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Philately: Mary on Stamps

Philately: Mary on Stamps

Marian philately is but a part of religious philately (see, for example, COROS*), and both of these are part of philately in general. The literal meaning of philately conveys the fact "that a stamped letter frees the recipient from paying the mailing charges." More specifically, philately deals with the collecting and studying of postage and imprinted stamps.

The first stamps appeared in 1840 in Great Britain. Up until then it was the custom for the recipient to pay mailing charges according to distance. Intent on simplifying the process, Sir Rowland Hill (1795-1879) suggested to unify taxes (one penny for all distances) and have them paid by the sender. To make this happen, stamped envelopes were used; but soon a more practical and mobile solution was found: the detachable and adhesive stamp easy to stick or glue on the envelope. The first stamp of this kind was English; it was black, featured the effigy of Queen Victoria, and was issued on May 1, 1840. The country was not mentioned. Even today, only English stamps can be identified thanks to the effigy of the reigning monarch. Stamps spread rapidly to other countries. Beginning in 1843, stamps were used in the Swiss Cantons of Zurich (March 1, 1843) and Geneva (September 30, 1843). In the same year, stamps were adopted by the government of Brazil, two years later (1845) by the government of Basel (Switzerland). The United States followed suit in 1847.

Christian Motifs on Stamps
Various Christian motifs on stamps appeared during the early decades of the twentieth century. Note that the first stamp commemorating Christmas was issued on December 7, 1898. This is a Canadian stamp showing the map of the British Empire and bearing the words Xmas 1898.

Scott #85

The First Marian Stamps
The first stamp depicting the Virgin Mary is dated February 14, 1920. It was issued in Bavaria and represents the famous Marian column standing on Munich's Marienplatz. It commemorates Maximilian's victory over the Turks in 1620 near Prague, and especially Mary's patronage of the then Kingdom of Bavaria.

Scott #248; Y&T #187

The same year, on October 5, 1920, Liechtenstein issued a stamp depicting Mary, patroness of the principality.

Scott #48; Y&T #41

The First Nativity Stamp
The first stamp to visualize a Nativty set was issued in Estonia on June 10, 1936.

Scott #137; Y&T #149

View the Marian Library Stamp Collection

*COROS, Collectors of Religion on Stamps. The COROS Chronicle, bimonthly Journal of the Collectors of Religion on Stamps.

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