Nearly half a century before neighboring Southeast Asian countries had their own, the visionary Siamese people knew, that together with interprovincial delivery routes, a postal system would lay the foundation for the future of Thai communications and trade. Through the institution of a simple paper-gummed label, Siam would establish a means of developing greater social unity amongst Thailand’s indigenous peoples, who at the time were still largely separated from one another by long distances.
Siam’s first set of postage stamps was issued on 4 August 1883 to inaugurate the commencement of the Siamese Postal Service on the same date. William Ridgeway of Waterlow and Sons Ltd. in London England had been commissioned to design, print, and issue this first set of Thai postage stamps which consisted of six different steel plate-engraved designs with the highest value worth 0.25 baht (known locally as a “salung”). The set – named the “Solot” series – was issued in six vivid colour tones, with each stamp featuring a left-facing portrait of H.M. The King Rama V.
Thailand puts great effort into instilling beauty and high quality design work into its stamps and I have yet to see one that is short of spectacular. Almost all of the artwork that is used in Thai stamp design is taken from original oil and watercolor paintings by local artists, which gives Thai philately a rich artistic value.
Through the decades, the design work of Thai stamps has taken on various styles, all of which showcase the colorful beauty of Thailand’s rich and varied culture. A few of the many picturesque Thai stamp issues over the last two decades include ones depicting “samlor” three-wheeled vehicles, Muay Thai kick-boxing, local handicrafts, Thai mythological murals, and a set with detailed paintings of some of Thailand’s most famous historical temples and national heritage sites.
As a stamp enthusiast, I was truly inspired when I eventually discovered that Bangkok has its own institution for Thai stamp preservation named the Sam Sen Nai Philatelic Museum. Here, one can see more than 1,000 Thai stamp issues on display, from the first Solot issues through to all the present ones.
So when you visit Bangkok, whether you are an avid stamp collector or simply want to admire the beauty of Thai philately, a visit to the Sam Sen Nai Philatelic Museum (free entry, open from Wednesday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except on government holidays) is highly recommended.
You can reach the museum most easily by taking Bangkok’s BTS skytrain to Sapaan Kwai station, get off at exit no. 1 and turn left at the entrance to the museum right at the foot of the BTS stairs.
Enjoy, and be sure not to miss seeing some of the Kingdom’s finest stamps on display in all their glorious ink, gum, and paper.