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?