Reasons Not To Join Forums…#718

I can never make up my mind whether it is a good thing to be part of a Stamp Collecting “forum” or “group”.

There are two good reasons why I don’t associate with other stamp collectors. The first reason is that I am NOT like other stamp collectors. The second reason is that I AM like other stamp collectors.

Take a post I made on a forum about a month ago. I showed a pic of some Irish kiloware I had just received and noted I had some sorting to do. So far…so benign.

A fellow member of the forum noticed a Che Guevara stamp in the middle of the pile of stamps and asked tersely what country was issuing Che Guevara stamps. Another member said “Ireland”. I did not get involved in the discussion but watched it develop. Poster #1 was amazed as “Ireland is a religious country”. A third poster leapt on him “Ireland is not religious…Che had Irish blood”.

Other posters jumped on the bandwagon “would Ireland issue a stamp for Adolf Hitler?” “Or Timothy McVeigh” (ie the American mass murderer who was the Oklahoma bomber.

I emphasise that I was not involved in this discussion. It was certainly an eye-opener. I did not report my discomfort to the moderators who have a mission statement about politeness and respect. But as the moderators let it pass, it is either a measure of their lack of observation or worse…they agree with the comments.

Let us unpack this.

Why did Ireland issue a stamp commemorating Che Guevara? Well the publicity states he was “a revolutionary, physician, author and diplomat”. The official First Day Cover has the famous quote from Che’s father “in my sons veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels”.

The proposal for the stamp passed the scrutiny of the Stamp Committee of An Post and got approval from a government which is “centre-right” in European terms.

But of course Republic of Ireland was born in violent revolution. Few Irish folks regret it. In fact we are rather proud of it. Freedom is rarely given. Sometimes it has to be taken. Sometimes very brave men and women stand up for what is right and sometimes they (mostly) win.

The Irish Rebellion of 1916 was a centrist and leftist revolution. It leaves a legacy where even a centre-right government has an ethos that is supportive of Freedom…whether it is Latin America or Palestine.

It is Who We Are.

But is there a contradiction in a religious country honouring Che Guevara? Well the person who leapt into the discussion to say that Ireland is not religious is also wrong. Simply put, Ireland is both religious and not religious. It is not so binary. Recent Referendums supporting Equal Marriage and Womens Right to Choose was supported by both people who are religious and not religious.

But was Ché “Irish”? Well certainly he had the heritage. He visited in the 1950s. The iconic image of Ché is by an Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick. But many like me (a socialist) wear a Che Guevara Tshirt. Whatever our politics, it is a symbol…as much about counter-culture as socialism.

Of course the Timothy McVeigh comment is just plain stupid and provocative.

And Adolf Hitler? Well that’s a bigger statement. Lets unwrap that.

Ireland and World War 2 is an old chestnut. Ireland was neutral? Was it?

Unlike the other parts of the British Empire, Canada, Australia and New Zealand…Ireland did not follow the “Mother Country” into War. A sore point with Britain as the Anglo-Irish Treaty( that ended Irelands War of Independence less than twenty years previously) saw Britain lose several port cities in 1938. And that certainly damaged Britains war effort in the Atlantic Ocean.

Yet when Belfast in the “UK” was attacked by the Luftwaafe, the Irish government sent their fire engines into Belfast, a flagrant breach of neutrality and warned the Germans that an attack on any part of  Ireland was an attack on all of Ireland. The Germans never came back and “Northern Ireland” was just about the safest place in the “UK”. I don’t suppose the Germans were quaking in their jackboots at the thought of the Irish fighting them. But keeping Ireland neutral was important.

So Ireland was neutral…just like Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg etc. Ah you think I am right about Spain and Sweden but wrong about the others. Well, they WERE neutral until they were attacked. And that was also Ireland’s position.

And er ….the United States of America was as neutral as Ireland. So why the criticism?

When I was a teenager, I had a friend who was a very good amateur boxer. I used to think that was cool but as he often said, his skill meant that he could not respond to challenges by other young men. Just smile and walk away.

Having a History degree and being on an online “Stamp” forum is a bit like being a very skilled boxer in a crowded bar. No matter the provocation, the boxer cannot punch an incompetent hoodlum. And no matter the provocation, there is no point in me arguing with an idiot.


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Irish Stamp Programme 2019

The Ireland Stamp Programme for 2019 has been published in “The Collector”, An Post’s quarterly brochure. It is available online.

The first brochure of 2019 lists the programme and shows the chosen designs of stamps due to be issued in January, February and March.

January: Centenary of the First Dáil (Parliament) …2 stamps. Love & Marriage …1 stamp. Definitives (Objects in Irish History) …12 stamps.

February: “A Stamp for Ireland”…1 stamp. This seems to replace the annual St Patricks Day stamp.

March: Irish Coast Guard Service…2 stamps.

April: Europa (National Birds) …2 stamps.

May: Great Irish Songs….4 stamps.

June: First Transatlantic Flight….1 stamp.

July: Space Exploration…4 stamps. Iris Murdoch…1 stamp.

August: Carnegie Libraries…4 stamps. Rugby World Cup…2 stamps.

September: Culture Night …1 stamp.

October: Thin Lizzy (Rock Band)…2 stamps.

November: Christmas ….to be announced.

A few observations.

The Definitive Stamps (Third Phase) are likely to feature eight SOAR, two coil stamps and two booklet stamps. The theme is “100 Objects in Irish History” which was a series of articles by journalist Fintan O’Toole. My initial impression on seeing the proposed designs is that while the first two Phases were ancient history, the objects are no longer being shown in historical sequence. I must check this out.

The stamps honouring the Coast Guard are timely. Two years ago, a helicopter crashed off the coast of County Mayo and the four crew were killed. So it is timely. Seemingly the young designer of the stamps (a servicewoman) with the Coast Guard died on active service in a separate incident.

“Great Irish Songs”….what a simple and fantastic idea. How can the Irish Songbook be reduced to just four chosen songs?  It would make an excellent yearly topic.

The First Transatlantic Flight is f extra significance for Ireland. It crash-landed in County Galway in 1919.

Space Exploration…well this will be the fiftieth anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin landing on the Moon. Personally I am not a big fan of Space Travel. Two reasons…Star Trek is more interesting and its a scandal that money is wasted while children starve on Planet Earth.

Rugby World Cup….the nation is very (too?) optimistic.

Thin Lizzy….I heard artist and stamp designer, Robert Ballagh talk of his friendship with Phil Lynnot. I really hope he designed the stamp.

Obviously there will be souvenir sheets….I think Space Exploration, Rugby World Cup and Thin Lizzy are the most likely.

And probably the best candidate for the annual Premium/Prestige Booklet is Great Irish Songs.

It looks like a good year.




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Happy New Year to all Readers of this Blog. I have had a lot more views than in any previous year. As I have always said, the Views and Comments are as much part of a Blog as the “original post”. All Blogs have a shaky start…it is hard to break thru whether its a Politics Blog or a Travel Blog or a “Collecting” Blog.

My annual count of Stamps in my Collection is now 26,002.

On 28th December 2017, it was 22,578 so I am very pleased with the increase of 3,424. Of course over 2,000 of the increase was due to kiloware I obtained in October.

I go to extreme lengths to ensure that I don’t include Duplicate stamps. That’s pretty easy if I am to my collection of Slovenia (just 9 stamps) but a lot more difficult when I am adding to my collection of New Zealand (882 stamps).

Latr this month, I will get some new kiloware, probably British over the last decade or so.

I have always been a bit concerned that the total number of stamps in my collection should reflect the number of years I have spent on the hobby. I have all my stamps going back to about 1962.

In the 1960s, I was of course a junior collector and back then CTO stamps from the Eastern Bloc (Czechoslovakia, Poland, German Democratic Republic etc) were the most numerous in my album.

As a sign of my so-called maturity, in the 1970s, I concentrated on Ireland and a stamp from every nation. After about 1982, my sole interest was Ireland. This made my collecting obsessive and took out the simple enjoyment that I had in the 1960s.

I was away from collecting from about 2001 to 2012. And while I am still primarily an Ireland collector, I have tried to divide my time between Ireland (serious) and the Rest of the World (fun!!!).

But is there a number which seems acceptable for a man who has been collecting stamps for nearly six decades. I would certainly like to go past 30,000.



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New Issues 2018: November


A very unusual Christmas issue.

Usually for the Christmas season, the definitive “Stamps on A Roll” (which can be printed out by a clerk in every post office) are replaced by two Christmas designs. There is also a booklet of stamps available.

This year, there are two Christmas booklets.

The smaller £5 booklet has four  different £1 stamps and two 50cents stamps. Current rates of postage are £1 for Irish mail and £1.50 for international mail so both are covered with the booklet.

The larger £19 booklet has eighteen stamps (six designs, four of which are in the smaller booklet) at £1 and four 50cents stamps. This means that there is a small discount when buying the larger booklet.


The two designs which are only available in the larger booklet are available as a pair from the Philatelic Counter at the General Post Office in Dublin.


Also available at £9.95 is a Presentation Pack containing six “Elf on the Shelf” stamps and six different postcards. Until last year I was unaware of the “Elf on the Shelf” but now I am a firm believer. My two younger grandchildren are amazed at just how often our elf, Barney Cheer moves about the house.

These stamps/postcards are of course a marketing ploy but also reasonably priced and it adds to the fun.


The final issue of 2018 is two designs at international rate to mark the Centenary of the End of the First World War.

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New Issues 2018: October

Not many issues.


A single stamp to mark the centenary of the sinking of RMS Leinster which was sunk by a German UBoat in the closing weeks of the First World War. A total of 567 people were killed. This included 21 (of 22) postal workers who were sorting mail on the ship on the journey from Kingstown, County Dublin to Britain.

Two stamps themed “Popular Democracy” were also issued. A stamp to mark the centenary of Sinn Féins landslide victory in Irish constituencies in the 1918 British General Election and a stamp to honour the centenary of (some) women being allowed to vote.

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The Joy of Kiloware

“Kiloware” is the buying and selling of stamps by weight. It is a long established practice in Stamp Collecting.

I first became involved as a school child, collecting used stamps from local businesses and passing them on to a local co-ordinator who passed the used stamps on to a convent where the nuns then sold the stamps by weight to  dealers and collectors.

For about twenty years of my working life, the folks in our mail room passed several thousands of stamps on to me and the convent.

So buying by weight is more about Quantity than Quality. Some people who are experts can look on Kiloware as a form of “prospecting” sifting thru several thousand stamps to find a variety or colour difference or whatever.

But for most people, buying kiloware is an efficent and cost effective means of obtaining a lot of stamps. There is also the “feel good” factor of supporting a charity. My chosen charity is a nursing order of sisters who work in the Third World.

So about five weeks ago, I bought two large amounts of stamps….an Ireland mixture and a “world” mixture.

I have not yet got round to sifting thru Ireland but essentially, it falls into three sections and seemingly collected in late 2017 and early 2018. Too many coil and booklet stamps which will go straight back to the charity, a reasonable number of commemorative stamps, including at least three Che Guevara stamps which are supposedly rare. Increasingly I like to use several copies of commemorative stamps as I feel that they add a certain depth or texture to my collection.

About half of the Irish stamps are SOAR (Stamps on a Roll), effectively the new form of definitive, on sale at every post office. As readers will know, I am trying to find a SOAR stamp from every post office. Indeed I like to have several copies.

So in terms of Ireland, I am very happy.

The “world” mixture? To date I have added 1,868 different stamps from about 118 countries and territories. I should finish the sorting by the weekend. I am left with Australia, France, Spain and United States of America.

I expect that the final tally of stamps will be about 2,100 which is excellent value.

As these stamps were for the most part donated from Ireland, it is interesting to note that the diversity of the Irish nation is reflected in the mail delivered to Ireland. As expected, there are a lot of stamps from USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand but in modern Ireland, there are a lot of stamps from the European Union and many parts of Africa and Asia

Next time, I will probably get a “British” mixture.

Of course, there is a lot of duplication in kiloware. But even after cherry-picking, there are a lot of good stamps that I can hold on to for a while.

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Stampa 2018 (National Stamp Exhibition)

The Irish National Stamp Exhibition took place from Friday 5th October to Sunday 7th October. I attended on two days (Friday and Sunday).


This is my seventh successive “Stampa” since I returned to Stamp Collecting in March 2012. Maybe five of those years were taken up with obtaining the issues (mint and used) that I had missed out on from 2001 when I gave up collecting.

The past eighteen months, I have really found myself in the same position I was in 2001. Several trips a year to the Philatelic Counter at the General Post Office in Dublin , where I buy two sets of new issues. One set is retained as “mint” and the other set, I send to myself so that I have a used version. And of course there is my “Wants List”…those stamps issued from 1922 to 2001 which I never owned.

Of course “Completion” is the El Dorado of Stamp Collecting. Part of me believes that we are never really meant to be “complete”. It is always an ongoing process.

As I have said before, Stamp Collecting (with secondary interests in Postcards, Irish Coins etc) is my only vice. I have never smoked or drank alcohol in my life. So it never seemed wrong to buy a stamp which was the price of a packet of cigarettes or a bottle of beer.

As a married man, priorities change. Children need shoes, clothes, toys. A mortgage has to be paid. As a retired couple, priorities change. Yes we have grandchildren who are pampered but our outgoings are less. Its a new life.

So where am I? Well I just edited my “Wants List”. There are just 26 stamps on the list.

To paint an optimistic picture just three of these stamps are fully “Irish” in the sense that they are of Irish design. This is one stamp (a used variety)  from the 1990s Definitive series. Theoretically it is not expensive but no dealer seems to have it. The other two stamps are obtainable but one is very expensive.

The other 23 stamps (8 mint and 15 used) are “Seahorse” stamps…ie British design high values 2s6d, 5s and 10s featuring “King” George V but overprinted in Irish as “Irish Free State” or “Provisional Government of Ireland”.

At the beginning of this year, there were 34 stamps on my “Wants List”. I obtained one earlier in the year and seven at this weekend’s “Stampa” so I am happy at this progress.

So this is the first task, listing them and setting out a target. Realistically I must shop around. Discounted “good used” or even “badly used” stamps are a better option than higher priced “fine used” especially as I also collect mint versions. These are high end stamps so only sold by the better dealers and are more likely to be seen at “Spring Stampa” (April) and “National Stampa” (October) rather than mainstream collectors fairs and flea markets. There is also the question of trusting a reputable dealer more than a casual dealer.

So I like that I can focus again. New issues are of course a drain on finances but that’s the nature of striving for “completion”. There is no real END.  And of course I enjoy collecting cheap “world” stamps at fairs and flea markets. But also a drain on finances.

Target Dates? Well I started to specialise in Ireland on 31st October 1970 so in just over two years, I will be collecting Ireland for fifty years. This two years seems too optimistic. More realistic perhaps is my 70th birthday (10th May 2022).

It would be nice to be “complete” and finally sit in an armchair and enjoy my stamps rather than be distracted by empty spaces in albums.

In many ways “Stampa 2018” was like “Stampa 2017” and “Stampa 2016”, the third in the new venue of Griffith College. Same dealers at the same tables. Admission was surprisingly Free. I am not sure if  this welcome development made for larger crowds but a lot of dealers seemed to think they were doing well.

For me, the worst moment of the weekend was overhearing some casual racism. Whether this says something about just one asshole or says something deeper about Stamp Collecting, I don’t know. But I am never comfortable with the group think of men of my generation.

Surprise of the Weekend? Well on Friday night, I was reading the quarterly bulletin issued by the Irish Post Office and it referenced some SOAR (Stamps on a Roll) issued in August. This was news to me. The website also references these new stamps.

On Sunday, my second day at Stampa, I bought them.


Eight “new” stamps (seemingly the most popular commemoratives of 2017/18)  sold in two strips of four and a third strip featuring the two of these eight designs and two (the most popular)  designs from the definitive “100 Objects in Irish History”.

Some observations.

The stamps all bear the date imprint “18214” which is 2nd August 2018 but were not made available to Philatelic staff (and the public) until the first day of Stampa. I do not know if and when they will be available in the post office network but if it is the case that they will only sold to stamp collectors, then it means that these stamps will be relatively rare.

Secondly the issue of these stamps undermines the status of the “100 Objects in Irish History” as definitive.

Thirdly the eight commemorative designs are indeed popular  and more so attractive. But the most popular commemorative of 2017 was Che Guevara. It was of course unpopular with conservative Americans (I cant say I care about them) but the stamps sold out …twice!

As I wrote earlier in this post, making plans about “Wants Lists” is undermined by (unexpected) new issues.

As for my other purchases at Stampa, I bought some cheap Irish First Day Covers and maybe ten cheap used “world” stamps. Perhaps I am most pleased with this commercial cover which cost just 60 cents. My first mail from Mozambique.


So Stampa 2018…yes I enjoyed it.

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