11 Creative Postage Stamps from Around the World
These stamps bring out the inner philatelist in all of us.
1. Mini Phonograph Records
The small Himalayan nation of Bhutan is well-known for creative postage, having designed stamps out of unorthodox materials from plastic to steel. But in 1973, they issued stamps that doubled as tiny phonograph records. The record stamps contain traditional folk songs and an oral history of Bhutan, and can be played on a turntable. There's currently a full set of these stamps on eBay for a Buy It Now price of $495.
As Frank Sinatra once sang, "They grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil." In 2001, Brazil issued an aromatically enticing coffee-scented stamp. Beans were roasted, ground, and filtered under pressure then mixed with varnish and laid on each stamp. As with a scratch 'n' sniff, the aroma was released by rubbing a finger across the stamp. Mmm.
3. Hockey Game Footage
Canadians love hockey, and their most storied team is the Montreal Canadiens. In 2009, Canada Post issued stamps that feature actual footage of historic goals scored by famous players like Maurice Richard and Guy Lafleur. The effect is achieved with a process called Motionstamp, with digital footage making the stamps into mini-movies. Other countries that have embedded video clips are Austria, Netherlands, and Australia.
In 2008, Malaysia figured out a novel way to increase awareness about their country's nocturnal animals. They put them on stamps that glow in the dark. The six designs include exotic creatures such as the moon rat and the flying fox. In 2003, Finland also had a glow in the dark series of stamps, celebrating their lighthouses.
5. Embroidered Edelweiss
A stamp that can be posted or worn, this Austrian design from 2005 was made of threads embroidered into the shape of the Edelweiss, queen of the alpine flowers. It was designed by Haemmerle & Vogel, a long-standing family-owned fabric mill in Austria.
6. Meteorite Dust
There must be some very creative types working in the Austrian postal system. In 2004, they issued crystal-coated stamps. In 2008, they unveiled the world's first stamp made of soccer ball material, to celebrate the Euro soccer tournament. Even wilder is a stamp they issued in 2006, featuring a meteorite streaking towards Earth. The rendering contains 0.03 grams of dust from an actual meteorite, fixed to the stamp with adhesive. For those letters from Vienna... to Venus.
7. The Rock of Gibraltar
Portugal is the world's leading manufacturer of cork. In 2007, they celebrated this fact by issuing a lovely stamp depicting a cork tree on a hill. And the stamp itself was made entirely of cork – wafer thin, with a thickness of .35mm. And because of the cellular nature of cork, each stamp was unique.
The Swiss are famous for chocolate. For making it and eating it (they're estimated to be the number one consumer of chocolate in the world). So it makes perfect sense that they'd have a chocolate stamp. Well, it looks and smells like chocolate, and comes wrapped in foil like a chocolate bar. But if you're tempted to lick it, don't bother; it tastes like stamp glue.
For the past few years, at Valentine's Day, La Poste (the French postal service) has been issuing stamps designed by top names in the fashion industry, including Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, and Chanel. But the loveliest is Givenchy's elegant design of a simple wreathed heart.
And finally, stamps that bloom into living plants! In 2007, Dutch postal service TNT introduced a series of stamps that held seeds beneath a layer of plastic. Once you peeled it back, you could plant a variety of flowers, including pinks, petunias, and snapdragons.