Stamps Gathered for a Good Cause

By Ivo Aščić

Missionaries to Africa have had a long and sometimes unsettled history. There’s been the good of bringing education and good health practices to the population, of course, while spreading religious beliefs and practices. But sometimes missions have disrupted native culture and been a conduit for the less scrupulous to reap rewards of land and natural resources.

Eritrea Bishop Marko Dobretic appears on a 2007 stamp from Bosnia and Herzegovina (Croat Administration), Scott 177.

Bishop Friar Marko Dobretic (1707-1784) is an African missionary honored on a stamp. Dobretic was born in an area that today is part of central Bosnia, and was honored in 2007 on a stamp issued by Bosnia and Herzegovina (Croat Administration). Dobretic’s early studies and works through the Franciscan order took him to Italy. Dobretic returned to Bosnia in 1757, but in 1772 Pope Clement appointed him as an apostolic vicar and bishop in Eritrea, a state on the Horn of Africa.

This is not the place for religious, historical or political debate, but is where we can share information about the success of an ongoing stamp donation program that has spurred good works in modern Africa through an ongoing mission program.

Brother Stjepan Dilber in 2011 received the sixth annual Pride of Croatia special recognition award from President Ivo Josipović. Dilber was honored for his unusual and humane way of helping people.

But most people are not aware that stamps can help the hungry and poor people, but  Brother Stjepan Dilber, from the Croatian Province of the Society of Jesus in Zagreb, has proven that. Here is his story.

During Brother Stjepan’s studies in Austria – when letters were a prevalent medium of communication – the well-studied philatelist realized that postage stamps could help his brother, Ilija, in his missionary work in Africa. In close to 50 years dealing with postage stamps and aiding missions, Brother Dilber has provided money for construction of several churches, schools and also helped in collecting food and education for the poorest children in several African countries just by selling postage stamps.

Several Croatian media outlets reported about Brother Stjepan’s unusual method of collecting aid. For this reason, then-President Ivo Josipović of the Republic of Croatia in 2011 awarded Brother Stjepan special recognition as the “Pride of Croatia.”

“Every day I get postage stamps and sometimes the whole collection from contributors and even unknown persons,“ Brother Stjepan said. “Organizers of prize games often send us tens of thousands of envelopes with stamps. I take stamps from the envelopes, dry and iron them and then sort them in albums by topic. I sell those stamps at much lower prices than on philatelic market. The whole income from stamps goes to missionaries in Africa for humanitarian purposes.

The link between San Marino and Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, is shown on a pair of stamps in 2013. One shows children holding hands, a rainbow and the route between San Marino and Malawai while the other is a photo showing the opening of a Scott 1888, 1889.

“Apart from the Croatian missionaries, I have also very good cooperation with highly active Slovenian missionaries of Pater Stanko Rozman and Lojze Podgrajšek in Malawi and Janez Mujdrica in Zambia, to whom I (have sent) donations for 20 years.”

Those who wish to contribute to the collection of aid for the mission (education of poor pupils, help hungry children, building schools etc.), by the donation of postage stamps or any other way (eg, phone cards, coins, etc.), can send to:

Misijski ured, Brat Stjepan Dilber, D.I., Palmotićeva 31, p.p. 699, 10001 Zagreb, Croatia; or by phone number +385 1 4803080.

The Woman Who Runs Stamp Services

WASHINGTON—Every time Mary-Anne Penner pulls the rope at a first day of issue ceremony to reveal a new stamp, the audience erupts in applause. She smiles as the crowd admires the artwork.

As U.S. Postal Service Director of Stamp Services, Penner has many jobs within the Postal Service. She oversees everything from stamp development and printing to cancellation design and the execution of first day of issue ceremonies, where the Postal Service showcases its newest stamps.

Penner stands about 5 feet 7 inches tall with blonde hair and bangs. She often wears a pantsuit, and at stamp shows, she dons a lapel pin featuring that day’s newly-issued stamp.

Through her nearly 35-year stretch with the Postal Service, 55-year-old Penner has held countless positions.

“I’ve done it all: clerk, mail carrier, postmaster, delivery supervisor,” she said. “But this (Director of Stamp Services) is the best job in the Post Office.”

Penner enjoys interacting and meeting people on the job. “People are creative with our stamps,” she said. “And collectors are passionate. It’s great to see the same faces at the stamp shows.”

Not only does Penner get to interact with customers, but she also works with the families of celebrities who are being honored on stamps.

Mister Rogers Photo“When working with people related to celebrities, I am amazed at how down-to-earth they are,” she said. “When we released the Mr. Rogers stamp, Mrs. Rogers was so honored and happy. It feels good to know we made them feel good.”

Before getting involved with the Postal Service, Penner had her sights set on practicing medicine. When she graduated high school in 1980, she started on a pre-medical school track at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

While she was studying there, her brother decided to take the postal exam, and their mother pushed Penner to take it, too. Penner passed the exam and began working full-time as a clerk and mail carrier for the Postal Service. Her brother never joined the Postal Service.

Penner returned to the University of Maryland University College in 1999, taking classes at night and earning her bachelor’s in business management in 2002.

In April 2015, Postmaster General Megan Brennan appointed Penner as acting director of stamp services. A year later, Penner’s role became permanent.

As director, Penner has taken steps to bring the Postal Service into the 21st century.

“In our USA Philatelic catalog, we’ve introduced augmented reality for stamps,” Penner said. “Customers can download the USPS AR app and interact with the catalog.”

The USPS AR app allows readers to scan images in the magazine with their smartphones. The app overlays videos highlighting the stamps’ first day of issue ceremonies, allowing readers to learn more about the stamps.

Penner has also focused on using the USA Philatelic magazine to explore the history behind the Postal Service’s new issues. The magazine offers a section called “Look What’s New,” which features blog-like articles telling about the stamps’ designs and related stories.

“We’re trying to make people more interested in what we have,” she said. “When we released the ‘love skywriting’ stamp, we had a skywriter fly over the ceremony and write ‘love’ in the air. We’re changing things up.”

Penner said she is also working closer with the American Philatelic Society, American Stamp Dealers Association, and the National Postal Museum to bring more traffic to stamp shows.

At the 2017 American Philatelic Society Stamp Show in Richmond, Virginia, the Postal Service showcased a virtual reality stamp gallery, where visitors could put on a headset and watch stamps come to life.

When visitors viewed the 2017 “sharks” stamp through the headset, they were transported to the sea and surrounded by swimming sharks. For the “protect the pollinator” stamps, visitors were given a close-up view of bees collecting pollen from a trove of flowers.

Penner said the Postal Service is planning to use this technology to continue to reach more audiences, including at this weekend’s USA Science and Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington.

Penner also introduced the use of Facebook Live to broadcast first day of issue ceremonies. Now, if collectors are unable to travel to see the ceremonies, they can watch from their computers.

Co-worker and manager of stamp development Bill Gicker enjoys working with Penner.

“It’s an adventure every day,” he said. “We work well together, whether it be about the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Council, rights and permissions process, design development, or manufacturing.”

When she’s not at work, Penner spends time with family. She lives in Maryland with her husband.

“My husband is from upstate New York,” she said. “We are currently building a summer home on Seneca Lake.”

Her 29-year-old son also lives in Maryland. He earned his master’s degree in business entertainment management from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla.

As a hobby, Penner collects elephant-themed items.

“My dad bought me my first small, marble elephant at a coin and stamp show when I was five,” she said.

She also has a love for cars.

“One day I dream of owning a Rolls-Royce.”

Penner inherited her father’s stamp collection in 2013, which consists mostly of stamps from Vatican City.

“The ones he did not have in his collection were the expensive ones!”

US Postal Service to Issue Iconic Santa Stamps

WASHINGTON — It’s beginning to look like a classic Christmas! This October, the Postal Service will ring in the 2018 holiday season with four Sparkling Holidays stamps featuring character-rich close-ups of Santa Claus.

The Santa images are from Haddon Sundblom paintings created for The Coca-Cola Company holiday advertisements that ran from the1940s through the early 1960s. Sundblom, a famed commercial artist, depicted a rosy-cheeked, smiling, grandfatherly man in a red suit that came to embody the very essence of “Santa.”

The Sparkling Holidays stamps will be issued as Forever stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

Additional details will be announced before the stamps’ release.

Blockbuster Annual Seminar for Philatelists Underway

For philatelists, the American Philatelic Society’s Summer Seminar on Philately is an annual touchstone event worthy of attention, respect and good times, and this year’s 39th annual gathering has the looks of one to remember.

More than 100 philatelists – including 83 enrolled in classes, 29 of them first-timers – will participate in the seminar, which runs from Sunday through June 29 at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Participants can partake in more than 20 classes, attend a first-day-of-issue stamp ceremony, bid on items at an auction, hear keynote speakers and enjoy meals and social events. They also will have time to visit, learn about and use the American Philatelic Research Library, which, like the APS, is housed in the center.

Here’s a summary of seminar highlights.

Randy Neil
Randy L.Neil, 2018 Distinguished Philatelist

Randy L. Neil will be honored at a dinner on Thursday, June 28 as this year’s Distinguished Philatelist. Neil – a longtime collector, author, editor and past president of the APS – is a 2000 recipient of the APS Luff Award.

Stamps to be Issued at APCA hobby that often makes the most of rarities will enjoy a rare in-person event at this year’s seminar – a first-day ceremony for a new U.S. stamp; well, actually three new stamps. The new $1, $2, and $5 Statue of Freedom stamps will be during the seminar at 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 27. There are a few dozen first-day ceremonies a year, but only a few have ever been held in Central Pennsylvania, the last being the nonprofit Lamb envelope of 1995.

Mary-Ann Penner, Director Stamp Services, USPS.
Mary-Ann Penner, Director Stamp Services, USPS.

On that same day, Mary-Anne Penner, director of Stamp Services for the U.S. Postal Service, will speak during a general session. Other general session speakers are Michael Baadke, editor of Linn’s Stamp News, on Monday; Bill Schultz, nationally accredited philatelic judge, on Tuesday; Justin Gordon, author and Holocaust postal historian on Thursday; and philatelic writer and author Kitty Wunderly, on Friday.

Variety is the keyword when it comes to course. There are more than 130 hours of instruction, including four- and two-day classes, plus electives. Major courses range from Stamp Technology and Intermediate Exhibiting to Washington-Franklins Expertizing and A Comprehensive Postal History of Great Britain, 1510-1850. Electives include King George V and the Royal Collection, First Day Covers in the Mailstream, WWI at the National Postal Museum and Spain’s Quinta de Goya Stamps of 1930.

Members of the Class of 2018 Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship will be on hand, as well Class of 2017 member Ian Hunter, who received a youth scholarship in honor of Gerhard S. Wolff, sponsored by the Wolff family.

APS Executive Director Scott English will address participants at the opening night dinner, which will be followed by a scavenger hunt.

An in-house auction with more than 250 lots will be held Tuesday evening and a Buy, Sell and Trade Night is set or Wednesday.

The APRL offers a station-by-station tour after hours on June 25. Throughout the week, there are extended hours for the APRL, Circuit Sales Division, the APS gift shop and Stamp and Cover store.

Postage Has Drawn Attention to Floods and Helped Victims

By Ivo Aščić and Jeff Stage

We only have to look back to last fall in the Gulf Coast and Florida to remember how flooding can ruin personal lives and property. As bad as the flooding can be in the United States, the effects were even worse in days gone by or can still be catastrophic today in developing countries that lack the proper infrastructure and relief systems to help flood victims.

Stamps and stamp collecting certainly cannot prevent flooding or create a super-relief fund, but they can help through a couple of ways.

First, let’s take a look at semipostals, which also are known as charity or fundraising stamps. The price of the stamp includes postage plus an extra amount for charity. Unlike revenue stamps, there are no conditions that force the use of these stamps. Consumers choose to pay the extra amount for postage and help a charity.

The first semipostals date to the late 19th century when a postal card issued by Great Britain in 1890 commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Penny Post. The card had a 1-penny face value, but sold for sixpence with the difference going to a fund for postal workers. By the early 20th century, charity stamps had become more common, particularly throughout Europe.

Semipostals throughout the world have been issued to help many causes and organizations, with the Red Cross, children’s charities and war victims being some of the major benefactors of these stamps.

Heroes of 9/11 semipostal stamp
The U.S. Heroes of 9/11 semipostal, Scott B2.

The United States issued its first semipostal in 1998 with extra money raised supporting breast cancer research. The second semipostal for the U.S. – the Heroes of 2001 – was issued in 2002, with money raised going to 9/11 charities.  The United States’ sixth semipostal – Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness – was  issued in 2017.

Here, we’re focused on semipostals to help victims of floods along with a stamp donation program likewise aimed at aiding flood victims and other charitable causes in Africa.

The earliest and certainly one of the largest floods on the planet, according to the Bible, was the great flood as a result of rain for 40 days and nights. Its exact date of occurrence is unknown, but likely 4,000 to 7,000 years ago.

In Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, floods were caused by the rivers Tigris and the Euphrates. Even the greatest rulers of that time could not prevent them. In more recent history, major flood disasters with millions of dead and invaluable material damage have occurred. River Huang He (Yellow River), Yangtze and Huai in the last 150 years took millions of human lives. European rivers such as the Danube, Rhine, Sava, Volga, Seine and others have also flooded from their troughs, causing huge economic damage as well as taking lives. Aside from disastrous floods along rivers such as the Mississippi and Ohio, the communities of Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Galveston, Texas; and New Orleans are among the many horrific flood sites in the U.S. over the past 130 years.

A set of 12 stamps from the Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia (Yugoslavia) – overprints of the recently issued stamps of Alexander I – were created in 1926 to help flood victims, Scott B7.

Likely the first semipostal stamps aimed at helping flood victims was a set of 12 overprints issued in 1926 by the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which would become Yugoslavia in 1929. The stamps show a young King Alexander I and were overprinted with the extra money targeted for flood victims.

Flood in Croatia
Modern floods destroy neighborhoods of all types. This is a flooded area in 2014 in Croatia (photo courtesy of Nenad Rebersak). A Croatian commemorative postmark mark with the Red Cross symbol and flood information.

In May of 2014, floodwaters from the Sava River devastated large parts of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia in southeastern Europe. Three months’ worth of rain fell in only three days; it is the heaviest rainfall in since records began in 1894. More than 3 million people were affected. A special Croatian commemorative postmark – “Red Cross and floods” – helped draw attention to the need for help following the 2014 floods.

Lichtenstein issued a semipostal to help victims of a 1927 flood, Scott B7. When the Danube flooded in 1965, Hungary did likewise, Scott B252.

Over the past 100 years, hundreds of semipostals with millions of copies receiving charitable add-on fees were printed to help flood victims and to raise awareness about the importance of preventive action. Some of these stamps report about flooding in Honduras in 1913, Austria in 1921, Russia (Leningrad) in 1924, Liechtenstein (the Rhine) in 1927, Hungary in 1940 and 1965, South West Germany in 1947-1948, Denmark in 1953, Netherlands (Icelandic stamp) in 1953, Argentina (Buenos Aires area) in 1958, France in 1959, Slovakia (Danube) in 1965, Iraq in 1967, Algeria in 1969, China in 1970 and other countries.

On January 27, 2011, Australia issued its first five semipostals, which raised money to help victims of devastating floods, Scott B2.

Disastrous floods, followed by a rising tide of charity stamps, continue in this century: Australia and Peru in 2011, Moldova in 2010, Hungary in 2010, Bangladesh in 2007, Austria in 2006, Romania in 2005, Algeria in 2001 and other states were the reason for issuing stamps with add-on  payments to help flood victims.

Sadly, flooding will continue to be a major threat worldwide, according to reports from the United Nations, much of it tied to rising sea levels. “Current projections of global average sea level rise are now expected to double by 2100, which would be severely damaging – if not disastrous – for many of the world’s coastal cities, from Ho Chi Minh City and Mumbai to New Orleans and Miami,” reported The Guardian in a 2017 article based on the U.N.’s projections.