Report of Meeting July 9 2005
Discussion: The future of the ESC plus Postage Dues (Part 2)

Fifteen members were present, including two from Egypt – a good turnout given the background of the bombing atrocities within walking distance only two days before - and apologies for absence received from a further ten. Messages of support and concern came from seven overseas members.

The Chairman reported that the MacArthur Award for the best article in the QC in 2004 had been won by member ESC 261 (Sweden) for his work on collating and recording Foreign Parcel Cards, as recorded by a vote among members; and announced the launch of this website, describing it as “a small step in technology, but a giant leap forward for the Egypt Study Circle”. He paid tribute to the enormously painstaking and imaginative work of the Webmaster and the other two members of the “website sub-committee”.

Recent gifts to the Library were announced, and three new members were elected, including one from Connecticut who stands as the first to apply via the new interactive form on the site.

The Chairman explained why we needed to call a meeting to discuss our future – a slowdown in the advent of younger members, static attendances at meetings and involvement in Auctions and QC contributions, and the increasing burden on Committee members willing to involve themselves in running the Circle – and thanked those 16 members from all over the world who had sent in observations. There was much discussion, with all of us concerned to widen the range of our appeal and activities while striving to balance our original role as a study and research organisation with the necessity to attract new members. The meeting decided:

Meetings: We shall hold at least six meetings a year, mainly at the Victory Services Club, but also considering two meetings at Stampex, others regionally, and overseas meetings where groups of members live will be considered.

Meeting content: Every effort will be made to vary meeting content by restoring study days, by breaking a meeting into “mini-presentations”, by initiating a bourse, by inviting guest speakers, by planning joint meetings with other societies, by planning meetings on post-Republic topics.

The QC: We should move towards more colour, and appeals were made for more articles on any topics, and especially in the Queries and short-notices areas.

Advertising and publicity: The meeting considered this vitally important and the Circle is seeking a UK member willing to take on a triple role: liaising with the philatelic media and the auction houses; seeking advertising for the QC; and preparing advertisements to be placed with journals or auction houses which might accept fliers.

The Auction. No basic changes were envisaged: the intention was for members to dispose of unwanted material to fellow members; and its commissions provides a necessary financial boost.

Website: This crucial advance has been well received and there was much praise for its creator and hope that it would attract new members. It was agreed to hurry slowly: we shall take advances one at a time rather than over-reaching ourselves and our volunteer capacity. Queries (preferably with illustrations) can be submitted to the Webmaster by non-members or members alike, to be answered by anyone with the appropriate knowledge: clearly this area will be monitored. The site will have articles intended to attract non-specialist Egypt collectors, and it will be updated as frequently as possible with news. Prospects for a members-only password-protected area will be explored: without direct permission, members’ names and e-mail addresses will not be posted. The site’s importance is great, but a chatroom or an eBay-type auction are beyond our capacity.

Study leaders: The Secretary will seek members’ permission to publish names, details and collecting interests and whether they are willing to be considered as “co-ordinator” of any particular research area. Collated responses will be published in the QC.

Co-operation with colleagues in Egypt: It was agreed to explore closer ties with colleagues in Cairo and Alexandria.

Members were confident that the plans approved would widen our appeal and make the Circle more attractive and more efficient, while not harming our status as a senior research organisation.

Nine-day stamp: The Chairman then presented an intriguing recent mystery from Egypt, in the issue and apparent subsequent withdrawal of a stamp intended to mark the 150th anniversary of communications. The 30PT (internal rate) stamp, with an FDC dated October 3, 2004, is in black, red and buff and bears the legend Telecom Egypt in red, the black representing 150 in Arabic. This stamp is said to have been withdrawn on October 12, 2004 (ie, to have had a life of only nine days), although one cover is known with it commercially used on January 13, 2005.
The stamp was replaced on December 30 by two stamps – 30PT and 125PT (Air Mail up to 10gm for all but Arab countries) – in red, white (or grey) and black (colours of the Egyptian flag), with 150 in Arabic in white on a red circle. Alongside is the triangle and crescent logo and the name Telecom Egypt, as on the original stamp but less prominent.

Research by colleagues in Egypt found that the original stamp was withdrawn from major offices, but that some 180 sheets of 50 were sold to the public. FDCs are now attracting a large premium – but the mystery is why the stamp was withdrawn. Possible reasons include: poor design, poor colour, that the 50th anniversary demanded two stamps rather than one; the design had not been approved; simply, the Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Tarek Kamel, didn’t like it!

More pertinent, perhaps, is that the group commemorated, Telecom Egypt, was formed only three years ago, not 150! So the original stamp was not appropriate. Despite that, its logo and name remain on the new issues.

A glance at the UPU website reveals that the original stamp was approved as authentic (Egypt 067.04, where it is described as marking the 150th Anniversary of the Egyptian Communications Company); on the next page, the new stamps are also authenticated, as Egypt 079 and 080.04, but described now as marking the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of communications in Egypt. So perhaps that is the reason – the original stamp does not represent what it was intended to represent, so it was withdrawn. It will be intriguing to see whether major catalogues list the nine-day stamp, and what price they put on it!

Postage Due stamps: The Chairman then gave his "Part 2" display of Egypt’s Postage Due stamps, starting with the 1914-15 (sideways watermark) final issue of De la Rue, showing proofs, stamps with watermarks pointing left or right), and their use on cover. He moved on to the Harrison issue of 1921-22, again showing stamps and their usage, and commented that these, especially the short-lived 1921 issue were hard to find on cover: he had never seen the 10 millièmes slate-blue on cover. The “Kingdom of Egypt” overprint issue of 1923 was then shown in a similar vein. Because of pressure of time he finished the afternoon with the 1927-62 issues of the Survey Department of Egypt, showing the many shades of the early (1927) issues and their usage, commenting that the 1962 issue with U A R watermark was particularly difficult on cover.

Full details of this meeting will be publised in QC 214, the September issue.

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