4 June 2009

80th Birth Anniv of HM King Father Sihanouk

My very first blog entry is devoted to the "80th Birth Anniversary of Preah Karuna Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Preahmahaviraksat" set.

The sumptuous stamp set was issued on 31st October 2001 as the last issue of the year, and as the first issue after the contract between Cambodia and COPREFIL, the Cuban state owned stamp printer ended. With a total of 13 values, by far it is the largest set since Cambodia re-established her postal system in 1980.

HM King-Father Norodom Sihanouk held the title King of Cambodia again in 1993 until he abdicted in October 2004 because of ill health. The stamp set features images taken in different stages of King-Father's life.

Print run is unknown. According to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, there is no official FDC made for this issue, but it has a commemorative cachet (not a postmark) showing HM King-Father's portrait above the inscription "1921-2001" for public stamping. The cachet colour can be red, blue or black, all depends on the ink pad used by the postal clerk.

Below is a private cover. Since the stamps are only tied by a cachet instead of a postmark, this cover cannot be regarded as FDC. Still, it is a very great looking souvenir.

The FDC shown at the very top of this page is private made. The eye catching postmarks on this FDC are not the conventional "CAMBODGE" metallic in French used at that time. This is a rubber postmark in English with a 3cm diameter.

During the UNTAC era (1992-1993), many UN officers requested for philatelic souvenirs at the Phnom Penh Central Post Office (CPO). Unfortunately all those metallic postmarks at the desk were too worn for philatelic cancellation, the solution to this was a new rubber postmark made available at the philatelic counter for better cancellation. The Phnom Penh rubber postmark was also used on authentic non-philatelic commerical mail, but it was so rare that so far I have observed only very few samples.

More than one rubber postmark existed at the Phnom Penh CPO. The one on this FDC (shown on the left of the above scan) has 1mm space between the English letters and the big circular edge. To my observation, there was another (shown on the left of the above scan) with that spacing less than 1mm, letter and number fonts have boosted, and the overall size of the postmark was tiny bit larger by 1mm. There may have had more than two rubber postmarks at the CPO, further research is needed.

The rubber postmarks resemble the metallic postmarks "PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA" with postcode 12000 which came into daily use in late 2006. There are significant differences between them to distinguish: the Khmer letters on rubber postmarks are more distant while those on the metallic are more compact, and the metallic postmarks bear postcode 12000 but rubber never.

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