The International Red Cross knows no borders, and stamps from many lands are an important way of honoring the humanitarian work of this vital organization.

On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Red Cross, a number of nations have issued sets of stamps. Among them are sets issued by the British Virgin Islands and Belize.The British Virgin Islands has released a set of four stamps and a souvenir sheet. The 12-cent depicts a graphic warning, "Don't Swim Alone." Above the sketch of the swimmer is the inscription, "125th Anniversary International Red Cross." The 30-cent shows a warning for individuals not to swim during electrical storms.

The 60-cent illustrates a warning to bathers not to eat before swimming. The $1 features a warning for boaters to make sure they have the proper equipment before embarking. The $2 souvenir sheet consists of four stamps illustrating various lifesaving techniques taught by the Red Cross.

Belize, the former British colony in Central America that was once known as British Honduras, has issued a set of four stamps commemorating the Red Cross anniversary.

The 60-cent shows a Red Cross public health nurse (circa 1912) making her rounds in a horse-drawn buggy. The 75-cent depicts a Red Cross hospital ship and ambulance boat on the waters in 1937. The $1 pictures a Red Cross field ambulance of 1956. The $2 features a Red Cross ambulance airplane of 1940.

The International Red Cross movement was established in Geneva in 1863. This anniversary set, as well as the others, can be obtained from your local dealer.

---

Cape Verde, an island chain some 400 miles off the west coast of Africa, has issued a set of six stamps commemorating old European maps that feature the tiny island nation.

The maps range from a 17th-century Dutch map to a more recent English map. The 1-escudo depicts a 17th-century map from the Netherlands. The 2.50-escudos shows an 18th-century French map, and the 4.50-escudos shows an 18th-century Belgian map. The 9.50-escudos has an English map of Cape Verde from the 18th century. The 19.50-escudos illustrates a l9th-century English map, while the highest value, the 20-escudos, features a different 18th-century French map.

The Cape Verde Islands, a former Portuguese colony, were once an important stop on the shipping route from Europe to Africa and from Africa to North and South America.

---

The U.S. Postal Service has added two stamps to its 1989 schedule: a commemorative in the Literary Arts Series honoring Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, and a definitive stamp in the Great Americans Series honoring Sitting Bull, famous Sioux Indian chief.

First on the agenda, though, will be an "America the Beautiful" 15-cent postal card depicting a desert. It is scheduled to be issued Jan. 13 in Tucson, Ariz. On Jan. 15, there will be a 25-cent stamp hailing Montana's statehood. Another 15-cent postal card, due Jan. 23, in the Historic Preservation Series will feature Healy Hall.

Next week's column will detail the 1989 U.S. stamp schedule.

---

The U.S. Stamp Collectors Society is offering Scott's "Beginner's Stamp Collecting Kit." It includes a 16-page album with space for hundreds of U.S. stamps, as well as 35 U.S. stamps, 500 hinges and a 96-page illustrated booklet, "Linn's Stamp Collecting Made Easy." As a bonus, there is a collection of U.S. commemoratives that includes some early issues. The U.S. Postal Service Stamp Collecting Pamphlet is part of the package. The cost is $15.95.

A bigger package is also available. It contains the "Minuteman" U.S. album, a starter collection of 300 different U.S. stamps from 1892 to 1988, a 200-page book on how to collect stamps and 1,000 hinges. Price: $39.95.

Order from: U.S. Stamp Collectors Society, P.O. Box 854, Van Nuys, CA 91408.

Either makes an excellent last-minute Christmas gift for the philatelist on your list.

---

Egypt has issued a new stamp honoring Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz. It shows Mahfouz on a medal that bears the inscription, "Naguib Mahfouz, Nobel Prize of Letters 1988." He wrote 13 narrative collections and 32 novels. Mahfouz is the first Egyptian to win a Nobel Prize of Letters, according to the National Postal Organization in Cairo.