Stamp Designs

I recently came across a very interesting video on YouTube about stamp designers

I give thanks to the National Postal Museum, located in Washington DC for the use of this video

and thought it would be interesting to find out more about stamp designs.  Unfortunately there is little information about the people who actually design the stamps.

There are 6 very important aspects involved in designing a postage stamp:

The 1st aspect is Denomination

Normally this appears as a number on the stamp and it is often followed by the currency of the country.  Early in the history of stamps, the value was also shown in words.  The Universal Postal Union made a rule that if numbers were to be used, they were to be Arabic numbers, so that the monetary value of the stamp could be identified even in foreign countries.  Some stamps show 2 different currencies, e.g. the Irish bird stamps of 2001 show Pounds as well as Euros.

The 2nd is the Country’s Name

The Universal Postal Union made a further rule that every stamp should indicate which country it comes from.  However Great Britain was exempt from this rule and the reigning monarch appears on every stamp from this country.  A further rule is that the country name should be written in the Latin alphabet. 

The 3rd is Text

The stamp may contain words such as “Air” or “Official Mail”, the name of the place or the person on the stamp, the year of issue of the stamp and other items of interest.

The 4th is Graphic Design

There are 4 major categories:





There are often other rules, e.g. the United Kingdom has to have a portrait of the reigning monarch on the stamp, while stamps of the United States may not show a person who has been dead for less than 10 years and in the case of a president, less than 1 year.

The 5th is Shape and Size

The most common shape is a rectangle, but stamps have also been designed in the shape of triangles, circles etc.  From 1969 – 1985, Tonga issued a stamp in the shape of a banana.



The most common size is about 10mm x 30mm, but there are always exceptions.  The smallest and largest postage stamps are proof of this.   The United States issued what was the largest stamp in 1865 – 52mm x 95mmHowever the United Arab Emirates issued a much larger stamp than this in 2013 which measures 1,36 x 1,77 metres.  This stamp holds the world record in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest stamp in the world today.  The smallest stamp was issued by the Colombian Department of Bolivar in 1863.  It measured only 8mm x 9,5mm. You would really need a magnifying glass to see such a small stamp, especially what is written on it.  Things like this make stamp collecting so interesting and it is definitely a thing to look for when sorting your stamps. (image)

The 6th involves Hidden Elements and Secret Marks

A very good example of this is a United States stamp of Rabbi Bernard Revel where a Star of David is hidden in his beard.

The 6 aspects discussed above have to be taken into consideration by the stamp designer and in the video you will see how proud the designer is when she receives a letter in the post with a stamp which she had designed. Awesome!


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