At the risk of being “drummed” out of the SABR Baseball Card Committee for continuing to stretch the definition of “card” to new extremes, I present an examination of the 1972 Manama stamps.
A collector would be hard pressed to find a more obscure baseball related collectible than this odd ball set. I first became aware of the Manama stamps in the early ‘70s, after ordering card lots from a long forgotten dealer. When my order arrived, I found that the seller had included two extraordinarily strange “cards.”
The stamp/cards are drastically different from normal postage stamps. They are 2” X 1-3/8”, printed on thick stock paper and overlaid with plastic material like the Kellogg’s 3-D cards. Additionally, the stamps have two images that change depending on the viewing angle, much like the ’86 “Sportsfliks” or 7-11 coins from the ‘80s.
The origin of this strange form of philately starts in the Persian Gulf emirate of Ajman in the late 1920’s. The ruler of Ajman took possession of a region and small agricultural town called in Manama (not to be confused with the Bahraini capital) in what is now the northeastern portion of the United Arab Emirates. The British nominally controlled this area of the middle east until independence was granted in the mid- ‘60s. The newly independent emirate needed money to keep the postal system working. Enter philatelic entrepreneur, Finbar Kenny.
Finbar–a perfect name for a philatelist–was from New York and saw an opportunity to cash in on all the new countries created after the demise of colonialism. He entered in agreements with numerous small countries with the intent of producing stamps with collecting appeal. The ruler of Ajaman took his money but made him issue the stamps from Manana, which was a protectorate not actually in Ajaman. All of Kenny’s stamps lack a cultural relationship to the country of origin.
Now that I’ve thoroughly bored you with arcane middle eastern history, let’s look at the actual stamps/cards. They feature English and Arabic letters and numbers and are designated postage or airmail. Like traditional stamps, they come in different denominations.
There are nine, duel-photo stamps featuring both MLB and Japanese players. The set includes Seaver/McCovey, Reggie Jackson/Carlton, Cuellar/Freehan and McDowell/Koosman-the one I received in the ‘70s. The five Japanese player stamps include Sadaharu Oh along with the Nagashima/Yazawa stamp the dealer sent me.
A special large stamp features the Yankees famed “Murderers’ Row” on one end and a solo Babe Ruth, on the other.
Some of the MLB photos look familiar. For instance, the Bill Freehan’s pose is exactly like the one on the ’69 baseball preview issue of Sports Illustrated, sans stars and stripes. I found no evidence of a licensing agreement with MLB or the MLBPA.
After poking around Philately sites and blogs, I discovered that some collectors doubt that the stamps were ever used for postage. However, one collector stated that he owned one still attached to an envelope with a cancelation mark. My two stamps have glue residue on the back, but I failed to find information to determine the exact means of adhesion.
By the way, old Finbar released a Manama set of baseball greats in ’69. I will spare you the details.
I’m prepared to have my epaulets ripped off-like Chuck Connors in “Branded”-if the blog masters deem this post a violation of the Cardboard Collectors’ Code.
“1972 Manama Postage Stamps.” 1972 Manama Postage Stamps Baseball Cards Set checklist, prices, values & information, www.baseball-cards.com/vintage-baseball-cards/1972-manama-postage-stamps.shtml.
Baseball Stamp Story – Manama, baseballstampstory.tripod.com/manama.html.
“The Story of the World’s Most Famous Stamp from 1922 to the Present | Sotheby’s, www.sothebys.com/en/news-video/auction-essays/the-british-guiana/2014/05/arthur-hind-to-the-n.html.
“Agreement between Mohammed Al Sharqi & Finbar Kenny”. Oh My Gosh. Retrieved 1 November 2014.