EUROPA "Cinderella" Issues

Updated and expanded from an article in EN356, Jul-Aug 2003

First let’s define what “Cinderella” means. Paraphrasing Linn’s World Stamp Almanac, they are anything other than legitimate postage stamps or postal stationery. This usually means locals, bogus issues, advertising and exhibition labels. The Cinderella Stamp Club includes telegraph stamps and revenues in that list, but I think that’s harsh. If a respected album or catalog publisher recognizes it, I wouldn’t call it a Cinderella.

That still leaves a lot of material, though. In the Europa field, there are examples of most everything:

Locals are probably the most common. When I started collecting Europa (in 1959) I was intrigued by the local issues from the British Channel Islands. At first this was limited to just a few, such as Herm, Lundy, and the Isle of Man (Jersey and the Isle of Man became legitimate stamp-issuing entities in the mid-1970s). The “stamps” were used to pay the cost of getting mail to the nearest Post Office, and so served a legitimate purpose. The Europa topic was enjoying tremendous popularity by 1960, and the printers of these labels smelled opportunity. They quickly overprinted some of their stamps with “Europa” and found they had struck gold. In the next few years, these items proliferated, and the market was flooded with stamps, souvenir sheets and the like from all manner of little islands. As if this weren’t enough, many varieties were also printed – imperforates, gutter sheets, overprints for Churchill, Boy Scouts and JFK, and on and on. By the early 1970s, it had become too much and their popularity faded.

Interestingly, these are still being collected, although assembling a complete collection would be not just challenging but expensive. The Rosen catalog, now long out of print but available through the APS Library, attempted to list them all, but there are some that are not in there. At any given time, at least a few are being offered on eBay.

I once entertained the thought of collecting them all, and I did compile a list of just Europa-related items from the Rosen catalog. By the time I’d finished the list, however, I realized the dent such a collection would put in my budget and decided against it.

It was at this point that I solidified my Golden Rule of Cinderella Collecting: If the price is more than you’d like to spend, then don’t. At least the Channel Islands stamps have held their value over the years (by which I mean that they aren’t worthless paper – there IS still a market for them).


Bogus issues are another story. In this category I include such items as Governments In Exile, propaganda labels, and the like. Romania-in-exile stamps are the most common, but – thanks to eBay again – I’ve found that there are Croatia-in-exile stamps, and who knows what else. These are much harder to put a price tag on. I watched a bidding war for some Croatia-in-exile stamps where a single stamp went for $20. Weeks later, I watched similar material sell for a dollar or two. Caveat emptor.

Occasionally, a Europa issue will emerge from unlikely places. Paraguay got on the bandwagon in the early ‘60s with a series issued “In Homage to Europa” (translation: we’d like a piece of this action too). Yemen did likewise in the ‘70s with a set showing all the common designs, but supposedly issued to publicize the opening of the new UPU building! Are these cinderellas? The Scott catalog refused to list them, and the APS included them in their “Black Blot” list. Personally, I resent being told what I should or shouldn’t collect. While many countries are guilty of issuing stamps whose primary purpose is to separate stamp collectors from their money, they are still valid for postage in the issuing country, and should be listed as such. I simply apply the Golden Rule again – if you think it costs too much, don’t buy it.

Finally, there are Advertising and Exhibition labels. These I think are the most interesting, as they can be just about anything. Again, the most common items for Europa are from the early 1960s. An annual exhibition of Europa stamps in Naples Italy has been good for a yearly souvenir sheet. EUROPEX, an exhibit sponsored by the ESU in 1960, is also fairly common. Since then, the ESU has issued a couple more sheets, one in 1976 for the 20th anniversary of Europa stamps, and another in 1999 for the 50th anniversary of NATO. Both are still available from the Europa Study Unit, and neither violates the Golden Rule.

At this point I want to veer off on a bit of a tangent. Please stay with me, as I promise to tie it all together:
Our president also kids me about another collection I have. My tastes seem to follow a pattern. I collect World Wildlife Fund, United States, United Nations, United Europe and United Federation of Planets. Trekkies will recognize that last one as Star Trek. There have been a few legitimate stamps commemorating Star Trek, most recently from the United States as part of the Celebrate the Century series, but most are from so-called “wallpaper” countries. This derogatory term simply means that these countries issue stamps by the hundreds. Few if any have anything to do with the issuing country, and usually are aimed at topical collectors (dinosaurs, movie stars, sports, flowers, cats, trains, and so on). Often they include intentional “rarities” like gold foil stamps, and are often accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity, or COA. This leads to Golden Rule number 2: anything that comes with a COA is probably not very valuable, just costly. The little Caribbean island of St.Vincent is a prime example of this kind of thing.

Wallpaper or not, these aren’t in my mind cinderellas, since by now even Scott includes them. What has cropped up recently is a spate of stamps from the small Russian republics that emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union. These countries have names like Adigey, Bashkiria, Dagestan, Tadjikistan, Kyrgyzstan and so on. All in all, there are at least 40 of them and the number is steadily increasing. They started showing up in the mid-90s, and have now become a glut. At first, they seemed to be at least semi-legitimate and were considered “local” issues. A little catalog even appeared which tried to list them all. One of the dominant themes of these early issues was the World Wildlife Fund and the familiar panda logo. By 1998, at least four omnibus series had appeared and the WWF denounced them as being completely unauthorized. The UPU looked into the matter and also denounced them.

What now seems to be going on is that most – if not all – of these issues are produced by a consortium in Lithuania. They are simply labels, but a very lucrative source of income for whoever is printing them. By 1999 even the printers seemed to be laughing. First came another WWF series in which the word Fund was mis-spelled as Found. This mistake appears on sheets from every “country” represented. Soon after came souvenir sheets showing Bill Clinton in his underwear with a smiling Monica Lewinsky. That did it. All pretense of legitimacy was now gone.

And yet…..these labels continue to appear, sometimes from a recognizable country such as Afghanistan or Benin. Are these real? The Afghan post has said no, and pointed out that they are siphoning revenue from countries that sorely need funding.

For awhile, it looked as though the mainstream Europa stamps, the annual issues with a common theme or design, had been spared this scourge. However, a 2003 issue of Europa News mentioned Europa issues from Kosovo and Abkhazia. Abkhazia is a little Russian Republic not authorized to issue stamps by the UPU. It is also the source of the Clinton/Lewinsky underwear issue, and a hilarious parody of Star Wars from an old MAD magazine cover. I fear the deluge could be upon us.

Postscript: The recent 50th anniversary of EUROPA stamps offered more opportunities for mischief. While most of the issued stamps were legitimate (from countries just looking for a way to enhance revenue), be wary of stamps from Benin, Afghanistan, and San Tome e Principe, as these have a history of being bogus.

Posted by Dana Roper