Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉 actually called Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa – 松尾 忠右衛門 宗房, lived between 1644–1694) is one of the most known names of the Edo period of Japan. His writings, including numerous haiku (俳句) is even today considered a standard form of poetry writing, and his style inspired many of the writers of the next generations. His collection of writings Oku no hosomichi (奥の細道, often translated as “The Narrow Road to the Deep North“, or “The Narrow Road to the Interior“) is one of the gems of the literature of Edo Period. The text describes Matsuo Bashō ‘s travels in 44 fragments, called “stations”. Each of the short texts includes a description of the travel and the people encountered on the way, and concludes with some haiku verse.
Between 1987 and 1989, the Japanese Post devoted as many as 40 stamps and 20 minisheets to the writing of Oku no hosomichi. The 40 stamps come in pairs of 2, the resulting 2-panel stamp being a haiku poem and an illustration of the respective haiku poem. 20 such panels result. Each panel is also accompanied by an imperforated sheet. The stamps and sheets are separated into 10 series, numbered from 1 to 10.
Amnesty International, with its easily recognizable logo of a burning candle encircled by barbed wire, is one of the most known non-profits aiming at the observance of human rights. Since 1961 it has helped hundreds of prisoners of conscience across the world to be freed from prison, to escape torture, and to get justice for their cause.
The logo of Amnesty International is inspired by a Chinese proverb: “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” The barbed wire represents “the darkness” (hopelessness) of people put in jail where they think nobody remembers they are there.
With its logo or without, Amnesty International is also one of the non-profit organizations which got almost instant recognition on stamps. As early as 1974, and up to today, the work of the organization has been celebrated on the stamps of tens of countries. Below you will find this interesting history on stamps.
“Elder Nicolae, the Fiddler” (1906) is one of the best known paintings of Romanian painter Ștefan Luchian (1868-1916). Although Luchian excelled in the area of landscape and still life painting, there are a couple of well-known portraits signed by him, among which Gypsy flower sellers, laundresses, and children are captured in Impressionist style. A former student of the renowned Nicolae Grigorescu, and an avid admirer of Rembrandt and Correggio (whose works he copied during his 2-semester stay at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts), Luchian’s paintings are immediately recognized by Romanians due to his very personal touch. It is in this position that we find “Elder Nicolae, the Fiddler” – the portrait of a weary, anguished older man, caught in a moment that has little to do with his trade. Nicolae is resting, probably after vivacious carousing, where he conducted the entertainment of the merry-makers.
Out of the many poets who have ever been featured on stamps, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) is probably one of the least prominent – at least this is how it looks at a first glance. However, among the “poètes maudits” (“accursed poets“), he is definitely the posterboy!
What’s more, some of the stamps featuring Arthur Rimbaud hide some interesting stories, so keep tuned!
In 1951, the French Post issued a series of 3 stamps devoted to the Symbolist poets, in which Arthur Rimbaud is featured next to Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine.
Each poet is featured against an intricated background of images referring to the imagery from their poems. In the case of Rimbaud, the illustration alludes to his poem “Le Bateau ivre” (“The Drunken Boat”).
Romania issued in the early 2000’s a couple of series related to cultural anniversaries. Among these, in 2004 a series featuring Arthur Rimbaud.
The personalities featured in the set pertain to different areas of interest: there’s Salvador Dalí, there’s the Romanian physician and bacteriologist Victor Babeș, but there are also poets: Alexandru Macedonski, and Arthur Rimbaud. The addition of the latter two is not incidental: Macedonski was one of the major promoters of French Symbolism in Romania. The stamp featuring Rimbaud includes the text “changer la vie”, which is taken from his text “La Vierge Folle” (“The Foolish Maiden“): “Il a peut-être des secrets pour changer la vie ? Non, il ne fait qu’en chercher, me répliquais-je.” (“Did he, perhaps, have secrets that would remake life? No, I told myself, he was only looking for them.“).
One of the most courageous depictions of Arthur Rimbaud on stamps comes, however, not from Rimbaud’s native France, but from neighboring Belgium.
This sheetlet, issued in 2010 is devoted to literary anniversaries and includes Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Eduard Douwes Dekker, (pen name: Multatuli), Charlotte & Emily Brontë, and Victor Hugo). Since Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud had a fiery relationship, this stamp may well be the first stamp depicting a gay couple, be it an avant-la-lettre one.
It may seem weird, but Arthur Rimbaud also made it on the stamps of Djibouti as well. Not once, but twice!
The first time, in 1985, he is featured in a 2-stamp set together with Victor Hugo. I like the fact that although for the profiling of Rimbaud a traditional portrait photography was used, the designer chose to give it more personality by coloring Rimbaud’s hair in an excentric, parrot-like choice of colors.
The second time, however, in 1992, a more traditional approach was used for the 90F stamp – using the same gaze from the classical portrait photography; however the striking element comes via the 150F stamp: an older, more tired and apparently ill Rimbaud, hard to recognize after all, and all for a good reason; the accursed poet stays in history with his young, adolescent portrait, and not with his later life image.
And this is nothing surprising. Rimbaud died early, at the age of 37. His literary career per se was done when he was barely 21. Most of his known portraits date from the period 1871-1875 – when the young poet was at the height of his career. What about the later image from the second stamp? There are only a few images left from this later period, so the stamp design may very well be a work of fiction.
Last but not least, some words about the fascination with Rimbaud in Djibouti (which in a sense, I expect has little to do with his overt sexual orientation). After escaping the tumult of Parisian life and exile (London, Bruxelles), and after putting an end to his relation with Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud actually changed his lifestyle completely: gave up poetry and life in artistic cirlces, escaped from Europe altogether, and set base in different parts of the world – ultimately in Harar, Ethiopia – from where he traveled oftentimes to Obock in current-day Djibouti, trading in coffee and firearms.
While there are literally hundreds of fauna-related stamps issued by Canadian Post, today I’m going to devote an article to the high-nominal series of engraved stamps depicting animals issued between 1997 and 2010. The series contains 9 high-quality engraved stamps, with a banknote-like quality. As commonly done with Canadian stamps, the names of the animals are featured bilingually in English and French. Their face value ranges from 1Can$ to 10Can$. Unlike other high nominal value stamps, these stamps are really usable (i.e. can be affixed to correspondence), therefore their value doubles as postal and philatelic products. Many countries issue nowadays stamps with absurdly high face value – which cannot be used for postage, and therefore are issued as philatelic items. However, the Canadian ones we are talking about can and are actually used as postage.
The first series, 1997
The first stamp issued was the Grizzly bear 8Can$ stamp in 1997.
The German-born professor of theology Martin Luther (1483-1546) had an incredible life that lead him to be one of the most prominent personae of the religious world. Not only was his life spectacular, but the heritage he left means a new faith, free of artifice and pretense. Of course, this did not leave him immune to the criticism of his contemporaries and even later, the Reformed Church had to struggle in order to gain the right to profess its faith. The strides made by this religious movement from the times of Martin Luther to being the most prominent faith in many countries is a thing we should all be in awe of.
The Reformed Church and Martin Luther himself were very often portrayed on stamps. Most notably, years such as 1983 (commemorating 500 years since the birth of Martin Luther), 1967 and 2017 (commemorating 450, and 500 years respectively since the Theses of Worms, which are considered the starting point of the Reformed Church) have proved to be very prolific. Below you can find most of the stamps related to the awesome journey of Martin Luther.
Austria issued three stamps related to the history of the Reformed Church. The first one was issued in 1967 and features an abstract design with religious insignia.
I decided to write this article because of the many letters I receive in bad condition from the people I swap stamps with. The article is going to help you even for regular letters – not necessarily for swapping stamps.
The reason I am disappointed sometimes by stamps I receive in post is that people often forget stamps are delicate and everything – from heat to water may damage them irreparably. Even when using some materials for protecting them, they may be poor in quality, dirty or sticky, so your precaution may actually turn to be of no use. But first things first.
This year, the colony inhabited by human-like blue elves that we know under the name of Smurfs is celebrating its 60th birthday! Imagined and inked by Belgian cartoonist Peyo (real name: Pierre Culliford), the Smurfs are a great example of long-living cartoon characters, since their popularity never faded since 1958, the year the first cartoons featuring the Smurfs were published. The characters got their own histories, new Smurfs joined the colony, and now there are at least 100 Smurf characters that are easy to recognize due to their appearance and to their well-constructed histories. Half of them exist ever since the first comics were published.
Of course, there are Smurf comics, and animations, TV series and full-length movies, but there are also various types of merchandise, video games and they are even featured in theme parks. Stamps could not go missing from the Smurf universe, so below you’ll find the official Smurf stamps issued ever since 1984.
The Swiss Post issued two Smurf themed stamps in 2013.
Pictured above the self-adhesive stamps issued in Switerland.
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.
Although it’s been a while since LGBT rights advocacy made it into mainstream culture, it took a little longer until awareness about these rights made it into stamps. But once the precedent was set, it seems that there’s an infinite number of stamps in recent years. Basically, we are talking about the period between 2010 and 2017 – but more, more LGBT-themed stamps are sure to come, making this topic a new topical interest for collectors worldwide! Below you can find in chronological order the stamps of this history-in-the-making.
The first LGBT-themed stamp I know of was issued in 2010 by the Austrian Post.
It was issued to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Rainbow Parade in Vienna.