Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Christmas letter

Dear Australia Post,

Re: Boring-slash-ugly Christmas 2012 Stamps

So, the thing is, I like stamps. 'Like' is a little bit of an understatement. I get pretty excited about beautiful stamps. I am sure I don't have to tell you why I find stamps so wonderful, but basically stamps encompass three delightful elements in miniature:
  • Design: check; 
  • History: Check; 
  • Functionality: Check.
You will notice that the first reason I like stamps is to do with the design. Stamps are aesthetically pleasing little items. And therein is the reason for this letter, and the crux of my beef with you:
                 What is with the ugly Christmas stamps?

To be fair, two of the five stamps are gorgeous. The other three are dreadful. These are the stamps I like:

They are beautiful. Images from a wool and silk tapestry at the Art Gallery of South Australia depicting the adoration of the Magi. Traditional, yes, but also elegant, rich and beautiful.

I understand that we live in a secular society and that there probably needs to be some "non-religious" offerings on the philatelic front.  I don't have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is the fact that they are ugly stamps.


The naive style is supposed to reflect a child's excitement and wonder at Christmas time. So how come the stamps look like some cheap banner decorating a tacky shopping centre? Puke.

Naive style at Christmas can be done well. Unsuprisingly, those clever Scandinavian's have accomplished a sophisticated design, aesthetically appealing and containing a similar subject matter to our current stamps:

Aren't the Swedish parcels cute and interesting compared to the awful pressies depicted on our stamp? And check out the depiction of a parcel on this stamp from the Netherlands - simple but sweet:

Now I think these are Christmas stamps worth getting excited about. To be fair, my favourite of all are the tapestry stamps from our issue. But in terms of naive style, the Europeans have it. Perhaps something to aim for next year, Australia Post?

With sincere hopes that you enjoy constructive criticism,


PS. I am totally available should you wish to hire me. I am a historian, so could research your stamp issues. And as a bonus I could give you design advice: Helen's 'hot or not?' for stamps. You know, if you want.

*Images stolen from the Australia Post shop.  Should you wish to purchase the ugly stamps (although I would highly recommend the beautiful ones), check out this link.


  1. What do you think about the Spanish stamps for Christmas (2012):

    I come from Spain, but I'm currently living in Morocco so... no Christmas stamps here!

    1. Hi Hawwa,
      Thanks so much for sharing the Spanish Christmas stamps. It is interesting to compare them... Well, I do like the Adoration of the Magi as a theme, and I really like the medieval image that is used in that stamp.

      As for the second Spanish stamp - the modern depiction of motherhood as a symbolic reference to Mary and Jesus - well, it's an interesting take. And the stamp itself is quite nice. But it does seem a little odd as a Christmas stamp. But both the Spanish stamps beat the ugly Australian stamps in my book!!

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment!


    2. In the last years, it's always a depiction of motherhood as Christmas stamp for Europe (0,70€), and a classical reproduction as Christmas stamp for Spain (0,36€). I suppose it's because, as you wrote, we're in a secular society. But I can't see the point to made a "non-religious Christmas stamp". That is a nonsense, isn't it?

      Don't thank me for visiting your blog, as I like it a lot!

    3. Yep - I agree! It is a bit of a nonsense!

  2. Hi Helen,
    i agree with your criticism of the tacky Australian secular offering but also admire the Pre-Raphaelitish offering.
    Australia post would be wise to hire you as their design adviser and historian. You would truely be in 'Iheartpost' heaven.....but would the world of archeology survive with out you?
    I think not.
    Love, Mum.

  3. Helen
    I really do hope that you actually sent this letter to Australia Post. It made me smile.

    1. I think I just might send it Sandra! After all, snail mail is surely the only option when it comes to communicating with Australia Post.

  4. Ahaha!! Helen you're fantastic. I love that you said 'puke'. I have to agree though, the colours are garish on the Australia post stamps and there's nothing elegant/timeless about them. Which is interesting because I'd think Christmas time would be one of the most popular stamp-purchasing months, based on how many people still send Christmas cards in the mail. Good luck on your job prospects ;) xxx Joh


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