26 February 2010

1996 Greenpeace S/S Illegal Overprints

In 1996 Cambodia issued 4v and a S/S to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Greenpeace.

Greenpeace, well known for its direct action, is an international non-governmental environmental organization which evolved from the peace movement and anti-nuclear protests in Vancouver in the early 1970s. Currently the organization is one of the largest environmental groups with offices in 41 countries worldwide. Its office in Indochina is located in Thailand.

Just like the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Greenpeace authorized a philatelic agency to issue postage stamps for interested countries for publicity. Unfortunately Greenpeace had confrontation with many governments before and eventually Greenstamps, the sole licensee of Greenpeace stamps, found itself mostly receive cold faces when it knocked doors. Till the end of contract only a few nations have Greenpeace stamps and all were issued in the second half of 1990s.

Greenstamps overprinted most S/S for varieties to boost sales, the act has no sign of authorization from relevant postal authorities. The helicopter S/S of Cambodia is in the overprint list, it has two kinds of black pictorial overprints:

They were not sold at the Phnom Penh Central Post Office. This is the original S/S:

15 February 2010

Cambodia 1999 Year of the Rabbit S/S Error

Today is the 7th day of Chinese New Year. The Chinese tradition says this is the birthday of all mankind, so wish you happy birthday, good health and good luck in Year of the Tiger.

Cambodia does have something interesting on Chinese New Year stamps, it is an error which most collectors are unaware of.

A set of 6v and a S/S featuring different rabbits and hares was put into circulation in January 1999 to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese zodiac.

The S/S looks absolutely alright if you do not read Chinese.

Under the red and yellow stylized bunny are 3 Chinese characters, they are the Chinese year name. Chinese has a distinctive year naming system, called "Gan Zhi", which is in fact a combination of 2 anicent naming systems, "Gan" and "Zhi".

The "Gan" system is for ordering, it consists of 10 Chinese characters. The "Zhi" calendar system is based on the obital period of Jupiter, it has 12 Chinese characters for counting years, months and hours. In Chinese zodiac, the 12 "Zhi" characters are matched with 12 animals, rabbit is assigned the 4th.

For the ease of understanding "Gan Zhi", the "Gan" characters can be substituted with numerals 1 to 10 while the "Zhi" characters substituted with letters A to L:

When the 2 systems combine in recurrent order, it gives 60 different combinations, and therefore a 60 year cycle:

1A, 2B, 3C, 4D, 5E, 6F, 7G, 8H, 9I, 10J,
1K, 2L, 3A, 4B, 5C, 6D, 7E 8F, 9G, 10H,
1I, 2J, 3K, 4L, 5A, 6B, 7C, 8D, 9E, 10F and so on.

A new cycle started in 1984, so 1999 should be 6D, or in Chinese characters:

The very last character means "year".

What printed on the S/S, 4D, is actually 1987:

Apparently no one in COPREFIL (the stamp production company) read Chinese, nor in Cambodia Post, otherwise the error would have been found.

Cambodia has 3 other Chinese New Year sets, 1998 Year of the Tiger, 2000 Year of the Dragon and 2001 Year of the Snake. They do not bear the "Gan Zhi" year name.

The Chinese New Year stamp series did not survive a 12 year full cycle, it halted when the COPREFIL contract with Cambodia ended.

Below shows the 6v of the 1999 Rabbit set:

9 February 2010

Registered Mail Codification

For the ease of universal mail tracking and tracing during shipping, in 1996 the Universal Postal Union (UPU) encouraged a universal use of S10 standard for mail identification coding. Cambodia, as a member of UPU, quickly adopted the new system and joined the revolution in registered identifier label format.

A 1988 cover from Phnom Penh with an old registered ID label.

S10 defines a system for assigning 13 character identifiers to postal items. The ID starts with a 2 letter service indicator code:
(source: UPU)

Most countries start their registered mail service indicator with "RR", then "RA", "RB", "RC" and so on, however some do not follow the sequence. For instance, France starts with "RK", Britain and her dependencies use "RJ" for international mail, Portugal starts wtih "RR", "RC", "RM" and some others.

After the service indicator is an 8 digit number and a check-digit, or the letter "X". The check digit is resulted from some calculation of the 8 digits. The 8 digit numbers can be reused after 12 months of previous allocation.

Since all ID labels are preprinted and distributed to different post offices in lots, it should be noted that ID numbers may not be assigned in ascending order, all depends on the number lot held by the particular post office and when the staff put them into use. For a clear illustration, if two senders mail at two different post offices at the same time, one mail may be numbered 00 000 260 while the other may be numbered 00 056 068. Then the next day a sender mails at a third post office, his item may be numbered 000 000 021.

The very last 2 letters of the code is the ISO country code to identify the issuing postal administration.

This 1996 registered letter from Phnom Penh has the new S10 identifier, "RR 00 016 427 3KH":

RR indicates that the item is registered. Cambodia starts with RR, and RC is concurrent in use now. No RA and RB is found. 00 016 427 is the 8 digit numerical identity, 3 is the check digit, and KH is the ISO code for Cambodia.

The above is a sample of the new registered ID label in S10 standard. It is a long arrow sticker with the 13 character identifier and barcode.

Initially a red cachet in French was used at the Phnom Penh Central Post Office (CPO) with the registered ID labels. It features a large "R" which stands for "Recommandé", and "Phnom Penh R.P." that indicates the mail is sent from Phnom Penh CPO. The barcode sticker is scissored short so can accommodate within the cachet.

Later the red cachet is omitted, only the cut short ID label is used. Another type was also in service with the letter "R" printed:

A variation can be found with "Cambodia Post" included above the barcode:

Recently a new type of ID label is used. The 13 digit identifier and barcode is larger on round corner rectangular stickers.

Just as most laws and regulations, S10 codification is not strictly implemented, sometimes the old style registered system is used at convenience.

S10 is not used on domestic registered mail, and the country does not use inward registered item identification.