Bogus Cinderellas are the “outsiders” of the philatelic world
February 10, 2020 2:41 PM   Subscribe

A functioning postal service, made visible in stamps, is an unmistakable expression of national legitimacy. [...] The postage stamp is an excellent vehicle for spurious, tenuous, or completely fictitious states to declare their existence. In philatelic circles, such stamps are called bogus Cinderellas: “bogus” because the states represented are dubious, and “Cinderella” because they carry no real postal value*. Most serious stamp collectors consider them illegitimate despite their extraordinary ability to conjure an entire nation on a tiny piece of paper. In short, bogus Cinderellas are the “outsiders” of the philatelic world. (Outsider Art Fair) See also/via: The Joy of Collecting Stamps From Countries That Don’t Really Exist (Atlas Obscura)

* This definition is not certain. As summarized by Jim Czyl (1947 - 2014), from a column on Cinderella stamps in Linn’s Stamp News:
Cinderellas take their name from the familiar fairy tale in which an abused stepdaughter and scullery maid becomes a princess through the intervention of her fairy godmother.

Cinderella stamps probably acquired the name because they are the stepchildren of philately. Or it could be that the name conveys the fond hope that today's cinderella stamp will become tomorrow's stamp royalty.
"Jim's knowledge of phantoms, forgeries and locals is formidable," wrote then-Linn's Editor Michael Lawrence when the column was introduced in 1982 (excerpt from Saint Louis Stamp Expo Auction 2015). In addition to collecting Cinderella stamps, like this one in a Stamp Circuit auction from Estado Independente do Acre, or the Republic of Acre (Wikipedia) in Bolivia, and so many more auctioned off on Stamp Circuit, he made his own, like this one, posted by Linn's, to commemorate the surprise visit (interrogation) by the Secret Service, over his Cinderella collection.

The OAF Special Project Bogus Cinderella is largely drawn from Czyl's former collection. If you want to start your own collection, The Republic of Molossia (Atlas Obscura; previously) is selling a few themed sets of stamps, and you can pick up some older stamps from the Principality of Sealand (Wikipedia; previously, a few times).
posted by filthy light thief (16 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
I suspect that this post is going to be one of those that garners a ton of favorites and fantastic flags, but not a ton of comments. It’s extremely cool, and I really don’t care about stamps.
posted by Night_owl at 6:24 PM on February 10


Fun and interesting and just possibly the catalyst needed to get myself back in my mail art loving mother’s good graces after that whole laid off and spent too much time reveling as a middle aged wastrel period... So thanks!!!
posted by eggkeeper at 6:25 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I suspect that this post is going to be one of those that garners a ton of favorites and fantastic flags, but not a ton of comments.

I'll take it as an opportunity to plug two great stamp-related books, then.

Unit Editions published this gorgeous book of vintage stamp reproductions featuring exceptional and striking examples of graphic design.

Simon Garfield's The Error World explores "how the passions one develops as a child don’t really leave us; how a mania for collecting may be explained in psychological and emotional terms; and how – and this sounds grand – stamps may work as a metaphor for life." (The book is an expansion of his celebrated Granta piece -- subscribers only, booo.)
posted by mykescipark at 6:37 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of The Discworld stamps.
posted by antijava at 7:14 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I didn't click all the links but if one of them isn't already to a related episode of 99pi, I highly recommend checking it out.
posted by McNulty at 7:18 PM on February 10


This is the episode I mentioned

https://99percentinvisible.org/ episode/great-bitter-lake-association/
posted by McNulty at 7:58 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure I had stamps from countries that were at least borderline Cinderella (some South Pacific islands not officially recognized or something like that) back when I was collecting stamps. They usually seemed to be the most brightly coloured as well.
posted by blue shadows at 8:46 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


some South Pacific islands not officially recognized or something like that

Those would be the Cook Islands stamps issued by the notorious Finbar Kenny (see also: Dunes). Kenny and his stamps are worthy of a FPP in their own right.
posted by verstegan at 3:36 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Philatelist here -- always enjoy seeing these kind of things! My favorite Cinderellas are "Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of The Coral Sea" stamps and the stamps of Snark Island.
posted by wicked_sassy at 6:04 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I would gladly buy stamps from Freedonia, Cagliostro, Anvilania or the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
posted by delfin at 9:09 AM on February 11


What do you mean all my W.A.S.T.E. stamps aren't valid postage? This is an outrage!
posted by cwill at 9:48 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Missing the Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius tags.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:20 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this. I think it would actually be very interesting to make some for the place I live, as a decolonialist statement. I'm on St. Martin, which is half French controlled and half Dutch controlled, but stamps for a unified St. Martin could be really interesting. Also, on a practical level, mail from one side of this 87 square kilometer island to the other can often take a path like St. Martin->Guadeloupe->France->Netherlands->Curacao->Sint Maarten, which can take months.
posted by snofoam at 1:10 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


It’s extremely cool, and I really don’t care about stamps.

Me either, but you know what? I buy commemorative sheets way more often than is reasonable. Wilbert Harrison? Sure! Cars of the 70s? Why not! Worth anything? I'm pretty sure no!

Almost every time I have to mail a package or require a signature on a letter I buy one or two sheets and put them in a file folder in the box with all my tax and auto insurance statements. Who knows what will come of them, but I think most of them are forever-stamps, so I'll always be able to mail stuff no matter how hard the times I fall on are.

So given my casual philately (there's a 'filthy casual' joke in there somewhere), all I want out of these Cinderellas is a complete collection of all of the Freedonia ones. I have to think there's some made every few years for the past 80-plus years.

Those would be the Cook Islands stamps issued by the notorious Finbar Kenny (see also: Dunes). Kenny and his stamps are worthy of a FPP in their own right.

Just the first sentence of his Wikipedia entry is FPP-worthy!

"Kenny worked as manager of the stamp department of Macy's."
posted by rhizome at 3:02 PM on February 12


Reading the Finbar Kenny link from above -- Macy's had a stamp department?!
posted by tavella at 4:19 PM on February 12


That's exactly what I'm saying! "The Untold Story of Macy's Stamp Department(s)."
posted by rhizome at 9:41 PM on February 12


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