congo was administered by the exiled Belgian Government, and mail service was disrupted. After the war, the postal system was rebuilt and new stamps were issued.

The Belgian government implemented several policies aimed at exploiting the Congo’s resources and labor for the benefit of Belgium. One of the policies was the forced labor system, which required Congolese men to work on rubber and ivory plantations, often under brutal conditions. This system led to the deaths of an estimated 3 million Congolese people.

The colony was also used as a source of raw materials for Belgian industry. The Congolese economy was heavily dependent on those exports. The colony had almost no industry, and the majority lived in poverty.

The Belgian government also began a policy of racial segregation and discrimination. The white colonizers enjoyed privileges and a higher standard of living than the native population. Education and healthcare were also limited, and the majority black population had limited access to those.

Despite this, there was a small educated elite of Congolese who began to demand their rights and a greater representation in the colonial government. These demands grew stronger in the 1940s and 1950s.

Following talks in Brussels with a united Congolese group of leaders in the spring of 1960, the new Republic of the Congo became independent on June 30, 1960, ending the postal history of the Belgian Congo.

The last stamps of the Belgian Congo were issued in 1960.

Video: Shark *Bait* Week: Sardines

This time, it’s sardines!

Sardines are small, oily forage fish in the herring family Clupeidae.

The term “sardine” was first used in English during the early 15th century, it comes from the Italian island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant. Pilchard is another term for the same group of fishes.

Some authorities consider the sardine to mean smaller, younger, pilchards.

The FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations considers 21 species that may be classed as sardines.

Sardines feed on zooplankton, and school wherever this is abundant.

This Ecuadorian stamp is from a series on export items. It was issued on April 22, 1986 and has a Scot number of 1137a. It has a watermark of the Coat of Arms of the Ecuador Military Geographic Institute. This commemorative stamp was designed by H. Galarza Gomez and printed by Instituto Geográfico Militar, Quito.

It has a perforation of 12½ and was printed by offset lithography, it has a face value of 10 Ecuadorian sucre. It had a print run of 200,000, and is from a souvenir sheet.

Sardines are commercially fished for bait; for eating fresh, or for drying, salting, or smoking. They are also used for fish meal and oil. Their oil is used for paint, varnish, and linoleum.

From South Korea, this stamp comes from a 1986 fishes series.

This commemorative has a Scott number of 1418, and was issued on July 25, 1986.

It has a comb perforation of 13¼ x 13 and was printed by photogravure.

The stamp has a face value of 70 South Korean won.

Though still fished commercially, the sardine business has collapsed in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the UK, what’s left of the industry is centered in Cornwall, and those are branded Cornish Sardines.

This stamp, featuring a Cornish Sardine comes from Great Britain, in a series on sustainable fish. It was issued June 5, 2014, and has a Scott number of 3299. There are variants.

The stamp was designed by Kate Stephens and printed using offset lithography by International Security Printers.

It has a perforation of 14 x 14½, with ordinary gum and phosphor paper.

This stamp has no face value, but is printed for 1st class postage.

John Steinbeck centered his novel Cannery Row in Monterey, California. It was once the sardine canning capital of the United States. The last U.S. cannery closed in 2010.

The Monterey canning industry began with salmon around the turn of the 20th century, but 1.4 million cases of sardines were being turned out by 1918 in support of the troops in World War I.

This Tunisian stamp, is from a series on the fishes of Tunisia. It was issued on July 15, 2012, and has a Scott number of 1535.

This commemorative was printed by offset lithography, and has a comb perforation of 13½.

There were 500,000 printed with a face value of 600 Tunisean milim.

After the second World War, the sardine fishery collapsed, and the canneries started to close.

Today the area is a tourist destination, and sardines can be seen in the Monterey Bay Aquarium at one end of Cannery Row.

Video: Shark *Bait* Week: Herring

This is Shark *Bait* Week. It’s a bit of a twist on last year’s Shark Stamp Week.

I’m sharing some information about shark prey animals that have appeared on stamps from around the world. And sharing stamps, too, of course.

This is about herring.

There are over 200 species of fishes called herrings, mostly belonging to the family of Clupeidae. Three, the Atlantic herring, the Pacific herring, and the Baltic herring make up about 90% of all herring commercially fished.

This stamp comes from the Federal Republic of Germany, or west Germany. It is a semipostal stamp, with a surcharge going to youth programs.

This stamp was issued in the saltwater fish series.

It was issued on August 4, 2016, and has a Scott number of B1119.

It was designed by Werner Hans Schmidt, and printed by Bundesdrukerei using offset lithography. The perforation is 13¾. And it has ordinary gum. The paper is fluorescent.

The stamp has a face value of 70 Euro cents for postage, and a 30 cent semipostal charge.

Herring are pelagic fish, which means they live up in the water column, not near the bottom.

Herring often move in large schools around shallow banks, and near the coast. They are regularly found in shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans, including the Baltic Sea.

This stamp hails from Estonia, and is part of a series featuring the national fish, herring.

This commemorative was issued on February 23, 2017, and was designed by Indrek Ilves.

It has a perforation of 13, and 50,000 were printed by offset lithography.

The stamp has a face value of 0.65 Euros.

Herrings are silvery-colored fish, with a single dorsal fin along the back. With so many species, their size of course varies from about 6 to 18 inches (14-46 cm), and up to about 1.5 lbs (700 g).

Herrings eat copepods, krill, and other drifting animals and plants. They are mainly filter feeders, swimming along with their mouths open and taking in anything that comes along. Sometimes they will notice and lunge for larger floating prey.

Herrings are also forage fish. Forage fishes are those that occur in large numbers, and are an important food for larger predators.

Those predators include seabirds, marine mammals such as dolphins, porpoises, whales, seals, and sea lions, and fish such as sharks, billfish, tuna, salmon, striped bass, cod, and halibut.

Coming from Iceland this herring stamp has a Scott number of 222, and there are variants.

The stamps were printed by recess printing, and it was issued on March 6, 1945 as a definitive with a perforation of 14. Before 1953 it had a print run of one million.

The face value is 10 Icelandic eyrir.

Adult herring are caught by humans for their meat and eggs, and they are often used as baitfish to catch larger sea creatures.

The herring industry is essentially irreplacable in the economies of several countries around the world, and it is considered the most economically important fish in the world.

I hope you enjoyed this!

Video: Shark *Bait* Week: Yellowfin Tuna

This is Shark *Bait* Week. It’s a bit of a twist on last year’s Shark Stamp Week.

I’ll be sharing some information about shark prey animals that have appeared on stamps from around the world. And sharing stamps, too, of course.

I hope you enjoy this week!

In 2021, I organized the stamps by country since so many issue sets of shark stamps, this time I’m organizing by subject, so the countries will jump around a bit.

Today’s subject is the yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares, is also called ahi, from the Hawaiian name for the fish.

This stamp is from Saint Helena’s Marine Life series. It was issued July 12, 1985 and has a Scott number of 436.

The stamp is watermarked.

It is a commemorative with a comb perforation of 13 x 13½, and was printed by offset lithography. It has a face value of 33 Saint Helena pennies.

Yellowfin are one of the larger tunas, and can weigh over 400 lb (180 kg). They can also grow up to 7 ft 10 in (2.4 m) long. Only the bluefin tuna are larger.

Yellowfin are epipelagic fish, which means they inhabit the mixed, warmer, surface layers of the ocean. Tracking has found that yellowfin tuna mostly range in the top 330 ft (100 m) of the water column.

Reportedly swimming depth can vary with time of day. During the night, they stay in water shallower than 289 ft (88 m), but during the day they may spend some time down to 620 ft (190 m).

Yellowfin tuna dive more deeply infrequently, but they can dive to considerable depths. An individual tagged in the Indian Ocean made three dives almost 4000 ft (1,100 m). The deepest yellowfin dive recorded is 5,223 ft (1,592 m.

This stamp from Tokelau’s marine fish series is a commemorative issued on October 3, 2012.

The comb perforation is 13¾ x 13½.

Printed by offset lithography, it has a face value of 40 New Zealand cents.

Despite staying relatively near the surface, yellowfin tuna are found mostly in deeper offshore waters, though they sometimes come inshore in special conditions.

Mid-ocean islands such as the Hawaiian islands, the Maldives, and places such as Ascension Island and Saint Helena, may have schools of yellowfin feeding nearshore where baitfish congregate.

Yellowfin tuna usually travel in schools with similarly sized fishes. Schools of young yellowfin and skipjack tuna are common.

Yellowfin will often school with dolphins and porpoises, as well as with larger whales, and even whale sharks.

The stamp here is from the French Southern and Antarctic Lands tuna fishing series.

Issued on January 2, 2017, this commemorative has a comb perforation of 13¼ x 13

Printing was by offset lithography and recess printing.

The stamp has a face value of 0.44 Euro, and had a print run of 46,000

The fish can also be found around drifting flotsam, such as logs and pallets, even follow moving vessels. Smaller fishes often use such places as shelter, so the predatory yellowfin take advantage of that.

Prey of the yellowfin tuna include other, smaller fishes, pelagic crustaceans, and squid.

Like all tunas, their body shape is adapted for speed, enabling them to pursue and capture fast-moving baitfish including flying fish, sauries, and mackerel. Schooling fishes such as anchovies, and sardines are frequent prey.

Large yellowfin will prey on smaller tunas such as frigate mackerel, and skipjack tuna.

In turn, yellowfin are preyed upon when young by other pelagic hunters, including larger tuna, seabirds, and predatory fishes such as wahoo, sharks, and billfishes.

Adults are threatened only by the largest and fastest hunters, such as toothed whales, particularly the false killer whale, pelagic sharks such as mako and great white, and large marlin.

Industrial tuna fisheries are their most deadly predator, however.

From Madagascar comes this 1982 fishes series stamp, with a Scott number of 650. It was issued on December 14, 1982

This commemorative has a comb perforation of 11¼.

Offset lithography was the printing method, and it has a face value of 50 Malagasy francs.

Yellowfins are very fast fish swimming up to 47 miles per hour (20.8 m/s).

One of the most surprising things, for many, is that tuna are warm-blooded, or endothermic. Their muscle movement at least partly contributes to this. The muscles are in essentially constant movement propelling their bodies through the water, and this generates heat. Their body retains some of this, and they can bring their bodies to quite impressive temperatures. In fact, tuna brought onboard a fishing boat must be quickly iced down so that their body heat does not start cooking the dead fish.

They are a frequently eaten tuna, and yellowfin is widely used in raw fish dishes like sashimi. They are also excellent for grilling, often served seared rare.

Seafood sustainability advocates come to different conclusions about whether yellowfin fishing is sustainable. The Audubon Society lists troll-caught tuna as “OK”, but labels long-line caught as “Be Careful”.

Greenpeace meanwhile, lists yellowfin on its seafood red list.

Despite this bit of controversy, yellowfin is becoming a popular replacement for the severely depleted supplies of southern bluefin tuna.

Thank you for joining me for this, part of Shark *Bait* Week 2022. I hope you enjoyed it

365 Stamps Project: 112. 500 Years in the Making

On June 30, 1377, the foundation stone was laid for Ulm Minster (Münster in German), in Ulm, Germany. The stone was laid by the city mayor.

The church was usable by the 15th century, and was consecrated on 25 July 1405.

Prior to the building of the Munster, the only church in Ulm was outside the walls and was not accessible during sieges. The town’s citizens collected the money for construction.

Work continued on the church until the local economy ran into problems, and construction stopped in 1543. Almost all but the towers had been completed by that time.

Construction resumed in 1844, and was finally completed in 1890.

From that time it has remained the tallest church in the world. It is also the 5th tallest structure built before the 20th century, and in the top ten largest brick buildings.

Though of course begun before the Reformation as a Catholic Church, today it is a Lutheran church.

German stamp of Ulm Münster from 1977.
German stamp of 1977.

The Federal Republic of Germany issued a stamp, Sn 1251, on May 17, 1977 in commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the beginning of construction.

With a print run of 33,000,000, it was designed by Herbert Kern.

The stamp became invalid on June 30, 2002.

Uganda issued a stamp on November 3, 1993, Sn 1159, featuring the Ulm Minster. It is part of a series of cathedrals on stamps, however the church is not a cathedral.

A cathedral houses a bishop, and no bishop has ever been assigned to this church.

That mistaken identity, though, has persisted for a long time, and not just in philately. Probably because the citizens of Ulm really got their money’s worth.

1910 photograph of the Ulm Minster.
1910 photograph of the Ulm Minster. Note the similarity to the Ugandan stamp.

Reinventing the Wheel

Integrating the internet into in-person shows with ease and comfort. Mostly.

I have had couple of interesting conversations with stamp collectors over the last couple years about how to integrate the internet philatelic world into in-person shows.

Here are some thoughts. Please, please, let me know if you don’t like something. And if you have an idea too. Let’s make this a conversation. I certainly don’t know everything!

As a hobby, we did a pretty good job of moving online during the pandemic emergency, but now that face-to-face gatherings are again possible, many organizations are going back to their old, comfortable ways of doing things, and abandoning the new hobbyists who came aboard by way of social media and websites.

There is some lipservice to those people by some organizations. They found that there was an audience for YouTube videos, and some are still holding meetings on Zoom.

But they don’t seem to have yet figured out how to also continue supporting those who can’t travel, don’t have local clubs, or have no other resources to draw upon.

One particular issue I personally have is with in-person shows. And I have some thoughts. This has long been a pet peeve in all sorts of my worlds.

I was at the Chicago World Science Fiction Convention in 2001 when the very first virtual guest appeared. It was, of course, Arthur C. Clarke, who both wrote 2001: A Space Odyssy, and invented the communications satellite by which he appeared from Sri Lanka.

I thought that was great! We could now, moderately easily, start inviting people from around the world to speak at all sorts of conventions. It’s now been done via internet by all sorts of organizations, bringing in world leaders who can’t attend in person for security reasons, or others who might not find the expense affordable but were deemed important to their program.

And I’ve seen this done really well. I’ve been to additional science fiction conventions when the guest of honor was suddenly unable to attend, but could participate virtually.

There has also been an astronaut guest of honor who attended from the international space station.

So – one way to integrate the internet into in-person conventions is to invite virtual speakers. Yeah, you could have them just speak in an independent Zoom talk or something, but having an audience in the room while someone is giving a live talk is a different experience.

Project that talk onto a screen. Do it on zoom or the like. Let people on the zoom call and in the room ask questions and participate.

I know, though, that many convention centers and hotels have lousy cell service, and no free wifi. It’s not going to be possible to do that for every show. But if you could get a world renown expert appearing “live via satellite” (or equivalent), it could be a cool draw.

Can you have live interaction with a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society from Society headquarters? Can you do it with the Digital Philatelist from Australia? How about both on a panel?

The opposite is also true. Filming (“videoing”) some of the talks (I’d love all of them, but I’m semi-realistic) and putting them online can expand your audience. Even if you can’t stream live, putting them online as fast as possible (within a few days) of the convention would go along way toward attracting internet dwellers.

If you charge admission for the in-person show, you could even put those talks behind a paywall. Everyone who attended gets them free, everyone else pays a buck or two.

Other things that can be done to accommodate the internet philatelist include putting yourself on Twitter. Easy to do, but then you need to put out content.

Content could be as easy as copying stuff from your free newsletter or blog and sending it out. Add a few “here’s a picture of Cindy who helps out with refreshments during show organization meetings,” and you have a feed.

Put together an “official” hashtag. Those are those things with what used to be called a pound sign (#) in front of them. USE it. Put it on everything you send out – newsletters, tweets, blogposts. #BobCollectsStamps

Hashtags is one way internet users can organize information. In most social media apps, you can search for a hashtag like #bacon, and find out everything that’s been posted about bacon.

One thing you want to avoid is someone making up their own hashtag about your show. They will anyway, but you don’t want it to be the overwhelming one online. “StampShowTrash” is not something you want to find out people have to search for to get info on your show.

Update your website. Frequently. Make it a priority. A Lot of people will be looking for it and at it for the latest information. Make sure it’s user friendly.

Use a widget and embed your Twitter feed onto the front of page of your website. At the very least, include a link to all your social media on the front page.

Do your best to get website links for all your bourse vendors, sponsors, and anyone else that helps or supplies you. Even your table-supplier. Unless they put it in their contract, just tell them you’re going to do it and do it. It costs nothing, and they will like you for it.

Make sure you have a contact email. Answer your email. Make sure SOMEONE alive reads and responds to every piece of email you get (except spam, of course). A day or two is often an acceptable delay, but the internet moves at the speed of light, not the speed of molasses. Two days is a LONG time on line.

Oh, and respond to other online communications too, even if it’s a auto reply saying they have to use the email address.

That might seem like a lot, but there’s a little more simple stuff that can be done.

Find out early what wifi is available in your venues, hotels and convention centers. If it’s paid, or free, or nonexistent. Publicize that information, EVEN (especially) if it’s nonexistent.

I would MUCH prefer to show up knowing that I’m going to have to step outside to make a phone call, or get my email, than finding out an hour in. Or thinking I just can’t find the right network because there are three “MyVenue” networks but none of them are public.

This goes for cell service too. I’ve been in one convention center that had cell service on one landing of one stairway because there was a correct-facing window there. The second year there were signs to that stairwell and nobody was grumbling like the first year.

Provide room for an internet meet-up. We don’t have a formal internet stamp club. But we’re everywhere. Schedule at least one, early on, where there can be a meet-and-great for internet philatelists.

We won’t have to wander the halls wondering who is a twitter follower of ours. We can make in-person friends that we can see again and again throughout the show.

Put up a selfie station. Everybody loves selfie stations – well, those below a certain age do. They used to be called photo-ops and everybody loved them.

They can be as simple as making a poster-sized stamp, laminate it to a board, and cut out a hole to put a face through. The huge number of US portrait stamps come to mind as something to do this with.

Have you seen my logo? Take a US no. 1 or a Penny Black, cut the center out, and let everyone put their face in there and have their picture taken. Adjust that to your national taste, of course.

Or get more elaborate. Have a first day ceremony? Use that stamp. Put them up in a couple different places.

But! Make sure your show name is above, and official hashtag is written in big letters right below the stamp! How many people can you get to put that online for you?

Give them that hashtag and your show may even trend on Instagram by the end of the day. It’s possible.

Now, for some more daring stuff.

Put us in the programming. Have an “Internet for Philatelists” talk. “Online Exhibits 101.” If you’ve got one, how about “meet your local online celebrity “? Think broadly. Maybe two audience members will show up. Just don’t put them at the beginning or end of the day. Play nice.

On your vendor/bourse applications, add a checkbox asking if they will make themselves available for social media interviews. They can set parameters, but are they willing to be asked?

Do the same with your speakers, and people representing clubs.

Compile that into a list. Don’t indicate they _will_ , just that they’re willing.

Depending on how big your show list, post it somewhere or hand it out to registrants who have checked a similar box on their form asking if they are a social media media.

We online hobbyists fall between normal attendees and the mainstream media attendees. Some of us are torn about registering as “media” because we only want to take a few pictures and post them, but we might want want to grab and interview with someone if we’re told they might be open to it.

Just request us to mention the show! Most of us are happy to oblige if you’ve made an effort to make us feel welcome. We might do it anyway, but we’ll feel good being asked.

We may have a plan, maybe not. But having a list of those willing might mean we don’t bug those unwilling.

You might also consider having a couple of chairs somewhere, with a big plant and a neutral background (with your name and hashtag). Tape off some area so we can ask people to stay behind the lines, which protects our tripod. Social media people could sign up to use it for, say, 15 minutes, and do an interview out of the way of the crowds.

And we become part of the show if you have some standing room around the chairs.

Finally, exhibits.

Ask all your exhibitors to provide scans of their exhibits to put up online. Putting them up “forever” would of course be ideal for most of us online, but show-time plus X would be great. X equaling a week or a month or whatever.

If they can’t provide scans but are willing, find someone to do it, or at least take reasonable photos of the exhibits.

I don’t know if there’s a real central repository for exhibits. If the national clubs aren’t doing that, it’s a shame. I know some, including the APS has some donated exhibits on paper, but as of this writing they may not be collecting digital exhibits. I hope they will.

The big dreams.

Would I like there to be more? Of course.

Complete live-streaming of everything. Complete catalogs of all the bourse vendors, with 24/7 chat and buying. Security camera-like footage of the hall. Two way communication with the talks and meetings.

Do I think it will happen? Not until we’re all attending virtually with interactive holograms.

For now, I’d be very happy to see some of these steps taken.

So: What’s your show’s twitter name and hashtag? I’ll send it out.

One final note to show runners. This blog has a subscription base of 1,500 people. My overall audience seems to be over 2,000.

I’m small potatoes in the online philatelic world. But wouldn’t you love the problem of 1/3 of just my readers visiting or at least talking positively about your show? No promises, but think about that possibility.

Have a kitten.