SOAR Update

First off I see that Stamps on a Roll (SOAR) are now described as “Machine Labels” by Stanley Gibbons.

To recap.

SOAR are “stamps” printed at the point of purchase (the counter at a post office). They were first introduced in 2010 and the first series of eight stamps featured Irish Wild Life. As a general rule these were replaced by a new set of eight each year.

In 2016, to commemorate, the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, there were sixteen themed designs.

In 2017, the current series (Ireland Thru 100 Objects) was introduced. Strangely An Post is breaking the continuity of this series by introducing, seemingly at random, designs based on “popular” commemoratives.

Increasingly, post offices do not stock commemorative stamps. In many Irish towns and villages, the only “stamps” available to the general public are SOAR/Machine Labels. On a roll of 600, there are maybe 16 designs and the stamps are actually numbered so #1, #17, #25 etc and #2. #18, #26 etc are the same design.

Each stamp has a unique 14 digit number. The first four digits indicate the post office which issued the stamp. For example the General Post Office in Dublin is 0235 and Galway is 1745. The next two digits indicate the terminal which issued the stamp. For example 04 or 07 might be common in larger offices but 01 is of course the most common. Many small post offices are staffed by just one person.

So Irish kiloware (the bulk purchase of used stamps) is always a mixture of SOAR (maybe 40%), booklet or coil stamps (favoured by businesses who use the mail a lot…again maybe 40%) and commemorative stamps (maybe 20%).

As a SOAR stamp can be issued in any value (a single cent or several euros) I find there is a variety that makes them collectable. As I travel on public transport in Ireland for free, I take photographs of post offices to enhance the collection.

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Berkeley Road (0637) is about three kilometres north of central Dublin. I took this photograph about two years ago. The stamps are from four different series, Wildlife, Easter, Objects and Christmas.

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Balbriggan (0237) is a coastal commuter town north of Dublin.  This photograph was taken about two months ago. An Post have recently introduced a new logo. The stamps are from Wildlife, Objects and Christmas series.

As the stamps are self-adhesive, I do not try to take them off paper. Indeed a red Christmas or pink Birthday “envelope” adds a seasonal splash of colour. The A4 paper, 6×4 photograph and 3×3 stamp display is neat but I have pages of several stamps from some post offices. It adds variety.

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I have not yet been to Midleton, County Cork (2626) so no photograph.

There are sensible protocols for photographs. The business conducted by people in post offices, whether buying a stamp, paying a bill or withdrawing a pension or other entitlement is personal to them so I am sensitive to this. Likewise vehicles such as delivery vehicles and car registration plates.

There is a security dimension. A postmaster from a suburban post office in south Dublin did come after me to ask me what I was doing.

My original list had 1,424 post offices. I have 1,004.

An amended list (allowing for closures) has 1,118 post offices. I have 993. This means I need 125.

Since I compiled the amended list another 160 post offices have closed. This means that the 125 I still need can be sub-divided into Post Offices still active (71), Post Offices since closed (43) and Post Offices which have actually opened in recent years (11).

The active post offices?…well they will still be found in future kiloware but there is a question of the law of diminishing returns. It is labour-intensive to wade thru several thousand stamps to find just one or two that are on my list. There is also the possibility of actually going to the post offices but they are often in remote areas. There is also the possibility of actually writing to the post offices and enclosing some cash and an addressed envelope.

The closed post offices?…well what’s gone is gone. I am not obsessive…well my obsessions have limits.

The recently opened post offices?…while the trend is for closing old post offices, there have also been post offices which have been newly opened or replaced closed post offices. I have made a list from the “Locate Your Nearest Post Office” from the An Post website.

Unfortunately there is no 4digit number shown. But I have several SOAR stamps with a 4digit number which are unlisted. Unfortunately I have no way of linking the stamp to the post office. Except by going to the post office.

So…UPDATE.

Yesterday I visited two of the “new” post offices. At Bryanstown, Drogheda in County Louth, I found that the post office is #2641 which is the same that was allocated to a closed post office nearby. So it is a re-location.

In west Dublin, I went to the Ballyowen post office which is in a new-ish shopping centre in the west of the city. It is #2540, a new number.

So in a single day, I was able to take two post offices off my “wanted list”.

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There is however another category of SOAR stamp. Easily identified by the box around the value (see scan above), these have not been issued thru post offices. Most likely, they have been printed in the mail rooms of major businesses, for example banks and insurance companies.

There is also a series of 14 digit numbers which begin “68..” eg 6801, 6802, 6803 etc which do not seem directly related to post offices.

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I have now sorted the Ireland kiloware I bought in June into three baskets. The first basket is coil and booklet stamps which are only fit for burning. The second basket  is SOAR stamps and while I have already taken out the post offices on my list, many of these stamps will find their way into my collection. The variety of designs and values means I really don’t mind “duplication”. The third basket are commemorative stamps. They are all of course “duplicates” but I am no longer exclusing a small variety of duplicates from my stamp albums.

I am glad I took up this project. I do not know how relevant it all is to mainstream Stamp Collecting. In a curious way, I may have stumbled into PHILATELY which is something I always promised myself I would never do.

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New Issues 2019: July

Two new issues in July.

On 4th July (American Independence Day) four stamps and a miniature sheet on the theme of Space Exploration.

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Within this theme, there were two sub-themes. The 50th Anniversary of the First Moon Landing and Astronauts of Irish Heritage. As is often the case, I think it was not quite one or the other.

Let me say up-front that I am not a big fan of Space Exploration. Science “fact” is boring and Science “fiction”, especially Star Trek, is so much better. Secondly in a world wete there is poverty, war, disease and children starve, spending billions on sending rockets into Space is a crime against Humanity.

So….four astronauts. But only two of the Apollo 11 astronauts are included which seems a bit hard on Buzz Aldrin. But the two included, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins are of Irish Heritage, with roots in County Fermanagh and County Cork respectively.

The other astronauts, Eileen Collins and Cady Coleman are included as having Irish Heritage, with roots in County Cork and County Sligo respectively.

To some extent, the choices are arbitrary. Lots of American astronauts have roots in Ireland, notably the identical Kelly twins. But I reckon that Cady Coleman who played some Irish tunes on a tin whistle while in Space is our favourite astronaut. She actually launched the stamps at the General Post Office.

Personally I would like to have seen Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield included. I dont know if he is of Irish heritage but he has often expressed an affection for Ireland.

But this set seems clumsy…the Moon Landing, astronauts of Irish heritage but issued under the title of Space Exploration (which is more general). As such it leaves out pioneers like Yuri Gagarin.

I have conducted extensive research and I can exclusively reveal that Yuri Gagarin has roots in County Mayo and was originally known as O’Gagarin. Further I can reveal that Valentina Tereskova the first woman in Space is originally a Murphy from County Waterford.

There is an embarrassing post-script. Some ten days after the issue, a customer at An Post noticed a spelling mistake. The phrase “First Moon Landing” is in English and Irish but the Irish word “gealach” (moon) has been printed as “Gaelach” (Irish person). An Post has apologised. It was an error in proof reading. The stamps will not be withdrawn or re-issued.

On 11th July, a single stamp was issued to commemorate the centenary of the birth of novelist, Iris Murdoch. Although born in Dublin, Ms Murdoch spent most of her life in England. Her early writings were very pro-Irish but in later life, she renounced her Irishness. A surprising choice.

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New “Product” or New “Issue” ?

Even as I was typing the most recent entry “New Issues 2019: June”, I knew that it was technically incorrect. Let me explain.

Four times in a year, An Post issues a brochure detailing new issues for the next three months. From 1st July, I have been looking for the online version but it did not appear online until maybe 11pm on 3rd July.

CollectorJune1 Normally, this is not a problem. I like to plan ahead. I visit Dublin when a stamp is issued and the annual stamp programme (published in January) shows a set (Space Exploration) to be issued on 4th July.

But “The Collector” is the first time that I see the actual design. My assumption was that the Space Exploration set was actually marking the 50th Anniversary of the First Moon Landing. And I had prepared some Star Trek postcards with a jokey message for my American friends. The potential “4th July” postmark was a bonus. As it transpired, the design of the Space Exploration was not directly related to the memorable “giant leap for mankind”.

I am pretty cynical about Space Exploration. Solve World Famine first would be my priority.

I digress. But the Space Exploration set will be reviewed when I look at July issues at the end of this month.

The surprise on Wednesday night was that a new “product” has been produced. An Post has recently produced discount packages for business users. Part of it is new booklets and stamps. They are made available to collectors until 19th July.

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As they are intended for business users, there should be no difficulty finding them in kiloware.

The booklet containing four self adhesive national rate stamps costs £4 and booklet containing four international rate stamps costs £6.80.

* please read £ as “euro”.

The late notice is a bit inconvenient. After all earlier on 3rd July, I had exchanged some sterling for the euros that I would need in Dublin. All of the designs have been issued previously. The vertical stamps have all been issued in “gum” form and the horizontal stamps have been issued as “gum” stamps and Stamps on A Roll.

CollectionJune3 Another surprise awaited me in Dublin. The long postponed new “100 Objects in Irish History” booklets have been issued. The Philatelic Counter sells them in pairs to facilitate collectors.

So an expensive kinda say in Dublin yesterday. Thankfully the next new issue (11th July) will be a single stamp. Hopefully no surprises.

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New Issues 2019: June

Just one issue in June.

The Centenary of the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

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The flight by Alcock and Brown from Newfoundland was intended to land in France but it crash-landed a few miles from Clifden in County Galway,

It carried the first Transatlantic mail. Understandably it was issued as an “international rate” (W) stamp.

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New Issues 2019: May

One new issue this month and probably the “show-piece” issue of the year.

“Great Irish Songs” seems like a good theme. The issue is actually a four-stamp set. There are a lot of great Irish songs. Indeed it would make a great annual issue for the next decade and still people might say “Why wasn’t this song included? ”

Most people, not just in countries who host the Irish diaspora in Scotland, England, Canada, Australia, Argentina, United States, New Zealand, Wales etc would have no problem a few Irish songs.

“Danny Boy” for example.

Or you might think in Rugby World Cup year, “The Fields of Athenry”, “Irelands Call”. Or “Black Velvet Band”, “The Town I loved So Well”, “Molly Malone”, Mountains of Mourne”, “The Galway Shawl”, “Mary of Dungloe”, “The Rose of Tralee”, “Flight of Earls”, “The Parting Glass”…and you might be reading this and think “Why wasn’t this song included?”

At the beginning of April, the details were announced and my perception is that it was as much about honouring singers as songs.

It is hard to disagree with the inclusion of “Danny Boy” (John McCormack) and “Raglan Road” (Luke Kelly). But “Dreams” (The Cranberries) and “With Or Without You” (U2) are unknown to me.

Three things. I am an old guy of 67 and there was no music after about 1974. Second thing, I had no real reason to think that “Great Irish Songs” means songs that are traditional or older. Third thing, Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer with the Cranberries died just last year and appropriate to honour her.

Maybe a fourth thing. Commercialism. The two traditional songs had a printing of just 94,000 each. The Cranberries had a print run of 150,000 and U2 had a print run of 250,000.

A philatelic “product” was also produced.

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The four stamps and the product  “cover”  are shown above. The product cost 15 Euros. Designed as a 45rpm (7 inch) record sleeve, it contained the four stamps in the set, shown as records.

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“Raglan Road” is shown above.

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New Issues 2019: Date Uncertain

It seems odd to say that a new stamp was issued and not to be certain of the date. In due course a stamp catalogue will be precise.

These two stamps were originally as issued as commemorative stamps earlier in the year and now re-issued as “Stamps on a Roll” (SOAR). SOAR stamps are issued by post office clerks in every post office.

They are effectively Definitive stamps and the current series of these stamps was supposed to be “Ireland in 100 Objects” based on a selection by journalist Fintan O’Toole.

Eight stamps were issued in January 2017, January 2018 and January 2019. So far so good. But in August last year eight stamps, previously issued as commemoratives in 2017 and 2018 were added to the SOAR stamps.

Two of these eight designs have now been withdrawn and replaced by new SOAR stamps originally issued as commemoratives early this year.

As yet, the Philatelic Bureau are not selling this pair and I presume there will be further such examples in 2019. So for the moment , they are only available at post office counters.

The two new designs are the First Dáil (issued as a commemorative in January) and Organ Donation (issued as a commemorative in March). They are the first and first and third stamps on this SOAR strip.

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The unfortunate aspect is that there is no prior notification.

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New Issues 2019: April

At the point where I am drafting a post on New Issues for May 2019, I see that I have not posted about New Issues in April.

Just one issue in the annual Europa series. These are issues by European nations on a common theme. The theme for 2019 is “Native Birds”. So two stamps issued. The “N” (national mail) stamp features the Roseate Tern and the “W” (worldwide mail) stamp features the Golden Plover.

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A miniature sheet was also issued.

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