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.
Many countries take pride in the heritage of their traditional folk costumes, detailing at various degrees of individuality the differnet local flavors and epochs of the making of the traditional costume. Romania is no exception to this rule, its vividly colored and intricately woven traditional clothes being given voice on stamps on various occasions. Some regional varieties find themselves also on stamps of other countries as well – Moldova is one such example, due to the common heritage, but also Poland and Thailand rendered homage to Romanian traditional folk costumes in joint issues with Romania.
I excluded from the article examples of stamps in which the focus falls on something different than attire – the stamps featuring traditional folk costume but dedicated to traditions, dances, historical scenes, etc. – these deserving their own articles. I concentrated on the ones which showcase the varieties of local folk costume from traditional Romanian regions.
Let’s start with this early example of Romanian folk costume on stamps, issued in 1936.
Issued to celebrate the 6th anniversary of King Charles II’s accession to throne, it features stamps showing traditional attire from Oltenia, Banat, Săliște, Hațeg, Gorj, Neamț, and Bucovina. The majority concentrates on women’s traditional clothes, but there are two examples of men’s traditional clothing.
Theodor Herzl (in Hungarian: Herzl Tivadar, in Hebrew: בנימין זאב הרצל) was a Hungarian-Austrian playwright and journalist, but is best known for substantiating the Zionist movement, and is considered today the maker of the Jewish homeland in Israel. Born in Pest (today Budapest) in 1860, he is the author of the epoch-making book Der Judenstaat (Versuch einer modernen Lösung der Judenfrage) (in English: The Jewish State: Proposal of a Modern Solution for the Jewish Question), published in 1896 and considered the starting point of the modern movement of creating a Jewish state. Herzl strongly believed that the answer to the ever-growing anti-Semitism is the creation of a Jewish state, preferably in Palestine, but also envisaging different other options, among which Argentina. His writings gave a lot of impetus to the Zionist movement, which was aimed at the foundation of a Jewish homeland, but is now associated with pro-Israeli movements worldwide. Herzl died in 1904, not getting to see the day of Israeli independence in 1948; but is mentioned by name in the Israeli Declaration of Independence as the “spiritual father of the Jewish state”.
Given Herzl’s importance for the foundation of Israel, he is commemorated often on Israeli stamps. Some other countries as well, chose to honor the heritage of Theodor Herzl on their stamps.
Austria, together with Hungary and Israel issued in 2004 – the year of Herzl’s death centennial, issued stamps in a three-party joint issue. The stamps are identical in design and show an effigy of Theodor Herzl accompanied by the title of his best-known work, The Jewish State in German, Hungarian, Hebrew and English. Pictured above the Austrian stamp of the joint issue.
I don’t know about you, but I like Commonwealth stamps. I think they are particularly interesting in that they teach us about the state of affairs in the British overseas empire as if taking a snapshot of the territories which were still under British rule at the time and at the same time they show an awesome organization (at least if we were to judge the postal system) of the said empire.
I have written before about Commonwealth stamps – more specifically about the 1953 Coronation stamps; and I think alongside Coronation, the Freedom from Hunger campaign and the Red Cross Centennial are some of the most interesting Commonwealth stamps.
The Commonewealth Red Cross Centennial stamps were all issued on 02-Sep, 1963, with two exceptions (the South Arabian Federation issued the stamps later on 25-Nov, 1963 and Tristan da Cunha issued the stamps on 01-Feb, 1964). But just imagine the logistic process of releasing simultaneously in so many territories in times that were not by far as reachable and in a world that for sure did not boast the mobility we now enjoy.
Each of the releases is made of 2 stamps with similar design – one in violet blue and one in anthracite black and feature for their most part the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II and the red cross. Few varieties from the common design are noticeable; for instance the New Hebrides and South Arabian Federation releases do not feature the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II at all (with the New Hebrides issue featuring in addition the note ‘RF’ for République française (English: French Republic); and the Tonga issue showing the effigy of Queen Salote Tupou III instead of Queen Elizabeth II. Also of note is the fact that the South Arabian Federation stamps are no. 1 and 2 respectively in catalog numbers, being the first issues of the territory.
Pictured above the releases of: Antigua; Acension; Bahamas; Basutoland; Betchuanaland Protectorate; Bermuda; British Guyana; British Honduras; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Dominica; Falkland Islands; Federation of South Arabia; Fiji; Gambia; Gibraltar; Gilbert & Ellice Islands; Grenanda.
This article is about one of my all-time favorite definitive series of stamps, issued by Togo between 1964-1965 and totaling 22 stamps. The stamps show the exotic flora and fauna in very nice miniatures, some of the varieties of plants, animals or birds being pictured for the first time on stamps, or the only time! The stamps have by now a vintage look and are a true delight for the avid collector.
Pictured above: tiger orchid (Odontoglossum grande); mallow (Hibiscus); the African swallowtail (Papilio dardanus); morpho aega (Morpho aega); the emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator).
In 2018, the year in which Romania celebrated 100 years of independence and national unity, the Romanian Post issued in two batches a definitive series of stamps picturing famous Romanians. It’s been a while since a series of definitive stamps had been issued – the latest one being released in the 1990’s. The series is brought together by a common sketch-like portrait design and uses pastel colors. There are 18 values in total in the set.
Romanian Post has for some time gone in a quite risky game with its issues, diminishing the printruns to absurdly low quotas (there are stamps and minisheets issued in just a couple of hundreds of copies) and simultaneously raising the face value of stamps to similarly absurd values – values which do not correspond to franking needs. All of this points out to the fact that in an attempt to simplify their business model (sell less, earn more) they also make it kind of impossible for collectors to actually secure in their collections the latest releases.
The Famous Romanians definitive series of 2018 is no exception. Not only is it issued in quite a small printrun (some of the higher face value stamps are issued in something short of 20k copies), but also the face values are extreme, with the highest face value topping at 28.5 Romanian lei (6.85 EUR at the time of the issue). To just secure the entire set at face value, a collector would need to spend 111.5 Romanian lei (27.8 EUR at the time of the issue). That, of course, if they made it in time, many of the values of the series being as of 2020 already unavailable.
But let’s come back to the personalities pictured on the stamps. 17 of 18 have been active in their respective domains in the 20th century – which brings about the connection with the first century of Romanian independence and unity. Surprisingly, just one famous Romanian from the distant past is pictured in the series; Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723), a famous Romanian scientist and politician.
An interesting fact is presented by the choice of famous Romanian in terms of them being a mix of people already honored on Romanian stamps, but also personalities which are for the first time commemorated on a stamp. Sofia Ionescu-Ogrezeanu, Ion Cantacuzino, Cella Delavrancea, George Apostu, Elvira Popescu are for the first time recognized as influential Romanians.
Pictured above: Cella Delavrancea (1887-1991, writer and piano player); Dimitrie Paciurea (1873-1932, sculptor); Victor Brauner (1903-1966, French-Romanian surrealist painter and sculptor).
I have started collecting Astérix on stamps 2 decades ago when the French Post issued Astérix-themed stamps for Stamp Day. 2 decades later I am puzzled why there are so little Astérix stamps, given the fact that we are talking about a French epitome of an iconic comics character. There are of course the French stamps, and then some stamps issued by Belgium, Germany, and even Guernsey. But that’s about it. I think that Astérix is the perfect character for a stamp and can match so many collections.
The first Astérix were issued surprisingly neither by France or Belgium, but by Guernsey back in 2002.
This article is about the French Post issues of greeting stamps from 1999-2020. Since 1999, French Post issued on a yearly basis, roughly at the beginning of each year, heart-shaped stamps in singles (1-2 per year, both gummed and self-adhesive) accompanied by sheets in vivid colors. Twenty-two such issues are known to date. Thematically, they correspond to a lot of topics: they are of course greeting stamps, but also irregularly shaped stamps. They are love stamps or Valentine’s Day stamps. Last but not least, since for the majority of issues the design was inspired by the heritage of fashion designers, couturiers, perfumers, jewelers, producers of luxury goods, crystal manufacturers and watch-makers, they are fashion stamps.
La Poste issued greeting stamps irregularly since 1994, but it was not until 1999 that a true tradition was started, which is kept until today. In the beginning of the year, one of the first releases is a set of stamps which are heart-shaped. Heart-shaped stamps were not a novelty in 1999. The first (self-adhesive) heart-shaped stamps were issued as early as 1964 by Tonga. But in 1999 heart-shaped stamps were still a rarity – especially the gummed, perforated variety.
I assume there was no plan in the beginning – just the sheer joy of sharing philatelic products that stand out by their shape, coloring and universal message of love. But very fast it became clear this is becoming a tradition, and each year showed new releases which gradually started to fashion a long-lasting collaboration between famous French brands and philately.
To date, some of the most widely known house names of France have contributed to the series; among the names you will find Yves Saint-Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Chanel, Givenchy, Lanvin, Hermès or Guerlain.
The first 1999 issue was not branded and is the only issue that was represented on a sheet with two different designs, totalling 10 stamps. The further issues average at 5 stamps per sheet.
Swedish-born humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg is one of my all-time heroes. Needless to say, the fact that there are stamps around that commemorate his great person is a thrill for me. I started collecting Raoul Wallenberg stamps shortly after reading John Bierman‘s book Righteous Gentile: The Story of Raoul Wallenberg, Missing Hero of the Holocaust as part of my larger Holocaust commemorative collection.
Raoul Wallenberg has all it takes to be a hero, all the more a mysterious one. A Swedish architect born in 1912, he served as envoy to the Swedish Embassy in Hungary during WWII. He undertook life-threatening actions, through which he procured fake Swedish papers, thus saving tens of thousands of Jews from Hungary. I say life-threatening as his destiny is to date not known: as of 1945 he is listed as disappeared, and among the theories that surround his disapperance there’s death, kidnapping, imprisonment – none of which were confirmed.
His disappearance caused international actions of rescue – mostly motivated and engaged by his family, but also by the ones he himself rescued, but did not turn up any new conclusive evidence. It is assumed, due to the passage of time, that 108 years after his birth, he is no longer living.
His humanitarian role was honored in multiple ways and continues to be so. He was the second person to be granted honorary citizenship of the United States of America (after Winston Churchill), and the first one to be granted this right posthumously. He was also granted honorary citizenships in Canada, Australia, Hungary, and Israel. He is considered one of the most prominent Righteous among Nations by the State of Israel.
Raoul Wallenberg’s story on stamps is an important legacy that needs to be perpetuated. In my opinion, there are never enough Raoul Wallenberg stamps. I would like to see his personality, humanitarianism and humbleness honored on even more stamps than today.