Collecting Circus Stamps Means a Worldwide Search
By far the most colorful circus stamps are those issued in foreign countries. The checklist provided by The American Topical Association (ATA) indicates there are 375 circus stamps from 105 different countries from the Aland Islands to Zambia. This is in addition to the U.S. circus stamps mentioned in my previous WorthPoint article titled Collect Circus Stamps for Color and Variety on a Budget. The ATA list was last updated in August 2008. A new list will be issued in late 2011 when all its lists will be revised.
Monaco has about 50 stamps—more than any other country. In 1974, S.A.S. Prince Rainier III of Monaco (1923-2005) created the first Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo (International Circus Festival de Monte-Carlo) because of his lifelong love affair with the circus and circus arts. Each year, the top circus acts from around the world perform in the festival before a jury of circus professionals. The jury awards Gold, Silver and Bronze Clowns, statuettes sculpted by Paul Malé. The Gold Clown is equivalent to the Oscar to those in the circus world.
In 2003 Monaco issued a stamp, “Première Rampe” (First Limelight), to coincide with a show of young circus entertainers.
For the first festival in1974, Monaco issued a set of seven postage stamps. This year (2010) was the 34th festival and stamps have been issued for each event. Five stamps were issued for the fifth festival. A single stamp with a wide border was issued for the 10th festival. Six stamps were issued for the 25th at 30th festivals. Two stamps were issued for the 31st festival. A single stamp was issued all other years. The festival was not held in 1982. That was the year Princess Grace died as a result of an automobile accident. Princess Grace, of course, was Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, who married Prince Ranier III in what the media dubbed “The Wedding of the Century.”
Shown here are the circus stamps from the first 15 Monte-Carlo Circus Festivals. They are displayed on an acid-free black stock sheet inserted in a clear acid-free sleeve that can be inserted in a three-ring binder. All of my single circus stamps are displayed using this method. These stock sheets are available from dealers who sell stamp collector supplies.
Individual stamps make an interesting collection but whenever possible I try to find first day covers of foreign stamps. It adds to the color. Most of the first day covers below are valued under $10 each.
These first day cover envelopes have the seven Monte-Carlo Circus Festival stamps from the premiere year in 1974.
More Monte-Carlo Circus Festival stamps first day cover envelopes from 1974.
Artist Georges Seurat (1859-1891) created several circus themed paintings in his final years. “The Circus” was painted in 1891 but was unfinished when he died. In 1969 France issued a stamp of the painting. This first day of cancellation envelope features the Seurat painting. The envelope was cancelled on November 8, 1969.
This first day cover was cancelled in Stockholm, Sweden in 1987 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the circus in Sweden. The stamp on the right pictures Susanne Svenson performing her ballerina on horseback. Together with her husband Carlos Svenson, the pair have performed their act all over Europe and in the American Big Apple Circus, Circus Flora and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
Printers of cachet envelopes don’t always get their facts right. In 1982 England issued a set of four stamps of the British Theatre. This stamp was titled Harlequin. The printer of the envelope decided to turn the Harlequin into Joseph “Joey” Grimaldi (1778-1837) even though the image on the envelope looks nothing like known images of Grimaldi. The real Grimaldi was English and is thought to have been the first whiteface clown. Today the word “Joey” is circus lingo for clown.
Clown images are frequently seen on stamps.
The clown stamp is just one in a set of 10 stamps called “Smilers.”
More clowns—this time from Canada, a 1998 FDC from Montreal, Quebec.
The name Chipperfield is famous in England. The Chipperfield Circus traces its roots to James Chipperfield, who introduced trained animals at the Frost Fair in England in 1684. These four stamps and the colorful cachet celebrate the 300th anniversary of that event. Notice that the London postmark includes the name Chipperfield.
The circus is universal, even down-under. This set of four stamps celebrates 150 years of circus in Australia. The top two stamps feature equestrienne May Wirth and wire walker Con Colleano. Both are natives of Australia but later came to America to become star performers in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Larry Kellogg is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in circus memorabilia.
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