Iceland, Puffin Stamps, 2013

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently returned from an amazing holiday in Iceland. While there, I made it a point to get to a local post office and pick up some of the country’s newest stamp issues. This is one of my favorites—a simple puffin design rendered in an indigenous art style.

 

I also really enjoyed these bright red post boxes, so easy to spot in Iceland’s little towns and villages.

Iceland, Viking Ship Stamps, 1969

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Stamp Drawer was briefly on hiatus due to a freelance project frenzy and some traveling, but now it’s back! I had an amazing time exploring Iceland a few weeks ago and, coincidentally, some vintage Icelandic stamps have just surfaced in the Stamp Drawer. This handsome pair, depicting one element of the nation’s storied history—the Viking ship—was released in 1969. I love the simple, graphic treatment of this iconic image, loose line drawings disappearing into the negative space of the stamp’s margins.

For those of you who’d like to add these to your collection, they’re Scott numbers 404 and 405. I picked up quite a few contemporary issues from a post office in Reykjavik while visiting and will share those shortly. In the meantime, happy collecting!

Berlin, Animal Semi-Postal Stamps, 1968

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Alright guys. These stamps, issued in Berlin in 1968, are some of my favorite animal stamps of all time. They are part of a semi-postal series intended to raise funds for child welfare causes (“Für Die Jugend”). See the additional denomination shown under the postal rate (+5 on the Wild Cat stamp, for instance)? That means that, when a customer purchased these stamps, he or she paid a surcharge that supported charitable programs within the issuing country or state. 

Here in the US, semi-postals are popular; one of the most well known is our Breast Cancer Research stamp, which has been available from the USPS since first issued in 1998, and has raised over $76 million for the National Institutes of Health and a Department of Defense research program.    

The stamps above are just four of dozens of wildlife stamps designed by a fellow named Froitzheim. I am really drawn to his bold, graphic designs. And pretty excited that there are so many others to add to my collection. Unfortunately, though, (as is the case with many other stamp designers), I have had difficulty finding more information about Froitzheim’s career and other work. 

A bit of postal history now: In the past I just bundled all of my German stamps together, but realized after researching this set that many of my favorite stamps were actually issued by Berlin’s post—Deutsche Bundespost Berlin—a local postal entity which operated during Germany’s post-war divided period, from 1948 to 1990.  

Bulgaria, Airmail Etiquette, 1989

This morning we have a nice bit of postal ephemera in the stamp drawer: an airmail stamp from Bulgaria issued in 1989. I removed this from an envelope that also had an interesting Bulgarian stamp affixed to it and kept it because I thought it was charming in an of itself. 

This is not technically a stamp, though; it is what philatelists call a cinderella—a label, sticker or stamp that looks and feels like a stamp and may serve some purpose within the postal system, but, in most cases, does not indicate postage paid as a stamp does. Cinderellas are usually discarded by collectors and are not catalogued the way postage stamps are, but there are a lot of handsome examples out there.

There are many types of cinderellas—poster stamps, charity stamps, revenue stamps and so on, as well as special purpose stamps indicating a piece of mail will be ferried by air, or rail, or some other means. Our Bulgarian example is a bit of “airmail etiquette.” These have become superfluous in postal systems, as most mail now travels by air. But there are plenty of vintage etiquettes floating around that are as attractive and collectible as the stamps they accompanied on letters sent abroad. As I come across more I will share them here. 

Japan, Year of the Rabbit, 1951

I came across this charming stamp a few years ago at a stamp show and just adore it. Though it celebrates the Year of the Rabbit, it reminds me of spring and Easter as well, so I thought it might be a nice time to share it with you. 

I found one reference crediting this stamp’s design to Saburo Watanabe. I’m wondering if this is the same illustrator of the 1967 Japanese children’s book The Rolling Rice Ball, soon to be reprinted by Kaisei-Sha. I will be investigating this further, as I’m always fascinated by the connection between stamp design and children’s illustration.

Liechtenstein, Fairy Tale Stamps, 1969

Today in the stamp drawer is a wonderful set of stamps from Liechtenstein. Issued in 1969, these stamps depict three classic fairy tales and were designed by Louis Jaeger. I really love the dynamic gestures of the characters in these designs. Jaeger is responsible for a slew of handsome stamp designs issued over the decades, the most recent being this issue from 2012

Japan, Year of the Snake Stamp, 1989

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Happy Year of the Snake guys! Today in the stamp drawer we have a stamp issued by Japan in 1989 to honor the Year of the Earth Snake. (We have just entered the Year of the Water Snake.) Best wishes to all of you! In related astrological philatelic news, don’t miss the stamp I designed last month to commemorate the Chinese New Year :) 

US, Humane Treatment of Animals Stamps, 1966

imageToday I am sharing a stamp that I like both for its design and its message. I love animals and I appreciate that countries sometimes issue stamps that validate this simple but sometimes neglected value—that of kindness to animals. 

Several months ago, while walking my own dog Russell, I saw a man dragging a little poodle, who was clearly injured, across the street. The man was exasperated and the dog—tethered by a leash—could not keep up with his fury; he was limping and falling, falling and limping, scrambling to get back on his feet. This continued down the street as far as I could see. This image haunts me and I regret not running after them. I don’t know what I could have done… perhaps, at a minimum, by stopping them, the dog could have had a moment’s respite.  

This stamp reminds me of that moment and that little dog. And of course, of the countess other animals who endure far worse treatment at the hands of their people. It reminds me that I am not the only person appalled by that kind of treatment. Even in 1966, when this stamp was issued, Americans valued their animal companions and efforts to ensure their welfare. Nearly fifty years later, the message is still relevant and this stamp’s charming design is a legacy to that.

Bulgaria, Historic Sailing Ships Stamps, 1986

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I am in love with these stamps. They are some of the first stamps I collected and in pretty crummy condition (I’m now a bit pickier about the condition of stamps I collect). They’re also part of a six stamp set which I have yet to complete. Though these were issued in 1986 they share some stylistic similarities with these Bulgarian stamps issued two decades earlier—a folky design aesthetic and a minimal but vivid palette that I’ve come to love in stamps from Eastern Europe in general.  

Czechoslovakia, Prague Music Festival Stamp, 1967

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This afternoon I’d like to share a stamp that I love for its quirky lettering treatment. Issued by Czechoslovakia in 1967 to commemorate the Prague Music Festival, this stamp, appropriately, has a really melodic feel. I love the design’s flourishes and uneven letter heights and baselines. The decorative floral treatment dividing “Československo” and “Pražské” takes on a shape reminiscent of a musical instrument. A really charming addition to the stamp drawer collection, I think!