Advertising Stamps

Advertising is so pervasive in American society that it’s hard to realize that we are one of the few first world countries that never used them in philatelic issues for private advertisements. Advertising on stamps was first used by New Zealand in the late nineteenth century. Their “back prints” were government sold advertising printed on the back of postage stamps that were then later sold at the post office. The advertising couldn’t have been very effective as the only people who could have seen it were the people who bought the particular sheet and used the stamps. Back print advertising was soon abandoned.


Beginning in the early twentieth century, most European countries began stamp advertising. Germany began advertising in stamp booklets in the 1920s, first as advertising on the interleaving between the panes and then as tabs se-tenant with the stamps. France and Belgium soon followed and some of the most collectible are the se-tenant advertising labels of Denmark. Italy had a novel (and fairly unsuccessful) solution putting advertising labels at the bottom of stamps.


Advertising on postage stamps is a way of adding to postal revenues, which in the day of worldwide postal deficits is sorely needed. It is a tribute, really, to the USPS’s high standards of philatelic production that they have never been tempted to get permission to add ads to our stamps. But the potential for advertising tie- ins would be tremendous. Imagine the William Faulkner stamp with margin advertising Jim Beam or Walt Disney next to the margin ads for The Little Mermaid. Just think what philatelists would have to complain about then.

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