Friday 3 February 2012

Tonga And Niuafo'ou Are Back; Nauru And Russia; South Sudan.

Apart from some provisional surcharges, Tonga has not issued any stamps since 2008 when two stamps and a miniature sheet were issued to commemorate the coronation of King Siaosi Tupou V.

That issue itself was the first to be released since 4 May 2005 when a miniature sheet had been produced celebrating whale watching off the coast of Tonga. Now, as announced on the WWF Stamp Shop website, it appears that Tonga is returning to stamp issuing since it is planning to release a set of stamps in February or March 2012 depicting local endangered wildlife in the form of the thorny seahorse. Additionally, the subsidiary philatelic entity of Niuafo'ou which has not issued any stamps since 2005 when it too released a "whale-watching" miniature sheet is also to issue a set of WWF stamps in February or March which depict the zebra shark. Previous Niuafo'ou WWF commemoratives depicting the blue crowned lorikeet, have most recently been surcharged to produce provisional stamps for use in Tonga in general and the first, issued July 2008, which is depicted below is exceedingly rare although the second, issued May 2010, is much more easily obtainable.

The WWF site also lists other forthcoming WWF stamps from Commonwealth countries:- Bahamas depicting the Caribbean flamingo (21 March 2012), Fiji depicting the collared lory (April 2012), Rarotonga depicting Cook Islands land snails (February or March 2012), South Georgia with south Atlantic seabirds (February or March 2012) and Nauru depicting the dragon moray (date open).
On the subject of Nauru, I drew attention to the set of 5 stamps that the country issued last year which commemorated the Russian space programme and expressed surprise that Nauru was releasing an issue on such a subject and said that Nauru was "not previously known for ....(having) a close relationship with Russia". How wrong was I? In fact Nauru has had a remarkably close relationship with Russia in recent years and there is a special Wikipedia entry on Nauru-Russia relations. The article alleges that the Russian mafia used Nauru banks to money launder in the 1990's, "approximately USD 70 billion owned by Russian mafia were held in Nauru banks. This equated to 700 times the country's annual output." Then, in 2009, Nauru became only the fourth country to recognise Abkazia and South Ossetia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia which had declared their independence with Russia's support (the other three countries were Nicaragua, Venezuala and Russia itself) and subsequently established diplomatic relations with South Ossetia. The Wikipedia article states that "Russian officials visited Nauru in March 2010 to discuss the allocation of the "huge aid grant" that Russia will be providing to the small country". It is fascinating the things that one discovers about the world through stamp collecting. I guess, if a "huge aid grant" is involved, that we may be expecting a few more future stamp issues from Nauru stressing the country's links with Russia!

Finally to South Sudan. In my blog of 14 November 2011, I highlighted that the first set of this new country's first ever stamp issue to be auctioned on E Bay realised an incredible sum of $231. In the last few days two of the three values were again auctioned on E Bay and this time achieved a more modest price of £31 although of course that left the buyer with the need to track down the missing 2.5ssp value which depicts the country's coat of arms.

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