Early postage stamp issues for the majority of countries predominantly feature images of leaders – kings, queens, presidents, ministers as well as mythological characters and celebrities. These were definitive stamps – part of a regular issue – that broadened out to include national emblems and coats of arms. The first commemorative stamp issue is believed to have been the 1870 Peru 5¢ scarlet stamp to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first railway in South America.
These stamps all featured designs commissioned by people and many of these designers became well established notorieties of philately – including Roland Hill, Dorothy Wilding (UK Wilding series), Arnold Machin (UK Machin series), Jacques-Jean Barre (French Ceres series) and Clair Aubrey Houston (United States Curtis Jenny airmail) to name just a few.
However, the 1970 Netherlands summer charity issue marked a new age in stamp design. It is believed to be the first time a computer was used in stamp design, although the issue is also attributed to Professor Robert Deodaat Emile “Ootje” Oxenaar. Oxenaar was a prolific designer and is probably most noted for his commission of two series of Dutch banknotes that were internationally celebrated and remained in circulation from 1964 until the introduction of the Euro in 2002.
The Cultural, Health and Social Welfare Fund issue of five stamps was released on 7 April and features complex geometrical shapes.
12c. + 8c. Black on Yellow (Circle to Square)
15c. + 10c. Black on Silver (Parallel planes in Cube)
20c. + 10c. Black on White (Overlapping scales)
25c. + 10c. Black on Light Blue (Concentric circles in transition)
45c. + 20c. White on Silver Grey (Spirals)
The stamps were printed by Royal Joh. Enschedé of Haarlem in the Netherlands on unwatermarked paper with a perforation of 12½ x 14. They are a striking set of stamps and arguably opened up stamp design to a whole new world of possibilities including the personalisation of stamps using simple home computing facilities.
The United States Post Office (USPS) ran a service allowing personalisation of postage stamps but was discontinued in 2020 as a result of declining demand and insignificant contribution to Postal Service revenues. The USPS added ’Customized Postage program constitutes an unacceptable risk to our legal brand and business interests that outweighs any countervailing benefits’. The UK Royal Mail similarly provided customers with the opportunity to personalise stamps known as ‘Smilers’, although this service was discontinued in 2018. Other countries such as Austria, Bhutan, India, Indonesia and Malta have also experimented with personalised stamps.
To view postal issues of Netherlands, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.