I was born in Oslo/Norway in 1955, and started to collect stamps as a boy, as many young boys do. We moved to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in 1963, where my father worked for Norconsultants (later Norconsult) as their chief architect for the Duke of Harar hospital (today called the Black Lion hospital). I brought my small stamp collection with me, and of course I started collecting Ethiopian stamps.
Espen with his stamps. Ethiopia 1967 I remember visiting the Ethiopian post office several times, and I saved money to buy first day covers. There was also a kind owner of a Greek grocery who put aside stamps for me. After a few years I had a small Ethiopia-collection, mostly from the 1960 period, and my oldest stamp was a 10 cent Haile Selassie ‘restoration issue’ stamp from 1942 that I bought from a dealer across the street from the Arada post office. That was my most treasured stamp. This set is still my favorite, and especially all the different overprints including their fiscal use (albums #20 and #21).
When we returned to Norway after 4 years I traded stamps with classmates for a few years, but as I got older my interests changed and my albums ended up in a box in the attic. Ever since we stayed in Ethiopia I have been in love with the country, and being between 8 and 12 years old at that time I remember almost everything. Even during the years when I had almost forgotten my stamps I often thought about the good times we had in Africa.
There were quite many Norwegians in Ethiopia at that time, both as missionaries and others of different professions. We children of Norconsult were like a small family, and we celebrated our holidays together and camped at lakes Langano and Shala. I still have contact with some of them here in Norway, and also a few with missionary background. All Norwegian children were allowed to go to the Norwegian mission school – even if we were not missionarys. We had many interesting tours around Addis Ababa – Entotto, Sululta, Managasha forest, Ambo, Bishoftu, Awash River, Koka dam and Koka Palace, Wonji plantation, Sodere, Awash Station hot springs, etc. – and one long drive through Kombolcha, Logia and the Danakil Desert to spend some days swimming in the Red Sea at Assab.
Ethiopia and its culture fascinate me, and I want to visit the country again. I have already been back two times; the first in 2002 when we traveled with a group to Lake Tana with the blue Nile Tisissat falls, Lalibela, Axum, Adwa and Yeha in the north, and all the way down to Shashamene, Sodo, Arba Minch, Konso, Weito, Jinka, Mago National Park, and Turmi in the south.
The second time was in 2008, where my main goal was to visit as many of the places I remember from the sixties as possible. I also had a day excursion to Melka Kunture, Addadi Mariam and Tiya, and we drove down to Yirga Alem through Sodere, Langano, Shala, Wondo Genet and Awasa. – Yes, I definitely want to visit Ethiopia again.
When our own children wanted a hobby in 1999 I introduced them to collecting stamps. I bought albums for them and some starter stamps, and they were most fascinated by stamps picturing animals, fishes, etc.
When I looked at my few hundred Ethiopian stamps again I wondered if it was possible to find any for sale. One Saturday when I walked in the center of Oslo I saw a stamp dealer’s shop. I was curious and went in, and yes, they had some Ethiopian stamps, and some where quite old. I visited a few other shops, and they all had some Ethiopian stamps – even a few of the early overprints. Why not, I said to myself, and went back and bought all these small lots for a fairly low price. Ethiopia is not the most popular country for Norwegian collectors. This was before I discovered eBay, which I believe, is the most important market for stamps today. My children lost their interest, but I got hooked on collecting Ethiopian stamps.
After a while I started searching on Internet for other Ethiopia-collectors, and through a few persons I found the Ethiopian Philatelic Society (EPS) and the Ethiopian Collectors Club (ECC). These clubs have later merged into one
– the EPS.
The ECC was a British club, and EPS was originally an American club, but this is now an international club even if it is still managed mostly from USA. At the moment we are about 300 members, of which about 30 are contributing with articles in our quarterly magazine the Menelik’s Journal. This is the place where we share information, but I hope that my discussion board for members on my website will be a place where many of us can have online contact.
Over the years I have visited several fellow collectors in many countries. When traveling on vacation trips I have managed to combine these with visiting other collectors in Norway, England, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, USA and Ethiopia. Meeting people with a common interest is like visiting old friends
– even if I we have not met before. We are so few Ethiopia-collectors in the world compared to collectors of other countries, which means that meetings fellow collectors are big events. However, being spread around the world we don’t meet often – or not at all – so I hope that this site can be a place where we can discuss our hobby.