Trading Cards: how to burn money and fuel the flea market.

Today I want to talk trading cards, the good, the bad, and the expensive card board that will never, I repeat never be worth much of anything.

While the trade card goes back to before we were a nation, being handed out like advertisements when a product was purchased, The trading card has it’s origins in tobacco. There was a time when they would put some kind of promotional card in packs of cigarettes, a way to get a second use out of something, or really to give you something to collect that required the purchase of even more smokes to collect the cards. The most well known of these are the Allen and Ginter cards of early baseball heroes. The most valuable of which has become something of an American legend in it’s own right. Honus Wagner. Honus Wagner was a great player, and adding to the value of anything of his, is the fact that he played ball until 1917. However, his card is not valuable because of that, it is valuable because it is rare, not simply because of the age of it, but because he hated tobacco and demanded that the cigarette industry cease to use his image, making his card incredibly rare. There is an episode of “Prison Break,” where a minor thief is in federal prison because he stole a baseball card collection, which included a Honus Wagner. The value of which made his crime a felony.

 

While some cards are the stuff made of legend, they are far and few between, owned and accounted for…sometimes miracles do happen, as in the case of the family that found seven (later an 8th) Ty Cobb baseball cards from between 1909-1911 in an old paper sack while cleaning out their great-grandfather’s house. That is probably, I would say, the last of those miracles. Most cards today, are absolutely worthless, not even worth the paper they are printed on, except if you are counting the personal value they have to the collector.

Trading cards in this case, should not be confused with Pokemon, or Magic the Gathering, both of which are collectible card games. Yes they come in packs that depend partly on chance to get good things, and yes they can be sold and traded, but they are not the same as trading cards. However, I will weigh in here, I think many of the things which have ruined the trading card, have also ruined the collectible card game. It has become about money, and winning, and there is not an ounce of spirit left in it. I loved both of those games, and now avoid them at all costs.

I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone get into trading cards, especially sports cards today. There are others out there of course, that has been a long tradition. There is a familiar rule about a certain type of content on the internet, and it is much the same with trading cards, there is a trading card for everything, and I mean everything. When I was a kid, my favorites (to my regret) was Dragon Ball Z. I have seen plenty of others. There was a set for the 2016 election, and in my searching the bazar that is eBay, I found out there were Desert Storm trading cards in the 90s. I know, there were probably ones for other wars, but that strikes me as…distasteful.

Today’s cards are overproduced. I made an attempt to become a serious collector of baseball cards a couple of years ago, and it was somewhat fun opening some with my son, but very quickly it was expensive and out of hand. There is not just one set per brand, there are tons! I like Topps, and there wasn’t just a Topps set for the year, but there was also Topps Allstars, a follow up set, rookies sets, and then they started to issue sets that were made like the ones of years past (and these were the best) Allen & Ginter, Gypsy Queen. Part of their draw is that they have added cards that include real memorabilia from players, pieces of bats, pieces of shirts, things like that. They are nice, if you can find them, we found an autograph once, but again, it is far more cost effective to go on eBay and find the ones you want, than to hunt them in packs. Some of them were truly insane, but again their rarity was created one. I saw a double rip card that was listed for 2500, and it has more things inside of it that you have to rip it open to get. I do not understand. I have bought the memorabilia cards for around 5$ when I found one I wanted. What I really have is a mess of baseball cards that I have hidden in a closet so that I do not have to face them. I have organized a years worth and realized that it would start all over again.

I do not enjoy doing all of that work, as there will always be more, they are made to keep you buying, and they will eat up space, doing nothing except being printed faster than they can be collected with no value and not even the joy of the hunt to be really had. They are the predecessor to smartphone apps that require gems or something, they are the micro-transaction of the analog world.

What I do enjoy doing is opening the packs, looking at them, feeling the perfect edges, that smell of a new pack of cards, so I have come up with a way that allows me to get my enjoyment from trading cards, and then move them on in a meaningful way. I use them as extras in my letters. The letter writing community is (re) growing by the day, but for every 100 people who try writing letters, maybe five will stick to it. The dedicated I have seen, have been including things that express who they are in their letters. I have gotten stamps, comic strips, pressed flowers (an old card making hobby of it’s own.). In mine I include the comics from my tear away calendars, some stamps, the occasional sticker, but this year I started something new. I started to put my baseball cards in, one per letter. I keep on the Boston Red Sox cards, and the rest go in letters. It gave me the chance to look at each one again, enjoy it, and then use it to express my passion for the game I love.

I began to wonder, what if I could find other ones, discounted, vintage, and most likely at a flea market, cards that showed the things I loved, films from my collection since childhood, favorite shows, etc. I took to the flea market to find out, and was rewarded for my efforts. I found Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Batman, and Batman Returns. Thirty year old cards from some of my very favorite films!!! I chose to document the time in which we opened them, and realized that many of them would have a piece of bubblegum still. The gum is a left over idea, the cigarette cards never having recovered from the paper goods rationing of the Second World War, and later it was the bubblegum card that took over for it, you got a card with your bubblegum. Later, it went the other way, you got some gum with your card.

We opened the TMNT cards first. The quality of the cards was ridiculously 80s, even to the point that they were mislabeling turtles, but it was fun! Even better, I have not encouraged the industry, and these things will not remain in my house long. They will become the odd ephemera of my letters, part of my lettercraft, which is good as I am not very good at making creative cards or anything like that. On a sidenote, my cousin Lucas decided to try a piece of that thirty year old gum, and neither of us recommends that experience. Their are plenty of videos out there telling you that is an awful idea, and now we are telling you.

There is a special place inside you for opening old trading cards, the cards you wanted as a kid but were probably not a good use of money, and now I have gotten to scoop them up for a steal at the flea market. I will not always be on the hunt for them, as this one time out has given me enough cards for letters for years, but if I see some for the right price, I will keep the variety going, but the letters are a means to an end, I still like opening the packs and seeing the images of my film heroes on pieces of cardboard.

I have enjoyed this experience, but I am sad to say, the age of the trading card is dead, and we missed the funeral by a few decades. I do not recommend this hobby, the hunt is dead. Unless there is a truly rare sports card you are after, the hunt is held on a reservation, you can find complete sets of the cards you want or even whole cases of the store boxes for a fraction of their cost on eBay and there will be no hunt to speak of. If you can find a way to recycle what is essentially high dollar trash from a flea market into something meaningful, then I beg you to do it. However, do not let me stop you from something you are passionate about, but the trading cards of today are a collector’s black hole.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

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Stamp Collecting: My Story

This is a very big first for this blog and I, we have our first request for a post. A reader asked if I would tell how I became involved in stamp collecting. I thought that was a very fine question, as it allowed me to talk about one of my favorite subjects…me. Just kidding, I love to talk stamps.

First off, what is a stamp? Well, as best as I can put it, a stamp is something which marks the monetary requirement of something as having been met. It means to us, something with which to send mail, and can be used to ensure that a tax on some commodity has been paid. If you are, or know a smoker, look at a pack of cigarettes. If the bottom portion of the cellophane is still there, most likely you will find a tax stamp present. Fortunately for our lungs, our subject at hand is postage stamps. There was a time when you could send mail without the use of a stamp, but the recipient would have to pay to receive it. This was terrible. It was the collect call of the day except that should the recipient refuse to collect their mail for any reason, then the service had already made the effort of physically moving the mailed object. The London Penny Post of 1680, moving mail around London eliminated the basic flaw, collect the money before hand, and prove that it was done by physically stamping the piece of mail. Voila! I will not make a huge history of stamps here, after all this is about my history with them.

I am from a town call Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee. The current post office was erected there in 1983. My grandmother went to work there in 1985. My grandfather worked there as well, I cannot tell you when he started at this moment. Sometimes, my mother was even a sub when there was a need. I remember a good deal of time spent in the back of that post office due to the fact that they all had to work, and I had to go somewhere. I could walk in today and find my way around…well up until I was arrested for trespassing as almost no one there knows me anymore. I was recognized when I went to mail something there during my recent road trip, but that happens less and less, and it is a bit perturbing considering the connection I feel with the place. There is a retaining wall in the back parking lot with train tracks at the top. I remember seeing tanks being moved by train there, and my grandmother told me they were going to the war (Desert Storm if it was true). I have many memories of playing out there if she needed to go finish work after picking us up from school. It is a rural place and to me, that post office had a yard. I truly love it.

We kids were always being taken to post office picnics, helping at the post office booth at the county fair, wearing post office (and more importantly Stamp) shirts. It was a part of life. So for me, stamp collecting was kind of Organic.

Stage I:

My grandparents would show me stamps, and by my nature the minute I found out that a thing could be collected, I collected it. Now, at this time this might have consisted of a bunch of cancelled postage in a bag in my room, haphazardly glued to the pages of something. Nothing of this early collection remains.

Stage 2: Invested

Stage two came in fifth grade. We had been on a class trip to the Coca-Cola bottling plant, and we were asked to write an essay about it, and the next day a winner would be picked, six pack of Coke as a prize. I won! I was kind of shocked, but I mean I had wanted to be a writer, and now I had won something for writing. My family was told, and my grandmother told me there was an essay contest for the “Celebrate the (20th) Century,” stamp campaign going on at the time. I really loved the Celebrate the Century stuff because it was all very in your face and wow stamps are cool. I wrote about my favorite set (only set) which was the Classic Movie Monsters. They are awesome. You could buy this little plastic card that revealed hidden images in them, like bats behind Dracula. I had that thing…need to see if I can get one off of EBay.

Much to my shock, I won that to (for my state.)This was huge for me! I had won two things for writing. The prizes were not to be sniffed at either, I was buried under stamp stuff. I still have exactly one item from it besides the plaque. I have the 1997 stamp collection. More about those later. The news came and did a thing about it, at the post office. I have a picture of that somewhere, and I wore a stamp tie (Looney Toons) and they gave me 150$. I used that to by a nice new Sanyo TV.

Stage 3: It was just my thing

After this, everyone just kind of knew I was a stamp collector. I think if not for my great aunt and my grandmother, I really would have been known for being one without being much of one, but they would buy sheets of stamps they knew I would like and give them to me for my birthday and such or just because. I think my favorites so far are when my great aunt surprised me with the Lucille Ball stamps (I really do love Lucy,) and my grandmother ensuring I had a set of the Harry Potter stamps (ok. So this still goes on. I had a kid already when those Harry Potter ones came out.).

Around eighteen, I joined the army, and I reconnected with my love of the mail. I do not know how basic training is now, but when I went, it was like the movies, you got very few phone calls, and you wrote letters home. I certainly did. I am very glad that our drill sergeants did not always like us to pay for each piece with pushups. In a training environment, a drill sergeant distributes the mail, which they have to go and get from somewhere secure. When we would get back late, I think often times they were just hoping that we were too tired to care, and they hated me because I would ask in front of everybody (sometimes I was discouraged from this) “Drill Sergeant! Is it too late to ask for mail drill sergeant?!” They did not have to go get it, but usually they did. After a while they made me go get it and bring it. Then it became my task to gather up everyone’s outgoing mail and take it to the mailbox in the morning.

Fast forward two year. Baghdad Iraq. I wrote letters still. I did not need to. We had computers with email a good bit of the time, but I really liked mail. Every team had to have a guy who could pick up the mail, usually someone in charge. I would always get mad because they never went to get it, and then I would pester the mail room sergeant about it and he would go on and on about “being certified!” Finally I asked him how to become certified and he asked for my ID card and my assurance that whoever was in charge of it wanted it. I gave both (I had an ID and I was not actually clear on who was supposed to be getting our mail.). He bent down, wrote my name and unit in a book, gave my card back and said “ok.” I thought, “wow. That was easy. So easy as to almost be arbitrary….”. I signed a book and wheeled our mail back. No one really ever asked why I started showing up with it everyday.

Back to the stamps. I came home and ignored my hobby for sometime. I ignored many things. Later, after I was out of the army, and my first son had been born, I realized that without ever noticing, I had been buying stamps and putting them in a binder by the sheet. Just because, that was my thing. I was collecting again and had resumed it without ever noticing. I had some catching up to do though. So I took to eBay for that. Now, whenever stamps come out that I like, I buy two sheets. One for me to use (as I write a lot of letters) and one for the book. I tried two for the book (one for each son) but that got pricey in a hurry. One for the book it is. I love going to the post office to get stamps (Fort Sam Houston, clean it up, the stamp situation here gets sad,) and to see L. L is the clerk here, and he is amazing, and almost singly responsible for me discovering a love of Jazz. He is everything you want in a postal employee, he makes you feel like you are family and you matter.

How and Why: The Sticky parts

Today my son got involved. Well, he has been but until today, he just liked to put the paper that old stamps come on by the bag into hot water and remove and dry them. Today we collected, and I am indicating that we did it together on the label of each one. Let’s talk about the why. I do not know why it started, maybe just a way to get a second use out of something back when. Some people collect for the sheer love of stamps (woohoo!). Some collect because stamps are national symbols, little posters of history (double woohoo!) some collect for profit (every community has them.).

I took my son to the National Postal Museum (go! I will write about it later) and it was awesome. That is as close as I care to come to valuable stamps. I collect because I love stamps. I collect because things I love are on stamps, the collection is a form of expression about the collector (see photos.) Now I collect to express a love of history. I major in history and I collect stamps of the Soviet Union because it allows me to learn, and to be amazed by the art that these people produced. They are beautiful pieces of history. Now my son collects with me. I collect for love. Whatever your reason, make sure you love it. You should feel something when you are with them.

Now, here is my primer on how.

  1. Ask yourself why you want to collect stamps. Do you just wish to amass stamps and Scrooge McDuck swim in them? Cool! Do you like the ones being put out in your lifetime? Do you want the presidents? Are you looking for stamps about something dear to you? Do you write letters and have realized that the ones from other countries are fun? Understand what started to pull you in and that will tell you where to start.
  2. You can find proper supplies on Amazon. Search stamp collecting supplies, get a binder, a magnifier ( to check out the details!) and some decent quality stamp sheets. I like the Light House Vario brand. You can buy books if you like, they are helpful guides.
  3. If you are collecting sheets of current stamps as they come out, a book will not be necessary. If you are collecting older stamps, every year the post office puts out a stamp guide that has every U.S. stamp up to the printing of that book. I recommend it for dating stamps and such.
  4. If you plan to lift the stamps off your mail, be prepared to be frustrated. The self adhesive ones are the bane of every collector I know. They do not come off the same way as the others (hot water) and the only way I know to get them off is with a citrus cleaning spray that ruins the whole thing for me (very smelly) so I do not try.
  5. If you want older stamps, especially without a theme, go to places like hobby lobby. They sell stamps by the bag. You will get tons of repeats ( I trade mine or give them away) and you get to have fun looking through them. There is killer variety too. I get plenty of WWII war bond stamps there.
  6. The USPS is a great way to collect. They put out a stamp collection every year (like the one I showed above) that has information and a copy of every stamp made that year. This is an investment, but you get them all, and no research, and you still stick them in their places in the book, so you are hands on. The also just sell every stamp that year as a bagged set, so collect how you want. I prefer sheets myself, but the set can be more cost effective, because then you only have one of each rather than the 10 or however many on a sheet.

That is my stamp collecting story, and I hope you enjoy it.  I truly love this hobby, and I have far more stamps than I actually use on mail, and that is saying something.  However, I firmly believe that time spent on an unharmful passion is time well spent, and I will never regret my son asking me if we can do more stamps.

Thank you Bill.

Analog Savage,

Brandon Bledsoe

grandma 84

New Buildings In Moscow, Postage Stamps of the Soviet Union, USSR, 1983

These stamps here are perfect examples of Soviet stamps being meant to be sent and seen outside of the Union.  These are architecture projects in Moscow, that to me smack of modernness, and more importantly exhibiting what they had done for the olympics three years prior.

The entire series was issued on December 15, 1983.

This are the first ones I have catalogued and written about that are printed in relief.  The basic idea is that the image is etched out of the plate and when the object is printed, the ink fills in the spaces that were etched out.  It makes for incredibly beautiful and detailed stamps.  They are some of my favorites, and I often have to fight the urge to touch them to feel the printing.

At the end there will be more photos.

1979 Natalya Sats Musical Theater

This is the Natalya Sats Musical theater, formally known as Moscow State Academic Children’s Music Theater Named After Natalya Sats.  All infomation cited as (Wikipedia) can be found here.

Details: Issued 12-15-1983, face value 3 Kopeks-it would have sent a postcard.

Natalya Sats was the director of this institution in 1921, long before this building was opened in 1979.  Sats and her institution were part of Lenin’s wife wanting children’s art education to resume.  Sats had a break in her directorship due to the purges, but resumed until she died in 1993 at the age of 90.  (Wikipedia). It is very interesting, and if you have time you should read more about this fascinating institution for children.
The Central House of Tourists

Central House of Tourists

Issued: 12-15-1983

Value: 4 Kopeks, postcard or domestic letter

The hotel is now called the Astras, and it is still in use today.  Thirty-three floors, 537 rooms, opened 1980.  What I find interesting is the tiny silohouettes of people in the windows, all the way down the hotel.

Russian Soviet Federation House

Russian Soviet Federation House

Issued: 12/15/1983

Value: 6 Kopeks, post card, domestic letter, small registered item.  I believe registered to cover international as well.

As of 1981 this was the seat of Soviet government, and it is still in use for that purpose today.  It is listed as the Russian White House,  it reads to me more similarly to 10 Downing Street in London, home of the government and Prime Minister.  It replaced the Grand Kremlin Palace, which to me is funny.  It would seem that Bolsheviks would have wanted something clean and modern, unassociated with the czars and aristocracy, so this coming so very close to the end of the Soviet Union surprises me.  Of course, they did not know it was going to end in a decade.

I love this one.  Just look at it.  It makes stamps today look cheap by comparison.

Izmailovo Hotel

Izmailovo Hotel Complex

Issued: 12/15/1983

Value: 20 Kopeks, Postcard, but in five kopeks it will be more than a post card ever was, domestic letter, registered item.

Opened in 1979, this is actually a hotel complex consisting of four separate hotels.  It was built, in keeping with the theme, because there were not enough hotel rooms for the coming olympics in 1980, that were to be hosted in 1980.  These are still in operation today, ranging from 3-4 stars.  Interestingly this was the world’s largest hotel until 1993, when another was opened in Moscow.  It was beaten by the expansion of the MGM Grand in Vegas (Wikipedia).
1980 Olympic Press Center

This one, I admit, gave me some issues.  I had a hard time with the fact that the words in this case are printed in cursive.  I turned to soviet-postcards.com, and it just came back as “News Publishing Agency.”  I looked at buildings added to Moscow in the time frame, and found the part about it being for the olympics.

1980 Olympic Press Center

Issued: 12/15/1983

Value: 45 Kopeks, this would only have been used to send a registered item, and I speculate internationally.  Stamps were meant to show off to the world, and historaical rates say that no domestic letter needed more than 40 Kopeks.  Registered was between 6 Kopeks and 1 Ruble (100 kopeks to the ruble).  I figure this to be where all the press conferences, maybe the ceremonies and such were held for the olympics in 1980.  Now it is simply noted as being used as office space.  That is a step up from all the abandoned spaces created for the Olympics.

The 22nd Olympic Games, Moscow, Stamps of the Soviet Union 1976

Details of the 1980 Summer Olympics taken from here.  Do not forget to cite, like I just did, albeit in a loose format.  

     The Olympic Games of 1980, would be the smallest since 1956, due to a boycott.  The boycott in 1980 was over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.  However, these games would still be noteable as the first and only to be held in Eastern Europe to date, and they were the first to be held in a Socialist nation until, remaining the only one until 2008, Beijing China.  The full details can be found above, in the link.  The 1956 games were also boycotted over the Soviet Union.  It is also worth noting that only Moscow, and Los Angeles competed to host in 1980.

    It needs to be understood that the Soviet Union did not produce postage stamps solely for their own citizens usage and collecting.  They intended these stamps to be seen abroad.  They were using their stamps to show off the symbols, ideas, progress, and accomplishments of the Soviet Union, so it should be, I argue, a neccissity to look at Soviet Stamps as best as one can like a Soviet, but also like an outsider viewing a piece of propaganda.  

First in the series, Moscow

   The series consists of four stamps.  The one seen above is the main collectors piece.  It is a miniaturized view of Moscow, or the main center anyhow.  The details:

  • Issued: December 28, 1976 (this was in advance of the games) all stamps
  • Value: 60 Kopeks + 30 Kopeks, this would have almost been registered mail, and I believe, international mail ( just the one pictured.)
  • The bottom reads, ” Moscow- Organizers of the 22nd Olympiad”. (Roughly)

These stamps do have two face values, and that is because they are charity stamps.  The first value, here the 60 kopeks, is postage, and the second, 30 kopeks, goes to charity.  We can’t know what the charity was, but I will check other stamps and if it only occurs with themes, we may make educated guesses.  I would like to thank http://soviet-postcards.com for the information about charity stamps.

    I love this piece.  It is a collector’s plate, with a miniature of Moscow featured.  The stamp itself, if used, features mainly the cathedral ( lower left) and the Kremlin Senate Palace ( upper right.). The actual Kremlin is almost entirely on the collector’s portion, not the postage portion.  I find this piece, especially considering that it would have been a waster of money to mail something domestic with this, to be fascinating.  The stamp was highlighting Moscow, but not the Kremlin, if it was used.  

     The other three are nice, but not nearly as fascinating for me.  They are various Olympic symbols, with banners which read, “Games 22nd Olympiad, Moscow, 80.”  Their values can be seen in photo.  I do like that, as each host city has its own icon for the games, the Moscow Icon was similar to the Soviet Star being placed upon a building. 

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

15th Anniversary of the First Human Space Flight, 1976, Stamps of the Soviet Union

On 12 April, 1961, Yuri Gagarin did something that was beyond the scope of words to describe the magnitude properly.  He had become the first human being to fly in space in his Vostok spacecraft.  
    This stamp, which came out after Gagarin had died, was made to commemorate that monumentous occasion.  

Yuri Gagarin

      This is a beautiful piece, in my opinion.  The details:

The top text is the title.  The text under the portrait is his name, Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin.  The text on the medal translates as Pilot Cosmonaut, and I believe the medal to be Hero of the Soviet Union.  Gagarin is seen here wearing the rank of “Polkovnik” or what the United States calls a colonel.  The Piece has a face value of 50 Kopeks.  These are numbered, mine being 110,464 of 450,000.

   Gagarin would die in 1968 piloting as MiG-15.  As I understand it his two daughters are alive and doing very well, both very prominent in Moscow.  With the Cold War over, we can stop and give Gagarin’s contribution to humanity the respect it deserves.  He was the first representative of this species in space.  This year marks the 56th anniversary of Colonel Gagarin’s 1 hour 48 minute trip.  Gagarin also oribited the earth during this trip.  

Close up, Portrait of Polkovnik Yuri Gagarin, 15th Anniversary of the First Human Space Flight, 1976, Stamps of the Soviet Union
Hero of the Soviet Union: Pilot Cosmonaut

Credits: World Book Encyclopedia: 2013, Volumes G and A, G-P.5 A-P.829, entries “Gagarin, Yuri” and “Astronaut”

 1976: Postage Stamps of the Soviet Union

When I started writing this guide to the postage of the Soviet Union, I was still a new collector, but I had a whole year catalogued already.  I had the idea to write a blog/guide later.  Really the two are linked, as there was no such guide when I started.  There still is not now.  There is a rather expensive book, which I should probably get around to buying, which tells the names and some basic collectors information, but still this is the age of the free internet.  This information should be readily available.  So that is what I am trying to do, to share knowledge and information with at least a dozen people.  

    I catalogued 1976 first, I will be going back to write about these while I do 1983.  It will get me all caught up and it will help to keep new content being produced by me.  

    1976 was a big  year, Cold War wise.  You can read the full Wikipedia entry here.  Here is my take on the themes and key events that I see:

    The world was held in a seemingly unending Cold War.  Large events had come and gone and yet not much had changed.  The United States involvement in Vietnam was over and the nation was fully communist at this point.  The world could be described as tired at this point by this unending ideological struggle.  Technology was ramping up more and more, gaining speed as more was developed and advanced, helping to cushion some of the dreariness of the unending Cold War.  There was also hints at what would become the 1980s, as terrorism was picking up, and while terrorism will be later seen as the theme of a post Cold War age, it was also a result of the tensions created during this time, but one persons terrorism is another’s political strife.  You will see punk music taking off as a sign of stagflation gripping the West, stagflation being one more symptom that this was never going to end and was kind of hopeless, as the Sex Pistols say a year later “no future for me.”

  • Gerald Ford was president, but Jimmy Carter was elected same year
  • The Cray 1 super computer was introduced
  • The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Soviet hockey team
  • The Red Army Faction Trial begins in West Germany
  • The United States Vetoed a U.N. Resolution to form an independent Palestine
  • Cuba’s current constitution enacted
  • Toronto Blue Jays are formed 
  • Videla dictatorship is started in Argentina
  • Argentinian dirt war starts
  • Apple Computer Company is formed
  • The Ramones release their first self titled album
  • The Phillipines open relations with the Soviet Union
  • The Soweto Uprising begins in South Africa 
  • Strikes against communists raising food prices begin in Poland 
  • Socialist Republic of Vietnam formed
  • The United States Bicentennial 
  • The first class of women are inducted at the United States Naval academy, Annapolis 
  • Family Feud debuts
  • The Viking I lands on Mars
  • The United Kingdom breaks ties with Uganda after the hijacking of Air France 139, which also saw Israeli Commandos involved later against the Palestinians 
  • The Seattle Seahawks begin playing 
  • The First (known) Ebola outbreak occurs 
  • Viktor Belenko lands his Mig-25 in Japan and requests asylum from the U.S. (this one is good, we took it apart and examined it, and the Japanese returned it in crates, billing the Soviets $40,000 for crating services)
  • The Muppet Show is first broadcast
  • The “Night of the Pencils” occurs
  • 100 Club Punk Festival goes on
  • U2 is formed
  • The Cultural Revolution in China concludes with 
  • Clarence Norris, last surviving “Scottsboro Boy,” is pardoned
  • Microsoft is registered
  • The Viet Cong is disbanded and folded into the Vietnam People’s army
  • Mao Zedong dies
  • California’s sodomy law is repealed 
  • Richard Dawkins publishes The Selfish Gene
  • IBM introduces the IBM 3800, the first laser printer

All of these can be found on the Wikipedia page for 1976, and more.  This list was cherry picked by me from the larger one.  It is to be your jumping off point or refresher for this year (and decade as I am starting here) so that you can put yourself into this decade and thinks critically about it.  Reading about these events, listening to the music, will begin to give you a grasp of the worlds state, if you want it, so that you will perhaps better understand the stamps the Soviet Union was producing.  

Analog Savage 

Brandon Bledsoe 

Transport and Telecommunications: Stamps of the Soviet Union, 1983

This stamp is most likely titled “Transport and Telecommunication.”  It was issued May 20th 1983.  There is not any text to translate, remembering that почта means is the word for “post” or “mail” and can be found on every stamp.  

    It is a part of the 12th definitive issue, which ran from 1976-1992.  Definitive issues are kind of an odd thing that should be addressed now.  They were supposed to be the pride of the Soviet Post, representing the proud symbols of the Soviet Union.  The part that makes them odd is that the stamps stretch across multiple years.   This stamp certainly fits the theme of globalization with these symbols, the passenger jet liner, the ship, and the bolt for electricity being over the globe.  

    It has a face value of 5 kopeks, and is part of the 1983 series despite the 1982 in the top corner, which I cannot explain.  It may be listed wrong on colnect.com, or it could have been delayed in being issued due to being part of a definitive issue.  

    The other notable feature is that the stamp is tiny.  I put it next to several objects, not having any coins handy, to give a scale.  

12th Definitive issue of The Soviet Union

Do you really like that? Using caution and discretion on the road to analog

My Great-Grandmother passed away recently.  She lived through a lot of things that we study in school, The Great Depression and World War II come to mind first.  She was a young woman when the Chicago Cubs were in their second most recent World Series.  Her death was preceded by about four years of being in assisted living due to not being able to care for herself, basically Alzheimer’s.  When my family began to inventory her home, it was found to be stuffed full of dollar store deals, yard sale finds, and things that had been on sale in bulk.  Notebooks by the hundred, odd singing bears, crap from every era since not long after the sixties.  The house was not all, there is a smaller house and multiple falling in storage buildings on the property.  In short, she had been hoarding.  Not the worst I have ever seen, but some of it.

Last year David Sax published The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter.  I have not read it.  I may, it is nothing personal to the author, it is just another book on the stack…yes, an actual stack.  I hold firmly to my belief that you can run a page and blog called Analog Savage without having to read a book about analog things.  The point here is that the title reflects a point I had made before, the idea of ‘The Real.”

The real to us is things that matter.  It is the quilt I am making for my son and the hours of my life that are sewn into it.  It is the tactile experience, it is the activation of the senses.  The real is craftsmanship, it is something original, something with a purpose.  There are a million ways to describe the real, and it is almost certainly easier to point out what it is not, rather than what it is.

That brings us to the dark side.  The real involves real things.  Physical objects.  They actual mass, real things take up real space.  I would say they cost actual money, but you can blow money on digital things as well.  The real, being analog, it all involves actual crap that takes up space and has to be stored and maintained.

I am the worst about it.  I am not a hoarder, but my friend Carl says that my hobby is having hobbies.  My wife says that my largest collection is my collection of collections.  These statements are both true.  Let us introduce the book pile.

There it is.  That is my personal monster.  Now, before you set about judging, I did not buy all of those and just not read them.  Many of those I was given by my Great Aunt, in a story that goes back to the Great Grandmother, and I have just not been able to get to them, or I have been listening to them as audiobooks.  There is a convoluted twisty canyon of thought that you do not need to sort through here, but they are on the floor because if they are on the shelf I will forget about them.  I am working on them.

We seem to always be in a race to outperform previous generations in materialism.  We just have so much crap.  Those books are not crap, they are heirlooms, and a chain of the thoughts of someone I love.  My Baseball cards on the other hand…

I love comic books, despite my hate/hate relationship with the publishers right now.  When I was in my latest collecting and reading frenzy of comics, before the writers decided that having a good story was the wrong way to sell books and titles proliferated into madness, I carried a monthly collection of twenty books or more.  When the storylines started to turn, I kept buying.  When it had advanced well past the point of sticking it out, I kept buying.  When even my favorite characters failed to please (google Bat-Chappie), when they made sure to involve each character in multiple series and big world shattering events came every quarter to squeeze every cent from us (secret wars…) I kept buying.  Why?  The same reason that a lot of people buy more and more, to bee seen as being current.

Keeping up with the Joneses is not just about the house and pool anymore.  It is now about showing how much you love something by keeping piles of it to sleep in apparently.  I had to buy Batman comics no matter how much they sucked due to my status of self-appointed supreme Batman fan of the world.

Now I have to apply a simple test, asking myself “Do I like this or do I wish to be seen as liking this?”  It does not break the cycle immediately, but it does confront me with the truth of some things.  Am I going to enjoy this, play it with friends, read it, use it, or am I going to try to find a corner in a closet to get this out of sight out of mind so that I do not need to feel bad for having spent the money on it, maybe pulling it out once in a while to show off when the thing is mentioned.

If it fails the test, just be honest.  Being analog is about actually enjoying the thing, not piling the thing up.  Am I going to interact with my Soviet Stamps every day?  No.  Am I preserving something that there will never be any more of, and getting a truly rewarding experience while doing so?  Yes.  Will I interact with my baseball cards every day?  No.  Am I enjoying them for more than five minutes after having opened them?  Not really…

This post was just to caution you about the rabbit hole of the analog things.  Now people write books about how to get rid of crap.  One of them I enjoyed just for the irony of it.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo is a book, in which there is a chapter about getting rid of your books.  This is where people got the notion of the whole “throw out things that bring you no joy,” I would caution against this extreme approach as I shove my treadmill, sister, and anything that resembles non-hobby work out the door.  The second irony is that they sell this book in the container store, and in the book she says that organizing is not tidying, it is just putting the crap somewhere else, somewhat neater.

This is the balance the tagline at Analog Savage speaks of, appreicate the printing press without buying one. To collect stamps you will need stamps, but start with a theme.  If you are going to explore the analog, be picky, be thorough, exercise discretion and judgement, and half fun without being buried under the weight of crap you do not actually care about.

Analog Savage

Stamp Collecting: Great Analog Hobbies

For many analog hobbies, it is true that if you look near the heart of the thing, collecting can be found in some form or another.

For me the love of the stamp came naturally, and was partially detailed in a previous post, but here is the short version.  My Grandmother was a Rural Letter Carrier.   My mother worked there off and on, My grandfather also worked there, and later my grandparents would retire from that post office.  It is/was one of my favorite places in the world, it is the post office for home, Soddy Daisy Tennessee.  I used to play out in the parking lot, and there was a wall to keep the ground from collapsing into the lot.  If you climbed to the top of it there were railroad tracks, it was at this rural post office, as a boy, that I saw the tan tanks on trains heading off somewhere in the early 90s.

Stamp collecting goes back to the advent of well…the postage stamp.  I love history, and if you look closely enough, there is a history lesson in every postage stamp.  What makes it great as an analog hobby besides that?  Well, it does not require a lot of start-up capital or specialized equipment or the thing we all seem to be short on, time.  It can be as simple as buying a sheet of stamps that you like at the post office and putting it away.  Places like Hobby Lobby sell bags of around 300 stamps for about ten dollars a bag, and there is a big mash up of stamps in those.  You will, of course, come across many repeats, but there are great things too, I have pulled plenty of WWII war bond stamps out of those bags.

I collected ever since I was a child, and it usually consisted of putting away sheets of the stamps that had come out and my family bought me what they believed I would like. Remember for me, the post office was a deep part of life.  I looked forward to the post office picnic every year.  There were good prizes for the games, usually postal related.  The point is, I was never one to trace rare stamps, or to have a giant book, but what I did have was Classic Movie Monsters, Bugs Bunny, and I Love Lucy.  This hobby allows you to pick your own involvement level.  Minimal investment, a vague interest, and the willingness to research.

Here is where I will say this for the first time: Digital for the win.  This hobby has been improved through the wonders of the Internet and the personal computer.  Guides, and lists, that used to cost money, are now available for free online.  My real collection is the stamps of The Soviet Union, and a website called Collectors Net has saved me the price of a sixty dollar book.


You will all have to forgive me from this point on with this post, I was just informed that I lost a family member tonight.

I decided to involve my son in stamp collecting and so we expanded a bit.

We buy the bags together, sort the stamps together, and then we do his favorite part, we soak the stamps in hot water and peel them from the paper they are stuck to and dry them in books.  It is time together, not in front of a screen (minus part of the research, if we do not use the hard copy encyclopedias) and he gets to learn some things.  Stamps do not offer much in the way of the tactile, but even at four, the taste he had gotten was enough to make him excited to see the National Postal Museum in Washington D.C. and as I said, it does not involve a video game or a television.  It steps into the real a little bit.

Bottom line-  You can start a quick and easy collection that can grow with your knowledge on the subject.  You can give the collection and the passion to your kids.  You will also be in some good company, FDR and Freddy Mercury counted among the great philatelist.

Let’s address that, philately, the study of stamps, is not stamp collecting.  However, you usually cannot collect stamps without some light philately, so do not get hung up on the two being used interchangeably.

The Bullets:

  • low initial cost
  • something for everyone-national icons, celebrities, sports, the stamp world almost has it’s own rule 34.
  • low initial knowledge need
  • Self-adhesive stamps are the devil

Tip  Bullets:

  • look up the Vario system, second to none stamp storage pages
  • The National Postal Museum has better articles than I could ever write on how to get started, right here.
  • get the kids involved
  • pick a niche at first-Hollywood, musicians, Soviet Russia, Cold War-era, the 80s, there is no limit to niches
  • Every year the post office puts out a complete guide to every U.S. Stamp ever, get it as your first serious purchase, runs about 45$
  • slow down, enjoy the learning, and the collection
  • pull it out and review it sometimes
  • Read articles
  • Getting a pen pal or two can help, they usually have cool foreign stamps if they are not from U.S.

Get out there and get an old fashioned stamp, and look at it.  If you are still collecting in a year, maybe you will be ready to study how they are printed.

Ganger-Bjorn, The Analog Savage

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