With 2014 just beginning, the StampNews.com team has gone through the archives to seek for the most popular stamps 2013.
Among almost 1500 stamps we told about on StampNews.com in 2013, only four of them became the most popular with our users by a wide margin.
Main stamp of the year 2013
The title of the main stamp of the year, which has gained maximum votes from our readers, went to Slovenia and Austria joint block of stamps, dedicated to the first underground Post Office in Postojna Cave. (original news)
Postojna Cave, the first underground post office featured on the stamp block, is the most famous cave in Europe, welcoming half a million visitors each year. In its 200-year tradition of tourism, the cave’s beautiful dripstone formations have been admired by 35 million people, including 150 monarchs. The cave extends for 21 kilometers. Tours of the cave have been possible for 141 years via the cave railway. It is a cradle of biospeleology, and an area with the greatest diversity of cave fauna in the world. Prior to the appearance of postcards, the cave had already enjoyed a long tradition of tourism.
The number of postcards sent from Postojna grew markedly at Whitsuntide and the Feast of the Assumption, when mass events and dances were held. For this reason the cave management sent a request to the Austrian trade ministry in Vienna for the opening of a post office in the cave.
On 15 August 1899, next to the Dance Hall, 500 meters from the entrance to the cave, the first underground post office in the world was opened. At first the post office was open only on special occasions, but after 1911 it operated regularly, with a record 75,000 postcards being sent at that time on Whitsun Monday, and thereafter 6,000 to 11,000 were posted each day.
This block of stamps was designed by Matjaž Učakar.
The second place
The second place by number of votes and reviews has gone to a set of stamps having extraordinary design – Marine Fauna stamps covered with sea salt issued by the same Slovenian post and stamp designer Matjaž Učakar. (original news)
The stamps show four characteristic denizens of the Slovenian sea: Damselfish (Chromis chromis), Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), Common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) and Golden grey mullet (Liza aurata) stamp in miniature sheet. The stamps were printed using a very special thermography technique, and Pošta Slovenije is proud to be the first national postal service to issue stamps on which part of the design is covered with real salt from the Piranske Soline saltworks.
As the stamps designed by Matjaž Učakar took the first and the second places of our ranking, we contacted the designer and asked him several questions.
StampNews: Could you comment on how you got the idea to issue stamps in honour of the first underground Post Office in Postojna Cave? Could you tell the story of its creation?
Mr. Matjaž Učakar: At a call for stamps by Pošta Slovenije we faced a big challenge - to make an old black and white photo of the Brunner Dvorak from 1909 interesting and appealing. In the times of black and white photography masters of graphics colorized their shots. I had the idea of doing the same with the Postojna cave motif.
Slovenia has a Carst region with over 8200 caves therefore it wasn't hard to find the right shades of red, brown and black that the calcite flowstone gets from the organic acids and pigments from iron and manganese oxides
Some more tricks were needed to get some elements to stand out more. The motif got a soul and depth and almost looked as the real cave despite its age.
The idea for the stamp came from the managers of the Postojna caves. It was focused on year 2018, when the cave will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the discovery of an unknown part of the cave which drew in more and more tourists. Year 2013 is also important as it celebrates the 800th anniversary of a human trace in the cave.
The history of the post office can be found at this link:
Let me remind you of some facts. During World War I, general Borojevič had his headquarters in the cave thus it's not surprising, that they had a special Christmas cancelation in 1915. During both World Wars this region belonged to Italy. In 1928 the Italian post planned a series of four stamps with underground motifs. No one knows why they weren't issued. In 1937 the cave got their first postal issue - six postal stationery. During the Yugoslavian period we had just one stamp with the cave motif and two with the proteus (Yugoslavia in Free teritory of Triest).
A working underground post office would be a sensation even at this time.
StampNews: How did you get the idea to cover the stamp with salt? How is it realized technologically?
Mr. Matjaž Učakar: We wanted to do something unusual to make the illustrated sea animals motifs more interesting. After long consideration, a philatelist from Piran (Mr. Mitja Jančar) suggested salting the fish tails and showing everyone that Slovenia is also a sea country. One must not forget, Piran was formed and made money because of salt.
I brought the idea of salty stamps to the stamp commission that immediately started looking for a printing house that could do this demanding task. Cartor Security Printing S. A. from France responded and they used a thermographic technique to apply fine salt form Piran Saltpans. Piran Saltpans made sure the salt had a low degree of humidity which was a prerequisite for a successful application.
There were questions about the salt being hygroscopic. Would it damage the stamp, will it pull the moisture to itself, could something unpredictable happen while printing, will the layer of salt spoil the illustration, can this kind of stamp stand the test of time? I received test prints from the printing house and was pleasantly surprised with the amazing quality of the print. The applied salt and gel make the animal stand out and when you tilt the stamp towards the sun it sparkles like the sea surface. The crystals can be seen well with a magnifying glass and being sprinkled with salt makes every stamp unique.
In this digital age, we added a small stone in the mosaic that is innovation in classical printing. With our salty stamp, we don't simply represent the sea saltiness with a salty stamp glue. Collectors over the world now have the challenge of keeping these stamps as they were on their first day.
The third place
The third place of our ranking by the number of votes and reviews has gone to a set of stamps also having an extraordinary design and issued by the Belgian bpost. The issue is dedicated to the famous Belgian chocolate and smells that good too! (original news)
The five stamps illustrate chocolate in all its forms: granules, pralines, chocolate spread, lumps and bars. Tony Le Duc, gastronomic photographer, and Kathleen Miller, graphic artist, were responsible for the design of stamps and sheet.
The chocolate taste was incorporated in the gummed part of stamps in the form of essential oil of cocoa, so it releases when licked. The stamps have also chocolate aroma, which rises from the ink to which the flavoring was added. It’s not the first time when a scented postage stamp is issued, but this scent is now combined with taste, which is an absolute premiere.
It wasn’t an easy task to find the scent and taste of dark chocolate that characterize Belgian chocolate. Partners from at least four countries (Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland) worked it out jointly.
Most-shared stamp 2013
In our special nomination Most-shared stamp the Lithuanian stamp Drawing of a Three-Year-Old Girl has won. The stamp was issued in commemoration of Mother’s Day. On StampNews.com it received most of likes and shares in 2013. (original news)
The stamp dedicated to Mother’s Day is special for its author, namely a three-year-old girl Gryte Kucinskaite.
The artist and the author of the stamp Egle Jakutaviciute noticed: "The rules of the contest said that a child’s drawing must be used for the design of the stamp. As my niece likes drawing, I have decided to put on the stamp her work.
Up till now, my stamp designs have never been among the winners, and the work of my three-year-old niece became the best at once. It seems that my three-year-old niece is a better painter than I am."