Norway's Nobel Peace Prize stamps

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10 October 2013
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While Sweden is the country most associated with Nobel Prizes and related stamps, Norway has strong links to the Prizes too and has also issued a series of Nobel Peace Prize Stamps over the years ...
While Sweden is the country most associated with Nobel Prizes (you can read our in-depth article on Sweden's Nobel Prize stamps in the December issue of Stamp & Coin Mart), Norway has a link to the Prizes in two ways.

Firstly, the Nobel Peace Prize is conferred by a Norwegian body, unlike all other Nobel Prizes, which are awarded by Swedish bodies.
Second, there have been eleven Norwegian Nobel Prize Laureates.

In the will that Alfred Nobel made in 1895 he left the bulk of his wealth to establish the Nobel Prizes.

Norway 1982 Nobel Prize stampOne Prize was to be for ‘the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.’

He stipulated that the prize for peace should be awarded by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting (Parliament). Intriguingly, Nobel left no explanation why the Peace Prize was to be awarded by a Norwegian body rather than a Swedish organisation.

Since 1901 the Peace Prize has been awarded to 124 Laureates, comprising 100 individuals and 24 organisations.

Norway's Nobel Prize stamps
On the same day that Sweden issued its first annual Nobel Prize stamps (on 9 December, 1961), Norway issued a pair of stamps to commemorate the winners of the first Peace Prize in 1901. The stamps shared the same design, which was reasonably similar to the Swedish issue, but depicted the joint winners, Henri Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, and the French peace activist Fréderic Passy.

Although Norway did not follow Sweden in having an annual Nobel Prize stamp issue, the Nobel stamps they did issue followed the Swedish pattern of celebrating Laureates sixty years after their awards.

Norway Nobel Peace Prize stamps








In 1968 Peace Prize stamps were issued portraying the 1908 Laureates, Klaus Arnoldson of Sweden and Fredrik Bajer of Denmark.
1981 saw the next Nobel stamps, with portraits of the Norwegian Christian Lange and the Swede Hjalmar Branting.

Fridtjof Nansen, who is regarded as one of the greatest Norwegians, had already been honoured on Norwegian stamps in 1935, 1940 and 1961 but his award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 was marked with a single stamp in 1982.

Nathan Söderblom, the Swedish Archbishop of Uppsala, was depicted on a stamp in 1990, sixty years after being awarded the Peace Prize.

Norway broke away from its previously conservative issue of Nobel Prize stamps when, in 2001, it issued a superb set of eight stamps to mark the centenary of Nobel Prizes. Each stamp portrayed a Peace Prize Laureate, including Nelson Mandela, Henry Dunant, Aung San Suu Kyi and Fridtjof Nansen.

Pairs of stamps were issued in 2003 and 2004 to celebrate Norwegian Nobel Prize Laureates. They included Bjornstjerne Bjornson (literature), Lars Onsager (chemistry), Odd Hassel (chemistry) and Christian Lange (peace).

Knut Hamsen stampKnut Hamsun and controversy
A Norwegian Nobel Literature Prize Laureate long conspicuous by his absence from a Norwegian stamp was Knut Hamsun.

Hamsun had been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1920 and had, in fact, featured on a Swedish Nobel Prize stamp in 1980. In 2009, on the 150th anniversary of Hamsun’s birth, a museum dedicated to his life and work was opened and Norway Post issued a stamp to commemorate his Nobel Prize award.

The issue of a stamp caused controversy, as Knut Hamsun had been a Nazi sympathiser during World War Two and, in a wartime newspaper article, had encouraged Germany to ‘bring England to its knees’. Hamsun was put on trial after the war but was declared mentally incompetent and fined rather than imprisoned. Norway Post argued that the stamp was justified to honour Hamsun’s earlier literary work.

Although few in number, Norwegian Nobel Prize stamps are well worth consideration and the addition of future issues on this theme.

Read about Sweden's extensive Nobel Peace Prize stamps in our in-depth article in the December issue of Stamp & Coin Mart.