Angola - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

In South Western Africa bordered by Namibia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and the Atlantic Ocean lies Angola. It has an exclave in Cabinda that is bordered by the two Congos. A stretch 60 kilometers wide which is part of the Democratic Republic of Congo separates Cabinda province from the main country. Until its independence in 1975, for 400 years Angola was under the Portuguese rule. Despite its abundant oil reserve and diamond finds, the life expectancy is around 40 and literacy is below 70%, as until recently the civil war had left the economy in shambles.

Travel Resources:

Angola has a tropical climate with a dry season that runs from June through September. The dry season is preferred over the rainy season, which can lead to flooding. That said, some parts of Angola have year–round pleasant climate. Tourism is picking up in Angola and the tourist can experience traditional tribal culture and an opportunity to view animal life in a backdrop of mountains, jungles and rivers. While Angolan cuisine has a strong Portuguese influence most local dishes are mainly based on fish and cassava products. Chilly is used heavily and be warned the stews are very spicy.


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Angola – Bradt Travel Guide978-1841623047$20Good coverage of Luand, the capital city, the country’s eighteen provinces, beaches, and rain forests.
Another Day of Life by Ryszard Kapuscinski978-0375726293$11Author’s account of the three months he spent in Angola in 1975 at the beginning of the civil war following independence. The same status would continue for two decades causing untold devastation.
Angloa: Promises and Lies by Karl Maier978-1897959527$13The book depicts the author’s encounters in the country over a period of several years starting around 1986.
Angola Map by Cartographia978-9633529355$7
Angola Grounded Adapter PlugB001FDA6V4$8


Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of Angola were issued in 1870 when the country’s postal administration was part of the Portuguese mail service. They depict the Portuguese crown in single color with Angola inscribed using Common Design production. A set of ten stamps with this design were the only ones used till 1877 and significant amount has survived in very good condition. The catalog value for the set of ten stamps is in the $350 range for MNH and $250 for Used. Scott #5a and #6 (40r blue and 50r green) are the most valuable in the set with a CV of $250 and $50 respectively for MNH and Used. In 1881, a new set of stamps depicting Luís I in an embossed design appeared in a set of 9 stamps. Each stamp in the set catalogs between $5 and $50 with used ones cataloging for about one-third MNH. The entire set catalogs for around $250 MNH and $80 Used. The same designs along with a King Carlos design and several Common Designs (Ceres, Vasco de Gama, etc) and overprints formed the issues between 1881 and 1945. Many of these stamps catalog in the tens of dollars, but as fakes abound for overprints, collectors need to exercise caution. Couple of stamp issues worth additional mention during this period are:
  1. The 1894 overprints (Scott #37) of a newspaper stamp of 1893 with a vertical inscription of “Angola” and a blue surcharge overprint (25r). This stamp catalogs for around $80 MNH and around $60 used.
  2. The “Marble Column and Portuguese Arms” set of three stamps (Scott #292 to #294) issued in 1938 that catalogs for close to $100 MNH and one-third that for used.
Angola hosted its first philatelic exhibition in April 1950 and a set of stamps were issued to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of Angola’s first stamps. Surprisingly, the set (Scott #328 to #330) catalogs economically at under $10 for MNH. A souvenir sheet also was released with a special oval exhibition cancellation. The sheet catalogs for around $30 and has a minor error as the middle stamp is inverted in the sheet. The years 1951 and 1953 saw Angola issuing two large sets of stamps, the birds set and the animals set. The higher denominations of the birds set (Scott #333 to #356) are valued upwards of $50 – the whole set catalogs for almost $600 MNH – used sets catalog for a much lower value (around $70). The shorter animal set (Scott #362 to #381) is much more affordable (less than $50 MNH and around $10 used) as the denominations go only to 20a while the birds set go to 50a.

Angola’s stamps from the 1950’s are remarkable for their beautiful colors and designs. Catalog Values for many of these stamps are low making it easily affordable. As interest level is low for stamps from Angola, many dealers opt for fixed pricing instead of an auction format. Patience can prove to be a virtue as occasionally good deals are seen at auctions. Some collectible sets worth acquiring, in spite of their low catalog valuations include:
  1. The arms in original colors set of 1963 (Scott #448 to #488). The whole set catalogs for under $50 for MNH and around $35 for Used. Fixed pricing can at auction can sometimes exceed these values.
  2. The beautiful sea shells set of 1974 (Scott #573 to #592). The whole set catalogs for around $25 MNH and about $10 Used. Fixed pricing at auction can approach this valuation.
Surprisingly, only one stamp was issued to mark Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975. The design is that of a yellow star and a black hand holding a rifle. The stamp can be easily acquired as it catalogs at just 20c for either MNH or used. Angola issued a set of five stamps for the first anniversary of independence with a design of President Agostinho Neto. These stamps along with other independence anniversary issues from the following years catalog for well under $5 and can be easily acquired. A set of five earlier designs (Scott Numbers: 393, 588, 589, 592, and 438) overprinted with bar over inscriptions stating Portuguese republic issued in 1976 and 1977 have a slight premium at around $10 (Scott #604 to #608).

Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Angola were Portuguese Colonial issues from 1921 onwards with the values denominated in Centavos in Obverse and Arms in Reverse along with the date and ‘Angola’ inscription. Prior to this, colonial coins in the Macuta (50 Reis = 1 Macuta) denomination and certain Arms counter-marked coins dominated the scene during the 19th century. The bronze and copper-nickel coins from the colonial era had high mintages well into the millions. Republic era coinage started following independence in 1975 with Lwei and Kwanza (100 Lwei = 1 Kwanza) denominations. Many of the early issues have unknown but high mintages and are extremely affordable trading in the $2 range for UNC. Other numismatic items of Angola include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Coins$1 and upCommon 40s and 50s Centavos denominated coins in Almost Good Condition start around $1. UNC coins from the period start around $5. Scarce and certified coins from the 20s and prior dates start around $40.
Paper Money$2 and upBanknotes from the 90s denominated at 1000 Kwanzas and above in near UNC condition start around $2. Older and UNC notes start around $10. Specimens from the 70s and prior dates start around $50.


Collectible Memorabilia:

Locally made wooden masks and traditional music instruments from rosewood, ebony, malachite, bronze and pottery are good takeaways from the place.


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Chokwe Masks and Artifacts$30 and UpMasks of the Chokwe people. The ones in the market are mostly their entertainment masks compared to chieftain masks and mukanda masks. Best know among entertainment masks are Chihongo, spirit of wealth, and pwo.
Badges and other Military Articles$20 and UpBadges from Cabinda and from mercenary militias usually fetch a premium
Postcards and other Imagery$1 and UpOriginal photographs from early twentieth century showing local scenes and or the native peoples (usually scantily dressed) fetch a sizable premium.


Last Updated: 12/2015.

Cherry Picking in Brentwood – A Frugal Take

The Brentwood area has a substantial farming community which helps turn out most everything from corns to nuts and fruits. We visited the Lopez Ranch farms (22011 Marsh Creek Road, Brentwood, CA-94513) in Brentwood during the 2009 Memorial Day weekend. Many of the farms partake in the U-pick program (where the visitor picks the produce right from the tree). The season kicks off early May with cherry picking. Cherry picking, the most popular U-pick option, is available till early June. Other U-pick options include Apricots, Berries, Grapes, Nectarines, Pluots, Walnuts, Pumpkins, etc. Availability and farms offering specific fruit vary and calling in advance or using the Harvest Farms brochure are the best options.

The two options available are
  • Pick on your own from the farm or
  • Purchase already picked produce from the fruit stands that dot the region.
Whichever way, the price is comparable to the local grocery store (chain stores are way more expensive). For e.g., the cherries at Lopez farms are priced at $2.50 a pound while at Safeway, they go for between $4.99 and $9.99 depending on the type of cherry and sale pricing. Rainier cherries usually command the most premium while Bing cherries are the most economical. In local grocery stores, cherries can be purchased in the $1 to $3 price range depending again on the variety and sale pricing. It does not make economic sense to purchase them from the fruit stands available at the farms, unless there are sentimental reasons.

U-pick offerings are a wonderful alternative with the hidden benefits of a picnic atmosphere and the ability to eat your way to a bargain. Farms allow for mindless consumption while on the location and the tab is only for the fruit picked and carried away from the premise.

Lopez Ranch is a relatively big popular farm and a great option for Cherry picking as they have different varieties. As with all popular farms aiming for the early bird advantage is recommended. Low hanging fruits disappear by the end of May. The folks at the check-out counters are friendly and flexible and in spite of their busy schedule are willing to give a good deal if you ask nicely. Bing cherries are the more common variety although other types can also be found. For the connoisseur it pays to “try” samples from many different trees before deciding on the ones to pick from to purchase.

A couple of caveats worth mention are:
  1. It is a farm and as such there are minimal facilities.
  2. The farm is located off the main road (around 200 feet) and parking is along the dirt road. Parking along the main road and walking to the farm spares the vehicle from a dirt layer.
Another good choice for cherry picking in the Brentwood region is DC’s extraordinary cherries (532 Sarah Street, Brentwood, CA-94513).






Last Updated: 05/2011.

Andorra - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Andorra, a diminutive country in Western Europe landlocked by France and Spain, is spread over 180 square miles and supports a population close to ninety thousand. Andorra sports a unique nominal duumvirate standing, whereby it is ruled by both the President of France and the Bishop of the Diocese of Urgell. In reality, the Andorran prime minister has de facto power as the head of the government. Andorrans enjoy a per-capita GDP just under $40K benefiting mostly from their tourism industry and the country’s status as a tax haven. Sheep rearing and tobacco growing are also minimally practiced.

Travel Resources:

Andorra is a prime tourist spot hosting over 10 million visitors a year. The main attractions are its summer and winter resorts with hiking and skiing as the main activity. Tourists enjoy limited duty-free allowances.


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Walk! Andorra978-1904946045$14Thirty fully detailed walking route itineraries with summary, effort ratings, time, distance, etc. 1:40,000 scale for the route maps. Both challenging and expert routes. Also includes background information such as history and culture and practical information such as accommodation options.
The Mountains of Andorra: Walks, Scrambles, Via Ferratas and Treks978-1852844240$16The book released in 2010 details sixty routes and is written by Alf Robertson, a professional walking guide.
Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City978-0781810326$18Details the history, culture, and inner working of the seven micro-states of Europe providing an intriguing account of how they meet the dual challenges of maintaining independence and being economically viable.
All-in-One Travel Power Plug Adapter US, UK, EU, AUB000YN01X4$4Converts from two-prong US-style plugs to a variety of other outlet styles. Surge protection and power indicator light.



Philatelic Profile:

Andorra has Spanish and French postal administrations each issuing stamps of their own designs. The first stamps of Andorra were issued by the Spanish Administration in 1928 which were Spanish stamps from 1922-29 (King Alfonso III Scott #331 to #344 and #358 to #370) with “Andorra” overprinted in red or black. The higher denominations of both the Spanish and the Andorran issues are valued in the 100s. Among the lower denominations, the uncommon color varieties (5c vermillion and the 25c dark blue) are also valued in the same range. Imperforate and color variations/errors exist for many of these stamps in this series and they catalog slightly higher for genuine copies. Also, of the two Perf varieties (12.5 & 14) – the latter variety catalogs about 30% higher.

The first stamps designed and issued (first original designs) by the Spanish Administration were designs of prominent structures and the General Council. The higher denomination General Council design issues are valued between $10 and $125 while the others are valued much lower. Also, those stamps with control numbers printed along the back have somewhat of a premium compared to their counterparts with no control numbers. The same designs continued through 1948 until the design shifted to the Coat of Arms, Map, Edelweiss, and other local scenes. Most of these are valued in the $10 to $25 range. One theme that dominated Spanish Andorran stamps over the years is Christian designs reflecting the predominantly Catholic population (over 90%). Most of the later stamps issued by the Spanish Administration are valued modestly with less than 500 different stamps overall. Thus it is relatively easy to acquire a complete set of these stamps.

The French Administration first issued several designs of the stamps from France (A16, A18, A20, and A22) during the1900 to 1929 time period. Those issues have ANDORRE overprinted in black. Of these, the higher denomination “liberty and peace” design of France (A18) is especially valuable. The whole set (Scott #1 to #22) is valued at almost $1000 for used and a little less for MNH.

The first original designs of the French Administration were a large set of 40 stamps (Scott #23 to #63 and certain varieties) issued between 1931 and 1943. The whole set in mint or used condition catalogs for around $500. The designs were centered largely on prominent local buildings and scenes. One very highly valued color error stamp in the series ($19000) is the 20c ultra with the “Bridge of St. Anthony” design (A51). The regular corresponding item is the 20c light rose which catalog in the $10 range. The Coat of Arms set of 1936 to 1944 (Scott #65 to #84) that catalog in the $50 range completes the classic period issues of the French Administration.

From 1943 to 1962 the French Administration issued only three relatively large sets of stamps:
  1. Four designs issued till 1955 depicting local structures and pictures (A57 to A60) (Scott #85 to #123). These catalog in the $100 range for the complete set in mint and about half that for used.
  2. Two designs (A61 and A62) one representing the spa in Des Aldres, a small town near the nation’s capital, Andorra La Vella and the other of the 12th century church of Santa Coloma with its circular bell-tower (St. Coloma Belfry). This set of 19 stamps (Scott #124 to #142) catalog for around $150 MNH and around $100 used.
  3. Two designs (A63 and A64) of the Coat of Arms and the Gothic Cross of Meritxell issued in 1961. The set of 11 stamps (Scott #143 to #153) catalog for around $60 for MNH and around $40 for used.

The number of issues accelerated in the early 60’s with varied themes such as art, tourism, Christianity, sports, and flora and fauna. Issues of significance and good collector interest from this period include:
  1. A design of Charlemagne (Charles I regarded as the father of Europe) crossing Andorra (Scott #155 to #157) that catalog for around $25 for either MNH or used issued in 1964.
  2. The co-principality confirmation issues of 1964 (Scott #159 and #160) that catalog between $10 and $20 either MNH or used.
  3. The 1974 issues of the Virgin of Pal and Santa Coloma (Scott #232 and #233) that catalog in the $30 and $50 range respectively for MNH and about one-fourth that for used. Certain common design Europa themed issues from the 60s and 70s are also fairly valuable.
Numismatic Profile:

Andorra has issued coins denominated in diners since 1977. These are commemorative coins that are not used in circulation. Although diner is pegged to French Franc (1:5), Spanish Peseta (1:125), and the Euro (1:0.75), it is not possible to use diner as a currency in Andorra. As such, it is an artificial currency with the main purpose of serving collectors. Numismatic items from Andorra include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Commemorative Coins$10 and upAndorra has issued a number of beautiful coins with low mintages over the years. Valuations start around $10. Small gold coin proofs issued in the 1990s start around $50 and go well into the 100s.
Paper Money$100 and upRare Andorran banknotes from the 30s denominated in Centims and Pessetas start well into the 100s.

Collectible Memorabilia:


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Postcards & other miscellaneous memorabilia$1 and upPostcards from the early turn of the century portraying local scenes fetch a premium.


Last Updated: 12/2015.
 

    Algeria - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

    Algeria spanning almost a million in square miles of land area is the second largest country in Africa (behind Sudan). Located in Northern Africa and bordered by Tunisia, Libya, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, and the Mediterranean Sea to the North it has a population over 33 million people. By African standards Algeria’s GDP of around $7000 (PPP) is very respectable but the disparity in wealth distribution is immense as the subsistence of close to 25% of the population is under $2 per diem. The major industries of Algeria are oil refineries, carpet and textiles, chemical and cement plants etc.

    Travel Resources:

    Algeria is a mine of  natural and historical attractions – deserts, mosques, ruins, mountains etc. Sites in the North include the Roman ruins at Djemila, Tipassa and Timgad and the historic towns of Oran, Annaba, and Constantine. The capital city of Algiers feature Ottoman architecture and the UNESCO site of Casbah. Areas in the Sahara desert covering the South include Assekrem with ‘The End of the World’ best sunrise views in the Sahara, and the oasis towns of Benne Abbes, and Timimoun. March through October are considered tourist friendly.


    ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
    Lonely Planet Algeria978-1741790993$40One of the only guidebooks to travelling in Algeria. Good coverage with itineraries, pictures, history, culture, and sites including a good introduction to Saharan Rock Art.
    Algeria Bradt Travel Guide978-1841622323$20A practical introduction followed by region wise coverage of the sites.
    Algeria Geographical Map by Gizi Map978-9638680815$131:2.5 million scale. Major and Minor roads along with distances, features, and sites.
    A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 from the New York Review Books Classics978-1590172186$14Documents the Algerian War of Independence against the French during the period form 1954 to 1962. Over one million people died in the struggle and one criticism to the work is that the book does not adequately portray the brutality.
    Algeria Travel AdapterB001FD3IUK$11


    Philatelic Profile:

    The first stamps of Algeria were French ones issued between 1900 and 1929 (Scott #109-115) symbolizing liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, and fraternity), the national motto of France. The same stamps were reissued with overprints “ALGERIE” during the period from 1924 to 1926.
    • Both the French issues and ones with the overprint (Scott #1 to #4 and #6) are easily available.
    • Double overprints are known to exist and legitimate copies of those are valued in the hundreds.
    • Imperforate stamps in this series catalog in the $50 range.
    • Between 1859 and 1924, Algeria used special stamps of France issued for French colonies and many of those are valued in the hundreds (French Colonies Scott #1 through 59).
    Algeria started issuing their own stamps in 1926. The first such issue depicts a street in Kasbah, Algiers the nation’s capital. Another design is that of the Marabout (tomb) of Sidi-Yacoub located in the small city of Blida, about 30 miles south-west of Algiers. Completing the collection is a couple portraying the famous mosques - Mosque of Sidi Abd-er-Rahman and La Pecherie Mosque in Algiers (Scott #33 to #67). The set catalogues for $100 mint and at about half for used.

    Many of the stamps in the classic period (before 1940) had designs of famous mosques or tombs of Muslim saints called marabouts - Algeria is predominately a Muslim country (~99%). Among other themes are the 1937 “Taking of Constantine by the French” set (Scott #113 to #116) and the semi-postal set commemorating the 20th anniversary of armistice (Scott #B28 to #B31). The former set catalogs for under $10 while the latter one under $35. Also around are a pair of global themed sets of 1937, one issued for the Paris International Exposition (Scott #109 to #112) and the other for New York World’s fair (Scott #126 to #130). The sets catalog for about $5 and $10 respectively. Scenes from Algiers, Constantine, and Oran, the three provincial departments of the French, were another common theme for Algerian stamps during the early period.

    The modern history of Algeria is predicated on the Algerian independence movement from 1954 to 1962, a guerrilla war also known as the Algerian War of Independence. Of particular significance is the issue in July 1958 illustrating the Algiers Arms Type of 1947 with the inscription “Republique Francaise”. This stamp is valued at around $20 used or mint (Scott #285 6fr red and green). In September 1958, Algeria became an integral part of France and from then on till July 1962, stamps of France were used in Algeria. The first issues after Independence were French stamps (Scott #939, #968, #945, #946, and #1013) with an “EA” overprint (Scott #286 to #290). These are valued at around $10. Genuine copies of the hand stamped overprints are valued much higher than the more common typographic overprint varieties.

    Stamps of Algeria before independence in 1962 have the inscription “ALGÉRIE” while the ones after independence read “REPUBLIQUE ALGERIENNE”. Below are some other Algerian stamps enjoying good collector interest:
    • the 1963 Flag set (Scott #296 to 303) which catalog for around $30 Mint and about half that for used,
    • the miniature paintings set of 1966 by Mohammed Racim, the father of Algerian miniatures (Scott #362 to 364) which catalog for around $15 Mint and one-third that for used, and
    • the sister set of wall paintings from Tassili-n-ajjer (Scott #365 to 368) also similarly valued.
    Numismatic Profile:

    The first coins of Algeria were French Colonial issues from 1949 onwards. Prior to this, the provinces covering present-day Algeria had a history of issuing hammered coins during the Ottoman era (Selim III – 1789 to 1807 AD, Mahmud II – 1808 to 1839 AD, etc) and local coinage from French colonial era (Abdel Kader – 1834 to 1847 AD). The designs from 1949 showed Head with Laureled Hood on the Obverse and wheat columns and denomination on the reverse. The Copper-Nickel issues had mintages into the millions and so are very affordable even in UNC (Uncirculated) condition. Token coinage from the provinces of Bone (Annaba), Alger, Bougie etc dominated the scene during the 1910s. The issues are comparatively more valuable fetching into the $100 range for UNC. Other numismatic items from Algeria include:


    ItemPrice RangeDescription
    Republic Coins$2 and upUNCs from the 1960s onwards start around $2. Slabbed MS65 or higher graded coins from the 1950s and prior dates go into the $100 range. Gold coins in the 1, 2, and 5 denominations released in 1992 is a popular collectible. They trade at a slight premium over bullion value.
    Paper Money$2 and up1940s issues denominated at 5 francs start around $2. UNC issues from the 1990s denominated at 100 dinars and above start around $10. Rarer WWII notes, 1000 dinar bank notes from the late 1990s start around $20.

    Collectible Memorabilia:

    Popular reminders of Algeria are copper and brassware, local dresses, fine basketwork, pottery, postcards, and photos.


    ResourcePrice RangeDescription
    Postcards$1 and upLarge quantities of early 20th century color postcards are on the market with certain colorful ones showing caricatures of historically relevant scenes fetching a premium.
    Photos$3 and upFrench colonial scenes, landscapes, and costumes form the major subjects.
    Art$5 to $10KPopular themes include costumes, street scenes, and scenes portraying French influence.



    Last Updated: 12/2015.
     

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