Tintin and the world of stamps

12 June 2007

Postage stamps - the vast majority of us encounter them on a daily basis. They are just one of those little things that we do not overly notice. But around the world, millions of stamps are produced, with thousands of different designs. Some of these contain pictures of our beloved Tintin, as well as other Franco-Belgian comic strip heroes; such as Asterix, Bob and Bobette, Lucky Luke, and Blake and Mortimer.

Tintin first appeared on a stamp in 1979, in Tintin’s homeland of Belgium. On October 1st, the single stamp was issued. It depicted Tintin with a magnifying glass looking at two stamps, one of Captain Haddock, and the other presumably (from the visible tuft of black hair) of Professor Calculus. It was designed to encourage children to get involved with philately, or the study of stamps. There had been a pre-sale of the stamp on 29 and 30 September in several Belgian cities previous to its general release. This stamp was used on the front cover of both the hardcover and paperback editions of the late Harry Thompson’s “Tintin - Hergé & his Creation”.

It was 20 years later, in Belgiums neighbour The Netherlands that Tintin next appeared on a postage stamp. In September 1999 two stamps were released, each depicting a scene from the book “Explorers on the Moon”, one where the foolish Haddock bangs his head against the glass in the moon vehicle, and the other showing the scene where Tintin and Snowy are skidding along the ice. Both of the stamps were 80 cents.

Only a month later, on October 15th, 1999, a stamp was issued in Belgium that depicted a model of the moon rocket from the adventures in what appears to be a museum. There is also a speech bubble with that distinctive quiff sticking out of it, that reminds me somewhat of Garen Ewing’s distinctive logo for Tintinologist.org. The stamp also displays its price in both Belgian francs (17) and euros (0,45).

Within a year, another Tintin stamp was issued: this time in France.

On March 11th 2000, a Tintin stamp called fete du timbre was issued. It was in both francs (3,00) and euros (0,46) and depicted Tintin and Snowy running along. That same year, Belgium released a stamp celebrating Hergé that depicted the illustration of Tintin using Hergé as a puppet on a yellow background.

On December 1st 2001 a joint issue was released between Belgium and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It commemorated the 70th anniversary of the book “Tintin in the Congo”. The very fact that in Africa they celebrate this book on stamps showed that not all Africans considered “Tintin in Congo” racist. Both countries issued two identical stamps: one showing a scene with Tintin and Coco in the car; the other a gouache painting of Tintin in safari gear.

In February 2004, Belgium again released some Tintin-themed stamps. The set of five stamps commemorated the 75th anniversary of Tintin, the 50th anniversary of “Explorers on the Moon” and the 35th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moon landing. Three of the stamps showed images from the book “Explorers on the Moon”, with one showing a sketch of the moon rocket and the fifth being a picture of Hergé with a model rocket. Each of the stamps cost 0,41 euros.

The year 2007 was the centenary of Hergé’s birth. To commemorate this, France issued a set of six stamps, each depicting a Tintin character: Tintin and Snowy, Professor Calculus, Captain Haddock, Thomson and Thompson, Bianca Castafiore, and Chang. The stamps were released on May 14th.

Eight days later, on 22nd May, Belgium released a set of 25 stamps, 24 of which each showed a cover of a Tintin book. Each one of these was in a different language, showing just how globally popular Tintin had become. The 25th stamp showed a picture of Hergé.

Other stamps with Tintin on them have been released, though these, as far as I am aware, are unofficial stamps, from countries including Malaysia, and Singapore.

There are also images from the Tintin adventures printed like postage stamps, but which cannot actually be used for postal purposes (“cinderella stamps”). Often these cinderella stamps fetch higher prices on sites like eBay than the official, real postage stamps.

The future is bound to contain more stamps based on the series, particularly with the upcoming Spielberg-Jackson Tintin trilogy. Maybe even new countries will release Tintin stamps and it will not all be left to the Belgian post office. I will welcome that; however, I think I shall need to get some more pages for my Tintin stamp album first!