Yugoslav National Army illustrated postal stationery, circa 1978

These are six illustrated envelopes produced by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) in the mid 1970s. I love this first one, portraying a cute red-capped blond temptress playfully hugging a tree while eying the soldier’s gun.

All but one were sent to the same woman in Zagreb – I brushed out her name to save her from any embarrassment or pain – over the course of a few weeks in the fall of 1978. The addressee was either a collector or the sender was very much in love. Not sure what’s going on in this next one, but everyone looks pretty wet.

This one’s odd, too. What exactly are they looking at?

This looks like a nice spot. Anyone know where it is?

Reception problems?

And finally, the standard seven young sailors with a cute chick in a rowboat shot. I like her sullen dreamy gaze into the distance as the guy next to her stares at her chest. Anyone know any of these people?

Tito on Stamps

In my world, May 4 will always be associated with two things. In 1970, four students were killed and nine others wounded when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on demonstrators at Kent State University not too far from where I grew up. And in 1980, Tito, the president of the country in which I was born, died at 88.

It was right around the time of the Kent State shootings that I first began to become aware of Tito. My parents were prolific letter writers, and we regularly received mail from Yugoslavia. More often than not, the stamps on the envelopes bore an image of Tito. My brother and I had the biggest collection of Tito stamps in the neighborhood.

His 35 year rule offered plenty of opportunities for Yugoslavia to issue stamps to commemorate its President-for-Life. Depending on how they’re counted, somewhere between 100 and 110 were issued between 1945 and 1990 to celebrate his cult of personality.

Probably my favorite design is from the series above, Michel catalog Nos 605-608, issued for May Day 1950. There’s an elegant Hollywood charm to it, no?

The first (above) were issued on 21 February 1945, with denominations in Occupied dinars (Michel 454-457). Below is the first airmail issue bearing his likeness, issued on 22 December 1951.

Here are a couple more, an early postal card and an early cover (Michel 477).

And this one was the last, issued on 25 may 1990, a day celebrated annually as the Day of Youth which coincided with Tito’s birthday. It’s seems appropriate that he’s looking very somber, and looking down.

I’ve managed to collect them all, either mint, used, or on cover. For those of you interested in this trip down memory lane, I posted most of them on a stamp collecting board here.

Bette Davis Guise

What’s missing?

With the slightly on edge smile, it’s fairly obvious.

The US Postal Service photoshopped a cigarette out of this Bette Davis commemorative stamp issued last month, leaving her sexy gloved hand bereft of her ubiquitous little white stick. Writes film critic Roger Ebert on his Chicago Sun Times blog:

We are all familiar, I am sure, with the countless children and teenagers who have been lured into the clutches of tobacco by stamp collecting

I certainly was. Just like this Babe Ruth stamp turned me into an overweight drunk. And this Hemmingway stamp into a suicidal mini-misogynist. And collecting these Hitler stamps into a neo-Nazi. And this pharmacy commemorative into a fledgling backwoods crystal meth lab operator.

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Musee Olympique Philatelic Collection

LAUSANNE — For my fellow stamp collecting fetishists, here are a few stealth shots of the Olympic Museum’s Philatelic collection rooms, to give an idea of how they’re displayed.

The museum owns copies of every Olympic stamp ever issued –donated by former IOC boss Juan Antonio Samaranch– and the vast majority are displayed in mint blocks of four. There isn’t much for sale in the Musee’s giftshop but it’s just as well, since what’s there is tragically overpriced.

And speaking of tragically overpriced, stamps have been been part of the Olympics’ bottom line since the inaugural modern Games in Athens in 1896. Organizers wouldn’t have been able to balance the books without income from the sale of the first Olympic commemoratives. Most of the 12 stamps issued for the Games in 1895 and 1896 had print runs ranging from 2 and 3 million.

Here’s a searchable database of all Olympic theme stamps.