Collecting guitars on stamps


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10 October 2018
Looking for a little harmony within the pages of your stamp albums? The guitar theme should bring music to your ears and create a regarding stamp collection as our stamp guide reveals

Our choice of theme is often influenced by another interest in our lives. Many forms of art or entertainment can provide fascinating starting points, but there are few mediums as well loved and as universal as music. Yet the diversity of this subject means a general collection can be too far reaching, so it is always wise to specialise and this, in turn, helps give you a few more challenges along the way. 

Throughout history, and no matter what country or culture you belong to, many of our customs and traditions have been accompanied by the music of a particular instrument.

Synchronised selection
From primitive to pop, classical to rock, the guitar has provided music for a variety of occasions, consequently, there have been many theories as to where the familiar instrument originated. Early string instruments from ancient Babylonian and Egyptian civilisations have been found which used tortoise shells as resonators with a stick for a neck and silk or gut strings to pluck, but over time the shape evolved and the number of strings varied.

Some believe the guitar developed from the early Lute created by the Greek God Apollo or that the Indian Goddess Saraswati’s love of the Sitar brought about the guitar as we know it today, whilst others are of the opinion that the musical Oud, which was bought to Spain by the Moors, had the most influence on later instrument makers.

When the World Philatelic Exhibition was held in Hafnia, Denmark in 1987, Mongolia produced a minisheet featuring a lute playing elder as the main image on the stamp. Showing the instrument in all its forms is a good way to introduce your theme, enabling you to depict how the guitar has advanced through stamps, and an historical element to your collection. Angels are often portrayed with lutes and the many Christmas issues, such as the UK’s 2007 release where the Goodwill Angel appears on the first class stamp playing the instrument, are a good place to start.

Fine tune your facts
Strongly associated with the passionate flamenco dances of Spain, the versatile music produced from the guitar can soon be changed into the rhythmic strumming and melodic sounds of country music. The guitar's links with many different cultures mean that a whole host of countries has featured the instrument on their postage stamps and related stationery, each image showing a subtly different portrayal of the instrument and the way it is played.

By the beginning of the 19th century the modern guitar was taking shape with its long fretted neck, flat wooden back and soundboard, ribs and incurved sides – at this time, the bodies were still quite small and narrow waisted. It was not until the 1850s that a Spanish maker – Antonio Torres – increased the size and added a ‘fan’ bracing pattern which improved the tone and projection of the volume.

First Day Covers issued within the American Series of 1979, which accompany the 3.1c related stamp, were created with some detailed cachets that emphasise the shape and number of strings on the classical guitar at that time.

Similarly, look out for special edition cachets such as the one to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of US guitar makers CF Martin and Co in 2008. This beautiful example shows the intricate inlaid work of silver and mother of pearl on their 1,000,000th guitar whilst on the back of the envelope a long list of famous Martin guitar owners can be found from Neil Diamond to Jimi Hendrix.

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Electric avenue
In December 2000, Luxembourg released two new musical instrument themed definitive stamps in the form of an accordion on the 24F stamp and an electric guitar on the 9F issue. Measuring 24 x 29.1mm, they were produced in photogravure by Hélio Courvoisier.

Unlike the classical variety, the typical electric guitar has a non resonant body with six strings through which electromagnetic pick-ups capture the sounds before they are amplified through speakers. The first trial models were created in 1930 and gradually, as the music style changed in the decades that followed, Leo Fender and his peers improved the technology of the early electric devices and created the iconic instrument now so readily associated with rock n roll.

Before long, the innovator's famous models, the Fender Broadcaster, Telecaster and Stratocaster, were being mass produced, replacing the bespoke, hand-made instruments of old. The cutting edge sound revolutionised the music industry and Fender’s creations became the musical instrument of choice for pop stars everywhere, including the King himself, whose modest finger-picking talents saw him posthumously appearing on numerous stamps along with his guitar. Various first day covers not only feature the stamp and cachet but are also cancelled with an associated handstamp.

Strumming to success
Collectors don’t have to limit themselves to stamps solely featuring a guitar, provided they are willing to look a little harder. There are many issues with guitars in the background, such as Belgium’s 1989 tribute to the Salvation Army, on which a guitar player appears in silhouette.

Look out for Maxi cards which often provide a larger, detailed image, such as Australia’s 2007 release, which shows a cartoon version of the Maxi card’s real life photographic image. The giant guitar is an actual ‘monument’, one of many big sculptures dotted across Australia often advertising a product or shop – in this case marketing the Big Golden Guitar Centre in Tamworth, the self-titled heart of Australia’s country music.

Unveiled in 1988 by their own ‘King of Country’ – Slim Dusty – the 12 metre high feature weighs half a ton and is made of fibre glass over a foam and steel frame. There are thought to be in excess of 140 ‘big things’ across the states from giant bananas and boomerangs to mandarins and marlins, hence the apt slogan ‘Big Things’ on the FDC handstamp.

Guitars are one of the world's most popular instruments and make for a great stamp theme, a guitar collection is sure to strike the right chord.