Collecting Poster Stamps
Jan/Feb 2019 edition
Issue #3 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
Tiny, But unique and very collectible!
Many people are unfamiliar with these exquisite gems known as poster stamps: non-denominated stamps, not used for postage, but created to advertise a product or event. In many cases, these stamps (generally, but not always perforated) are miniatures of actual posters. At the height of their popularity, in the days before radio and television, they were a powerful advertising tool.
Poster stamps with many topics first appeared on the scene in the late 1800s, primarily to advertise exhibitions. The 1900 “Paris Exposition” ushered in a golden era for this particular form of advertising label. According to available information; in these early years, more than 100,000 different images were produced in Germany alone. U.S. manufacturers of many diverse products, as well as European businesses, had some of the era’s most gifted graphic designers and poster artists create wonderful images. Many later issued to coincide with the 1915 “Pan-Pacific International Exposition” held in San Francisco.
Poster stamps proved to be an ideal advertising medium; they were small, attractive, readily available, and very collectible. Most were affixed to envelopes, postcards, invoices or given away with products. Sadly, this flourishing graphics medium started to diminish at the end of the First World War, and although these bits of advertising continued to be produced, even occasionally today, the golden era images have become scarcer and more prized by a growing group of collectors.
There is a wide world of automotive-themed poster stamps. Some of the images are easily recognizable by auto enthusiasts who collect full-scale posters. Some wonderful poster images, can be found in miniature as shown here; great for those on a smaller budget with limited wall space!
There are classic racing stamps such as the “1915 Astor Cup Race” by renowned artist Peter Helck, as well as great stamps by other artists….the “1954 Spanish Grand Prix” is a perfect example (other stamps from other years of this race also exist). There are poster stamps for specific open road events, such as those shown for the “1929 Targa Florio”, and the “1935 Mille Miglia”. Even more stamps were produced for an enormous number of Auto Shows and Expositions, both in Europe and the U.S. The striking Art Deco design of the Swiss “1930 Geneva Auto Salon” was printed in 4 different colors, both in French and German.
“The Geneva Salon” produced similarly gorgeous stamps each year from 1924 to 1933, and later for a number of more years through the 1960s. Italy produced the iconic Metlicovitz image for the “1907 Milan Show”. In the U.S. Milwaukee, Omaha, Cleveland, New York and other cities often advertised their auto shows with colorful poster stamps.
Once you add the array of images for specific product advertising of tires, motor oil, and auto supplies from such companies as Michelin, Pirelli, Bosch, Mobil, and Goodrich, plus various auto manufacturers including; Audi, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz, and Opel, you have a truly amazing choice of period graphic images.
Prices/values of course vary depending on the stamp, but you can expect to find a great variety ranging from under $20 to $100 or more.
To read more great columns like this one from Poster Stamp Expert Bonnie Singer...
Collecting Poster Stamps
Owner of VintageAutoCollectibles.com