Cruise to Baja – A Trip Report

We embarked on a short 3-day cruise to Baja during the Labor Day weekend (2009). As this was our maiden voyage, no expectations were set in place. The timing was around our friend and his family’s visit from overseas. As that was a popular weekend, we did not land one of those deeply discounted rates – our deal stood at $1334 (around $350 for the first two passengers and about $70 less for the 3rd and 4th sharing the same ocean view cabin). An additional 10% in taxes apply from that listed on their website. A semi-mandatory expense is the $10 per-person-per-diem tip that is automatically added to the bill but can be overridden. Tipping the maître d’ (the individual responsible for the show in the formal dining room) and room service is recommended but completely at one’s discretion. From our booking experience we learned that flexibility matters for we have noticed the rates dip to as low as $179 for first two passengers and $109 for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th passenger sharing the same interior cabin. Also, often the 4-day Baja cruise on the same ship (Carnival Paradise) with a bonus stop in Catalina Island is priced below their 3-day cruise underscoring the might of flexibility.

Carnival Paradise is a 12-year old cruise ship which underwent a major revamp in 2008. From the outside the ship sports a brand spanking new appeal and its public areas for the most part can be graded good (decks, pool, dining, mini-golf, etc) but some parts of the inside loses the sparkle completely (elevators, cabins, the Grand Atrium which is the main common-area inside the ship). First time cruisers will certainly find the sheer size of the vessel overwhelming – it has ten decks (D4 to D7 are primarily cabins while D8 thru D14 are public areas), two main theater areas (lounges), restaurants, pools, day-care facilities, mini-golf, running track, etc. To get the bearings right, we highly recommend early boarding for practically speaking the first few hours is the only time you find the ship at your disposal – once the capacity of 2000 people is reached, privacy is a thing of the past!

We drove down from the Bay Area and reached the cruise terminal around noon (231 Windsor Way, Long Beach, CA-90802 – GPS is spot on with the address – the right-most entrance is to the cruise terminal parking - $15 per day). Queen Mary was docked alongside the dome (entrance to the cruise ship is via the dome where the immigration/customs formalities are handled). We were one of the early birds aboard around 12:30 PM, although the check-in guidelines said 1:30 PM as the earliest and the immigration process was a snap. Having the FunPass information pre-filled online prior to departure helped speed up the check-in process as well – FunPass, Passport, and Credit Card are required at the check-in counter. The port personnel at the parking lot conveniently whisks the baggage away (recommended tip is $1 per bag – cabin number from the FunPass printout is required to tag the baggage) sparing you from the hassle involved in having the baggage as an attachment until the cabin is officially ready, which is around 2:30 PM. There is a mandatory evacuation boat-drill at around 4:30 PM.

Cruise ships cater to the stomach like no other and the Paradise is no exception. Most everything (exceptions are drinks, liquor, and premium coffee) is “free”. The included beverages are limited to regular coffee, a few varieties of soft drinks, and water. A beverage card can be had for a daily rate of $5.50. Paris restaurant on Lido Deck (Deck 10) is the focal place for food. This is a multi-faceted eatery – one side of the buffet area is the grill (Lido Grill) and the other side has open-air seating (Seaview Bistro) – the main buffet area is open for the better part of the day and until 1AM past mid-night – some areas are cordoned off at certain times, but the pizzeria, the grill, and/or a bistro section is mostly open. Pizza is served at the far corner of Paris restaurant round the clock. More than the food, it is the exceptional service that deserves accolades– the tables are cleared as soon as they are vacated and rarely are people waiting for a table. Casual dining is in effect for the entire Lido Deck. The sushi bar on Promenade Deck (Deck 9) open from 5PM to 8:15PM – has just one counter and generally a line can be found winding around here. For dining, the other option is the allotted restaurant which is a formal dining area. Here also the service is excellent and some program is roped in too (music and/or dance). Attire is cruise casual (no shorts, flip-flops, beach wear, etc). There is a special dinner on one of the nights called the Captain’s Dinner where the attire is Cruise Elegant – a jacket or sport coat is a perfect cover. The food is similar to the Paris restaurant, but it is full service. One can choose a specific time (5:45, 6:30, or 8:00) or opt for flexible time for dinner when signing up for the cruise. We chose the flexible option and recommend this – there is no obligation to dine at a particular time and given their efficient service we never had to wait.

The ship was majestically resting at Ensenada when we woke up around 6 AM the first day. Carnival offers a number of on-shore day trips. The pricing varies between $25 and $125 depending on the excursion – the sightseeing only tours that typically take between 3-4 hours are priced in the lower end of that spectrum, while tours that include some activity like golfing, kayaking, horseback, ATV, buggy rides are priced higher. Staying in the ship or venturing out on your own are the other options. We chose the Blowhole tour for $25 and found it to be of good value. The 3-hour tour includes a half-hour bus ride and a guided tour of La Bufadora, a natural spout that shoots sea-spray high into the air. It is a half-a-mile walk from the parking lot to the Blowhole and en-route vendors’ hawk wares from bags to medicines. Bargaining is the order of the day, should you decide to shop. Food and drinks are generally not included on these tours hence having bottled water and snacks around can be handy – a small cooler, a bottle of wine (per person), and small amount of snacks are allowed per person when embarking the ship. The immigration facility at Ensenada also houses shops selling souvenirs.

We spent the final day, the ‘Fun Day at Sea’, checking out the public areas of the ship. The kids whiled away some time at the day care facility – it is free for parts of the day and around $4 per-hour (50% discount for second child) for other times. The public areas were crowded by around 10 AM and it progressively got more so as the day progressed. The kid’s pool area (Deck 11 aft) was somewhat of an exception – the pool and the jacuzzi are smallish, and though the water was cold and brackish, the kids enjoyed it. The jogging-track goes around the mini-golf area and the enclosed skylight area (Deck 14 fore) – it takes around seven circles to cover a mile. The one area that was completely vacant was the library – stocked with some hundred or so books and some board games. The most popular (if crowd is any indication) area was Deck 10 – Paris restaurant grill area where the stage for competitions and music, and the main pool are located. The ‘Fun Day at Sea’ is the happening day for activities – Bingo, the Main Show at Normandie Lounge ( no photography or videotaping – quite good), various competitions (ping-pong, men’s hairy chest, etc.), activities (music, dancing, casino, yoga, duty free shopping, yoga class – fee, pilate class – fee, golf clinic, etc), are the highlights. Although the ship is anchored mid-ocean, most everyone should be able to find something to their liking. There is also a debarkation talk at 11AM but that can be tuned into at will from the cabin. Debarkation can take a while and handling your own luggage speeds up the process.

People react to their first cruise experience very differently and the feedback generally covers the gamut. Many love the all-inclusive, carefree atmosphere that is freely promoted and they yearn for their next trip before they even leave. Then there are those while appreciative of the all-inclusive, finds it hard to get past being stuck in a ship and in the company of 2000. And some absolutely refuse to go back citing claustrophobia. We were not buoyed by the experience and might reluctantly fit the middle group. It is obvious that if one has the flexibility, there are some outstanding deals to be had - ~$40 per-person-per-day is an unheard of deal with good food, boarding, and pampering being part of the package. However, given our zest of seizing the day, and our passion for the outdoors, we will consider another cruise only if it includes numerous calls at port that would allow us to incorporate ample sight-seeing. European river cruises, and Panama Canal/South American cruises could be a fit, but we have not researched this yet to make a recommendation.

Last Updated: 03/2012.

Belize (formerly British Honduras) - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Belize is a small country in Central America bounded by Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea. Belize was known as British Honduras during the period from 1862 to 1974. The early history of the region dates back to 1500 BC when the Maya civilization flourished. During the latter stages of this era (AD 800 thru AD 1000), it is estimated that the population of the area stood at around 400,000 interestingly comparable to the current population of the country of Belize. Belize has a total land area of just under 9,000 square miles and a population of around 325,000 making it a scarcely populated country at less than 40 per square mile. English is the official language (unique for Cental America), although Spanish is equally popular. The GDP (ppp) stands at around $8000 – it is a developing economy dominated by agriculture and tourism.

Travel Resources:

While some might argue Belize does not have an extensive palette for attractions, Lamanai Temple and the Actun Tunichil Muknal (both linked to Mayan civilization) handsomely defy that. The rain-forest experience is indeed great and equally pleased are the divers with many, many miles worth of reefs, and atolls. Snorkeling is another popular activity. Dry season which runs from December through April are considered tourist-friendly though November and May are popular too. Belizean food is an amalgamation of Caribbean, Mexican, African, Spanish, and Mayan cuisines.


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Fodor’s Belize978-1400004225 $13An ‘Experience Belize’ introduction covering 25 pages followed by region-wise coverage along with good maps.
Easy Belize: How to Live, Retire, Work and Buy Property in Belize, the English Speaking Frost Free Paradise on the Caribbean Coast978-1451501018 $21A complete guide to relocating to Belize.
Laminated Belize Map by Borch978-3866090484$11Scale – 1:500,000. Expressways to county lanes marked. Legend includes sights, sites, parking, gas stations, hotels, reefs, etc. Inset maps of Belize City, Yucatan Peninsula, Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, Caracol, El Pilar, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Nim Li Punit, Xunantunich.
Belize Grounded Adapter Kit – GUA and GUDB001FD5CPO$15
AccommodationNAVaries


Philatelic Profile:

Belize, a small country in Central America bounded by Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea has a total land area of 8,867 square miles and a population of close to 340,000. The first stamps of British Honduras were Queen Victoria (QV) keytype issues released in October 1866. The set of three stamps (Scott #1 to #3) were in three colors and denominations (1p pale blue, 6p rose, and 1sh green). The set is valuable at around $800 for MNH and around half that for used. One interesting note with these stamps is that the two higher denominations were only printed in a sheet with the 1p pale blue. Gutter pairs showing two of these denominations are known to exist and fetch a huge premium at close to $40K. QV keytypes of different designs and a few varieties and overprints (denomination changes) were the only stamp issues of British Honduras till 1901. Many of these stamps in lower denominations are affordable at a few dollars with the higher denominations going into the 100s. Revenue Error Overprints that read “Bevenue” and a couple of other variations do exist for the QV keytype (revenue overprint) released in 1899 (Scott #48 thru #51). The set catalogs for around $200 MNH and double that for used. The error overprints fetch around $100 for the lowest denomination (5c ultramarine) while the highest denomination goes for as high as $4K (50c on 1sh gray).

The period from 1902 to 1920 saw a few KEVII and KGV keytypes – a few short sets and a couple of long sets. The long sets (Scott #62 to #71 and Scott #75 to #84) are both very valuable with the former fetching around $500 MNH and $750 used and the latter fetching a little less. Certain Common Design Types showing KGV head were the only stamp issues during the period from 1921 to 1937.

Following are prominent issues of British Honduras from 1938 to 1973:
  1. A beautiful set (Scott #115 to #126) of twelve stamps in as many denominations (1c to $5) and design showing local scenes and the seal of the colony with KGV head as a common factor was released in 1938. The set catalogs for around $80 MNH and about half that for Used. The designs show Mayan Figures (1c green and violet), Chicle Tapping (2c car and black), Cohune palm (3c brown and dark violet), list of local produce (4c green and black), grapefruit harvesting (5c slate blue and red violet), Mahogany logs being shipped (10c brown and yellow green), Sergeant's Cay (15c blue and brown), Dory (25c green and ultra), Chicle Industry (50c dark violet and black), Court House ($1 olive green and carmine), Mahogany cutting ($2 rose lake and indigo), and Seal of Colony (brown and carmine). Mahogany and Chicle (sap is used to make gum – chiclets were named after this tree) sap export formed the bulk of exports in the early periods and so appear prominently in this set. The set catalogs for around $80 MNH and around half that for used.
  2. A set of six stamps released January 10 1949 to mark the one-fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of St. George’s Caye – the battle took place in September 1798 between Spanish invaders and Baymen who first settled there in 1650. The designs show St. George’s Caye and H.M.S. Merlin, the sloop used by Baymen against the Spanish. The set (Scott #131 to #136) is very affordable at less than $5 for MNH and around $2 for used.
  3. Another beautiful set of twelve stamps (Scott #144 to #155) in as many denominations (1c to $5) and design showing local scenes were issued between 1954 and 1957. This set is also valuable at around $80 MNH and less than half that for used. The designs were arms, tapir (national animal), Legislative Council, pine industry, spiny lobster, Stanley Field Airport, Mayan Frieze, Blue Butterfly, Armadillo, Hawksworth Bridge (built in 1949 across Macal River), Pine Ridge Orchid (the black orchid from this area is the national flower), and Maya woman.
  4. A long running set of stamps first released in 1962. The original set of twelve stamps (Scott #167 to #178) in the Birds theme was released on April 2nd 1962. Part of the set (Scott #167a to #175a) was reissued in 1967 with a different watermark. In the interim, part of the same set (Scott #182 to #186) was reissued with a “SELF GOVERNMENT/1964” overprint. The original set is pretty valuable and catalogs for around $75 MNH and around one-third that for used. The 1964 overprint is inexpensive and can be had for a few dollars. The 1967 reissue is also fairly affordable at well below $10. The design shows a bird and a QE head at the corner. The birds depicted were Great Curassow, Red-legged Honeycreeper, American Jacana, Great Kiskadee, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Scarlet Macaw, Massena Trogon, Redfooted Booby, Keel-billed Toucan, Magnificent Frigate Bird, Rufoustailed Jacamar, and Monte-suma Oropendola.
  5. A set of stamps first released in 1968 in the Fish theme. Part of the set along with a half-cent denomination was reissued (Scott #234 to #240) between 1969 and 1972 with a different watermark. The original set of twelve stamps (Scott #214 to #225) catalogs for around $20 MNH and $15 used. The reissue catalogs for around $30 MNH and $35 used. Crana, Jewfish, White-lipped Peccary, Grouper, Collared Anteater, Bonefish, Paca, Dolphinfish, Kinkajou, Yellow-and-green-banded muttonfish, Tayra, Great Barracudas, and Mountain Lion.
In 1973, stamps inscribed “Belize” started to appear following the country’s name change. Following are significant issues of Belize from that time onwards:

  1. A set of thirteen stamps (Scott #312 to #324) released on June 1, 1973 which were reissues of the Fish theme sets originally released in 1968. The reissues used an overprint that featured a silver panel over which “BELIZE” is inscribed in black. The set is remarkably affordable at around $10 MNH and around $15 used, considering these were the first issues with the Belize inscription. A reissue of the same set (Scott #327 to #339) followed in 1974, this time without the overprint but instead using a direct inscription. That set is also similarly valued.
  2. A set of sixteen stamps in the ‘Butterflies of Belize’ theme released between 1974 and 1977. The set (Scott #345 to #360) catalogs for around $35 MNH and $25 used.
  3. A set of two stamps (Scott #381 and #382) released on October 18, 1976 to mark West Indies winning the 1975 World Cup Cricket Championship. The set catalogs for just $2 MNH or used. The first design (35c blue, white, brown and red) show a map of the Caribbean with West Indies marked in Red and showing cricket equipment in the middle – it is a great design that show cricket as the unification factor for modern West Indies, a mix of small countries in the Caribbean sea – although Belize opted not to join the West Indian Federation in 1958, this issue shows their strong cultural association. Belize started issuing Canceled-To-Order (CTOs) in 1979 and those stamps have very little value.
  4. Belize issued three different sets of stamps in 1981 to mark independence from United Kingdom (September 21 1981). The first two sets released on the day of independence were “INDEPENDENCE September 21 1981” overprints on previous issues. The first set (Scott #563 to #569) was the issue to mark the 75th anniversary of the Rotary Club and catalogs for around $35 MNH or postally used. The second set (Scott #572 to #587) is the beautiful Shells set first released in 1980. The set catalogs for around $80 MNH or postally used. The third is a short set in an orginal independence theme design. The set (Scott #594 to #599) catalogs for around $50 MNH or used. The designs show flag, map, black orchid, tapir, mahogany tree, and keel-billed toucan. Collectors need to be careful when acquiring one of these sets as the CTO equivalents of these sets have very little value.
Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Belize (British Honduras at the time) were British Colonial Bronze coins issued in 1885, following the establishment of the separate Crown Colony of British Honduras in 1884. Prior to this, imperial coins along with the Spanish dollar and Honduran currency were used. ‘GR’ monogram countermarked coinage was also used during the period from 1810 to 1820 (Revolutionary War Period). In 1894, the colony changed to the gold standard based on the US gold dollar. Coins with ‘Belize’ inscriptions were issued starting in 1973.

Numismatic items of Belize include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Coins$2 and upRecent UNCs start around $2. Boxed silver proof sets from the 1970s start around $50. Gold proofs from the 1970s start around $100. 1992 Battle of El Alamein 50th Anniversary Gold Proof sets with mintage of just 500 and certain other commemorative proof sets go well into the 1000s.
Paper Money$1 and upCommon UNCs from the 2000s starts around $1. 22kt gold notes and recent year sets start around $20. Rare date UNCs start around $100 and can go into the 1000s depending on rarity.


Collectible Memorabilia:

Ethnic handicrafts - wooden carvings, sculptures, and watercolors, Marie Sharps’ sauces, and baskets are popular takeaways from the island.


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Antiques & MiscVariesMayan and other wood carvings and coral jewelry form the major themes. Authentic scout medals are another sought after item from the area.


Last Updated: 12/2015. 
 

    A Peek Into Our Roadmap to Financial Independence

    As discussed previously, frugal living, reducing expenses, investments guaranteed to beat inflation, and passive income generation are key issues on one’s road to financial independence. Each of these contributes to either:
    1. Reducing the amount of money required on a monthly basis, and
    2. Generating income to offset living expenses.
    Having been in the software industry for over 15 years, and having worked full-time at it we are aware that though stressful at times the jobs are well-paying and intellectually challenging. Simultaneously juggling the responsibilities involved in bringing up two young children in elementary school has flavored and toughened us. The never-ending slew of layoffs in the recent years, not isolated to just our industry, has been gentle on us. It has always been our dream to resourcefully manage time until the nestlings confidently take to the sky.

    Bay Area living, in an excellent elementary public school district comes with its own suite of out sized living costs to which we are not immune . A residential area with excellent schools and low housing costs is a holy grail. Below is a look at our expenses in a typical month:
    • Housing (Mortgage, HOA, Property Taxes) – 65%
    • Basics - Food, Fuel, Attire, Utilities, etc. – 12%
    • Travel and Entertainment – 10%
    • Children's schooling, training, and misc. – 7%
    • Others - Insurance (housing, personal, auto), Home Maintenance, etc. – 6%
    For minimizing expenses beyond what can be achieved through frugal lifestyle, relocating to a lower-cost area has been on our radar for a long time. Frugal lifestyle has helped us build liquid investments but income generation (dividends and interest) from the same are petite compared to our salaries. Another diminutive source of revenue is this blog and together they account for the bulk of our passive income which is woefully very modest now.

    Our plan to achieve financial independence can be summarized as follows:
    • Relocate to the South of India (our native soil). Infrastructure is practically non-existent there, when pitted against Western standards, but the area offers some distinct advantages and below are a few highlights:
    1. Lower living costs.
    2. Proximity to our extended family.
    3. Immediacy to growing areas of the world.
    4. Opportunity to experience global living thanks to our US citizenship.
    • Our primary residence there will be the house we bought outright a few years ago. Housing which accounted for 65% of our monthly expenses in the Bay Area should then account for a much lower portion of our total expenses – zero mortgage, much lower HOA and property taxes.
    • The children will be attending private school and that is one area where the costs will be significantly higher than in the Bay Area. The kids now attend free public education and the decision to private school them comes with a higher price tag, although it will be less than private schooling in the US.
    • As for passive income – slowly, but surely we have been adjusting our stock portfolio toward investments in companies with consistent dividend growth. By selling our house and realizing the equity tied up there, we should be able to increase the size of our stock portfolio, thereby increasing dividends (passive income). Developing other streams of passive income as time allows is always in the offing.
    We hope to pull this strategy off in the next six-months around the coming school year. As with all ventures there are several unknowns and uncertainties:
    • How well will we deal with the new environment?
    • How long will it take before the avocation becomes a vocation?
    • How successful will our passive income strategies pan out to be?
    There is no denying the comfort zone we are in currently. But, it is our gut feeling that this opportunity will cease to exist, once the kids start middle school and that justifies this timing.

    Last Updated: 12/2009. 

    Belgium - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

    Belgium is a country in Western Europe bordered by the North Sea to the West, Netherlands to the North, France to the South, and Germany and Luxembourg to the East. It has a total land area of just under 12,000 square miles and a population of around 10.7 million making it a densely populated country at more than 800 per square mile. The Dutch speaking Flemish community in the North and the French community in the South and the very small German speaking community to the East are the predominant communities.  It is a solid developed country with a GDP(ppp) around $37K.  Belgium has few natural resources, but was the first continental European country to undergo the industrial revolution. Its highly productive workforce makes it possible for them to import raw materials and export finished products to the very competitive global marketplace.

    Travel Resources:

    Belgium is highly urbanized and the main cities are Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Liege, Leuven, Dinant, Mechelen, Tournai, Mons, and Sint-Truiden. Public transport is fast and not too expensive in this small country. The infrastructure supports getting around in a Cycle. Mechelen, a small medieval city is ideal as a base with proximity to a train station that connects to everywhere and a youth hostel adjacent to it. May to September are considered peak season for visitors. Must see sights abound in Belgium Royal Museum of Fine Art in Antwerp, Waterloo, The Diamond Museum of Antwerp, The Groeninge Museum in Flanders is but a starting point. Besides chocolate, Belgium is renowned the world over for its beer, waffles and French fries.


    ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
    Belgium and Luxembourg Eyewitness Travel Guides978-0756653712$17Packed with excellent photographs, illustrations, maps. Restaurants, Castles, Museums, Hotels, Art Galleries, Architecture, History, Driving and Walking Tours, and Beer sections.
    Brussels Eyewitness Travel Guides978-0756661069$15Good overall guide to the country, not just Brussels!
    Belgium – Culture Smart!: a quick guide to customs and etiquette978-1857333220$10Excellent sections on land and culture, values and attitudes, festivals and customs, entertainment, travel, business, and communicating.
    A Tall Man in a Low Land: Some Time Among the Belgians by Harry Pearson978-0349112060$11Great introduction to Belgian culture in an interesting and funny way.
    Belgium and Luxembourg Map by Michelin978-2067123007$11Not laminated, but the content is good.
    Belgium Grounded Adapter Plug – GUBB001FD5CPE$8


    Philatelic Profile:

    Belgium gained independence from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815 to 1830) following the Belgian revolution of 1830. Since then, Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. The first stamps of Belgium were released in 1849 and depict a portrait of King Leopold I. The issues until 1867 all show portraits of King Leopold I in five different designs. Most of these stamps (Scott #1 to #22) are very valuable in MNH with a value range between $150 (Scott #18 10c slate) and $4000 (Scott #8 40c car rose). Used copies can be had for much lower with the lowest (Scott #18 and #19) selling for the $2 range and the highest (Scott #5 40c carmine rose) going for around $500. Following the 34-year reign of Leopold I, a coat of arms theme appeared in the period from 1866 to 1867. The set of four stamps (Scott #23 to #26b) are also very valuable with catalog values in the $600 range for MNH and around half that for used – these were used only as newspaper stamps and for printed matter and that accounts for the rarity. Counterfeits exist and so collectors need to be careful when trying to acquire this set. The issue was promptly followed by the monarch theme with issues of different designs of Leopold II portraits.

    The 20-year period from 1893 to 1913 saw more issues primarily in the monarch theme with King Albert I debuting in 1912 (Scott #103 to #107). The set is very affordable at less than $2 for MNH or used. One distinct characteristic of the issues during this period is a label attachment to the bottom. The issues with label attached are generally more valuable than their “missing label” counterparts. Other themes during the period include:

    1. The Arms of Antwerp set of three stamps (Scott #76 to #78) released in 1894. It catalogs for around $10 MNH and about half that for used.
    2. The Saint Michael and Satan set of three stamps (Scott #79 to #81) released between 1896 and 1897. This set also catalogs for around $10 MNH and less than half that for used.
    3. The Lion of Belgium theme of 1912 released as part of a long set of eleven stamps (Scott #92 to #102). The lower denominations of this set are in this theme while the higher denominations show a portrait of King Albert I. The set is valuable at around $140 for MNH and less than half that for used.
    Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 during the beginning stages of World War I. Two large sets of 15 and 14 stamps respectively (Scott #108 to #122 and #124 to #137) and a couple of other smaller sets in World War I related themes were the only stamps released during this period. The former set (Scott #108 to #122) includes eight different designs - Albert I, Cloth Hall of Ypres (the famous Cloth market first constructed in the 13th century hit by German artillery), Bridge of Dinant (another landmark hit during world war I), Library of Louvain (the building and 300000 books destroyed during world war I), Scheldt River at Antwerp, Anti-slavery campaign in Congo, King Albert I at Fumes (Belgian military headquarters following German invasion), and Kings of Belgium Leopold I Albert I and Leopold II. The set is valuable at around $350 MNH and less than half that for used. The latter has a single deign of King Albert I in a trench helmet with different colors for the denominations. The set is very valuable at almost $1200 for MNH and about half that for used. The design showing the Fountain of Liege (a major first battleground in World War I) completes the designs during this period. The issues that followed till World War II were predominantly based on the Monarch theme with occasional issues of other great men, arms, and certain overprints. One significant issue during the period is the set of three stamps (Scott #251 to #253) showing Auguste Piccard’s (the Belgiun scientist who pioneered research on helium balloons – Herge, the creator of ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ cartoon books was inspired by his distinct figure for the creation of the cartoon character, Professor Cuthbert Calculus) . The set is sought after and catalogs for around $100 for MNH and one-tenth that for used. Other significant Belgian stamps issues include:
    1. Following World War II, industry became a common theme on Belgian stamps. In this theme, one significant issue is the set of twelve stamps (Scott #374 to #385) in six different designs released in 1948. The set catalogs for around $50 MNH and less than $10 for used. The designs were – chemical industry, industrial arts, agriculture, textile industry, communications center, and iron manufacture.
    2. A set of twelve stamps released on May 14, 1952 during the UPU Congress Meeting in Brussels depicting barons, counts, and princes. The set (Scott #435 to #445 and B514 – Beaulieu Castle) is very expensive at around $300 for MNH and $200 for used.
    3. Belgium issued many stamps over the years in the Stamp Collecting theme with a focus on youth philately. The first such issue was a stamp released on October 1, 1960 showing two children examining a stamp using tongs with the picture of a globe in the foreground. The issue comes attached with a horizontal label with a post horn design. The stamp is inexpensive and can be had for a few cents MNH or used. Since then, Belgium issued a stamp in the same theme every year in October until 1995 when it became less frequent. Most of these stamps are inexpensive and so theme is a good collecting area, especially for budding philatelists.
    4. A set of five stamps issued on June 22 1974 depicting historic buildings and monuments of Belgium. The set (Scott #871 to #875) is affordable at around $2 for MNH or used. The designs were Planetarium of Brussels, Pillory of Braine-le-Chateau (16th century), Soleilmont Abbey Ruins (Abbey of Trappist nuns founded in the 11th century), and Belfry of Bruges (13th Century).
    5. A set of four stamps issued on May 6 1985 depicting locomotives to mark the year of public transportation. The set and a souvenir sheet (Scott #1194 to #1198) catalogs for less than $10 MNH or used. The designs were Steam Tram Locomotive (1896), Locomotive Elephant and Tender (1835), Tank Engine (1935), and Electric Locomotive (1975).
    6. A beautiful sheet of nine stamps issued November 18, 1996 to mark Christmas and New Year. The colorful set (Scott #1634a-i) catalogs for around $10 MNH and a little less for used.
    Numismatic Profile:

    The first coins of Belgium were Copper Centimes issued in 1832. Early Belgian coins are inscribed in Dutch, French or both while modern coins have Latin or German inscriptions. Belgium has issued a number of gold coins with the first ones appearing in 1831. They also issued a number of ECU (European Currency Unit) Gold and Silver coins in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Numismatic items of Belgium include:


    ItemPrice RangeDescription
    Coins$1 and upCommon coins in UNC start around $1. 19th century coins in VF start around $10. Low mintage silver proofs start around $50. Recent Euro Rolls, 19th century certified and slabbed coins graded over MS60, etc start around $100. Gold coins go well into the 100s.
    Paper Money$3 and upBanknotes from the 40s and 50s in VF start around $3. UNCs from the WW periods start around $25. Rare dates start into the 100s.


    Collectible Memorabilia:

    Flemish paintings from early times are very dear and highly collectible. Handmade Belgian lace, tapestries and delicate needlework are all highly prized.


    ResourcePrice RangeDescription
    Jewelry$200 and upLoose diamonds are on the market starting around $200. Certified diamond jewelry and other material from Antwerp are collectible.
    Ceramics$20 and UpSingle Delft pieces start around $20. Signed Majolica Vases go well into the 100s.
    Antiques$5 and uporiginal 19th century maps start around $5, photo prints from the same period a little more, wooden carved furniture into the 100s, and tapestry into the 1000s.
    ArtVariesOriginal works from well known artists like Emile Claus, Eugene Verboeckhoven, Jean Pierre Ghysels, M. Werner, August Fisher, Alfred Brux, Tony Mafia, and propaganda posters from the early 20th century fetch into the 1000s.



    Last Updated: 12/2015. 
     

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