Edited 6 January 2010
[A very early version of this article was published in the November 1998 issue
of "Houston Happenings", the monthly newsletter of the Houston Orchid Society.
Another version was published in the quarterly, SWROGA NEWS.]
The stamp booklet pictured on the left was issued by Canada Post in April 1999 in conjunction with the 16th World Orchid Conference. Four different Canadian orchid species are illustrated within.
Orchid stamp collecting is an interesting adjunct to the hobby
of orchid growing. Orchid stamps take up far less space than
a collection of plants, and can withstand months, even years,
of benign neglect. Collecting stamps is something that can be
pursued no matter where you are in the world. Every country
sells stamps. If you're traveling abroad, check the local post
office for recent issues. Most cities have several stores
catering to stamp collectors, and you can combine a visit to
different shops with trips to orchid shows. For instance, there
is a stamp shop in Richardson, Texas, within walking distance
of the building where Dallas holds its annual show. Ask your
friends to save any orchid stamps they may receive on their
mail. All you need to collect orchid stamps is a keen interest,
a stamp album, tongs (round or flat tip, rather than pointy
tweezers), and perhaps some glassine envelopes (also useful for
storing orchid pollen!).
You can collect:
A "cover" is merely an envelope that has been sent through the
mail, while an FDC (first-day cover) is an envelope with a new stamp and a cancellation mark showing the issue date. Often, FDC's are sold
with decorative cachets. A cachet is a design on an envelope
describing an event, most often designed for first day of issue.
This is almost always on the left side front of the envelope,
and sometimes it is accompanied by additional descriptive text
on the back. Some of these cachets are lovely, particularly orginal water-colors or the "Colorano Silks" series, in which the stamp subject is stamped or woven onto a silky fabric and then attached to the envelope. There are more than 300 cachet designers currently working in the US. You can even design your own cahcets!
One can also specialize, within the topic of orchid stamps,
into specific genera, countries, or other themes, such as stamps
represented endemic national flora, or those issued for World Orchid Conferences [here are links to images of a
special cancellation from the 6th WOC held in Sydney, Australia in 1969;
five stamp set from the 13th WOC held in Auckland, New Zealand in 1990;
the four-stamp set for the 16th WOC held in Vancouver, Canada in 1999
[Link to an interesting analysis of the Canadian orchid booklet];
the set of stamps and miniature sheets for the
17th WOC held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2002, featuring Renanthera bella and
Paraphalaenopsis labukensis (30 sen each); Paph. ___ (50 sen); Coelogyne ___ and Phal. ___ (RM 1 each).
At left is a scan of a First Day Cover from the 4th World Orchid Conference held in Malaysia in 1963.
The first orchid stamps that I know of were issued by the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in 1905, depicting vanilla vines and vanilla beans, a commercial crop, with the Soufriere volcano in the background. This set of five monochromatic stamps included 1, 2, 4, 10, and 15-cent denominations.
Since then, thousands of orchid stamps have been issued around the world. A few sample stamps that may be viewed on the web are listed toward the end of this article.
There have been few more than a dozen orchid stamps issued by the United States Postal Service (USPS), featuring five different native orchid species (three were repeated) and two featuring tropical (non-native) orchids.
The first US orchid stamp was issued on August 23, 1969, one of four stamps issued in a
se-tenant block to commemorate the 11th International Botanical Congress in Seattle, Washington. This was a six-cent stamp featuring an engraving of
Cypripedium reginae, the "Showy Lady's Slipper," seen at left.
Plate Block, #1376-1379;
The next US orchid stamp (20-cent) was issued in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1982, as part of the "State Birds and Flowers" set, issued in a
se-tenant pane of 50 . The only stamp of the fifty to feature an orchid was Minnesota, which boasts the Showy Lady Slipper (Cypripedium reginae)as its state flower (and the Common Loon as the state bird).
[Picture of FDC with cachet]
Two years later, on March 5, 1984, a set of four,
20-cent stamps were issued as a se-tenant block in conjunction with the 11th World Orchid Conference in Miami.
This "Native Orchids of North America" set includes:
Arethusa bulbosa ("Wild Pink" or "Dragon's Mouth", Scott 2076), Cypripedium calceolus ("
Yellow Lady's Slipper", Scott 2077),
Cleistes divaricata ("Spreading Pogonia" or "Rosebud Orchid", Scott 2078),
and Calypso bulbosa ('Pacific Calypso" or "Fairy Slipper", Scott 2079). The plate block, shown at right, is Scott 2079a.
The next two stamps (29-cent) were part of the
"American Wildflowers" set, issued in Columbus, Ohio on July 24, 1992 as a
se-tenant sheet of 50.
The set features stylized drawings and is labeled with only the common names of the flowers. The two orchids are:
The " Yellow Lady's Slipper" (stamp#27, Scott 2673; Cypripedium calceolus), "The unusual flowers -- which bloom from April to August -- have a yellow lip with two twisted lateral petals on either side and two purplish-brown sepals above and below it. The genus name is derived from the Greek words kypris, meaning Venus, and pedilon, meaning shoe, which describes the flower's form."; and
The " Rosebud Orchid" (stamp#24, Scott 2670; Cleistes divaricata), "a lovely pink specimen, native to the Southeast, whose three petals form a tube rather than a spreading, open flower."
Six years later, on October 15, 1998, there was a stamp depicting orchids included in the set of four Christmas wreaths, issued in Christmas, MI. They were issued in a pane of 20 and in vending booklets of 15 and 20 (32-cent). The set includes the Chili Pepper wreath,
the Victorian, the Evergreen, and the Tropical wreaths. The tropical wreath was designed by Micheale Thunin, of Berkeley, CA, and it comprises several types of tropical orchids and other flowers. The most noticeable orchids are the pink
phalaenopsis in the six-o'clock position and the yellow cattleya with red lip at 2 o'clock. There also appear to be sprays of dendrobiums and possibly Arachnis or Renanthera hybrids. It is the first self-adhesive US orchid stamp. 1,787,500 were issued as part of the panes of 20; 29,190,000 as part of the vending booklet of 15, and 230,062,500
as part of the vending booklet of 20. That means that nearly 261 million of these orchid stamps went into circulation. Every orchid grower in the world should have one!
Another orchid stamp issued by the United States is a somewhat fuzzy depiction of a Cymbidium, issued in NY on 7 February 2001 as part of a set of four flower stamps (shown at left, above). The stamps are based on photos by Robert Peak, Winter Park, Florida. These stamps mark the rise of the first class letter rate to 34-cents. These self-adhesive stamps were initially issued in booklets of 20 stamps with no denomination marked on them. They are now available marked "34" in booklets of 20 and
coils of 100 stamps.
Orchids have been depicted in the "Nature of America" souvenir sheet series. The fourth ecological community sheet,
Longleaf Pine Forest," (shown at right) was issued April 26, 2002, in Tallahassee, FL and features two different orchids. The Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes divaricata) and the Grass Pink Orchid (Calopogon tuberosus) are pictured, and both happen to be native to Texas.
The eight pane in the Nature of America series, the Southern Florida Wetland, was issued Oct. 4, 2006 in Naples, Florida (shown at left). Among the flora and fauna, it features two orchids: the "Cowhorn orchid," Cyrtopodium punctatum, with bright yellow-orange-brown flowers, and a creeping vanilla vine, Vanilla phaeantha, with yellow-green flowers.
"To illustrate the diversity of species associated with a wetland in southern Florida, artist John D. Dawson depicted more than 20 different kinds of plants and animals in his colorful painting."
Several orchid species native to Canada have been featured on postage stamps, beginning with Cypripedium acule, the Lady's Slipper that was named the official floral emblem of the Province of Prince Edward Island in 1965, and featured on a 5-cent stamp issued 21 July 1965. This was the seventh stamp in the Canada Post Office series honoring the official flowers and coats of arms of the ten provinces and (then) two northern territories.
As far as I can tell, there were no other orchids portrayed on Canadian stamps until the 16th World Orchid Conference was held in Vancouver, and Canada Post issued a set of four, 46-cent stamps on 27 April 1999. The set were designed by Marlene Wou, based on Chinese brush paintings by Poon-Kuen Chow (expressive) and Yukman Lai (detailed). The set included Cypripedium pubescens (Great Yellow Lady's Slipper), Platanthera psycodes (Small Purple Fringed Orchid), Amerorchis rotundifolia (Small Round-Leaved Orchid), and Arethusa bulbosa (Dragon's Mouth).
The four WOC stamps were re-issued later the same year, on 21 August 1999, as a souvenir sheet marking Canada's participation in the CHINA '99 World Philatelic Exhibition in Beijing.
On 19 December 2005, Canada issued two orchids in a set of four definitive flower stamps.
The US rate (89-cents) featured Cypripedium calceolus (Yellow Lady's Slipper), and the oversized domestic mail rate ($1.15) featured Calypso bulbosa (Pink Fairy Slipper), shown at left.
At left, is a stamp issued 16 Nov 2006, featuring Corallorhiza maculata. The Official First Day Cover was cancelled in Ottowa, Ontario and sold for $1.51 from Canada Post. The stamp was designed by Monique Dufour and Sophie Lafortune, based on an original illustration by Montréal artist Sigmond Pifko.
"This member of the orchid family grows in deeply shaded, wooded areas from Newfoundland to British Columbia, and blooms in midsummer. The reddish tones of the orchid's blossoms are consistent in colour with flowers that have previously appeared on domestic rate stamps in this series.
"This year, the domestic rate Flowers stamp is non-denominated and bears a new icon, the letter "P" within a maple leaf. This icon indicates that the stamp is permanent and valid indefinitely. The stamp is available in self-adhesive coils of 100." [$51.00 Canadian at time of issue]
The Canada Post article regarding this stamp can be found here: http://www.canadapost.ca/personal/collecting/default-e.asp?stamp=stpartl&detail=1748
Little more than a year later, on 27 December 2007, Canada issued a set of four stamps featuring orchid hybrids.
Odontioda Island Red is the permanent stamp, valued at 52-cents +.
Potinara Janet Elizabeth 'Fire Dancer' is the 96-cent US rate stamp. Laeliocattleya Memoria Evelyn Light is the $1.15 oversized rate stamp.
Masdevallia Kaleidoscope 'Conni' is the $1.60 international rate stamp.
There are considerably more orchid stamps issued by countries other than the US and Canada; if you choose to delve into collecting them, expect to be filling books with hundreds of new stamps each year from more exotic locales. Some foreign orchid stamps are even offered for sale by the US Postal Service, including a sheet of four stamps jointly issued by Australia and Singapore on August 6, 1998. The two stamps of native Australian species depict Dendrobium phalaenopsis and Phalaenopsis rosenstromii.
The set is available for purchase at face value from the USPS through The Philatelic Catalog, a free, quarterly publication which lists all new U.S. issues and selected stamp issues from other countries. The USPS website is http://www.usps.gov
The government-sponsored mail bureaus of many other countries have detailed websites, some of which include online stamp archives, such as the British Royal Mail, at
Books and Articles about Orchid Stamps:
(1) The most useful book for orchid stamp collectors at this time is "Orchids on Stamps," written by Peggy Alrich of Florida. It is offered by the American Topical Association as ATA Handbook 118 for $9.00. It's also available for purchase from the American Orchid Society. Her earlier book, pictured at left, is "An Orchid on Stamps Checklist." Peggy Alrich was the monthly speaker at the July 2001 meeting of the Houston Orchid Society.
(2) A useful book that you may be interested in: "Orchid Stamp Collecting, Vol. I 1935-1981" written by H.S. Wilshaw and published in England in 1982. As far as I know, there were no further volumes.
(3) There is also a book written by the late Vale Eiji Miyoshi (d. 1991), titled "The World Orchid Stamps" and considered by many to be the best available at this time. Very difficult to find.
(4) A very lovely, three-volume set of books about orchid stamps, is "Die Welt Der Orchideen Auf Briefmarken [Orchids on Stamps]," written by Helmut Otto Schwab and Walter Stephan and published by H.L. Schwab Verlag in Frankfurt, 1975. It is presumably out-of-print.
(5) You may also want to visit the website,
Topicals on Stamps,
by Sarah Perelli-Minetti, and check the topic
(6) There have been many good articles published in the Australian Orchid Review, for instance, in March 1965 (Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 18-21) by Alan G. Brown: "Orchids on Postage Stamps."
(7) Collecting Orchid Stamps, by Donna Russell, published in the Catoctin Orchid Society Newsletter, January 1996.
More Orchid Stamp Pages by Nina Rach:
Stanhopeas on Stamps and Sobralias on Stamps
The following links provide some nice graphics of orchid stamps issued by several different countries (send me links to others, please). Some of these load very slowly:
Australian Flora on Postage Stamps
Belgian Orchid Stamps
Six different stamps; webpage by Leon Verelst
Also see his page of Cypripedium calceolus stamps
Brazilian Orchid Stamps
Complete (?) listing and photos of Brazilian orchid stamps from 1939-1998: Selos Brasileiros de Orquídea
Brazilian orchid stamps from 1976-1998:
16 different, including BRAPEX VII...
BRAPEX V (Laelia pupurata; Cleistes revoluta; Oncidium flexuosum)
Brazilian Fauna - The Toucans (four stamps, orchids in background of one)
VIII Brazilian Philatelic Exhibition, Preservation of "Mata Atlantica" Forest (orchids and hummingbirds, 6 stamps)
LUBRAPEX 1995 - 15th Brazilian/Portuguese Philatelic Exhibition
"Rio Tiete" - orchids on miniature sheet but not on indiv. stamps.
15th World Orchid Conference, Rio de Janiero, Sept 17-22
2006, Corallorhiza maculata, $0.51 at issue time, but value will fluctuate. Article link
2005 stamps, discussed in Canada's Stamp Details, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2006, p. 8-9.
19 Dec 2005: Yellow lady's slipper, Cypripedium calceolus, $0.89; Article link
19 Dec 2005, Pink fairy slipper, Calypso bulbosa, $1.05; Article link
27 April 1999, Set of four stamps, "Orchids of Canada," issued as a booklet pane of 12 stamps, in conjunction with the 16th World Orchid Conference, held in Vancouver Article link
Dragon's mouth, Arethusa bulbosa, $0.46
Small round-leaved orchid, Amerorchis rotundifolia, $0.46
Small purple fringed orchid, Platanthera psycodes, $0.46
Greater yellow lady's-slipper, Cypripedium pubescens, $0.46
21 August 1999, souvenir sheet of 4 "Orchids of Canada" set issued.
Channel Islands: Alderney
Set of 17 Flora and Fauna includes 16p Pyramidal Orchid
1994 (1): http://www.philately.com/alderney_1991.htm
Channel Islands: Guernsey
Set of four wildflowers includes 21/2p, Heath Spotted Orchid
1972 (1): http://www.philately.com/guernsey_1971.html
Set of three Europa- Nature stamps includes 14p Loose-flowered Orchid
1986 (1): http://www.philately.com/guernsey_1981.htm
Channel Islands: Jersey
Set of four wildflowers includes 71/2p Jersey Orchid
1972 (1): http://www.philately.com/jersey_1971.htm
The Native Orchids of Fiji
1997 (4): Den. biflorum; Den. dactylodes; Den. macropus; Spathoglottis pacifica)
1995 (4): a sheet of 32-cent stamps commemorating the Singapore '95 World Stamp Exhibition: Paph. armeniacum; Masdevallia veitchiana; Cattleya francis; Cattleya x guatemalensis. Described, but not pictured, at:
Microspermae on Postage Stamps (Orchidaceae)
Republic of China
1958 (4): set of orchids: Cycnoches; Dendrobium; Phalaenopsis; Cattleya
1985 (4): Four orchid species
Singapore Stamps On-Line
Thai Orchid Stamps
Orchid Stamp Club International
Australia: Hon. Secretary: Mrs. Myra Chalmers, 25 Turriell Point Rd, LILLI PILLI. N.S.W. 2229 Australia; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Australian dues are $11/year.
U.S. Treasurer: Ron Hanko, 317 North Park St., Linden, Washington 98264 USA; e-mail? U.S. dues are $20.00/year.
OSCI dues include a subscription (print or electronic) to their bi-monthly journal. They hold regular meetings in Australia, and general meetings (forum) at every World Orchid Conference. The club had an exhibit of stamps at the 14th WOC in Glasgow (1993), and President Ron Chalmers gave a slide presentation on orchid stamps suitable for beginners. This was followed by a slide talk by Paddy Woods of the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens about the orchids that were put up for selection for the British orchid stamp issue (five stamps) in conjunction with the WOC. There was also a slide program by Sam Flagler on official Post Office cards featuring orchids. At the 16th WOC in Vancouver in spring 1999, members of the OSCI had some beautiful stamp exhibits. There was also an orchid stamp forum.
For more information, you can contact the OSCI President, Ian Chalmers, in Sydney at email@example.com or visit the OSCI website at http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/tosci/ (new contacts added August 2009).
Orchidcover Collector Club (O.C.C.) (Gerhard Liste)
Founded in 1994 in Essen (Germany); the club has more than 70 members in 16 countries. The club publishes the ORCHIDeen REPORT with four issues per year, in English and German, with color photos. Website was: http://www.orchidstamp.de/ [but not working June 2007]
As of Spring 2007, a subscription to this cost £17/year, remittable to: "Mr.J.Mackie" (their U.K. representative) at 3 Lawnmill Gardens, St.Andrews Fife, Scotland KY16 8QS
American Philatelic Society (Robert E. Lamb)
P.O. Box 8000 Dept PG; State College, PA 16803-8000
publishes "The American Philatelist" monthly
American Topical Association (Paul Tyler)
P.O. Box 50820, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87181-0820
American First Day Cover Society (Douglas Kelsey)
P.O. Box 65730, Tucson, Arizona 85728-5730
publishes "First Days" 8 times/year
Some orchid stamps are commercially available from the following sellers on the internet. I have successfully ordered from several of these companies, but this listing is meant only to give you an idea of availability of orchid stamps and pricing:
Albany Stamp Company, Charleston, S.C.
George C. Baxley, NM
Greg Caron Stamps, Vacaville, CA
L & C Stamps, Missouri
Zillions of Stamps (enter "orchid" as keyword)
Finally, here are some additional links on stamp collecting:
Pierre Guertin has assembled a "philatelic herbarium," which provides a list of different plant genera depicted on stamps. There is a substantial section on orchids.
2-Clicks-Stamps, "A revolutionary international guide for stamp collectors...a new type of directory of more than 5,000 sites." [new June 2007]
About Stamp Collecting, a series of pages from the US Postal Service:
Stamp Yellow Pages Directory
Joseph Luft's Philatelic Resources on the Web
Orkide frimærker - Orchid stamps, by the Larsen twins:
www.larsen-twins.dk/orc_frim_alle.html (Danish and English).
Reka Hukari's Or-kid site
Copyright 1998-2007 Nina Rach
Comments? Send e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org