Television on a stamp 

2 October 2023

A selection of TV-themed stamps

Stamps by courtesy of Stanley Gibbons Ltd.


Cover of Fusion magazine

From ‘Fusion’, the house magazine of Rediffusion London, issue 39, summer 1965

A hundred years ago in May the first convention of the International Telegraph Union was signed by 21 small European countries.

The International Telecommunication Union evolved as a single entity at Madrid in 1932 as a result of the fusion of this earlier convention of the International Telegraph Union and the International Radiotelegraph Union (created in 1906). At Atlantic City in 1947 the Union entered into an agreement with the United Nations as a Specialised Agency. The Union is the oldest of the specialised agencies of the United Nations, its aims being to promote, maintain and extend international co-operation in the field of telecommunications.

Two special stamps were issued in this country to mark the centenary. The 9d stamp had a design symbolic of world telecommunications stations and the 1s 6d stamp featured a radio or sound wave emanating from a source and a symbolic representation of a switchboard.

All this prompted Fusion to investigate how many special issues of stamps have been made featuring television. Tony Bolton at Stanley Gibbons researched the hundreds of volumes of stamps at his disposal and came up with one strong conclusion – despite television’s impact on the world it hadn’t made much impact on the world of stamps.

Besides this country several others brought out new stamps to mark the centenary of the International Telecommunication Union. Telecommunications have advanced quite a bit since the original morse-code type telegraph. The latest method of mass communication is Early Bird and this is the central motif of the ITU commemorative stamp from New Hebrides. (The New Hebrides is the only country that carries the postal identification marks of two countries – France and Great Britain.) Ghana and the USSR also issued special stamps.

In October, 1962, France issued two big stamps for the first television satellite link – France having been only the second country to issue a stamp concerning television at all; that one was in 1955 to help television development. The first country was Italy when in February, 1954, it commemorated the introduction of television in that country.

East Germany last year issued a pretty set of stamps which show characters from East German children’s shows. Czechoslovakia, in April, 1963, issued two stamps to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its television – the lower value, 40 haleru, is one of the only two stamps we found actually to have a picture of a television camera on it, the other being one of an East German pair for stamp day, which coincided with the 9th anniversary of East German television, in October 1961. The following year, a special stamp was issued to mark the 10th anniversary. Only one West German television stamp could be found – a dull one publicising television which was issued in 1957.

Despite America’s advanced television ideas and her satellites, very few stamps have been issued about them. In 1960, there was the Communications for Peace stamp, and in May, 1964, a Kennedy Memorial stamp was issued with Kennedy’s head as if appearing on television. There is also a Swiss one with a symbolic signal, and Monaco celebrated the first Europe-America television link in May, 1963, with a special stamp.


International landmarks


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