Thursday, July 17, 2014

The World's Most Valuable Postage Stamp and Postage Stamp Radio

The history of postal delivery goes way back in the mists of time to the very early empires that were established in the Middle East and Asia.  Ancient Egypt lays claim to the earliest postal system which was established by the pharaohs more than 4,000 years ago.  Soon afterwards, the Xia dynasty in China established an official government operated courier service.
             It is stated that ancient Persia established the first real postal delivery system with written messages carried by couriers along established mail routes, with change of couriers and horses at established postal stations one days journey apart. 
            It is claimed that Cyrus the Great established this Persian mail system around 500 BC, and interestingly this system is referred to in the Holy Bible, in the  Book of Esther chapter 11 and reading verse 9.  This verse states that the scribes of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) translated a government decree into all of the local languages throughout the empire and the official postal service delivered the messages to the local government authorities in all 127 provinces of the ancient Persian Empire that stretched from India to Ethiopia.
            In 1653, a Frenchman by the name of de Valayer established a commercial postal service in Paris.  He set up mail boxes and delivered all letters placed in them, provided that the customers used only the envelopes that he himself sold.  An adversary put live mice into the letter boxes and ruined this new postal system.
            It is conceded that the worlds first prepaid postage stamp was introduced by Sir Rowland Hill in England and it was validated for use beginning May 6, 1840.  This new postage stamp, known as the Penny Black, shows the youthful, 18 year old, Queen Victoria and it was printed in unperforated sheets with 240 stamps per sheet.
            The worlds most valuable postage stamp is not the Penny Black in England, but rather a single copy of a hastily prepared stamp issued in British Guiana in South America in 1856.  At a stamp auction in New York just a few weeks ago in mid June, the only known copy of this emergency issue stamp, originally priced at just 1 cent, sold for $9½ million.
            We might say these days, that the world is full of postage stamps, so many that they cannot be totally and accurately accounted.  Stamp collecting is considered to be the top worldwide collecting hobby, and these days, many people narrow their own collecting field to a specific country or to a specific theme, including of course, postage stamps that honor wireless or radio.  A thematic count would suggest that some 700 or more postage stamps honoring wireless and radio in various ways have been issued in countries all around the world during the past almost one hundred years.

    The first known postage stamp stamp honoring wireless or radio was issued by Guatemala in Central America in 1919.  This 30 cent stamp in red and blue was overprinted on several subsequent occasions, for change in value and usage.  This stamp shows the two wireless towers and the antenna system suspended between them and it is presumed that the station shown on the stamp was located at Guatemala City.  Around that same era, the United Fruit Company announced plans to establish another wireless station in Guatemala, at Puerto Barrios on the Gulf of Mexico, for maritime communication.
            Other countries have also issued postage stamps showing wireless towers and antenna systems.  For example, during the following year 1920, the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean issued a blue and green stamp that depicted the two wireless towers and the connecting antenna system at their new wireless station.
            The South American country of Peru has issued two postage stamps under the same design, showing their national radio station at San Miguel; in 1938 and again in 1946, both at $1.50.  Their mediumwave and shortwave callsigns are shown on this stamp:   
                        OAX4A 854 Kcs, OAX4Y 9562 Kcs & OAX4Z 6082 Kcs.
            The original color for this stamp was in purple, though a second re-issue in 1950 was printed in light plum.
            Radio Luxembourg, both the building and the antenna towers, was shown in a 1953 issue from Luxembourg; a 1967 stamp from the Virgin Islands shows Radio Chalwell; and a 1970 stamp from the Netherlands Indies shows Bonaire Radio.  A stamp commemorating the opening of the BBC relay station on Ascension Island in 1966 shows a symbolic representation of the British lion; a 1966 stamp for the Australian Antarctic Territories shows a man at the microphone with the callsign VLV on the shortwave transmitter at Mawson Base; and the 20th anniversary of Gospel station ELWA at Monrovia in Liberia was commemorated on a 1974 stamp from Liberia.
            Many countries have honored the many pioneer experimenters who developed various phases of wireless and radio communication in the earlier years: such as Guglielmo Marconi with his 1895 experiments at Bologna in Italy and his first transmission across the Atlantic in 1901; Alexander Popov with his early wireless experiments in Russia; Joseph Murgas with his experiments in the eastern United States; Heinrich Hertz in Germany, and Edwin Armstrong with his introduction of clarity radio in the FM mode in the United States.
            In more recent years, much of the emphasis in the preparation of postage stamps with a radio theme has concentrated more on the stylistic mode rather than the realistic.  For example, the1967 stamp commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Voice of America shows a radio tower with radiating circles around it, as does the 2003 stamp honoring Deutsche Welle in Germany, and also the 1982 stamp from Cuba.  A similar concept was presented in Australia in a 1989 stamp honoring Radio Australia, though only one quadrant of the radiating circles is shown.
            Radio receivers of various styles are also featured on postage stamps.  An old receiver with a directional web antenna is featured on a 1973 stamp from San Marino; an old horn loud speaker is shown on a 1972 5 pence stamp in England; and a very old receiver on a 1974 stamp from Sweden.  A modern radio receiver is shown on a 1983 blue stamp from Jamaica, and also in yellow on a 1999 stamp from New Zealand.

            How many radio related stamps do you have in your stamp collection?  Are you collecting all types of radio related postage stamps?  Or are you collecting just one style, perhaps just transmitters, or just receivers?
(AWR/Wavescan/NWS 281)