This post refers to sets of stamps issued worldwide showing the signs of the solar zodiac, also known as the Western, or European zodiac. To make the choice of stamps easier, I deliberately chose to represent only sets of stamps in which each of the 12 signs is devoted at least one stamp, and in which all 12 signs are represented.
Browsing stamp catalogs, I was surprised to see that actually the number of 12+ stamp sets picturing the zodiac is not as big as I supposed it would be. There are for sure many sets devoted to the zodiac, but ‘full’ sets seem to be the exeption, rather than the norm. Also, such sets took some time to surface: it is only from the beginning of the 1960’s that zodiac stamps appeared and picked up in popularity. However, one thing is for sure – from the very beginning such stamps vied in terms of how singular their design is and tried to fit into stamps quite impressive wealth of detail.
Below you will see the 20+ full sets of at least 12 zodiac stamps I was able to identify in catalogs, and luckily, in my collection! Zodiac stamps make for a quite ambitious topical interest, as you have to collect full sets totaling large number of stamps, and also because they are not, despite my initial assumption, so easy to find.
Starting in A-Z order, here is a set from 1971 from Ajman, depicting the stained glass horoscope from Notre Dame in Paris. In addition to this embedded set of signs of the zodiac in stained glass, Notre Dame also features a second set of signs of the zodiac in sculptural panels on its western facade, associated each to seasonal agricultural labors.
This set contains three 4-block of humorous drawings featuring representations of each of the signs of the zodiac and was issued in 2007, both in gummed and self-adhesive forms. For each of the signs you can see a positive and well, a not so positive attribute, so you can call these also horoscope stamps.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina issued this fantasy set of the signs of the zodiac in 2004, in two versions, gummed and self-adhesive, both pictured above. The gummed set is in sheet format, with ample English-language descriptions of the signs. The descriptions are missing from the self-adhesive set, which was released in booklet format.
Canada put collectors at an endurance test with this release, gradually releasing 4 stamps from the set in three consecutive years between 2011-2013. I really like the stamps from the set, pictured above in the 3 sheets that sum up the series, and I think that as individual stamps used for franking they are quite an eye-catcher!
The above set comes from the Czech Republic and was released as 1-2 stamps between 1998-2003, making the collection of a full set quite difficult. The series is a definitive one, and I like the delicate details of the engravings, each of the stamp falls just nicely into the set.
Our next stop is France! France issued two complete sets of the signs of the zodiac, the first one between 1978-1979, and the second one in 2014.
I can’t say I am a big fan of this definitive set, the thing that bothers me is not so much the design itself, which is passable, but the fact the French Post experimented with this kind of ugly and interfering corner cancellation, that is neither a cancellation, nor a CTO stamp. It simply says ‘franked for postal reasons’; there are 2-3 such sets issued in the same period by the French Post and I find some fault or other with each of them. As you can see, you can’t please me easily.
I changed my mind. You can please me easily – give me a set like the above one every day and that would make me happy. I like the colorful, intricate designs, and I am quite with France’s second (and hopefully not last) attempt at putting signs of the zodiac on stamps.
The above set was issued by Greece in 2007 and is by far one of my favorites. I like the dreamy atmosphere of each and every stamp and the way each of them tells a story.
This set from Hungary was released in 2005 and features archaic drawings that were created by the graphic artist Krisztina Renyi.
This set released by the Israeli Post is one of the earliest examples of signs of the zodiac stamps, having been issued in 1961. It is also one of the rare examples where the set is made up not of 12, but 13 stamps – a 13th stamp showing all the signs of the zodiac being added to the series. I like the mosaique-like common design as well as the pastel colors. The quote from the 13th stamp comes from the Talmud, from the first book (Berakhot, 32b) of the tractate Seder Zera’im (in English: The Order of the Seeds) and it says I created 12 constellations on the firmament (in original Hebrew: י׳ב מזלות בראתי ברקיע).
This set was released by the Kazakh Post in 1997, in two installments of 4 and 8 stamps respectively. I like very much the attention to detail in drawing the constellations, and although it’s a simple (and quite accessible) set, I do think it’s a great addition to a topical collection of signs of the zodiac on stamps.
This set from Latvia was released in 2015, and although I can see its merits, it’s a bit too gloomy and heavy for my taste. But you can’t be held back by such trifles once you start a topical interest collection, so I had to add this to my collection!
Liechtenstein as well issued signs of the zodiac on stamps, in 3 yearly installments of 4 stamps between 1976-1978. These I like very much!
This set of Maldives was released in 1974 and it’s not an easy find. I could not locate info about the printrun, but I’ve only rarely seen it available for sale or bid.
These stamps were released by Polish Post in 1996 and just look how funny they are! And, for a change, you don’t even need to speak Polish to get just how funny they are. A second, incomplete set of 10 was released simultaneously, containing just of 11 of the 12 signs (maybe a glitch?) in fluorescent variants.
Romania might have jumped on the signs of the zodiac bandwagon later, but is doing a terrific job. Two sets featuring signs of the zodiac on stamps have so far been issued, one between 2001-2002, and a second one in 2011.
Pictured above the set issued in 2001-2002; while the design of the stamps is quite simple, I like the way they compose together with the vignettes, that pick up the focal element and render it in a simplified, single color form.
Pictured above, the 2011 set, issued in two installments of 6 stamps. The stamps are available as well in sheet format.
Russia also issued a set of signs of the zodiac in stamps, and did so in style. The set, issued in 2004, features on each of the individual stamps star-like embossings and the symbols of each of the signs in silver.
If you’re looking for a place to kickstart your signs of the zodiac collection of stamps, here’s a set from San Marino, issued in 1970. Like most San Marino stamps from the 1970’s it was issued in a generous printrun, is still readily available, and quite cheap.
This eye-catching set of self-adhesives was released by Korean Post in 2015 and is presented in a large-format sheet. I like the attention given to detail and the fact it keeps very well, unlike many other recent self-adhesives.
I chose for the sake of ease to say Spain, but actually the above set is a first – to get a complete set of the 12 signs of the zodiac you’d have to collect all colonial issues from Fernando Poo, IFNI, Sahara and Rio Muni, each of which issued exactly 3 stamps for this set in 1968.
I set off this article by over advertising an A to Z listing, when I should actually have said A to U – as Ukraine is our last stop of this journey of signs of the zodiac on stamps. This set was issued in 2008 and features supercute drawings of children of erratic behavior, each of them a proud representative of their sign.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to subscribe to Philately.Lately. Fresh articles about philately in your inbox, at the frequency you desire (instant/daily/weekly digest).
Stamps featured in post: 277; Period: modern and contemporary (1961-2015); Pricing: low and moderate; Michel Catalog no’s and prices: Ajman Mi769-780 – 4EUR; Australia Mi2798-2809 – 12EUR; Bosnia and Herzegovina Mi323-334 – 8EUR, 343-358 – 7.2EUR; Canada Mi2735-2738 – 6.4EUR; Mi2865-2868 – 6.4EUR; Mi2934-2937 – 6.4EUR; France: Mi2018-2021 – 6EUR; Mi2063-2066 – 7EUR; Mi2112-2115 – 3.8EUR; Mi5765-5776 – 18EUR; Greece Mi2423-2434 – 18EUR; Hungary Mi4993-5004 – 8.5EUR: Israel Mi224-236 – 6.5EUR; Kazakhstan Mi159-162 – 1EUR; Mi168-175 – 3EUR; Latvia Mi950-961 -14EUR; Liechtenstein Mi658-661 – 4.5EUR, Mi669-672 – 5EUR; Mi713-716 – 5EUR; Maldives Mi529-540 – 18EUR; Romania Mi5620-5625 – 15EUR, Mi5628-5633 – 15EUR; Mi6524-6529 – 14EUR, Mi6564-6569 – 14EUR; Russia Mi1155-1166 – 20EUR; San Marino Mi942-953 – 1.7EUR; South Korea Mi3042-3057 – 13EUR; Spain: Fernando Poo Mi261-263 – 1.8EUR, IFNI Mi262-264 – 1.6EUR, Rio Muni Mi83-85 – 1.9EUR; Sahara Mi296-298 – 2EUR; Ukraine Mi924-935 – EUR9 Availability: for their most part, not readily available.