Postage-Stamp Countries:
.cc - .to - .tv - .ws

Essay by
Robert Wilfred Franson


August 2001

Sovereignty, & postage stamps

Possession and illustration, how entwined.

In perusing the estimates for the Seychelles, Churchill did not fail to notice that the income from unique postage stamps in the Seychelles was approximately the same as the annual expenditure on education and religion:
Observe that the caprice of the philatelist yields in a normal year sufficient to defray exactly the annual cost of education and religion: and thus Christianity is sustained by variations in the watermark! Such are the unseen foundations of society.
Winston S. Churchill
Ronald Hyam
Elgin and Churchill at the Colonial Office, 1905-1908:
The Watershed of the Empire-Commonwealth

Ah, sovereignty. Having your own small country may not get you respect, but this independent piece of territory will bring you several more-or-less marketable privileges. Among these gilded boons are:

  • You can have a seat in the United Nations; from which you can complain about big countries, and vote for treaties to penalize rich countries.
  • You can issue postage stamps (the fewer the better); and retail them to stamp collectors in rich countries.
  • You can issue money (the more the better); and use it to buy things from countries with factories. (And after each revolution, putsch, coup d'etat, or major election, you can wholesale the old regime's monetary leftovers to coin and currency collectors in rich countries.)
  • You can assign Internet domain names, based on your own high-level domain, your country-code suffix; and sell these names for website addresses to companies in rich countries.

Notice that the above activities share an underlying purpose, namely, to transfer funds from rich countries to the small countries that tend to be overlooked except for vacations (if safe) and naval battles (if islands).

Diplomatic & postal recognition

It is useful that your territory be recognized by the United Nations as independent, no matter how difficult to find on the map, or how impenetrable the interior. If you were conquered by someone and still held, whether recently or long ago, you may be out of luck. Your benefactor nation may grant you status as an "autonomous satellite nation" or some such euphemism, whereby it gains an additional controlled seat in the United Nations. You won't earn much income from your postage stamps and other privileges of sovereignty, because outside the United Nations bureaucracy, most people won't believe you're an independent nation. However, your territory may gain useful publicity.

If your territory is not independent, geographical separation can help, as in wave-swept islands or semi-annexed areas not adjacent to their home countries. Even as a territory, you may be awarded an Internet country-code.

Country-code suffixes

The two-letter country-code suffixes represent an abbreviation of the country's name, sometimes as they spell it, sometimes as it looks in English. Some country codes: .ca for Canada, .ch for Switzerland (Confederatio Helvetia), .de for Germany (Deutschland), .fr for France, .it for Italy, .ru for Russia (as spelled in Western letters), .se for Sweden (Sverige), .uk for Britain (United Kingdom), .us for America (United States).

Anyone in the world can use .com for commercial enterprises. Other major high-level domains include: .gov for the American government, .edu for higher educational institutions, .mil for the American military, .net for Internet-related businesses, .org for organizations.

Anomalously coded websites

There are interesting anomalies in naming websites. For instance, that of the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, presumably a governmental department in San Diego County, California, rejoices in — not a domain ending in (for California government), nor ending in (for California, United States — like the county's website), but in .com (for commercial endeavors). Makes one wonder.

Some fairly small countries such as Luxembourg (.lu) and Singapore (.sg) are substantial manufacturing and business centers in their own right. Others leapt in international notice when oil was discovered: United Arab Emirates (.ae) and Bahrain (.bh) to name just a couple.

There is a limit to the country-codes available if we stick to two positions of two letters each: 26 squared = 676 possible suffixes. You can register your country if you hurry.

The deep ocean & the cyber-namespace

Some interesting island countries prominent in the name game ...

  • .cc — Cocos (Keeling) Islands

    Island group in the Indian Ocean, south of Sumatra and west of Australia; a territory of Australia. Discovered for the West by Captain Keeling in 1609. Population 635.

    Country-code sounds like: Carbon Copy in a business letter. (A useful term, but computer printers and photocopiers have made it a dead metaphor; no one uses carbon paper anymore.)

    Postage stamps first issued in 1963.

    Australian govt | CIA Factbook | OceanDots

  • .to — Tonga

    Island group in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Fiji and southwest of Samoa. Captain Cook called them the Friendly Islands. Population 100,000.

    Country-code sounds like: going TO somewhere.

    Postage stamps first issued in 1886.

    "[Post offices] exist on four islands and occasional mail also operates from Niuatobutabu and Niuafoou. The latter has no harbour, and mail for the islanders used to be floated ashore in a tin can and picked up by swimmers who would come out one or two miles. Mail for despatch was brought out by the swimmers. In later years canoes replaced the swimmers after one was attacked by a shark." — The Stamp Atlas

    Tonga | CIA Factbook | US State Dept

  • .tv — Tuvalu

    Island group in the South Pacific Ocean, east of the Solomon Islands and north of Fiji. Formerly the Ellice Islands. Population 11,000.

    Country-code sounds like: TeleVision. (If you want to be on tv, here's your chance.)

    The .tv Corporation managing the Internet country-code since 1998 as a monopoly of the Tuvalu government, was purchased at the end of 2001 by VeriSign (a U.S. demi-monopoly).

    Postage stamps first issued by Britain for the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Protectorate in 1911; by Tuvalu in 1976.

    Despite the atoll setting, no connection to the Tuvela Theory has yet been proven; see The Demon Breed by James H. Schmitz.

    Tuvalu | CIA Factbook | US State Dept | OceanDots

    Nukufetau, a rectangular atoll

  • .ws — Samoa

    Island group in the South Pacific Ocean, northeast of Fiji and north of Tonga. Formerly German Samoa, 1900-1914; Western Samoa until 1997. Population 180,000.

    Country-code sounds like: World Site (according to the promoters, anyway).

    Postage stamps first issued by Germany in 1900: Reichspost overprinted Samoa; "quickly replaced by the standard German colonial design in the same year." By New Zealand, overprinted Samoa in 1920; by Western Samoa in 1962. — The Stamp Atlas

    Samoa | CIA Factbook | US State Dept | OceanDots

A one-cent magenta stamp

[ On a steamer to British Guiana, in search of a second copy of its ultra-rare one-cent magenta stamp of 1856. ]

Dewey Duck:

Unca Donald, it says here that back in the Sixteenth Century, explorers went to Guiana looking for El Dorado ... a legendary Gilded Man! He was said to cover himself entirely with gold!

Sir Walter Raleigh made three expeditions up the Orinoco, but never found him.

Donald Duck:

Uh, oh! If those explorers couldn't find a gilded man, what chance have I to find a stamp?

Oh well, if we don't find anything, we'll have a lot of fun looking!

Carl Barks
"The Gilded Man"
Donald Duck Four Color #422, September 1952

The Carl Barks Library of
Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures in Color


Please note that despite these gilded — if not altogether glowing — side-effects of sovereignty, we do not wish to make fun of the inhabitants personally of any countries, large or small.


© 2001 Robert Wilfred Franson


Country-codes arranged by name & by suffix from Theodora, each linking to further information.

The World Factbook from the Central Intelligence Agency. Each country profile also shows the flag and a map.

Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. State Department. Each Consular Fact Sheet has information and links useful to travelers.

The Stamp Atlas
by W. Raife Wellsted & Stuart Rossiter
cartography by John Flower
Macdonald: London; 1986;
Facts On File: New York; 1986

R.W. Franson's
Domain Name Bargains:
Alms for Oblivion

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Eric S. Raymond's memoir
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The First Time I Changed History

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in the older manner sent & reviewed in Private
though carried by the Public post


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