Issue Guide Links
- Articles Index
- 2001 - A Space Odyssey
- A Sensation: Space Mail from MIR
- Celebrating 40 years of Yuri Gagarin
- Airmail Labels Space-thematic etiquettes
- The Odyssey
- Space Invader
- 1988 Orbit 2001 - Tony Bird Looks Back
- Bill Thornton – A Doctor In Space
- Galactic Quest
- The Chief Designer
- Space Spifs
- WALKING ON AIR
- Who was First?
- Georgi Grechko
- From Copernicus to Jodrell Bank
- The First Romanian Cosmonaut: Dumitru Prunariu on Soyuz 40
- A Year in Space
- BHUTAN REMEMBERED
- Galactic Quest
- Space Cinderellas
1988 ORBIT 2001
Tony Bird  Looks Back
When Jeff first asked me to write an article looking back over the past 15 years of the Society I got my A.S.S.S. Binders off the shelf and started flipping once more through the early editions. As I did, so the memories started to come back.
In the first issue of ORBIT I commented on the fact that " I tended to think that I was one of the odd ones out in the field of collectors. No matter what fair I went to, stamp, postcard, book, or even toy I never met anyone who shared my interest."
Then, back in 1987, an advert appeared in ‘Stamps’ magazine from a chap by the name of Robin Cleeter who wanted to hear from anyone interested in forming a stamp society on the theme of Space & Astronomy. I made contact with Robin and we ranged to meet.
I still can remember sitting in Robin’s lounge as he shared his idea of forming a club aimed at bringing together stamp collectors whose interests were Space & Astronomy.
Yes, the beginning of the Astro Space Stamp Society was as simple as that, agreeing over a cup of coffee to produce a magazine 3 times a year for members. And so, a result of that meeting, in January 1988, the first Issue of ORBIT was circulated to 36 founder members, many of whom are still in membership today.
People such as Margaret Morris , Brian Lockyer , Jurgen Esders , Bert van Eijck , Harvey Duncan , Peter Talbot-Ashby , Rex Hall , and George Spiteri .
I didn’t have access to a computer in those days, so production was a cut and paste job on my kitchen table, using a typewriter, letraset and felt-tip pens on A4 sheets, before photocopying onto A3 sheets of paper.
We just about filled 28 A4 sides on that first issue, with items on "Soviet Space Postmarks", ‘Project Mercury", a Crown Agents article entitled "Space Anniversary for Ascension", part one of a "Manned Spaceflight Checklist", "Gagarin Postcards", a "Lollini catalogue Book Review" and the first sketchings of Harvey Duncan's Infamous "Checklist". Gaps were filled up with other information about the society, pictures of space stamps and even a "Cosmonauts Wordsearch"!!
In the early days we were contacted by many space enthusiasts who were interested in Philately, but had little or no understanding of how to start a collection, or what to then do with it. I remember making up Packets of stamps, from stocks that members had sent in and forwarding them on to those who wrote in. Members also wrote articles to help those new to the hobby. Jurgen Peter Esders gave advice on ‘How to get space covers [ORBIT 4], Harvey Duncan kept us up to date in each issue with his ‘New Issue Guide’, and I particularly remember an article that Jean Brown wrote on ‘Looking at the letters of the Russian language’[ORBIT 2].
Of course there were also articles for those who’d been collecting for a while, In ORBIT 3 we looked at "Guidelines for the Judgment of an Astrophilatelic Exhibit" and Bert van Eijck introduced us to ‘Rocket Mail Pioneers’ [ORBIT 8]. George Spiteri wrote a series for us on ‘A Year in Space’, giving a day-by-day account of the time that Titov and Manarov spent on the Mir space station. Adrian Woollaston, and later Dave Saunders, ran regular ‘Postal Auctions’ and Harvey Duncan [goodness knows where he got all the time to do it!) began a "Postal packet" scheme where members sent him stamps which he put into books which were then circulated amongst members who’d asked to be included in the scheme.
I really enjoyed editing ORBIT in those first years of the Society. It was a mine of information, not just for stamps and covers, but on so much else as well. Today we’ve got the Internet, where every night we can go over to NASA and get the latest news. I have daily reports on the International Space station emailed to me, I can, at any time, find out where it is flying over. Other lists give up to date information on the latest shuttle flight or I can watch broadcasts, live or recorded.
And as far as collecting is concerned I can go daily to sites like Ebay and keep in touch with what stamps or covers are available, autographs, postcards, books, patches, etc. etc. You name it and you can probably find it. But back in 1987/8 when the A.S.S.S. started, people like me didn’t have that kind of access available, we had to rely on magazines like ‘Spaceflight’ [whose articles were often too technical for me], and ‘Spaceflight News’ [which I could understand, but which sadly went bust; because, we were told; it didn’t have a large enough customer base!].
The various stamp magazines had articles on Space every now and again, and so I suppose, like many others, I fell back on my own list of Dealers, who could supply me with not only New Issues, but also help me track back through the years, to build up my collection [when I could afford it, which was why I ventured out into other fields like Books and Postcards]. ORBIT, was then added to that list, with its ever widening range of articles, submitted by members, forever opening up, for me, areas of the collecting that I had never even heard of before.
It was a WONDERFUL time learning about subjects like Rocket Mail, or the vast range of space ‘Covers’ that were available. [OK, I admit that I had had a sheltered life as a collector. I was interested in everything associated with Manned Spaceflight, and I was an expert in none of them! But in those early days it didn’t really seem to matter.] I well remember the first letter Andy Swanston sent in on Autographs.
I had thought that my collection of personalised astronaut autographed photos was pretty good, until Andy started to share parts of his collection with us in ORBIT. Wow! I'd never thought of trying to get Ham’s autograph and yet there it was. It’s been quite nostalgic looking back through those early issues of ORBIT, but for me, one issue still stands out from all the others. ORBIT 21, where we had the honour of introducing members to our New Patron, Hero of the Soviet Union, Cosmonaut Georgi Grechko.
I said at the time "I count it a privilege that on 1st April 1994 I had the opportunity, together with fellow A.S.S.S member George Spiteri, to be granted an interview with Cosmonaut Georgi Grechko during a visit he made to Jodrell Bank. During that interview he kindly agreed to become Patron of our Society, and I presented him with back issues of 'ORBIT' along with a copy of Harvey Duncan's "ASTRONOMY & SPACEFLIGHT INDEX".
I then went on to say "I’m not ashamed to say that George and I were like two little boys at the end of our meeting with Mr. Grechko, emerging with autographed pictures in our hands, photographs in our cameras and heads full of vivid memories that will nor soon go away. Isn’t that what hobbies and interests are all about?
Each time we look at a stamp, or see the autograph on a cover, they trigger memories. Or why else is it that we spend hours either preparing our albums, or going through admiring the finished articles?"
The article finished with these words: "To me that is one of the reasons that the Astro Space Stamp Society was formed back in 1987, and I can still remember the enjoyment of spending time with our Founder in those early days as things got off the ground and then the thrill of corresponding with others who share my interest in Space, and my hobby of collecting."
Much has changed since those days, not least the wonderful way in which ORBIT has developed into the Award winning Journal that it is today. Sitting in Robin's lounge all those years ago we never dreamed that his seed of an idea would, over the years, grow to the position where the Society would have Representatives in 7 countries, let alone a ‘Features Editor’, a ‘Website Editor’ and a ‘Public Relations Officer’. But grow it has, and I'm thankful for that as we look ahead to the next 50 Issues.
- Thank you Robin for starting things off all those years ago.
- Thank you Peter, Harvey and Brian for all those hours you’ve given the Society ‘since it began’!
- Thank you Jeff, and all your other colleagues serving the A.S.S.S today, for taking up the baton and bringing us to this point in the history of the Society, and as you lead us on.
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