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

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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

What is in your pencil’s history? (National Pencil Day)

Today is National Pencil Day, and the pencil is by far the analog center of the savage’s world.  It is the thing in my pocket, that makes me use my notebook, that contains my entire world.

There will be a lot about national pencil day, but it seems the reason for the day (or at least being observed today) is because March 30, 1858 is when the United States first granted a patent for a wood cased pencil with an eraser on top.  I have seen various explanations for why pencils are usually yellow, and the one we will be going with is that it was to copy the Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth, but that is for another day.

My National Pencil Day bit will be about the pencils made by Mitsubishi.  Can you believe that these pencils are linked to the cause of the Korean War?

Now that you have read that outrageous and unnuanced claim let us get to the meat of it.  This will be a historical post.  In the interest of it not being forever long, it will be written in broad historical swaths.  If you would like to know the rest, I can provide it.  This is not meant to be a scholarly article, it is a blog post, but the history is good.

When people see my Mitsubishi pencils they say something like, ” Wow…Mitsubishi makes everything…”  That statement is not that far from being true, they do make an uncommonly large variety of products.  Off the top of my head I can think of they produce cars, television sets, pencils, microwaves, etc.  People do not seem to notice this until they see a pencil with the Mitsubishi brand.  When I hear this I show them the date (1887) on a pencil and embark on my little story.

In the late 19th century (1860s) Japan made the transfer from isolationist pre-industrial nation to effective imperial and industrialized nation.  Japan had seen the success and power of industrialized colonial powers and it was decided this was the way forward for Japan, constitution and all.  The Japanese had a large goal, to industrialize and catch up enough to be competitive within around twenty years.

This was a lofty goal indeed, but the Japanese pulled it off, remeber the Mitsubishi name is marked as established 1887.  Part of their method was to allow (again I am being broad here) wealthy families to invest massive capital into the hopeful national industries, in return, these families would hold pseudo-monopolies over the industries.  These families were the Zaibatsu or financial clique.  Similar to the early LLC of the United States if an example is needed.

Japan succeeded and by the late 1904 were able to defeat Russia in a war.  Later the industrialized and conquering Empire would take control of Korea.  With the Empire’s defeat in World War II, a power vacuum was opened in Korea, and like Germany, was essentially divided between the United States and The Soviet Union to sort out what should be done to fill the vacuum.  The Soviets set up the communist north, and the U.S. the anti-communist south.  The rest is history.

Now who could have known that all that history was contained in these tiny wooden pencils.

I hope you have a very good National Pencil Day, and that perhaps this is your chance to rediscover what is in my opinon, the best analog tool, the wooden pencil.

Ganger-Bjorn, The Analog Savage

Postage Stamps of the Soviet Union: 1983 Part 1

It is time to start the next thing I want to do in this blog.  I once read a blog about blogging, that said your blog should aim to help the reader, to teach them something.   Well declare, that at this point, I often as not, have very little to share about pencils as far as information goes.  Only my non-graphite groupie readers (love you guys as you are usually my IRL friends) so that stuff will still happen, just not in the same way.  Also I will be depending on all of you to help me launch the super secret second phase of all this that I have cleverly named, “Phase 2.”

However, I do have something to offer that is new and fresh for many readers and might even gain me a few new ones.  I give to you…

The Stamps of the Soviet Union

que The Best of the Red Army Choir

 

     As always, the first entry will offer a word of explanation.  I have always enjoyed postage stamps and most things to do with the post office as far as I can remember.  My Grandparents, and in small bursts, my Mother all worked at our local post office.  The post office of Soddy Daisy was such a second home that you used to be able to bring kids while you sorted mail, and people helped you out.

I was one of those kids.  As far as I know I really may have been the only/last one.  This is my favorite photo of this place.  It opened in 1983 and my Grandmother started there in 1985, two years later, I was born.  My Grandmother retired in 2011, My grandfather retired from here as well, but my information on his dates is sketchier and I am not going to text him all day for it right now.  Let us just say this place is as tied to the Ganger’s family as the name Bledsoe.  In 1998 the postal service was preparing for the year 2000 and celebrating the 20th century and the stamps that were in it, aptly titled, Celebrate the Century.  They held an essay contest and I won for my region, writing about either classic movie monsters, or comic strips.  I forget which.

The results are the same either way.  I was encouraged to collect stamps, and encouraged by the influences of my Great Aunt and Uncle, I studied the Soviet Union.  One night I was sitting there looking at Stamps when I had a “Eureka!” moment.  I had long operated under the assumption that commies would not be stamp collectors.  It seemed like something they would not be into…Until I asked myself what are stamps?  Stamps are state produced memorabilia that often feature symbols of national pride.  I texted my friend Carl, and my wife “WHAT IF THERE ARE SOVIET STAMPS!?!?!?”  Their reactions were similar to each other “…oh god…”  A little investigation and I not only found them, but I found out how to collect them.  Now I will share them with you, a few at a time, in series of a particular year.  I may skip dull ones, or lump them all together.

It turns out the Soviet Union produced on average 120 stamps a year, and they are amazing.  They are art.  I have been researching them bit by bit, and have helped to correct the one website that I have found useful.

We will be starting with the year 1983.

1983:

  • ARPANET becomes TCP/IP and the Internet begins
  • Fraggle Rock came out
  • Seatbelts became mandatory in the United States
  • Salem Nuclear Plant experienced a failure of the automatic shut down
  • Kursk Nuclear Plant shuts down due to fuel rod failure
  • A young Samantha Smith is invited to the USSR by Yuri Andropov
  • Return of the Jedi debuts
  • Margaret Thatcher and her government are reelected
  • Ronald Reagan is President
  • Yuri Andropov leads the USSR
  • Sally Ride is the first American woman in space
  • Embalse Nuclear Power Station experiences a coolant loss (seeing a pattern?)
  • The Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System) goes on sale in Japan
  • The Sri Lankan Civil War begins
  • A Korean Airlines flight is shot down by the USSR killing 269 including a U.S. Senator
  • GPS is made available for civilian use
  • Guion Bluford becomes the first African American in space
  • Stanislav Petrov averts a crisis by recognizing that a radar alert is not a U.S. nuclear attack
  • The Beirut Barracks bombing occurs
  • Invasion of Grenada
  • Martin Luther King Day is signed existence by Reagan
  • Able Archer 83, NATO exercises interpreted by the USSR as an attack, *The Last Cold War scare
  • South Africa approves a new constitution
  • Chrysler creats the minivan with the introduction of the Caravan
  • The IRA bombs Harrod’s in London
  • The McNugget is introduced

I wish I had all day to talk about the 1980s, but I do not.  I am fascinated with this decade.  I have picked this selection of events to give a taste of what was going on.  The 1980s were a time of flux.  The Cold War was still tense, but it was dwindling.  A word of warning: I subscribe to the John Lewis Gaddis school of thought, The Cold War was won by the West, and that is a good thing.  Anyhow, racial, gender, social issues of all kinds were changing.  Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher would thoroughly end détente, and see the beginning of the end of The Cold War.  While the Soviet Union was stagnating, the United States was arguably doing well.  Video games were not only common but 1983 saw a video game crash.  If you want the full general article of the year, check out 1983.

For our purposes 1983 is the first full year of Soviet stamps I purchased.  I did this because it was the year my wonderful wife was born.  Let us get right down to some stamps.  From henceforth the posts will only be this long (hopefully) when it is time for a new year, and not even then, because you don’t always need to hear about how I came to love stamps.

Cosmonautics Day 1983

Cosmonautics day, to the rest of the world International Day of Human Soace Flight (which the stamp essentially says) was instituted in 1962 the year after Yuri Gagarin went up.  It is celebrated, somewhat quietly it seems, to this day.  This stamp features an image of Soyuz-T
The text inside the emblems essentially says, “International Manned (space) Flights,” with the emblem saying “Interkosmos.”  Some things to notice for the future.  Notice the obvious monetary denomination in the upper left of the actual stamp, the large 50.  Most stamps are in Kopeks, but the word почта means mail or post, and will be on every stamp.  So the denomination will be accompanied by the words “USSR Post.”  Below the capsule are the words “12 April- Space Day.”


A note on translations, I am doing them myself armed with a need to learn Russian, starting with the alphabet, which I learned, but am using this to exercise it, and a Russian dictionary to translate words.

If the ring of emblems is observed it can be surmised that Interkosmos gets one every year, and that the middle one is the latest.  Some of the others have the flags of other nations, some have years.

These stamps are incredibly detailed, showing even the cosmonauts inside the Soyuz.
This is one of my favorite parts of this stamp.  It means exactly what it looks like, these are the words “Soyuz” and “Apollo,” and they are symbolic of the cooperation between the Cold War enemies working together to advance space research.  There will be more about that at a later time.

This piece, despite the work that went into it, is much more straight forward.  This is the International Philatelic Exhibition 1983, called “Socphilex-83.”  This stamp is a mini souvenir sheet.  The words at the top are the name I gave you, the bottom is the title, and the symbol at the bottom says Moscow.

The exhibition was in Moscow, October 1983, and had the aims of exhibiting and fostering international cooperation and friendship in efforts to continue peace and ease the threat of nuclear war.  I feel like that symbol at the bottom is in line with that.  I am not going to cite that explanation as I do not feel the need to type in Russian, but I will link you a Russian page on the matter, here.

Summary: As I said, everything was in flux, and despite Western leaders snuffing détente, The Soviet Union was beginning to see that it would have to play nice, so to speak, and that if it was to survive it would need the international community.  Both of tonight’s examples, I believe, are evidence of this.

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