Call me old fashioned, but when I’m on the road there’s something special about writing a postcard, sticking on some local stamps and sending it to loved ones back home. Receiving mail from overseas is almost as much fun.
I especially like rare stamps from smaller or less frequently traveled countries. Sadly I couldn’t send any postcards from Somaliland because they don’t have a mail service. I was also disappointed that on my recent trip to Iraq we never stopped at a post office.
Luckily you don’t have to go so far to find strange and soon-to-be collectable stamps. The surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has forced Vatican City to issue a special set of stamps.
They are emblazoned with an angel holding the Arms of the Apostolic Camera and the words “Sede Vacante MMXIII” (“Vacant See 2013”). They come in four different denominations of 70 and 85 euro cents, 2 euros, and 2.50 euros.
Stamps for the vacant see are designed shortly after a new Pope takes office and are kept until he dies, to be used for the brief period before the next Pope is elected.
Stamp Magazine reports that since the Vatican started issuing stamps, the Vacant See issues have only been used for a total of 20 days. I suspect this means that franked (used) Vacant See stamps will later become pretty valuable owing to their rarity. So if you’re in Italy, head on over to that little country inside Rome and send out some postcards. Your friends and family will thank you for it a few years from now.
[Photo courtesy Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office]
Ever wanted postage stamp-inspired paintings? Molly Rausch can give you what you want, in that case. And even if you’ve never had an itch to acquire a stamp-themed painting with any cognizance, you might still want to check out her work. Rausch is an artist based out of New Paltz, New York. Her stamp art began 14 years ago when she received an envelope filled with foreign stamps from her father. Her paintings begin with an actual stamp and she proceeds to paint an image around the glued-on stamp. Since stamps are small, her paintings are, too. They’re usually about 3 inches tall. After flipping through her work on her website, I have to say, I like it–it’s a great concept. You might, too. And if you do, throw some travel-related art on your walls, courtesy of Ms. Rausch.
It’s a favorite ritual for many travelers to leaf through their passport (often while waiting in an immigration line), reminiscing on each stamp and the destination it represents. When a passport is lost or expired, losing all those hard-earned stamps can be tragic. VisaStamper is a new website that creates a virtual passport, with photo-realistic stamps for each place you visit. The site currently has passport stamps for every country, with city-specific stamps for the US, UK, Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Ireland & Germany, and more every day. You can share your passport stamps on Facebook and Twitter, and collect “points” for each stamp in your VisaStamper passport.
VisaStamper works via your computer’s IP address location, automatically generating a stamp for the country you’re currently in. You can “backdate” your virtual passport by submitting your destination list and dates via email, though an easier form is in production. Apps for iPhone, iPad and Android are on the way in the new year to work via GPS and make sharing even easier.
Sign up and start collecting at VisaStamper.com (you can check out my stamps here) and visit them on Facebook. Happy (virtual) travels!
Next time you want to mail a postcard, skip the hotel concierge and mail it off the same way the locals do: at the post office.
Travelers to international countries stick to their comfort zones more than they realize, and having to perform a routine task in a foreign land is a great way to shake things up. How much is a stamp? Which line do you stand in? How can you convey to the clerk what you need?
The post office presents a unique yet universal challenge — and a great chance for people-watching!
[Photo: Flickr | infomatique]
Customs officers are generally our friends. They keep people from boarding the plane with stolen antiquities or live reptiles, but occasionally innocent people get caught in their net.
Stamp collector Markand Dave of India seems to be one of those people.
Mr. Dave tried to board a flight from Sardar Patel International Airport, Ahmedabad, to Frankfurt, Germany, on his way to attend a stamp collecting exhibition in London. In his luggage he had a collection of rare, early Indian stamps. While Mr. Dave is a well-known philatelist and had an invitation to participate in the exhibition, he had forgotten to ask permission from the government to take the stamps out of India and ran afoul of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, which considers rare stamps to be antiquities. He’s due to appear in court on charges of antiquities smuggling.
Mr. Dave is probably not an antiquities smuggler, but as a leading philatelist he should have known better. Collectors should understand the laws that cover their collections and fill out the proper paperwork before they travel.
Besides, he should be thankful he didn’t have his rare stamps stolen by a baggage thief.