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IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS (FOR STAMPS)

It may be a little early for Christmas, but some countries already are releasing their 1994 Christmas issuances.

The first Christmas set to be noted comes from the Bailiwick of Jersey, an island in the English Channel. The theme of this year's set of four is "Christmas Carols" featuring a quartet of traditional carols highlighting the religious nature of the holiday.Each stamp illustrates aspects of the story with a decorative border quoting the first few words of the carol.

The 18 pence depicts "Away in a manger . . . no crib for a bed." The 23 pence shows "Hark the Herald angels sing . . . Glory to the newborn King." The 41 pence portrays "While shepherds watched their flocks by night." The 60 pence displays "We three Kings of Orient are . . . Bearing gifts we traverse far."

Of course, no Christmas issuance can be complete without stamps from Christmas Island, a small (135 square miles) island in the Indian Ocean, 230 miles south of Indonesia.

The Christmas Island stamps are issued each September to enable its citizens, as well as stamp collectors throughout the world, to obtain the stamps. Local Christmas Island residents need the items for their overseas mailings.

The 40 cents shows angels heralding the birth of Christ, the 45 cents depicts the kings from the East offering gifts. The 80 cents pictures the kings arriving at the inn in Bethlehem.

The four Jersey stamps are available for $10.95, first-day covers $12.95, both for $19.95. The three Christmas Island stamps can be purchased for $10.95. Send to Christmas Collectors Society, P.O. Box 480655, Los Angeles, CA 90048.