Mythicalism in Stamp Design

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Until about 1930, stamp designs were very conventional. Playing off a stamp’s role as a form of money, the first designs were largely coin type centers framed in a vignette. The pictures in the centers were largely people of some importance (either real or mythical) to the country [examples are in figures 1 and 2]. The 1930’s brought a change to this. Probably a result of the vast changes in the art world, which was going through numerous trends that separated art from the merely representational, stamp design in the 1930s began a sort of mythicalism that used the stamps to tell a story on both conscious and unconscious levels. The Soviet stamp designers in this period were the most forward [figure 3], exaggerating their motifs to accentuate the benefits of communism (happy workers) and the corroding effects of capitalism (war, disease, famine). Iceland, Sweden, and Mexico idealized their semi-mythical prehistory [figures 4, 5, and 6].

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Major stamp consuming nations, such as the United States and Great Britain, stuck with traditional designs.
Mythicalism accelerated during the  1930s, nowhere more than Germany. The Third Reich used myth to reinforce its claim that, rather than the fantasy of a small group of madmen, National Socialism represented the culmination of German history. Stamps reinforced the theme [figure 7]. 
Figure 7

WWII ended all experiments with philatelic design for thirty years after the hostilities ended. Reacting almost as if  it was stamp design that fueled nationalism and accelerated the march towards war, nations retreated to designs of the most representational sort. Even to this day, the 1930s experiments have not been repeated. It’s a pity though, as mythicalism in stamp design produced some of the world’s most interesting stamps.
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