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Funny business in the world of stamps

14 June 2018

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

The world of philately is experiencing a fragrant moment. The United States Postal Service is about to issue its very first set of scratch’n’sniff stamps, designed by the Californian artist Margaret Berg. The series will consist of 10 stamps adorned with images of iced lollies, which will apparently ‘add the sweet scent of summer to letters of love, friendship, party invitations and mailings’. When rubbed, the stamps will release the distinctive odour of iced treats flavoured with watermelons, blueberries, strawberries and other fruits.

In the UK, however, stamp collectors must make do with a whiff of absurdity. To mark the 50th anniversary of the long-running sitcom Dad’s Army, Royal Mail is releasing a series of stamps bearing images of its principal characters, accompanied by classic one-liners – from Private Pike’s ‘I’ll tell mum!’ to Captain Mainwaring’s ‘You stupid boy!’.

Rakewell suspects such comedy gold might well baffle anyone unfamiliar with the show when taken out of context and tacked to an envelope. Then again, as the UK ‘prepares’ to depart the European Union, these stamps commemorating the farcical spirit of Dad’s Army may be just the postal livery for the moment. Indeed, there are specimens to suit all tastes: ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!’, as Lance Corporal Jones would put it. Or, to quote the rather less optimistic Private Frazer: ‘We’re doomed. Doomed!

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