155 Countries

Really pleased that some purchases arrived today…earlier than expected.Lesotho1NamibiaCommercial mail from four countries…Kuwait, Lesotho, Namibia and Sierra Leone. There is also a postcard (not scanned) from Vanuatu.

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150 Countries

More mail today with recent online purchases. My total of countries is now 150.

Mali1From North Africa, Mali and Tchad. Interestingly the mail from Tchad is dated “1976” and one of the stamps depicts Paul Revere, from an American Bicentennial set.

Cambodia1Two postcards from Cambodia. Both are of Siem Reap.

I am really happy with the progress I am making.

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147 Countries

Earlier this week, I blogged about having addressed mail from 137 countries. This week I can say that I have 147 countries.

At the start of the week, I was able to add Honduras, Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Botswana.

This brought me to 146 countries. But a closer look at the single item of mail that I have from Samoa and it is clear that it is pre-independence. So….145 countries.

CentralAfrica1But yesterday two nice new covers from Guyana and Central African Republic. So now …147 countries.

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The Curse of “Cancelled To Order”

What is a stamp?

Well a stamp is a receipt for a service. The service is the collection and delivery of mail.

Since 1840 in Britain, the receipts for this service was issued at post offices. And as other nations introduced postage stamps, then the stamps themselves collectable.

But there is, I submit, a point when the postage stamp is not really a receipt at all…or a receipt for a service that is not actually used.

So when I go to the General Post Office in Dublin and visit the Philatelic Counter and buy some stamps to bring home and put in an album, then the mint stamp is not actually used for any service.

But what is a “Cancelled to Order” stamp. Please look at the two examples from my stamp album below. These stamps were purchased at the Stamp Counter at Woolworths Department Store in Belfast. Probably around 1964.


The set of Winter Sports stamps from Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are known as “Thematics” (or in USA “Topicals”). Often colourful, they appeal to the younger collector. But as you will see from the near-uniform cancellation, they have not ever passed thru the Soviet postal system. Entire sheets have been cancelled and then the sheets broken up to be sold to collectors.

The stamps therefore are not a receipt for a service. When the stamp which has never even been put on a piece of mail has been cancelled, it is just a piece of colourful paper. It can never be used.


Likewise three unused but uniformly-cancelled stamps from Haiti. Most of the Pirate sets that were produced never went on a letter. They went straight via the cancellation machines direct to Stamp Dealers and found their way into packets.

Why? Well although 1960s Soviet Union was a closed society, there were millions of young collectors. But USSR always needed hard currency and these thematic stamps were paid for by western dealers in US Dollars, French Francs etc.

Likewise impoverished Haiti needed the hard currency and produced stamps in volumes far in excess of normal postal needs.

The attraction of Cancelled To Order stamps was I suppose a rite of passage to all young collectors. The downside of Stamp Collecting is that we endure years of exploitation. The reason why so many young people give up Stamp Collecting is the constant cheating and exploitation. They are maybe wiser than those who persist for five decades.

To some extent, acquiring authentic mail items recently has helped me exorcise The Curse of Cancelled To Order.





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137 Countries

More commercial mail arrived today. Ten covers from seven “new” countries.

Marshall Islands. Federated States of Micronesia. Kiribati (2 covers). Solomon Islands. Democratic Republic of Congo. Costa Rica (3 covers). Mongolia.

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Collector Fairs

The first Saturday of each month, I go to two Collector Fairs in South Belfast. They are within 400 metres of each other.

Inevitably it is the same (part-time) dealers in the same places. Just recently it is a little predictable. So I was not very optimistic when I set out this morning.

The past couple of weeks has been good. Postcards from Fiji and Haiti meant that I had mail from 122 nations. At best I was hoping for was maybe one or two postcards or commercial mail from some unusual countries. So I was amazed to pick up about twenty items of  commercial mail and EIGHT were new countries.

Some are shown below.



The eight “new” countries are Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Oman, Pakistan, El Salvador and Guatemala.

So I now have commercial mail and/or postcards from 130 countries. I am also awaiting delivery of a package containing seven more countries.

I am hopeful of passing 150 before the end of the year. Discounting colonies and territories, there are 193 members of the United Nations (and the UN issues stamps) pls five de facto nations (Taiwan, Palestine, Vatican, Northern Cyprus and Kosovo).

There is of course the law of diminishing returns. Some countries (eg PDR Korea, South Sudan and Timor Leste) are almost impossible to obtain.

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New Issues 2019: February

Just a single stamp in February. Issued as “A Stamp for Ireland” it depicts Irish rain with words or phrases (in Gaeilge and English).


Presumably “A Stamp For Ireland” will be an annual affair, issued prior to St Patrick’s Day. Stamps have been issued for several years now but have become predictable.

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