Stamp collecting blog: Thematics and 'stamps on stamps'


07 September 2014
imports_CCGB_mauritius1948stampson_80371.jpg Mauritius 1948 'stamps on stamps' set
It should come as no surprise that one of the most popular themes for stamp collectors is ‘stamps on stamps’, writes Matt Hill in his regular blog on collecting stamps by theme, but there is much more to the theme than meets the eye ...

What subject would appeal to collectors more than the very item they collect?

For most of us the ‘stamps on stamps’ theme gives us a chance to own a rare or classic design without having to pay thousands, whilst the philatelic bureaux are given the chance to promote their history and remind collectors and customers of the great heritage of philately.

The popularity of the theme means there are plenty of avenues to explore, and there is a strong ‘stamps on stamps’ (or ‘SOS’) presence on the internet. According to collector Rammy Molch’s website (, there were at least 34 SOS issues during 2011 – the recent British miniature sheet for the The Age of the Hanoverians stamps featured an image of the Penny Black, for example – and so the theme will certainly keep collectors busy.

Such is the frequency of SOS issues, there is even the option to specialise further, by choosing a particular type of stamp on stamp.

Writing for The American Philatelic Congress Book, the late collector Bunny Kaplan explained that there are three types of SOS stamps to collect:

• those showing the entire design of a stamp
• stamps showing a previously issued stamp but with elements of the design changed
• stamps which show an unidentifiable stamp, such as on an envelope or in an album

The wide range of SOS issues now available also means collectors could collect just one country’s stamps on stamps if desired, though most collectors will embrace the theme as a whole. ‘There is almost unlimited material available and completion is whatever goal you set’ Bunny explained.

To non-collectors the idea of collecting stamps on stamps may seem indulgent, but the theme presents the perfect way to showcase stamps to new collectors, as your stamp album becomes your own philatelic hall of fame.

Cynics might question whether the theme will eventually fizzle out due to the lower standard of modern stamps – will any of this year’s new stamps be remembered on a stamp 100 years from now? – but with a large back catalogue of classic stamps to choose from, it seems bureaux around the world will continue to issue SOS stamps, celebrating everything from the Penny Black to the Inverted Jenny, for many years to come.

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