From Croatia…

Thanks to Claudio in Croatia who sent me some German stamps.

Claudio Rotunno

A great exchange.

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My Travels in Ireland

Now that I am retired and aged 66 …I have held a travel pass that entitles me to free travel on public transport, train, coach bus and tram on the island of Ireland.

I have been in every town and village in Ireland at least four times. Some things stay the same. Some things change. But the Ireland that I first saw as a young single man in the 1970s was very different from the Ireland I saw with my young family in the 1980s and 1990s. And as an elderly man, I sometimes don’t recognise 21st century Ireland. Mostly modern Ireland is a very decent country which makes me mostly very proud.

Tuesday 11th September was significant. I was in Killarney in County Kerry and this means that since I became eligible for free travel, I have now been in all 32 of the counties in Ireland.

From a stamp collecting perspective, this means I have been able to take a lot of photographs of post offices in the Republic of Ireland.

The map below shows the places I have visited.


The Green pins are places I visited in 2017. The Red pins are places I visited (so far) in 2018. Hopefully a lot more will be added before the end of this year. I am very happy about this. Next year I hope to go further into the south and west.

I blog about my travels. My blog address is below.

The blog is called “Ireland:The Final Frontier” which is a nod to Star Trek as my free travel is for five years so these travels are “a five year mission to boldly go”. Coincidently the name of the Belfast-Dublin train (on which my travels nostly start) is called The Enterprise.


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Stampa 2018

The Irish National Stamp Exhibition will take place from 5th October to 7th October.


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New Issues 2018: August

Only one issue of stamps this month

A four-stamp set for the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) on 2nd August. I have the set in mint and used condition.


There is also a souvenir sheet for the World Meeting of Families (a two stamp set was issued at the end of July). The sheet features four of the stamps which feature Pope Francis. For weeks, it had been anticipated that there would be a “surprise”.

I bought four sheets on 22nd August.

Certainly an element of “cashing in” on the Papal visit as each sheet cost $8.50, which is more than twice the value of the stamps. Very few will ever be “posted” so all profit for An Post (the Irish Post Office).

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A First Day Cover isn’t a First Day Cover

Earlier this week, Rudy Guiliani, personal counsel to United States President (has he been impeached yet?) Donald Trump said that “Truth isn’t the Truth”.

Employing the same logic, I can say that a “First Day Cover Isn’t a First Day Cover”.

When I started collecting as a child circa 1961, there were two ways to collect stamps…mint and used. Somewhere around 1970, Dealers seemed to start selling mint and used and First Day Covers.

Of course this does not mean that the first of these covers appeared around 1970. What I am saying is that they became more available and/or affordable.

Take the example below.


The first envelope (cover) was sent from Dublin to Isle of Man in 1934. It features the stamp commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Gaelic Athletic Association. A pencil note on the back of the envelope asks “do you like the new stamp”, indicating that neither the sender or the addressee were stamp collectors. But the stamp was cancelled on its first day of issue. It is an accidental “first day cover” and a happy accident. For at auction it would certainly fetch more than £150.

The second envelope dates from the 1960s when first day cancellations and/or cachets were applied. This two-stamp set commemorating St Marys Cathedral in Limerick retails at about £4 but can be picked up for much less than £1. Note it contains both stamps in the set and therefore the Post Office has already been overpaid for its delivery. It is also illustrated.


The first cover showing the two stamps in the Irish Missionaries set is not addressed. It has never actually passed thru the mail. It is illustrated and is inscribed with the logo of An Post, indicating it has been “officially produced”. As a general rule, these “official” covers are more sought after than “unofficial” covers produced by (say) Irish Times (the daily newspaper used to run a First Day Cover service). It also has an illustrated cancellation.

The pristine nature of an unaddressed envelope seems (oddly in my personal opinion) to be sold at a slight premium over an addressed cover such as the St Marys Cathedral cover. I suppose it marks the transition from the “accidental” First Day Cover” to the contrived First Day Cover . Real “postal history” becoming artificial “philatelic souvenir”.

As President (still not impeached?) Trump, Sarah Sanders and Kellyanne Conway might say “Fake First Day Covers!”.

The second cover, the Bicentenary of the Birth of Thomas Davis is from 2014. It is illustrated, an illustrated cancellation and bears the logo of An Post. Official in every sense. But again it has never passed thru the mail. And as it was bought at the Philatelic Counter at the GPO in Dublin on the morning of 9th October 2014, I seriously doubt whether the handstamp was applied on that morning. More likely, it was prepared in advance. First Day Covers are on sale from the Philatelic Section for one month after the date of issue.

This raises some interesting questions. What happens to surplus stock? Is it sold to dealers at a discount? Certainly in the year or so after date of issue, prices rise…and then they drop away. What happens to First Day Covers that sell out quickly as in the case of Che Guevara issue last year. Seemingly there was a reprint but surely applying a first day cancellation weeks after the originals were sold out is a strange procedure.

Again I refer to my conversation with a veteran post office clerk in a large town in July this year. Nobody actually bought any of the ten unstamped covers supplied to the post office for the St Kevin issue. But a generation ago, the clerk would have been supplied with forty such covers, most of which would sell (depending on the popularity of the issue).

This means that the tradition of collectors sending a First Day Cover to themselves has all but ceased.

Certainly it is easy to pick up 1960s, 1970s and 1980s First Day Covers for well under £1. A lot of collectors have unloaded their stocks, in part thru death or giving up the hobby but largely because they were simply an unnecessary expense.

I think it is always sad to see FDCs on sale in flea markets and fairs, still showing the names and addresses of the person who lovingly them collected them decades ago.


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Glasgow Stamp Shop 2018

Last week (Wednesday) I went on my annual pilgrimage to the Glasgow Stamp Shop.

The annual trip is long and tiring. A start at 5.15am and my wife drives me 25 miles to Belfast to catch a coach (6.30am) for the Docks. The ferry sails at 7.30am and arrives at Cairnryan, Scotland at 10am. Then a coach to Glasgow which arrives at 12.30pm. I only have about three and a half hours in Glasgow before the long journey home begins. I get to say “Honey, I’m home!” around midnight.

Unfortunately I had chosen a bad day to make the trip. Firstly the owner was away. No big deal but the shop was closing early to facilitate the European Championship Cycling. A Time Trial closed several roads and of course this had a knock on effect for commuters.

So not a good day. To add, the Cycling was part of multi-sport European Championships which included Gymnastics, Triathlon and Swimming. I guess it would have been worse if I had chosen a day when competitors were swimming, floor exercising or swimming thru the streets.

Frustratingly I wasn’t able to find much on my shopping list. I use Senator Medium albums and I need some black binders. This colour has been discontinued and I can only get “pre-owned” black albums. Two years ago I was able to pick up three but on this visit none at all.

I also need extra black album leaves for my postcard albums. Again …discontinued.

This is one of the most frustrating things about Stamp/Postcard Collecting and a point that I cannot over-state to new collectors. Choose your album and accessories carefully, especially if (like me) you are obsessed with continuity. A good decision in October 1970 can look like a bad one in August 2018.

I have been making good progress with my mailed postcards from around the world. Recent additions, including Moldova, Armenia and Bhutan means I have postcards showing stamps of 97 current nations of the world.

Disappointingly, I was not able to add to this total in Glasgow. But I was able to pick up some used mail from about six nations, including Fiji, Maldives and Bangladesh. This means I have used mail (including of course postcards) from about 115 nations.

Glasgow Stamp Shop is ideal for browsing but I had a full hour less than I would have hoped. So I bought some sheets of Central and South America….Mexico, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Argentina.

I would have wanted more time to pick up other countries in Central and South America, (former) French Africa and Middle East which are generally speaking off the radar to mainstream collectors.

The “Disappointment” at a day which was only partly successful is mitigated by knowing that I will need a second trip in the autumn and I will arrange it better.


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Two Anecdotes from July

Now that I have my free Senior Citizen Travel Pass, I can travel all over for Ireland for free. Since May 2017, I have been in 28 of Ireland’s 32 counties.

One of the things that I like to do is take photographs of post offices and I like to look inside and maybe buy one or two stamps (usually Stamps on a Roll which identifies the post office thru a 4digit number).

As a general rule, commemorative stamps are only available in the General Post Office and some larger towns. Usually there is a window where the clerk might be the designated member of staff to deal with the eccentrics who collect stamps. I should also add that some small post offices also like to order up some commemoratives from HQ. It can all be a bit random.

When I go into a post office, I sometimes mention that I collect stamps. Some staff are interested or feign interest and some are totally apathetic.

Recently I visited a large post office …a “county town”. The clerk was one of those who was prepared to chat. Do many collect stamps? His answer was to produce ten envelopes which were the official covers for the recent “St Kevin-Glendalough” issue. This was the allocation he had been sent if any collectors came in on the day of issue and wanted to send a First Day Cover. And all TEN were unsold. Nobody bought one. He had been working in the same post office for twenty-five years and in the 1990s he could have anticipated selling FORTY.

That is a measure of the decline of this hobby.

And last Thursday on the day of issue of the “World Meeting of Families” I bought some sets at the Philatelic Bureau. Later in the day, I decided that I might need some more and called at a large suburban Dublin post office. I knew that there was a collector-friendly clerk in this post office.

Unfortunately she was off duty and the young clerk to whom I spoke did not know that there was a new issue that day. He had to ask a colleague who told him he would find them in the safe in the back office. When he came back, he had to ask the same colleague what icon he should press on his computer screen to record the sale. Seemingly there is an icon that says “commemorative stamps”.

This hobby works best when stakeholders….Post Office, Dealers, Collectors respect each other. FRankly, we don’t even know each other.


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