Europa (CEPT) 2002: Circus on Stamps

I have written before about EUROPA stamps, having showcased on the site the 1976 issue of handicrafts on stamps. Now it’s the time to take a look at another EUROPA release that I count among my favorites, namely the 2002 issue, devoted to the world of the circus.

As much as I like the colorful stamps of the series, I feel the need to start right off with a disclaimer: for me, the circus belongs to the old world. I condone neither the abuse of people, nor of animals, and taking in today’s moral climate, I would say I’d rather settle for a circus-free world. But the safe space of stamp collecting still allows me to take a closer look at the magical world of the circus. By the way, as an old-time collector of circus on stamps, I salute the initiative of Michel Catalog to issue to my knowledge the first thematic catalog devoted to circus on stamps – my review here.

No less than 61 countries and territorial postal authorities issued stamps on the occasion, and you can see them all pictured below, in alphabetical order.


Albania

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Signs of the Zodiac on Stamps

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.


Ajman

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.

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French Heart-Shaped Stamps

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.


1999

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.


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Emoji on Stamps

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!


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Tattoos on Stamps

Tattoos are not a common sight on stamps, but the avid researcher is going to find quite a couple of exquisite examples. Below you will find a ‘starter kit’ – make sure to let me know if you happen to find other examples of tattoos on stamps.


ae

United Arab Emirates

Let’s start from the light stuff. The United Arab Emirates issued in 1998 this series of stamps featuring intricate hand henna-based tattoos. Brilliant!

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Saunas and Baths on Stamps

If you ever asked yourself whether there are or not sauna and baths stamps, well, the answer is going to be yes. With Finland as the main issuer of such stamps – but that’s not really a surprise for anyone, is it?


Former Czechoslovakia

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These stamps from Former Czechoslovakia present the baths of several known locations, such as Piešťany and Vyšné Ružbachy (nowadays in Slovakia); or Mariánské Lázně and Karlovy Vary (currently in the Czech Republic).

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