A Short Illustrated History of Cryptostamps

Welcome to this short illustrated history of cryptostamps. It’s short because so far not many cryptostamps were issued, but also because it does not seem to me the craze of cryptostamps really caught on. Future will have to convince the eager non-believer in me, but for the time being it’s fair to assume postal administrations will not bulk up on this geeky topical interest too much in the future.

What are crpytostamps?

First off, is it cryptostamp, or crpyto-stamp? Its novelty effect for me is showcased perfectly by the fact it’s often written with a hyphen. Remember the time we were writing e-mail instead of email? All newly coined words come out as hybrids and it’s only speaker community acceptance that gives the verdict, whether the coinage will stay with us as a linguistic stampe, or will replace completely the trite stamp, or will vanish forever and not be remembered by anyone.

What is a cryptostamp after all? A crpyotstamp is a stamp with a fancy design, loads of security elements, virtual currency trading options, and to top it all, with a twin virtual stamp associated to it through a secure connection.

Fancy design: for sure, as you will see below, crpytostamp design is inclusive of all high-tech offset printing findings. There are film printings, inlays, engravings, biodegradable latex scratchcards, credit-card shaped plastic bases, cutoffs, you name it. Packaging comes as an extra – some come in sleek holders and presentation packs.

Pictured above an Austrian crpytostamp. It is sold in a plastic holder similar to creditcard holders and a carton presentation pack.

Security elements: oftentimes QR codes, hidden keyword or codes under latex scratchcards, peel-offs, tamper seals. You can definitely know whether your item was used or not by simply checking all the security elements. In addition, redeeming your virtual stamp means you have to be more on the tech-savvy side and understand smart contracts, Ethereum blockchains, security protocols, and virtual currency trading.

The security elements give a total new dimension to stamps being mint: from the moment even the seal has been tampered with, not to mention something being scratched or peeled off, they are no longer mint, but in a limbo between ‘new’ and potentially ‘used’.

Pictured above two holders of crpytostamps with ifferent seal states: (A) original, not tampered with; (B) tampered with, where the word geöffnet (German for open) is visible.

Virtual currency trading options: the stamps are issued in a quite steep pricing in local currency but some have bitcoin value. For sure, it was only a matter of time until bitcoin-priced stamps were truly bound to happen. It was also unavoidable for stamp world not to include at a certain point in time gamification experiences. Because yes, you can claim, achieve, trade, or take over cryptostamps, so buckle up and be a good sport! And there’s a prize in it at the end, as the pricing is relative to the number and security elements of the stamp you purchased, incrementally going to a lot more than you invest in a stamp. To give you an example: the first-ever crpytostamp issued by Austria has a face value of 6.9EUR. In catalogue value terms (Michel catalog no: 3470) it’s now priced 120EUR in mint. In its virtual value, at first activation its value is 0.00166 ETH (a little less than 0.5EUR at the time of writing this article) – but through tradeoffs it can incrementally get to as much as 13,000EUR!

Twin stamps: when you buy a crpytostamp, you don’t buy just the physical copy of the stamp, but a twin virtual stamp that you can add to a wallet, or personal virtual collection. And now that’s the moment stamp collectors dread the most: our beautiful, flimsy, ephemerical stamps we hold so dear got to the cloud. The twin stamps may or may not resemble the physical copy, or may present several varieties of color and design. Which means, after all, that buying just one copy of the virtual stamp does not get you the full deck of varieties – you’d have to buy potentially hundreds of crpytostamp to complete your collection of virtual varieties.

Crpytostamps: A buyer’s guide

Caveat emptor, as ancient Romans used to say makes a lot of sense in the case of crpytostamps. While with regular stamps it makes no difference in the bigger picture where you bought them and from whom, with cryptostamps it’s a totally different story.

Rule #1: be a first buyer and buy your cryptostamps from an official store. Why? There’s already a connection made between the first to purchase and the virtual copy of the stamp. By getting the crpytostamp from just someone, you do not know how many times it changed hands, and who you are helping to trade up in crpytocurrency.

Rule#2: make sure the item was not tampered with. That is why crpytostamps come packed with so many security elements. Tampered with items may mean that either someone was just curious, but it may also mean ill-willing sellers who sell you empty shells instead of silver bullets, with them keeping ownership of the already redeemed virtual stamp. On eBay there are numerous sellers of crpytostamps who in an effort to maximize the advertising of their items reveal in product pictures even the QR codes in high resolution. I tried out one only to be confirmed that the seller was actually already the owner of the virtual stamp.

Rule#3: buy early on. If you keep pondering on whether to buy or not the stamps, you may find out it’s too late. First of all because the stamps are issued in quite limited printruns. Second of all, because second market buying gets you in the unwanted position described under Rule#1 and Rule#2.

Rule#4: don’t invest if you don’t know how to trade in virtual currency (or have not read my guide). I have recently talked to a collector who has thought it wise to purchase as many as 200 crpytostamps on eBay, thrilled by the fact they were available at face-value. Of course, all 200 had been already redeemed.

Rule#5: don’t go parading around your superduper crpytostamp collection. Or, if you do, like I do, make sure to blur the code areas. You never know who will grab you treasure otherwise.


Cryptostamps are real since Jun-11, 2019. Mark this date in your calendar as either the date of a breakthrough, or a flop. Will the first ever crpytostamp, issued on that date in Austria, be featured stamp-on-stamp 100 years on, as the eminent Penny Black was? I very much doubt that. For the time being, ground-breaking as they are cryptostamps act as an eye-opener to the seamless ways in which high-tech, cryptocurrencies, gamification experiences and printing tecniques can be used in novel ways in stamps. Below you will see the 9 crpytostamps which were issued until now. Enjoy!


Austria

Austria not only issued the first-ever cryptostamp, being at the vanguard of such disruptive actions, but also holds at the time the pole position for issuing the most cryptostamps – a number of 5 such stamps have been issued so far.

Pictured above, world’s first crypto stamp, issued on Jun-11, 2019 by Austrian Post. It created quite a buzz on its first day of issue, and to date people go chasing unicorns online, in search of the elusive pink unicorn that supposedly is available in just rare copies of the virtual twin stamp.


Spurred by the momentum created by their first cryptostamp, Austria went on and issued as much as 4 more crpytostamps in one blow, on Jun-25, 2020. This time they upped their game, making the virtual color varieties harder to get, and the number of combinations between physical base color and virtual color up to 20 – as each of the virtual equivalents can come in black, blue, green, yellow, or red.


Croatia

On Sep-09, 2020 Croatia also jumped on the crpytostamp train and issued its first cryptostamp for Stamp Day, and in honor of 180 years since the issue of the Penny Black.

Pictured above (front)
Pictured above (back)

The virtual copies are separated into tiers, each of them consecrated to one of the means of transportation and communication: combined transport, rail, plane, boat, or drone. Is it just me or indeed it’s the first time a drone is featured on a stamp?


United Nations

I already presented the United Nations crpytostamps in my post devoted to their latest releases from 2020 here.

Since 2018, UN takes pride in its Strategy on New Technologies, aimed at defining how UN will support the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, blockchain and robotics in a way prone to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. 

In an effort to embody this agenda, the UN Postal Administration issues for the first time in its existence crypto-stamps on 24-Nov, 2020, running on an Ethernet blockchain. Knowing this is still a novelty item, and its use needs to be handled with care, the UN Stamps are complemented by a new website, unstamps.org/crypto, where users can buy, activate, and/or trade their crypto-stamps. Of course, as crypto-stamps have made it clear since they entered our lives, there’s a redeemable virtual copy of each stamp, which you can obtain via the activation process described on the dedicated website. 

The crypto-stamps are in a novel, credit-sized format and are self-adhesive. To ensure security, codes are hidden under scratchcard bands made from biodegradable latex. A total of 90,000 stamps was issued (30,000 per issuing authority); however the variations which are possible amount to 51 – as each stamp apears in as much as 17 varieties each, each variety being associated to one of the Sustainable Development Goals. According to the press release from 24-Nov, 2020 equal quantities have been provided from each sustainable goal variety.


Stamps featured in post: 9; Period: contemporary (2019-2020); Michel Catalog numbers and prices: Austria: Mi3470 – 120EUR; Mi3537-3540 – 64EUR; Croatia & United Nations: not provided at the time of publishing this article Availability: very scarce.

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