Emoji have been with us barely 20 years and gained popularity in the 2010’s, when more and more communication systems starting introducing them in their keyboard choice. Remarkably, they caught on in all cultures, even if they originated in Japan, and became an integral part of our everyday communication – to the extent that in 2015, Oxford dictionaries named the face with tears of joy emoji (😂) the Word of the Year!
So what are emoji? Well, to understand it better, let’s look at the etymology of the word, which, of course, is Japanese – emoji (Japanese: 絵文字) is a word that really has nothing to do with emotions – they are pictograms (絵 is a drawing, while 文字 is a symbol). So they are images that stand in for words, a thing that is not dissimilar to the use of Chinese characters, where some still remind us of the original ‘form’ of the concept they describe (for example you can easily remember that 川 is a river, 山 is a mountain, or 森 is a forest). In the same way, you can easily remember that 🐣 is a hatching chick, or that 💄 is a bar of lipstick. But, unlike Chinese characters, they can gain new meanings, depending on how the users interpret them. The hatching chick can be used when seeing the truth with clarity for the first time, just like a chick that’s just been hatched, while the bar of lipstick can be used to express one keeping their cool in difficult situations.
As tomorrow is the World Emoji Day (Jul-17), I thought we’d look at the presence of emoji on stamps (which is rapidly growing, and making emoji one of the cutest topical interests there is). Why Jul-17? Well, the calendar emoji (📅) displays that date!
Taiwan issued in 2005 a first example of emoji stamps, however in their rudimentary form, known as emoticons. Emoticons, unlike emoji, have to do something with emotions (the name is a portmanteau word for emotion and icon). They are simple or complex sequences of keys that can be looked at as facial expressions or objects when one tilts their head to the left.
In 2015, Estonia issued a series of stamps with the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, featuring Estonian innovations, among which we can find Skype. The Skype stamp features a smiling face emoticon, and the TransferWise stamp a monochrome one. While the connection with Skype is understandable, since emoji have been incorporated even in the earliest versions of Skype, I kind of do not get the connection with TransferWise.
Pictured above, the sheet of four adhesive stamps issued on the occasion.
For the emoji 20th anniversary in 2017, Ireland was one of the countries which created a homage to them. Two emoji-bedecked stamps were issued on the occasion.
The two stamps feature rows of random face emoji, with the text “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in English and Irish (Ná bí buartha, bí sona) spread across the two stamps.
Also Switzerland issued 2 stamps devoted to emoji in 2017, but unlike Ireland, they used more imaginative emoji. Even the pile of poop (💩) made it on a stamp!
France issued in 2018 the largest set of stamps featuring emoji – as much as 12 adhesive stamps printed in a three-fold booklet of timbre vert. Featuring emoji is an understatement – as these stamps actually show compositions made entirely of emoji. Although the overall booklet is too gaudily colorful and sort of kitchy, each stamp by itself makes a nice show.
Last but not least, Germany issued in 2019 a letter-writing theme stamp featuring emoji with the text “Ich schreib mal wieder” (“I will write again”).
For sure this is not the end of the story of emoji on stamps. Given their current popularity, they are sure to pop up again on stamps.
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Stamps featured in post: 25; Period: contemporary (2005-2019); Pricing: low; Availability: not readily available.