27 December 2012

Sihamoni on Chinese Commemorative Covers

Two Chinese commemorative covers have marked the occasion of HM King Sihamoni's visit to Henan Province of PR China.

Issued by the Henan provincial postal authority on 5th August 2012, the commemorative covers feature the greetings "Friendship Forever Between China and Cambodia" written by His Majesty in Khmer and the corresponding Chinese translation, and each a tourist hot spot of Henan as pictorial design: the Longmen Grottoes, and the Shaolin Monastery.

His Majesty's trip was honoured by two Chinese special commemorative postmarks, one from Luoyang (showing peonies), an ancient Chinese imperial capital located in Henan, the other Zhengzhou (showing a kungfu monk), the provincial capital of Henan.

Cambodia did not issue any philatelic material for the visit so a Cambodian embassy seal was used to tie the Cambodian stamps franked on the commemorative covers.

Invited by the Chinese President Jintao Hu, His Majesty stayed in Henan from 5th - 7th August 2012 during his official visit to PR China from late July to early August.

5 November 2012

1989 Cambodian Stamp Celebrates Cuban Revolution

In 1989 Cambodia issued a single 12r stamp to celebrate the 30th anniversary of 1959 Cuban Revolution victory.

The stamp features a young Fidel Castro holding up a sniper rifle.  On the red background there is the number "30" in white with black inscription in French at the leftmost: "30e Anniv. du Triomphe de la Revolution Cubaine".

The Castro image is inspired by a Miami Herald file photo dated 8th January 1959 which captured the fervent moment when Castro cheered to celebrate the victory of Cuban Revolutionary Movement over Fulgencio Batista's regime (shown below).

Major world stamp catalogues do not give the date of issue of this single stamp set, neither does the Cambodian stamp catalogue published by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Cambodia in 1997.

Serious collectors turn to official FDC to look for issue date information, yet the cover refuses to a shed light: strangely all first day commemorative postmarks on the FDC prepared by the Cuban printer are wrong, they are in fact the Laotian first day cancellation for the same commemoration on Laotian stamps:

The authentic Cambodian postmark is not seen anywhere.  In post 1979 Cambodian philatelic history this is the sole case which an official FDC has no corresponding first day postmark.

The last public material providing date of issue information is the philatelic advert.  However adverts are not postal stationery, stamp collectors and philatelists rarely include them in their collections, and so the issue date mystery has been left unsolved by stamp catalogues for more than two decades.

Here is a scan of the authentic advert:

As seen, the date of issue is 7th February 1989.

Notice the image of Castro illustrated on the stamp image, it is printed in chestnut brown.  The final design on stamp has it in grey.

Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba on 1st Janurary 1959.  The following day Castro's forces took over Havana which marked  the end of Cuban revolution, nevertheless most countries which put out stamps to commemorate the revolution anniversaries choose to issue in months earlier or later than January.

23 October 2012

Chinese Mourning Postmark for King Father Sihanouk

HM King Father Norodom Sihanouk passed away at Beijing Hospital in Beijing, capital of PR China on 15th October morning.   It is mourned by the Nanjing postal authority of China Post with a commemorative postmark available for public stamping at a small fee.

The postmark is rectangular with a stylized portrait of His Majesty.  The Chinese script says "King Father Norodom Sihanouk of Kingdom of Cambodia, great friend of Chinese people, died of illness on 15th October in Beijing".

25 August 2012

Errors, Freaks and Oddities of Cambodian Stamps

Errors, freaks and oddities (EFO) have been adding surprises and pleasure to philately since the Penny Black time. Cambodia has her own EFO too, however they score very low market value because little attention has been attracted.

EFO are three different things. Error is a production mistake replicated on many stamps. The most stunning and well known post-1979 error is the inverted farmer:

This invert error of the 500r threshing stamp from the 2000 definitive set is resulted from a sheet of partial prints being carelessly re-inserted into the printing press upside down for the pink colour.  A sheet (at least) of 99 stamps in CTO is found to have this inverted centre.

Errors can be made in the graphic design process.  Recent design errors include the 2005 Flowers (Lotus) issue, the 2006 Dolphin issue and 2008 Aquatic Plants issue. They have been covered in my previous blog entries.

Freak is a one-time mishap in the production process. Misperforation is a typical freak:

Oddity involves mirror production mistakes yet the final products are within the bounds of usability. Common oddities include colour misregistration and interference in inking by foreign objects. Below shows an ink interference on a 1986 "Halley's Comet" stamp, and the famous "white pole" on a 1980 "National Liberation" stamp which is the result of minor colour shift.

Essays, proofs and official imperforated stamps are not considered as EFO. Collectors are advised that valid EFO have to be from legitimate source, which is to say, they are obtained either from post office counters or authorized sales agencies.

Items smuggled from printers or post office archives are not considered EFO, they are classified as printers' waste or illegal materials denounced by philatelists and rejected in exhibitions. The following shows a printer's waste of Cambodian 1994 "World Cup" single colour proof on Lao 1994 "World Cup" full colour proof:

29 July 2012

1975 Last Cover of Phnom Penh ?

Just yesterday a dealer put up a Phnom Penh to Phoenix of Arizona commercial cover on an online auction site. It is claimed that the cover dated 1975.

From the postmark the date and month clearly reads 12th April, if the year is indeed 1975, the cover would be have been one of the last mail out of Phnom Penh before Khmer New Year, airport closed and then the city taken by Khmer Rouge. Last day covers are rare and scarce.

To confirm whether the cover has the last day luck, it is crucial to read the year. The year is actually quite illegible, nevertheless by using computer software to adjust brightness and hue, truth is revealed:

The year reads 1972.

The dealer either makes blind guess, or he lies, hoping this common cover fetch good money.

13 May 2012

Cambodian Offcial FDC with Wrong Postmarks

Most Cambodian stamps issued since 1980 have official FDCs. In general these FDCs are properly prepared but errors do happen, and due to ridiculously small attention they receive, the errors are little known and documented.

The following error might have been discovered by finger counted specialists but it has not been reported anywhere before, as a result most collectors of Cambodia are unaware of it. There involves the national independence celebration FDC issued on 9th November and the 10th anniversary of International Volunteer Day FDC issued on 30th December:

Pay a little attention to the cancellation, the commemorative postmarks are swapped: the International Votunteer Day pictorial postmark is on the national independence FDC while the national independence pictorial postmark is on the International Votunteer Day FDC.

left: FD pictorial postmark for independence day;
right: FD pictorial postmark for International Volunteer Day.

The FDCs were prepared by COPREFIL with no hand-back cases recorded at Phnom Penh CPO, this means all FDCs of the two issues have the same error. In case there are samples with correct postmarking, they are latter-day creations by fake makers.

28 April 2012

Cambodian Diana Bogus Stamps at Michael Rogers Mail Sale

In mail sale #103 of Michael Rogers which just closed on 27th April 2012, lot #1967 is a set of Cambodian 1997 Princess Diana commemorative "deluxe sheets".

Below is a screen capture of the online sale list relevant section, lot #1967 has a thumbnail of one of the eight sheets:

These so called "deluxe sheets" have been covered in my 23rd June 2009 blog entry "Bogus Princess Diana Stamps".

Cambodia released a sheetlet of 8 stamps with a label in commemoration of Princess Diana on 15th December 2007 (Sc 1685 / Mi 1778-1785). FDCs are the only related product produced by the Cuban printer COPREFIL and sold by agent Global Philatelie GmbH.

Probably due to time and energy saving, the creator used the same selvedge patterns on a few other bogus items as well, some Diana themed, some not. Below shows two of them:

Here is the origin. The generic selvedge patterns are cropped from 1998 Diana commemoratives of Chad (Sc 774):

Collectors are reminded that the Cambodian issue is not part of any omnibus series, it does not share uniform design with other countries.  The so called "deluxe sheets" are 100% bogus.

Sometimes counterfeits or even bogus items do appear in public auctions and sales of reputable dealers, chaotic stamp floods and lack of reliable information contributes to the hardship of distinguishing authentic issues from bogus.

The authentic 8v plus label Diana sheetlet of Cambodia is illustrated below. Notice the decorative selvedge line box, if deluxe sheets were issued, it is logic that the same orange line box would have been employed, not the garland.

Please click here for my 23rd June 2009 blog entry "Bogus Princess Diana Stamps".

17 April 2012

US Defense Attache Office in Phnom Penh

Postmarked 30th June 2000 and received on 5th July, this is a mail from the US Defense Attache Office (USDAO) of the US Embassy in Phnom Penh to Sugar Land of Texas. It was delivered by the US Air Force postal service which takes care of both US army and air force mail.

Seal of USDAO

USDAO in Phnom Penh is the representative of the American Secretary of Defense, the Military Service Secretaries and the Commander of US Pacific Command. The office also serves as military advisors to the Chief of Mission and provide liason with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

Prior to July 1997 Hun Sen's coup, the US had been the biggest supplier of military aid to Cambodia, but defence assistance was prohibited since then until 2005 when Washington announced that it would overturn its ban on military aid to Cambodia.

Currently the major military donors of Cambodia are China, Vietnam, Australia and France.

1 April 2012

1983 SE Asia Peace Forum, Phnom Penh

On 25th February 1984 Cambodia put into circulation a set of three stamps to commemorate the International Forum on Peace in Southeast Asia.

The forum was held a year ago on 25th and 26th February 1983. Information about it is rare and so the stamp issue does not catch much attention from collectors. The only English language publication on the forum is by the Information Centre of the World Peace Council in Finland, titled "For Peace in Southeast Asia".

According to the publication, the two day event in Phnom Penh was convened by the World Peace Council (WPC) in cooperation with the Kampuchean Committee of Peace and Defence. The Soviet backed council had mindset of a world divided into the non-aggressive Soviet group and the war-minded imperialistic group, headed by USA.

Emblem of the forum. The one shown on stamp is not official.

Romesh Chandra, president of WPC chaired the forum with around 40, mostly socialist groups worldwide participated. Chea Sim, then the Cambodian national assembly president, and Hun Sen, then vice president of Council of Ministers and foreign minister of Cambodia were among the presenters.

A shot at the forum held at Bassac Theatre.

The authority mobilized 140,000 people for a mass rally at the Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium on last day of the forum as a sign of support from "peace loving people". Basically the events were an instrument for the Soviet backed Vietnam to "confirm" achievement in national construction and defence in Cambodia, to embrace the idea that peace of Southeast Asia could only be realized by unity and unanimity of Indochina, and to condemn the "war-mongering forces" which refer to the Americans, her allies including ASEAN, China, as well as the Prince Sihanouk led Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (Information Centre of the World Peace Council, 1983, p22-23). At the time Vietnam was in hostile relationship with China.

Peace forum stamp used on international mail in 1984.

It was all a part of the Cold War. In 1970s Sino-Soviet split got worse, the Soviet therefore formed a military alliance with Vietnam to hinder China's influence in Indochina. In response China and USA allied themselves after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. China and USA supported the resistance against the new Phnom Penh regime while Vietnam and the Soviet patronized it.

Just two days before the forum, a similar show was put on in Vientiane of Laos, the Summit of the Indochinese Countries. The main agenda was to promote an alliance with Vietnam in fighting against USA and China. It also strengthened the dominance of Vietnam over Laos, both in economy and politics.

Stamps issued by Vietnam in 1983 to mark the summit conference of Laos,
Cambodia and Vietnam. To justify Vietnam's influence, shamrock is used
to refer to the relationship of the three countries.

Reference: Information Centre of the World Peace Council (1983), For Peace in Southeast Asia, Helsinki: Information Centre of the World Peace Council.

11 March 2012

2008 Aquatic Plants Issue - Species Errors

This is the third in series of stamp inscription errors following the 2005 "Flowers" and 2006 "Fish" (dolphins) entries, the 2008 "Aquatic Plants" inscription errors.

On 30th June 2008 Cambodia Post launched a set of 5v stamps and a S/S dedicated to "Aquatic Plants". The issue depicts flowers of five plants commonly found in silent waters of Cambodia with herbal values treasured by local people. Surprisingly four out of the five scientific names are inaccurately inscribed.

The 100r stamp is the only stamp with correct species name indicated, Monochoria vaginalis.

Monochoria vaginalis on stamp.

Monochoria vaginalis in bloom.

The 600r stamp has an inscription of species name Altermanthera sessilis. The genus is wrongly spelt, it should be "Alternanthera", an "m" instead of "n" in the middle. The following is what the flowers of Alternanthera sessilis look like:

Alternanthera sessilis

However the flowers shown on stamp actually belong to Cyanotis axillaris, a whole different plant.

Cyanotis axillaris on 600r.

Cyanotis axillaris. The plant can be used as medicine for ascites and abortions.

The 1900r stamp lists the plant as Nymphcides hydropgylla, again it gives spelling errors, the correct spelling is Nymphoides hydrophylla. Nymphoides hydrophylla flowers are like this:

Nymphoides hydrophylla

What shown on stamp is in fact Nymphoides indica (common name water snowflakes).

Nymphoides indica on 1900r.

Nymphoides indica. It can be used as a febrifuge.

The name Limnophila goffrayi is given on the 2000r stamp. The actual plant shown on stamp is Limnophila chinensis.

Limnophila chinensis on 2000r.

Limnophila chinensis is a culinary herb commonly found in rice paddies.

The plant on 2200r stamp is Xyris indica, yet the genus name printed on stamp is wrongly spelt as Xyrir.

Xyris indica on 2200r.

Xyris indica. It is medicinally used against itch, sore and leprosy.

The spelling errors are likely caused by careless typing since the wrong letters in spelling are next to the right ones on keyboard. But wrong plant species inscriptions are somewhat hard to explain their cause.

15 February 2012

2005 Flowers Issue - Species Error

When it comes to stamp design, the Cambodian postal authority does not employ relevant specialists for information advice, and so the design sometimes give errors.

In 2005 a set of 5 stamps and a S/S is devoted to flowers, it features Cambodian water lilies in varies colours. The inscription lists the species on all the five stamps as Nymphaea lotus L.

The genus of Nymphaea has about fifty species, Nymphaea lotus L. is one of them. Common names of Nymphaea lotus L. include Egyptian White Water Lily and White Lotus, and just as these names suggest, the species bears white flowers (var. rubra is pink red).

Some of the most common species of water lilies in Cambodia are Nymphaea pubescens and Nymphaea nouchali, their flowers are depicted on the stamps actually.

8 January 2012

The Royal Palace Now and Then

The Royal Palace is the heart of Phnom Penh, Cambodians see it as a symbol of the entire nation while tourists see it as a showcase of the old Cambodian sophisticated style and taste.

It started in 1866 when the King's residence was built in Chatdomuk by the riverside, several buildings and houses were then added over the decade. Significant constructions include in 1870 the Throne Hall, Hor Samran Phirun for the King to mount elephants, Hor Samrith Phimean, and Chanchhaya Pavilion the dance hall, all these buildings were inspired by those of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.  In 1873 the palace wall was added, three years later a French style building - the Napoleon III Pavilion, a gift from Napoleon III of France stood next to the King's residential building.

The Victory Gate in 1900s, it is the main entrance to the Palace.

The Victory Gate in 1930s, it has not changed since then.

The Napoleon III Pavilion is seen in the middle and King's residence on the right in this 1890s photograph.

This 1905 postcard shows the expanded King's residence. The building was torn down in early 1950s to make room for Damnak Chan, the High Council of the Throne.

Napoleon III Pavilion today with Damnak Chan in the back.

The old wooden Chanchhaya Pavilion shown on a 1903 postcard.

The old Throne Hall.

Elephants walked pass the wall surrounding the old Throne Hall, Hor Samran Phirun and
Hor Samrith Phimean in late 1900s.

HM King Sisowath coming out of the Throne Hall during his coronation, 1904.

In 1892 Wat Preah Keo which is now commonly called the Silver Pagoda or the Jade Buddha Temple was built next to the palace. Unlike that at the Grand Palace of Thailand, the wat is not part of the Cambodian palace.

The palace compound in the front and Wat Preah Keo in the rear in 1890s. Except the Napoleon III Pavilion, all buildings in the palace compound shown in the photograph are now history.

The Palace underwent great changes in late 1910s and 1920s during the reign of HM King Sisowath, new buildings were added and many old structures were replaced. The Phochani Hall for dance practice was inaugurated in 1912, six years later the old Throne Hall, Hor Samran Phirun, Hor Samrith Phimean and the Chanchhaya Pavilion were rebuilt. Some old buildings were demolished to create a spacious and neat environment.

A birdeye view of the Palace and Wat Preah Keo in 1930s. The new Throne Hall and
other rebuilt buildings are seen, some other structures are now demolished.

The Throne Hall and Hor Samrith Phimean as they are today.

The rebuilt Chanchhaya Pavilion shown on a 1997 stamp commemorating the 30th anniversary of ASEAN.

The Khemarin Palace was completed in 1931 to serve as the King's office. In 1950s two residences were built, one is the Sahametrei Pavilion where HM the late Queen Kossomak Nearireath lived, the other is Villa Kantha Bopha which now resides their Majesties King Father Sihanouk and Queen Mother Monineath.

The Khmerarin Palace serves as the King's office.

Less than half of all the palace ground is open to public, closed areas include Chanchhaya Pavilion, Damak Chan, Khmerarin Palace and all royal residences, Serei Mongkul Pavilion, Vihear Suor the royal chapel, King Jayavarman VII Audience Hall, the gardens and other minor buildings.

Villa Kantha Bopha.

Their Majesties in a palace garden.

The Serei Mongkul Pavilion for banquets and meetings.