Stamps

I recently mentioned I have too many interests. Here’s another one: stamps.

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“Wild Boar” from the series “baby animals”

My mother introduced me into collecting stamps when I was very very young and got me my first album. Ever since me and stamps always had some kind of on-off-relationship. I would usually collect a few stamps here and there and if I had enough, I would get them off the paper and put them in my (very small) album. It took me more than a decade or so to finally outgrow my small album and buy a bigger one, but I’ve been much more into it for the past two years or so.

My mother gave me the majority of her own collection, which greatly improved my own, especially because she had a lot of stamps from other countries, while mine were mostly from Germany. Also, when my stepfather’s sister and mother heared about me collecting stamps, they started to collect stamps for me – from Luxembourg. Now, I have a small album dedicated to stamps from Luxembourg, which is very nice.

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An Orchid from the long running series “flowers”

A few weeks ago I ordered a package of stamps from Bethel – an organization that gives work to people with special needs in the form of working with stamps, that you can send them or buy from them. I chose to buy the “BUMI” or “Bunte Mischung”, which is basically a little bit of everything: old, new, from Germany, Europe and all over the world, some already off their paper, most of them not. It’s really awesome! Like a treasure box full of surprises. I found a stamp worth 220 million Mark (former German currency) from the time before second world war during the huge inflation when money was worthless in Germany. I also found some missing stamps of a more recent series, that I really like or stamps from counties like Morocco, Dominikan Republic, Iran, Nigeria, South Afria, Burma, the Philipines, Egypt…

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Anniversary stamp for the city “Stadt Neunburg”

The only problem is… the smallest size of the BUMI box is 2,5kg (the big one is 4kg) and I underestimated a tiny bit just much much 2,5kg of stamps actually is. I tackled it this way: first I seperated the stamps still on paper with the ones already off and while doing so I already sorted out the ones I though looked old. This took me a few days already. Currently I’m in the process of the second step: get the stamps off their paper and this means washing thousands of stamps by hand. I’ve been at it for more than a week now and I’m still not finished. I get around 300-400 stamps off their paper per day. Considering I still have a fulltime job to attend, I’m think I’m pretty fast. I’m immediately sorting the washed stamps by country, but not putting any in an album just yet, god knws what’s still to come and I’ll probably need a few more albums anyway…

After finishing the washing, I think I’ll sort the stamps: first by country and second by picture. I’ll probably store the dublicates in a box somewhere. No need to have 30 stamps of the same kind in an album.

This entire process is a lot of work, but it’s fun and I think stamps are telling a story. They

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“Tag der Briegmarke – Liebesbriefe”= “Stamp day – Love letters”

change drastically depending on which time period they’re from and it’s interesting to see which country chooses which themes. I mean, I’m pretty sure Germany is the only country that will have stamps themed with the Germany Reunification. In a way stamps tell a lot about the history and culture of their country of origin and some theme are so weird it’s plain amazing. There’s nothing that’s not been a theme for stamps. Germany currently has a series running with retro cars. We also have a very long running series with flowers and one with buildings and while those are nice and ususually well done, they are on the less exciting side of the spectrum. We also have a series with baby animals, at least those are darn cute, unlike the countless of stamps dedicated to some (semi) important person whose 125th death anniversary needs to be celebrated apparently, or something. Germany postal services really love those… and on the other hand, german postcrossers have tried to get a postcrossing stamp published for years now with very little success – too many people and buildings, that need to be printed on stamps instead, apparenly. German postcrossers have sent over 5,7 million postcards and every single one had a

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this is the german national anthem written out on a regular stamp

stamp, therefore giving german postal services money in times when less and less people rely on traditional snail mail and perfer to use emails, what’s app, twitter and other electronic means of communication. Is it really that hard to give postcrossers something back?

Either way, I’m working on my 2,5kg of stamps and can’t wait to see the end result. =)

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Koi

I recently started watching youtube videos about Koi, those insanely expensive carp from Japan. I think after hours and hours of experts explaining beauty and breeding, I think I roughly got the general idea. I’m still a hopeless amateur, of course, I don’t even know a fraction of what there is to know and I couldn’t evaluate the beauty of one Koi against the other even if my life depended on it. I just wanted to know how Koi are bred, how they are raised. I understood some of the citeria for beautiful fish, but that doesn’t mean I’m able to apply this very rough knowledge of mine.

That being said, let’s continue.

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Doitsu Kohaku der Konichi Koi Farm

In a way it’s no different than breeding a pure bred dog: you’re aiming to produce a creature that has very certain features we consider “beautiful”.  Breeding Koi does seem much more… heartless than breeding a dog or a cat. A carp lays thousands of eggs at once, a dog will have probably something between 3-10 puppies depending on the breed and how lucky the breeder was.

Therefore, you have a whole lot more babies to choose from when breeding fish and let me remind you this is entirely about beauty. You have this huge pool of offsprings and this is still a business. Businesses function after the laws of demand and suppy. People want beautiful Koi. A Koi that is not up to the standard is something nobody wants. It’s worthless to the point that you can’t sell it. People don’t want big ugly fish and Koi are big fish. Therefore, raising thousands of fish that are not up to the desired standard is a waste of money.

When breeding dogs, even the ugly ones usually somehow find a home and on average you will need to find homes for round about 5-6 puppies. That’s a whole lot easier than finding homes for 5-6 thousand fish of undesired color, pattern and body structure. As you can imagine, Koi are being selected very very strictly. Farms don’t want to waste money on raising ugly fish nobody wants. So what happens with the undesired fish? I’m not 100% sure, but I read somewhere the undesired ones from early selections are used as food for the bigger ones.

A beautiful Koi is being treated like royalty, an ugly Koi (which is most of them) is not

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Karashigoi der Konichi Koi Farm

even worth living. I understand why Koi farmers do what they do, it just seems very extreme, especially at the stage of the very early selections where most of the Koi are being selected out. After they’ve reached a certain age and size and survived a few round of selections, farms will keep the “Tategoi” (the best ones) and sell the rest off, but they can’t do this at the early selections.

Breeding Koi is basically a game of luck you play with nature. You produce a whole damn lot of something in the hopes of getting a substainable amount of good individuals, a couple of great ones and maybe one champion. The rest, the thousands of siblings not good enough, are an unwanted byproduct.

Koi are extreamly beautiful fish. Chances are very high I will never have a Koi pond, but I can’t help being fascinated by these carp. The strict selections, the harsh nature of their breeding, the insane care the good ones receive, it’s all part of the fascination of Japan’s (and maybe the world’s) most beautiful fish.