Eleven forbidden stamps are at the centre stage of a very interesting little book by Haris Mathiopoulos. They are in fact different types of personal stamps with a specific peculiarity. The vignettes are neither the “silent” pictures nor the “voiceless” paintings, which we usually encounter. They are instead accompanied by a sharp, penetrating message, sometimes quite provocative. The author has tried to legitimize his messages on personal stamps at the Hellenic Post, and at its counterparts in the USA, England, Germany, Austria and Luxembourg. What he has actually tested is the tolerance of each postal service against the general rule that “a personal stamp should not offend anybody or anything”. Of course, this rule is freely interpreted, therefore the limits of tolerance are in each case different: one postal service might have forbidden printing the stamps, while another might have approved.

The book with the forbidden stamps turned up a few days ago by an article of Nicholas Yatromanolakis in protagon.gr. The columnist says that he enjoyed philately since he was very young, and he justly wonders what impact these stamps would have had on him, had they fallen into his hands at a time he was discovering the world. He then adds: “… maybe some of these phrases printed on the stamps would have swirled in my mind more often today…”.

So there you have, an unusual, intriguing and a definitely unexplored feature of personal stamps.