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Friday, August 07, 2015

Stamps of the US Canal Zone

In the course of being a stamp collector, I often end up with "excess" material from places I'm not actually interested in. But that doesn't mean these places are not interesting, in and of themselves.

I will be the first to admit that I end up with a lot of "odd bits" simply because of "how" I collect stamps: Unlike many who simply strive to get exactly the stamps they need for precisely the blank spaces they have in their albums, I take more of the "treasure hunt" approach to stamp collecting. That is, I tend to buy "box lots," accumulations or entire estates and then proceed to sift through them in search of stamps that fit into my various collections.

Some would call me more of a "hoarder" than a collector... and that's OK. I've always subscribed to the idea that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to collect stamps... as long as you are enjoying yourself.

And I definitely do do that!

Because I do end up with a lot of stamps I have little use for-- or interest in-- I do try to stay mindful of the "hoarding thing." I've watched those shows on TV where the poor people can barely move through their houses because every surface is covered with a three-foot thick later of "stuff." And-- to be perfectly honest-- I have been to a few of my fellow collectors' houses that left me with a bit of that same impression... indiscriminate hoarding.

But I digress...

It is because I do not want to end up as a "hoarder" that I ended up being a somewhat active "stamp trader," albeit without any serious thoughts that I was a "Professional Stamp Dealer," even though I sometimes might "look like one."

Anyway, recently I came across a folder with some pretty nice stamps from the US Canal Zone.

Of course, that has nothing to do with Scandinavia (which remains my primary philatelic interest), but I remember thinking that the stamps were really interesting, when I was a little kid. In fact, when I was a young collector, the Canal Zone was not yet a "dead country," as we philatelists like to call places that no longer issue stamps.

We'd sometimes get Canal Zone stamps in the mail because my mother had friends who liked to go on cruises and we'd get postcards while the cruise ships were at-- or passing through-- the Panama Canal. I remember thinking how fascinating it was that "they" could move giant ships "up and down" in the water to get them transported across a piece of land, cutting thousands of miles off the journey from the East Coast to the West Coast. My dad explained to me how "locks" work, and I thought it would be amazing to experience a trip through the Panama Canal on a big ship.

For now, that remains on the uncharted territory of my "bucket list."

The Canal Zone was a stamp issuing entity from 1904 to 1979. Originally, postal service was started in order to serve during the construction of the canal, but the area continued as a sort of "US Protectorate" until the Panama postal service took over in 1979. The last Canal Zone stamp was issued in 1978.

Although I am not going to start, it still strikes me as an interesting country to collect, both from a historical standpoint, as well as from a philatelic standpoint.

The early issues were stamps of both Panama and the US, overprinted in various ways to be valid as postage in the Canal Zone area. There seems be a huge number of varieties in the surcharges (which were used for many years), allowing for lots of specialization. Although some varieties can be pretty pricey, it's not a horribly expensive area to collect, while not being all "cheap wallpaper," either. Meanwhile, because of the Canal Zone's geographical and political importance, it also seems to me that it would be a potential gold mine for Postal Historians. It has a lot going for it. And, of course, it's now a "Dead Country" so you don't have to worry about acquiring the flood of new issues most places seem to produce, these days.

But, as I said before, this is outside my collecting area and I really don't need to start a new collection at this point in the game-- no matter how interesting the stamps may seem! So, therefore... this modest accumulation of Canal Zone stamps was recently put up for sale on eBay... and now has found its way into the hands of nine different collectors around the globe.

Thanks for reading!

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