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A New Sub-Niche: The World of Sports-Themed Postage Stamps

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[This post is part of Uni Watch Positivity Week. You can learn more about that here, and you can see all the UWPW posts here. — PL]

Last week I attended a social gathering and ended up talking to a guy who asked what I do for a living. I explained that I write about uniforms, logos, and other aspects of athletics aesthetics. “Oh, my father would probably love to talk to you,” he said. “He’s really into sports philately.”

Philately, of course, is the collection and study of postage stamps. Obviously, I was aware that sports-themed stamps exist, but I hadn’t occurred to me that some philatelists might specialize in collecting sports-themed stamps. As the guy at the social event explained to me, this is such a strong niche interest that there’s actually an organization called Sports Philatelists International, which has been around since 1962. They produce a quarterly publication called the Journal of Sports Philately, which is apparently the pre-eminent (only?) resource in the field.

The last six years’ worth of the Journal’s archives are paywalled, but everything prior to that — a slew of issues dating from 1962 through 2017 — has been digitally archived and is accessible for viewing and download. The early issues, perhaps unsurprisingly, were mimeographed newsletters, but the project eventually evolved into a slick, full-color magazine.

Some of the articles in the Journal are simple reports on new sports-themed stamp releases, like this one-page 2017 article on the U.S. Postal Service’s then-new edition of ball-based stamps:

There are also articles about stamps from the recent past, like this 2016 piece about the stamps that Ireland released when the country was hosting the 2006 Ryder Cup:

And then there are historical deep dives, like this lengthy examination of stamps commemorating the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam (just the first article of a four-part series!):

In short, the Journal seems a lot like Uni Watch, with excruciatingly detailed coverage of a niche topic that most people don’t care about but some people really care about.

Even if you’re not interested in reading the text of the articles (I’m not that interested in doing so myself), many of the stamp designs are really cool:

There’s also coverage of sports-themed postmarks, which in some ways are even cooler than the stamps:

And there’s also the occasional sports-themed postcard design. This one is a stunner — imagine it as a poster:


And so on. I’m just scratching the surface here — I definitely encourage you to poke around in the Journal‘s archives to learn more.

I’ve really enjoyed getting acquainted with this new subset of athletics aesthetics. Or at least it’s new to me — are any Uni Watch readers already into the sports philately scene?



Substack Reminder

In case you missed it on Wednesday: Having spent the past two weeks doing deep-dive Uni Watch Premium articles on two of the NFL uniforms that are being revived as throwbacks this season — the Seahawks’ silver/blue uniforms and the Bucs’ creamsicles — I’m turning my attention this week to the Eagles’ Kelly greens (whose latest throwback iteration leaked last week). I’ve come up with a dozen fun facts about Philly’s Kelly period, most of which you probably didn’t know or have forgotten.

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paying subscriber to my Substack (which will also give you access to my full Substack/Bulletin archives). My thanks, as always, for your consideration.



Can of the Day

Oh baby, what a tour de force! The diagonal blue ribbon, the blue sunburst lines, the “Chee” typography — spectacular! “Known for Quality,” indeed.

• • • • •

That’s a wrap (at least for now) for Uni Watch Positivity Week. It’s possible that I’ll post more content today if there’s breaking news, but I have no current plans to do so.

Thanks for going along with me on this one-week experiment. It’s been interesting and has largely achieved its goal of keeping me out of that toxic head space that negative criticism can sometimes entail. That’s doesn’t mean I’ll never be negative again, but this week has been a good detox break.

Have a great weekend, enjoy Phil’s weekend content (including his annual “Dads in Uniform” post on Sunday), and I’ll see you back here on Monday. Peace. — Paul

Comments (11)

    This is peak Uni Watch: a thing you didn’t know was interesting is very interesting.

    Also, the 1940 Olympics postcard has a little bit of German war propaganda on it: “fand durch den uns aufgezwungenen Krieg nicht statt” (“did not take place through the war [that was] forced upon us”).

    Yes – and in fact both the winter and summer olympics were canceled that year.

    Not to mention peak gaslighting as well – “stop making us invade your country!”

    I love the can series. Amazed that so many things we today buy in cardboard or plastic containers used to come in metal tins! Honey? Potato chips?

    I was a stamp collector in my youth. My dad would bring home from work a big manila envelope of stamps torn from business mail. I’d soak them off the paper, dry them, and mount them in an album with little hinged mounts. I’m always a sucker for baseball-themed stamps AND well-designed stamps in general. The George Morrison set this year is stunning. (He’s a Native American artist from Minnesota.)

    For anyone around the DC area, there is a great baseball exhibit at the National Postal Museum. In addition to the stamps and other such postal related items, there are a lot of other pieces of memorabilia that make it more like something you’d see in Cooperstown. Overall it’s a great museum and probably a bit of a hidden gem in the area.

    This reminded me of a “Legends of Baseball” stamp set I had pinned on my bedroom wall for years growing up.

    These were the stamps:

    Canada Post always does a really nice job of sports themed stamps, especially hockey. Whenever I mail something I try to use one if available. A few years ago they did a nice goalie mask series, and they did a beautiful 72 Summit Series one last year. The Vancouver Asahi baseball one from several years back was especially nice.

    I strongly recommend this article about the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. The visuals are stunning, specially the post stamps included here.


    I must have my Clemente and Knute Rockne stamps from the US Postal Service somewhere, along with some fine Cuban baseball stamps I collected 25 years ago…

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