How does the moon fit onto a stamp?
We all grew up with stamps. Those small, delicate images which tell stories of countries and events and which can decorate an envelope quite wonderfully. Nowadays, letters are increasingly stamped with bar codes or rolling stamps. Still, the stamps are surviving and occasionally, the moon is to be seen on them. Mostly when a historic space travel event is being celebrated.
In particular in the USA, but also in the former USSR, stamps with moon motifs were used, demonstrating progress and claim to power. A clever strategy, as a stamp is an extremely inexpensive advertising space (because the sender pays), that automatically reaches all parts of the world. This was a successful model for many decades, but in the age of electronic communication via e-mail and multimedia advertisement in the Internet and TV, this status has dropped: stamps almost belong to the more nostalgic remnants of past days.
In the search of the moon on stamps, we initially encountered stamps from the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries from the 50s, mostly depicting satellites and space probes. The Soviet space travel had an edge on their foot race at this time, with the USA. Alongside, you can see a Polish stamp of Sputnik in 1959, a satellite that was launched into orbit and considered the starting point of space travel. Furthermore, a Russian moon probe Lunik 3 from 1959, which produced first-time images of the reverse side of the moon.
Towards the end of the 60s, the Americans took precedence with their Apollo missions and the moon landing: »First man on the moon«, 1969. Of course, this was the historic event of the manned space travel and thus celebrated accordingly.
Meanwhile, it has gone more quiet around the moon on stamps. The interest in our moon had to yield to more important and further away goals. In 2009 (The International Year of Astronomy) more motifs could be seen.
According to latest figures, there are 3 million stamp collectors in Germany alone, 25 million in the USA and 200 million worldwide. This encourages optimism that there will be stamps in the future, even though they will be used much less in their original sense and not to be found on envelopes, but in collector’s stamp albums.