Collecting stamps on stamps


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27 March 2013
imports_CCGB_chinastampshowingapen_47754.jpg China stamp showing a Penny Black stamp
Some nineteenth-century stamps are simply too rare and expensive for most of us to own, but collecting stamps on stamps allows collectors to add an array of classics to their album. We asked Stamps on Stamps Collectors Club member Michael Merritt for some collecting tips ...
Stamps on stamps (or SOS) is the hobby of collecting stamps that depict previously issued stamps or generic stamps on them.

Many stamps on stamps were issued after 1940, when the centenary of countries' first stamp issued was celebrated, but as Stamps Collectors Club member Michael Merritt explains, there are a few stamps on stamps issued during the 1800s.

19th-century stamps on stamps
‘For those of us who are happy to collect stamps portraying stamps symbolically (rather than identifiable issues) there are a few to go by,’ he says. ‘The first that I have is a local US issue, the Ledger Dispatch, issued for a few months in 1882, which shows a stamped envelope. Surinam, too, has an 1892 issue that portrays a pseudo-stamp.’

Just fitting into this nineteenth-century category, Michael describes one of his favourite issues. ‘In 1900, Switzerland celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union and issued a number of varieties around a common design which portrays a winged Swiss figure casting franked envelopes to the wind. The postcard image has an enlargement of the design on the stamp that was used to carry it to its destination. I particularly enjoy such non-philatelic covers, which are usually inexpensive but often rare in topical collections.’

Michael collects all types of stamps on stamps: mint and used, on covers, first day covers, and maxi cards, but even he has a particular item he would love to see in his collection.

‘In 1951, Hungary issued a number of beautifully engraved varieties that celebrated the eightieth anniversary of their first issue. The Scott C95 issue was printed in a special rose lilac souvenir sheet. I have seen first day covers bearing the rose lilac issue and when I win the lottery this will be one of my priority acquisitions!’

Collect great stamps without breaking the bank
According to Michael, the stamp on stamp theme takes stamp collecting to the extreme.

‘If you love stamps, what other topical category is there? Since particularly beautiful and valuable stamps are often chosen for depiction, this topic offers an opportunity to collect exquisite specimens at a very reasonable cost.'

'Have fun!' he advises. 'Get a copy of our checklist from the SOSCC website at then use it to select a narrower focus, for example, nineteenth-century stamps, or stamps under glass – those issues portraying stamps being examined by magnifying glass.’

Read more about the 'Stamps on stamps' theme and see an array of stamps on stamps illustrations in the June 2013 issue of Stamp & Coin Mart.
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