…mainstream pop culture themes were only seen on stamps of desperately poor countries who churned out worthless collector-bait. So it was that nations like the Central African Republic and St Vincent and the Grenadines were among the first in the galaxy to bring us Star Wars stamps. The C.A.R. artwork was, admittedly, beautifully evocative of the era, even if they appear to think Han Solo was played by Ted Danson.
Fun fact: St Vincent and the Grenadines is my second-favourite Caribbean band after Bob Marley and the Wailers.
As the Internet Trade Federation became more powerful, people stopped posting letters, and postal administrations experienced a slump in galactic profits. With Star Wars proving itself an enduring cultural phenomenon with a cashed-up fan base, even the strongest of nations were lured to the Dark Side. The US turned in 2007, but did it in style, with this sheet of self-adhesive stamps featuring artwork by long-time Star Wars poster artist Drew Struzan.
There’s something warm and authentic and non-CGI about these stamps. They remind me of the books I had as a child.
Australia Post dipped its toe into the lava flows of Mustafar with a few of its Special Event Souvenir (SES) Sheets. These are often breathlessly referred to in the mainstream media as stamp issues (“Australia releases Star Wars stamps!”) and AP is happy to play along. But while the borders and the tabs next to the stamps might depict Star Wars themes, the actual stamps are a definitive generic design. As can be seen from the illustration, the farce is strong with this one. But what do you expect from the Dark Side?
But the reason for this entire post is that the UK’s Royal Mail has just whipped out its Darth Maul double-bladed lightsaber and slaughtered everyone with its stunning addition to the Star Wars stamp canon. It features nine classic characters from Episodes I to VI, and three new characters from the next installment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, out in December. Look at these beauties.
Well hell-lo young Han Solo! No no – don’t act. Just brood.
Those new characters are a worry. Sure, everyone loves the trailer, but can we be sure these newbies are worth their salt? I mean, if the UK had done this prior to the release of The Phantom Menace, then it would have the national embarrassment of having Jar Jar Binks on a stamp.
(Nerd note: I have seen stamps purportedly from Niger and Turkmenistan depicting Jar Jar Binks, but they are almost certainly as fake as Jar Jar himself.)
The UK issue also includes a miniature sheet featuring a selection of Star Wars vehicles, plus a whole bunch of related collectibles. In other words, click here for geek heaven.
Does anyone else find it disturbing that the Queen has no problem with her iconic silhouette appearing above the Death Star and a TIE Fighter? Not a good look, Liz. Where was your intergalactic PR team that day?
(UPDATE: Royal Mail followed up in 2017 with a subsequent issue featuring Star Wars’ Droids and Aliens. You can see them at the link above which for your convenience I will repeat here!)
But wait! Just when you think the UK had mastered The Force and blown a massive hole in everyone else’s exhaust port, there’s an entry from France due out next week! What shall we see from the French, the acknowledged masters of all that is tasteful in the known universe?
Um… what? That’s the best you could do, France? Sacré bleu!
I won’t complain about the lack of humans, because I respect France for being one of the few nations that still has enough pride in its stamps to show some reluctance to depict living humans on them in case they turn out to be pedophiles (a risk that more and more countries are happy to take). But really, black and white photos of some of the oldest characters in the chronicle? Did France photocopy them out of a 1980 fanzine hoping that the copyright has lapsed and they won’t have to pay for them?
Perhaps it’s a ruse. Maybe the actual release will exhibit a little more industrial light and magic. We’ll find out next week. At least the range of products in France’s issue includes two of La Poste’s innovative Origamix products, which are pre-stamped envelopes that can be folded into Origami versions of R2-D2 or an X-Wing fighter. Touché, France. Aaaaand that’s me out of French.
So it looks like everyone’s turned to the Dark Side now. And call me a Sith Lord, but I think the galaxy is better place for it.
© Philatelic product images remain the copyright of issuing postal administrations and successor authorities