Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Just Curious

I'm a stamp collector. I collect stamps from every nation that's ever issued them, in whatever quantity and quality I can get them. I'm always interested in stamps from different places, but stamps issued during periods of political unrest, military action and occupation, and provisional issues of provisional governments really fascinate me. One thing I've found unusual about the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past three or four years is the lack of any definitive information about the postal systems of these two nations during this time of political, social, cultural, and economic unrest.

Stamps from Afghanistan were never embargoed, even during the Russian occupation. The Scott Standard postage stamp catalogue lists and pictures about 40 stamps issued between 1996 and 2002. There are no listings for stamps from 1989 through 1995. A Google search of "Afghanistan" and "postage stamps" turns up 17, 600 links, yet few of those discuss the period from 1989 through 2003. There's a UPU bulletin (#345) that states the stamps issued between 1989 and 2003 are "illegal". There's an interesting site on Geocities that's supposedly the Afghan Post's webpage. It features eight stamps issued by the "Transitional Islamic Government of Afghanistan". Are these genuine? Did they see postal service in Afghanistan? Is this the total output of the "Transitional" Afghan government? What's happening now that elections have been held, and a new government formed? What happened during the period 1989 and 2003, before these stamps were issued? How long will it take to find out?

There's not much more information on Iraq. Scott lists an importation prohibition for all Iraqi stamps after August 2, 1990, but lists stamps through February, 2003. A new issue, authorized by the Iraqi Provisional Authority was issued in January, 2004. What happened in between? What kinds of stamps will the new government produce when it finally takes power? A Wikipedia article reports "overprints appeared on various stamps, but none were officially authorized." There are many questions that still go unanswered, including an indication of how many stamps were issued, how many were destroyed, and how many used for other various purposes. Did the locals use some of the stamps of Saddam Hussein as targets of their anger? Did the Kurds use different stamps than the rest of Iraq for local use? Are there unrecognized "local" issues being used? Who knows! Maybe AskPhil will provide some updates soon...

One problem that will have to be dealt with is the listing of stamps as being "illegal", when they're issued by a former government, an occupying force, or by genuine revolutionary forces that control and operate postal services within territory under their permanent control. At the same time, stamps issued by non-governmental agencies, either for propaganda purposes or profit, need to be identified and treated with the appropriate disdain, both by collectors and dealers.

It will probably take a decade or more to get everything straightened out and the catalogues updated to reflect what's happened in these two countries. In the meantime, it's possible for someone to find a few real treasures - unauthorized overprints, locally-authorized overprints, and unusual usages of stamps from either or both of these countries.


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