Monday, January 20, 2014

'Catching the spirit': Olympic curling stamps

by Bob Cowan

Postage stamps with a curling theme have been an interest of mine for many years. Indeed, the passion has extended to collecting other aspects of postal history including first day covers, cachets, cancels, postal stationary, and postcards, all with a curling theme. This post describes a good starting point for a thematic curling collection, commemorative postage stamps issued by the Winter Olympic Games host countries.

Prior to 1988, when curling was a demonstration sport in Calgary, Canada, three stamps with a curling image had been issued from Sharjah, and two from Canada. The 1988 stamp above is the first true Olympic curling stamp, the sport being a demonstration event at the Calgary Games. Since then, each Winter Olympic Games has seen a number of countries issue commemorative stamps. I have no intention of illustrating them all here, only to show those issued by the host country.

Just for clarification, there was no curling stamp back in 1924 when the sport began its Olympic journey in Chamonix, France. However, an image from that event appears on a difficult-to-find Tanzanian stamp commemorating the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. That stamp is featured at the end of a Curling History Blog post about the 1924 Olympic curling competition, here.

To celebrate the 1988 Winter Olympics, Canada Post issued a series of eleven stamps over three years. One showed a map of the venues. Nine featured Olympic sport disciplines, and another featured curling, one of four demonstration sports at these Games.

The designer of the stamps was Pierre-Yves Pelletier, from Montreal. His brief was to produce a design which would promote the sports, not individual athletes or teams. He had to develop a technique that eliminated details, yet kept each sport identifiable. 
Canada Post issued a souvenir brochure entitled 'Catching the Spirit' which describes how the stamps were made, as well as including all the stamps.

Pierre-Yves Pelletier chose photographs of athletes and modified these using a special screening technique. The six-sided dots of different sizes were overlaid on a 900 square grid over each photo to produce the desired image. The numerical data was read by computer and output to a laser printer.

Each stamp was printed in a variety of colours. In all, 800 different combinations of colours and images were tried out.

The curling stamp was printed on sheets with the alpine skiing stamp, and one often finds these for sale in pairs, or in blocks of four.

Altogether, Canada Post issued 105, 000, 000 stamps commemorating the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

Curling was again a demonstration sport at the 1992 Winter Games. The competition was held in the village of Pralognan. This French stamp (above) was included in a set of eleven, which are available all together in an attractive mini sheet.

If I have a favourite Olympic curling stamp it is this one, commemorating the 1998 Games in Nagano, when the curling competition, now a full medal sport for men and women, was held at Karuizawa. Five stamps with Olympic sports were issued, and there is a wonderful mini sheet to find with all five of these, five floral stamps and the event mascots.  

Other countries which issued commemorative Olympic stamps or mini sheets with a curling interest for the 1998 Games include Saint Pierre et Miquelon, Gambia, Chad, Togo, Grenada, Niger, as well as Tanzania, mentioned above.

There was no USA stamp, with a curling theme, issued especially for the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, when the curling competition was held in Ogden. There was however a special cancel, above.

And with the success of the Rhona Martin GB team, there was a special hand cancel!

Other countries which issued commemorative Olympic stamps or mini sheets with a curling interest for the 2002 Games include Canada, Sierra Leone, Republic of Guinea, Gambia, and Mozambique.

The Italian postal service issued a curling stamp for the Turin Winter Games in 2006, when the curling competition was held in Pinerolo. This was one of a set with eight other sports. There's a mini sheet with all nine stamps.

Other countries which issued commemorative Olympic stamps or mini sheets with a curling interest for the 2006 Games include Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Sao Tome and Principe, Belgium (a pre-stamped postcard), and Commonweath of Dominica.

There are two Canadian curling stamps to collect from the Games at Vancouver 2010. This one above ...

... and this one, showing one of the mascots for the Paralympic Games, a wheelchair curler!

Other countries which issued commemorative Olympic stamps or mini sheets with a curling interest for the 2010 Games include Guinea-Bissau (3), Mozambique (2), and San Marino.

This Russian curling themed stamp for Sochi 2014 is one of a set of three winter sports.

Other countries which have (so far) issued stamps or mini sheets with a curling interest for the 2014 Games include Canada (featuring Sandra Schmirler), Djibouti (a mini sheet with two stamps, one of which has a pic of Sweden's Anette Norberg), Togo, Chad, and Mozambique.

There is another Olympic curling stamp that should be mentioned. It is a Cambodian mini sheet from 1994, for the Lillehammer, Norway, Winter Olympic Games. Curling was not included in the Olympic programme in 1994, but the topic was nevertheless included in the Cambodian set of sports' stamps. The image used is interesting, given that the curling stones featured do not have handles!

Countries which have produced curling-themed stamps with no particular association with the Olympics include Sharjah, Canada (2), Guyana, Maldives, Austria, Czech Republic and New Zealand. And of course a collection might include both mint and postally used stamps, imperforates, and overprints.

Good collecting!

Have I have missed any? Please let me know if I have. Bob.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great post Bob.
Lovely read.