Thematics: Beautiful Butterflies

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05 August 2021
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Adonis Blue, Morpho helenor, Ulysses and Isabella may sound like names out of a Greek history book, but they are in fact all butterflies found in the UK, writes Katrin Raynor-Evans in her latest guide to collecting stamps by theme.

The Adonis Blue featured on a stamp issued in the UK in 2008, the image of which is a photograph taken from the collection in the Natural History Museum, London. The butterfly is declining in numbers and is recognised as nationally scarce.

Butterflies are beautiful and graceful, colourful and bringers of great joy to whoever sets their eyes upon them. They have inspired artists, writers and of course stamp collectors.

Butterflies are a great philatelic theme.

These delicate insects often don’t hang around in one place for long so studying them on stamps is rewarding and gives us a chance to admire their colours and markings.

A rather interesting butterfly stamp series was issued by the United States Postal Service in 2010 in collaboration with the Greetings Card Association. The idea behind these stamps was to make sending that awkwardly shaped, unusually sized or heavy greetings card a little bit easier without the need to go to the local post office.  

Using a butterfly stamp would ensure that the sender would not overpay or, more importantly, under pay the postage. I wonder if the Royal Mail will adopt this idea!

The butterfly stamps series as you would imagine features eight butterflies including the Monarch on the $0.64 stamp, the California Dogface which is the national insect of California and the Colorado Hairstreak both featuring on non-machinable surcharge stamps. Some greetings card manufacturers printed the outline of the butterfly stamp on the top right of the envelope, so the sender knew to affix a butterfly stamp.

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This wasn’t the first time that the US issued stamps with a butterfly theme. In 1977, a set of four stamps were produced. Designed by famous artist Stan Galli, the stamps illustrate butterflies from different geographical locations in the country such as the Checkerspot which is found across a wide geographical range from Manitoba in the north to Georgia in the south.


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The Monarch butterfly was also the butterfly of choice to feature on a set of four stamps issued in Bermuda in 2016. This time, the lifecycle of the butterfly was featured in a series of photographs taking the collector through the caterpillar stage to the chrysalis, to the adult Monarch butterfly.

From the natural world to the imaginary, a rather attractive and ethereal looking butterfly featured on a $1.30 stamp issued in Hong Kong in 1984 forming part of the Chinese Lantern set.

Slovenia also chose to feature an image of a butterfly on a stamp in 1997 but this time, the image has been based on a design of lace. And in 2017, perhaps one of my favourite butterfly designs was issued by Japan whereby the stamp itself is butterfly shaped and features two images of stylized butterflies at its centre.

It is a truly beautiful stamp, perfect for any lepidopterist! 


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