For The Record: Tattoo Stamps
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive:You may have been reading lately about the money problems that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is having. The Post Office has been trying to find ways to cut expenses as well as bring in more money. One of the least popular expense-cutting ideas was to cut Saturday delivery. One idea for raising more money was to allow living people to be honored on U.S. postage stamps. The USPS recently announced that they have ended the long-standing rule that stamps cannot feature people who are living. It is unknown when the dead-only rule was put into effect, but it goes back to at least the 1960s…
The Postal Service did make one slip-up along the way when they put an illustration of Lou Jacobs in his clown face on a stamp; perhaps they did not realize that Jacobs was still alive. In a 1981 interview Jacobs had this to say about the stamp. “I remember someone had said in clown alley that they were going to have a clown stamp. I wondered if they would use a real clown or just a made-up clown on the stamp. I sure was surprised when I saw the stamp and they had used a picture of me from an old circus poster.” Jacobs said they did not get his permission to put his face on the stamp. Being fans of the circus we could not pass up the chance to show the Lou Jacobs stamp.
Tattoo stamps are not as rare as you might think. Islands in the South Pacific where tattooing is part of their culture, often create stamps with all forms of body decoration, including tattooing. New Zealand has probably issued more tattoo stamps than any other country in the world but the list should also include French Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Marshall Islands, Samoa, and Tanzania.
With this article we have included a few of the latest tattoo stamps to cross our desk. Two of the newest stamps are the man and woman with the great Marquesan designs from French Polynesia. The one from the Philippines shows traditional designs and I think it is the first tattoo stamp from that country. The one from the Belgium Congo shows face painting and goes back to the early 1900s. The Aotearoa or New Zealand stamps are from 2011 and are the most current ones in our collection. Aotearoa has become the most widely known and accepted Maori name for New Zealand. An interesting thing about these new Maori stamps are that they show a much more contemporary idea about the placement of tattoos on the body.
The United States is yet to issue a tattoo stamp but with this new ruling we now have a chance to change that. If you have ideas for the first tattoo stamp you can write to: Citizens Stamp Advisory Development, Room #3300, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20260-3501.
This installment of For the Record was featured in Tattoo Artist Magazine issue #30.