Monday, June 13, 2016

The World's Most Unusual Stamps

Back in the mid 1960's and the early 1970's some of the world's most obscure countries were producing some of the most unusual postage stamps, the likes of which were never seen in mainstream use again. This post is going to look at three of these issues:

1. The 3-D ribbed plastic stamps of Bhutan, which were first issued in the late 1960's.
2. The playable record stamps of Bhutan, which were issued in 1972.
3. The self-adhesive stamps of Sierra Leone and Tonga that first appeared in the early 1960's.
4. Gold foil embossed stamps of Bhutan.

The Record Stamps of Bhutan

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The above image shows a set of 7 vinyl stamps that were issued by the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan in 1972. These were actually miniature 33 1/3 RPM records that played various songs when placed on a record player. They came with backing paper that was peeled off to reveal adhesive on the non-music side. The sender would then attach the stamp to the envelope being sent. They were widely regarded by traditional collectors as rubbish when they first appeared and for most of the next 40 years. However, in recent years, they have become very scarce, with record collectors competing with stamp collectors to own a set. Today, they often sell for over $300 a set. 

The Lenticular 3-D Stamps of Bhutan

Canada just issued a lenticular soucenir sheet for the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek as shown below:

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Lenticular printing produces an effect where the images are seen to move when the paper is tilted back and forth. Pretty cool innovation huh? It is, except that Bhutan first issued stamps like this in the late 1960's! Below are some examples of what they issued between the late 1960's and the early 1970's:

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A lenticular plastic stamp commemorating the 1969 Apollo moon landing. 

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A block of lenticular plastic stamps commemorating space exploration. 

This obscure Asian country was issuing innovative 3-d stamps almost a full 50 years before Canada just did. Isn't that amazing? What is even more amazing is that you can occasionally find these stamps actually used on cover. 

Gold Foil Embossed Stamps

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Who says that stamps can't be made out of gold foil? The above set of stamps, again from Bhutan are made from gold foil that has been embossed and had colour printed over the top. Many countries issued stamps like this, mostly in Africa, starting in the late 1960's. Many of them are quite grand and ornate. They were generally issued in high-value denominations and would have seen very little postal use. 

Self Adhesive Stamps of Sierra Leone and Tonga

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The above images show die-cut self adhesive stamps that were issued by Sierra Leone and Tonga starting in 1964. These were the world's first self-adhesive stamps, and they were in use for several years before they faded into obscurity for 40 years until the rest of the world's stamp issuing nations began to adopt self-adhesives as the preferred format in which to issue stamps. Now, they are so normal that you hardly ever see water activated stamps anymore. It is hard to believe, once again that this innovation in stamp printing has been around for over 50 years. 

These unusual stamp formats provide another exciting and fun way to approach a world stamp collection. One advantage to these, is that most traditional collectors have shunned them because they were different from what collectors were used to seeing. Consequently, you will not have much competition from other collectors. At the same time though, many of these stamps have become scarce because they were badly mis-handled by collectors and non-collectors alike at the time they were current. So assembling a collection of these unusual stamo formats could be a very rewarding and fun challenge that will not cost a lot of money.

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