June 1, 2012

Uncovering History through Old Stamps

The other day, when I went to my grandmother's, she asked me to sort her stamps. She has quite a substantial collection of Japanese stamps from the 1960s to 1970s. Several years ago, she gave me the most valuable chunk -- sheet after sheet of vintage stamps, in pristine condition. I fell instantly in love with the infinite designs, and how, despite their unassuming nature, they reveal a great deal about our history

I thought I'd seen all that she had, but it turns out she has a boxful of loose stamps that she's been trying to use up. Among them were some surprises, both good and bad.

According to an old stamp catalogue (circa 1979), also from my grandma, the above three stamps are:
-6 yen stamp, "Woman working in a printing factory". Issued November 25, 1949.  
-7 sen stamp, "Pearl Harbor Attack". Issued December 8, 1942.
-20 yen stamp, "Planting". Issued May 10, 1949.

The quality of the photo isn't that great, so the crucial middle stamp is blurred. All the same, I felt a sickening jolt when I read the words.

These aren't actually stamps at all, but "Double Barred Cross Seals" issued by the Japan Antituberculosis Association. The ones here are from the late 1950s to the 1960s. The seals were first produced in 1952 in Japan, and apparently continue to this day. I'm sure many people had them confused with real stamps!

Diligently creating piles of stamps by value. It took forever and my arms started aching towards the end.

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