I have never watched “Star Wars” movies because nobody was able to explain to me why I should watch them. Everyone talks in superlatives about this media franchise – it’s all in the limits of “great” and “awesome”, but that gives me little encouragement to watch the movies. I do know that “Star Wars” ranks second in the top of largest of highest-grossing media franchises, and I do know that it all started in 1977 with the first movie. Which was then dubbed the sixth movie. And I do know that this is science fiction as genre goes, however the action happens “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away“.
Even if I am immune to the charms of the “Star Wars” universe, I am not immune to stamps. The popularity gained by “Star Wars” is quite visible in the realm of philately. You will find below a fine selection of Star Wars-themed stamps.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
What we have here is an early example of Star Wars themed stamps. Quite difficult to secure in one’s collection, they were issued in 1996 (but marked 1995) to “commemorate the Star Wars trilogy”. It’s unclear for me what exactly is commemorated, since 1996 is one year short of the 20th anniversary of the first movie.
Pictured above the three stamp series of self-adhesive stamps of St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
Like no other young adult book, “Harry Potter” entered our universe like a tornado. It’s been barely 20 years since the first HP book penned by J. K. Rowling has been published, and barely 10 years since the last novel of the fantasy series brought the destiny of loved characters to a stable end. That, of course if you believe things can be stable or if you think time is linear. Maybe the best of “Harry Potter”, after we’ve read the books, played the games, read the play, watched the movies, or bought Harry Potter memorabilia is only yet to start.
The universe conceived by J.K. Rowling is a record-breaker in terms of finance (she is the only known book author who is a billionaire) and popularity (450mil copies of the book were sold worldwide in 67 languages in the span of 10 years). However, it was a late bloomer when it came to stamps. Of course, because everything that comes on stamps has an aura of official recognition. But even here it is a record-breaker. Hold on tight, and you’ll see why.
The overall main proponent of Harry Potter stamps is of course Great Britain. It did not only produce the largest number of stamps inspired by the universe of Harry Potter, but it has also innovated here and there with stamp minting technologies.
Pictured above the 2007 series of stamps issued on the 10th anniversary of the first-ever Harry Potter book. Left to right: “The Philosopher’s Stone” (1997); “The Chamber of Secrets” (1998); “The Prisoner of Azkaban” (1999); “The Goblet of Fire” (2000); “The Order of the Phoenix” (2003); “The Half-Blood Prince” (2005); “The Deathly Hallows” (2007). It is also the first time when a cover of a book was featured on a stamp before it was even released! The series set out as an anniversary of the first book, but in fact, it includes the seventh book as well. The series of stamps was issued on Jul-17, 2007 – while the book itself was to released a couple of days later, on Jul-21, 2007. What a marketing feat!
Astro Boy (name in the original Japanese: 鉄腕アトム ・Tetsuwan Atomu) is one of the most popular heroes of manga. The earliest Astro Boy manga, published in 1952, gained immediate success – and made his creator, Osamu Tezuka (Japanese: 手塚 治虫) one of the main figures of international children’s literature. Osamu Tezuka befriended among others Walt Disney and Mauricio de Sousa, and was nominated an honorary chairman of the Superman Fan Club in Japan.
If you like Japanese animation on stamps, then you might want to take a look at our article devoted to Doraemon.
Placed in a futuristic context where humans cohabit with robots, the adventures of Astro Boy relate to the joys and sorrows of being a child, even if a child-robot. Astro Boy is lovable and instantly captivating, despite the manga being almost 70 years old. His charisma never faded, and even in the 2000’s movies and video games featuring Astro Boy are still topping sales.
Astro Boy stamps are not numerous, however, they are really philatelic gems. The stamps presented below all come from Japan – Astro Boy’s homeland.
The first series of Japanese stamps featuring Astro Boy were issued in 1997, within a series called “50 Postwar Memorable Years” (Japanese: 戦後５０年メモリアルシリーズ).
Visually, there are two almost immediate images that pop up in one’s mind when thinking about Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland“: the vintage illustrations of John Tenniel, and the Disney movie images. Normally people balance between the two when they think about the book. Newer images sort of strike as odd – and I have to confess I have the same feeling, unless it’s the illustrations of Yayoi Kusama – now that’s something I would like to see on stamps one day!
But coming back for a second to the compelling images of “Alice in Wonderland“. Tenniel’s 92 “Alice” images, including the ones which were not published in the original “Alice”, are now stored as blocks of wood in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. They are the drawings that made Tenniel equally famous as Alice – although his career as an engraver went a lot further than that. They were on display only once since being housed in the Library – in the year 2003. Walt Disney actually bought film rights for Sir John Tenniel’s images before he embarked on the 5 year creative struggle to bring Alice to the screen. Of course, this happened 67 years ago, so the techniques used were far more rudimentary than the ones used today. But still – if you don’t see the immediate resemblance in images, you should know that both sets of images are interconnected.
Why is that important for philately? Well, because these two prevailing images are most often found on stamps. On rare occasions, someone pens new “Alice” images, but you should be the judge of the effect. I personally am not a big fan of such transgressions.
By far the most prolific offer of stamps inspired by the universe from “Alice in Wonderland” comes from Great Britain. The first such stamps were issued in 1979 – Great Britain’s choice of stamps for the International Year of the Child. While many countries chose to illustrate this theme with stamps related to childhood images or even with awareness raising images for better education and healthcare for children, Great Britain put on stamps four classics of children’s literature, among which you can also find “Alice”.
Although the writings of Franz Kafka (1883-1924) are world-famous, his eerie personality and strange habits reported by biographers are sometimes known even better, even by people who did not go into his sometimes difficult to grasp writings. His influence is felt in many media, with comics inspired by his “Metamorphosis” being issued as early as 1953, and even a video game (Bad Mojo) in 1996. His legacy inspired also writer Haruki Murakami for his book “Kafka on the Shore” and compser Philip Glass for his opera “In the Penal Colony“.
The stamps devoted to Franz Kafka, although not numerous, are brought together by one unifying criterion – the image of the writer prevails. Only a couple of stamps are devoted to his work, otherwise his portrait is the one that takes the lead in philately.
There are two German stamps devoted to Kafka, issued on two different occasions.
Pictured above, a Federal German Republic stamp of 1983, issued for the 100th anniversary of birth of Franz Kafka. It features Kafka’s penned signature and the background shows the Church of Our Lady before Týn from Old Prague.
In 2018, Superman turns 80 years old! And still – he’s just as nimble and relentless in his pursuit of justice. Still one of the most likeable superheroes of all times, Superman made it several times to be featured on stamps.
The United States of America
Superman was first featured on an American stamp in 1998, on one of the US Millennium sheets.
Not only was he celebrated as one of the main actors of the 1930’s, but also this stamp was an anniversary one, since the first Superman comics saw the light of day in 1938.
Anne Frank is one of my all-time heroes. Although she needs little introduction, being one of the most known victims of the Holocaust, few people think about how important the testimony of Annelies Marie Frank (12 June 1929 – February or March 1945) is in today’s world. Her diary went all the way from banned book (as is in Lebanon), to a non-recommended book (a school committe in the US deeming the book to be “a real downer”), and up to compulsory reading.
Nowadays, Anne’s universe still elicits a lot of interest worldwide. More than 1 million people visit yearly her hiding place in Prinsengraacht 263, in Amsterdam, where she, together with her family and four other people stayed in hiding, without seeing light or going out for 2 years (between 06 July 1942 and 04 August 1944). New pages of her diary have just been discovered a couple of months ago – so the final version of her diary, known as “Anne Frank’s Diary” or “The Secret Annex” (the latter being a literal translation of the Dutch original “Het Achterhuis“), is soon going to be revised.
Revisions of her diary happened many times since the first publication of the Diary in 1947. Several fragments were added, which were considered initially extraneous to the diary, or that were considered unfit for a young audience. The Diary underwent a lot of cosmetic work until it reached what was called “the Definitive Edition”, but in the meantime, more than 35 million copies of her book were sold, in more than 60 languages.
Anne’s message is always a peaceful and mature one, way beyond the real age she had when she was writing her diary. “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”, says one of her most repeated quotes. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” is another one, which remains a true example of Anne’s food for thought.
There were Anne Frank movies, animations, cartoons, spin-off’s, basically there’s a little bit of everything decent that carries on the message of Anne Frank. Of course, there are also numerous Anne Frank stamps, about which we are going to talk a little today.
Federal German Republic
The first Anne Frank to be issued was in the Federal German Republic in the year 1979.
The stamp features the well-known school portrait of Anne Frank, while the First Day Cover has in addition her signature. The stamp on the First Day Cover also identifies the issue as a commemorative one, being issued for the 50th anniversary of birth of Anne Frank.
One detail that is often overlooked is the fact that this stamp also features a concrete date for the death of Anne Frank. The date is debatable, especially in the light of recent research and interviews with other survivors, as Anne Frank might have died any time between February and April 1945.
Doraemon (Japanese: ドラえもん) a.k.a. the Gadget Cat from the Future is the brainchild of the cartoonist duo Fujiko Fujio (Japanese: 藤子 不二雄 ). Doraemon indeed comes from the future, from the 22nd century and his mission is to help the clumsy and lazy schoolchild Nobita Nobi (Japanese: 野比のび太). There are about 45 volumes of manga having Doraemon as main character, but Doraemon’s success did not limit to Japan and to manga. There are thousands of TV episodes of animes, books, memorabilia, and even a museum devoted to Doraemon.
I personally have a soft spot for Doraemon as the Doraemon manga (featuring the logo above) were among the first manga I read. Luckily, they are available in a learner’s pack of 10 volumes of bilingual manga, otherwise, I would have often had trouble with the original Japanese. Of course they are translated integrally in English, but where would be the fun?
Above you can see Doraemon’s debut (yes, he entered the 20th century through a desk drawer) and the effect he had on Nobita.
Since I mentioned Doraemon memorabilia, of course one item that could not be missing is Doraemon-themed stamps. Japan is the only country I know that has used Doraemon on stamps. It has done so since 1997, and the number of Doraemon stamps is ever growing.
The wealth of stamps depicting the character Tintin, drawn by Belgian cartoonist Hergé is very appealing to the stamp collector. However, not all items are readily available. The popularity of Tintin caused also the issue of numerous Cinderella issues.
Hergé (the pen name of Georges Prosper Remi, 1907-1983), is the author among others of the very successful Tintin comics. They were published as installments between 1929 and 1986 (the last one posthumously, and unfinished). They chronicle the travels and adventures of a young reporter called Tintin, accompanied everywhere by his dog Snowy (Milou in the original French). Alongside Tintin, various recurrent and memorable characters appear, such as Captain Haddock (French: Capitaine Archibald Haddock), Professor Calculus (French: Professeur Tryphon Tournesol); detectives Thompson and Thompson (French: Dupont et Dupont), or Bianca Castafiore. All of them have been immortalized on the ensuing Tintin-themed stamps.
Below you will find most of the Tintin stamps, including some Cinderella issues.
Abkhazia is a disputed Georgian territory, recognized as independent by South Ossetia, Transnistria, or Republic of Artsakh – themselves disputed territories. Russia and Nicaragua, as well as Vanuatu and Tuvalu range among the real countries that recognize the independence of Abkhazia. While it is a matter of debate why Tintin on Abkhazia stamps, the collector can be happy to add as many as 40 designs of Tintin stamps to their collection, issued in 4×2 sheet format. The year of issue is unknown. Abkhaz Post does not exist.
The United States of America issued on an yearly basis since 1978 single stamps from the Black Heritage series. With 41 single stamps published to date (2018), it is one of the longest living series of stamps not only from the USA, but from the entire world. It was meant from the very beginning as a commemoration of the individuals who helped advance social causes, not necessarily of the African American communities, and at the same time it was a very successful attempt at recuperating the unwritten, and sometimes overlooked history of the African American communities.
In addition, the stamps tell also an interesting story about the evolution of the post stamp. The first issues are issued as gummed paper, whereas more recent ones are self-adhesive. The value of the stamps is also increased during the time of issue of Black Heritage stamps several times (tripling the initial value). There are some important figures to know about the Black Heritage stamps.
Quick Facts about USA Black Heritage on Stamps
No. of stamps issued until 2018: 41
No. of men: 25 | No. of women: 16 | Longest streak of women being pictured on the Black Heritage Stamps: 3 (between 2005 and 2007)
No. of gummed stamps: 19 | No. of self-adhesive stamps: 22 (since 1996)
Who are the people pictured on the USA Black Heritage Stamps?
Pictured above: 1978 – Harriet Tubman – abolitionist and woman’s suffragette movement advocate; 1979 – Martin Luther King Jr. – minister, Nobel Prize winner; 1980 – Benjamin Bannecker – mathematician and astronomer; 1981 – Whitney Moore Young – social welfare activist; 1982 – Jackie Robinson – first non-white person to enter major league baseball; 1983 – Scott Joplin – ragtime composer.