Ferrari Philatelist

Looking for more Ferrari memorabilia to add to your collection?

Always on the look out for anything Ferrari or automotive-related to add to my collection, they caught my eye during a trip to the Schlumpf Museum several years ago. A series of six stamps, each depicting a different driver from a different aspect of racing like Can Am, Formula One and F5000, their strong colors and graphics were intriguing. The stamps featured at the Schlumph Museum in particular were from Ummal Qiwan (part of the UAE since 1973) and were nifty little items featuring Ferrari drivers Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni. I had never seen Ferrari-featured stamps before and was curious about whether more stamps with Ferraris, Formula One and drivers existed.

The United States Post Office has never issued any stamps honoring Ferraris so you must go outside the 50 states to hunt for your treasures. While most stamps featuring Ferrari history are fairly recent issues, there are Ferrari-related postal stamps in circulation that are more than 30 years old. Many countries use this media as more of a revenue generator than as a means by which the mail is moved. St. Vincent, Nevis, Tanzania Grenada are some of the more prolific producers of Ferrari-depicted stamps. At the same time, many of these countries are what we call "vanished lands" or "dead countries", which indicates entities which no longer produce stamps. At least 30 countries are known to have produced Ferrari stamps, including Canada and such diverse and unusual countries like Ummal Qiwan and New Caldonia.

Stamps are produced in many forms such as single stamps, strips of three/four or more, souvenir sheets, plate blocks (entire sheets) and a series. A souvenir sheet can be described as a sheet of one or more stamps specifically printed by a government for a specific event or purpose with extra-wide margins and inscriptions describing the purpose of the issue. Most of the time with these Ferrari-related souvenir sheets, the stamps themselves are part of the entire design or graphic, hence the reason for the sheet. These souvenir sheets tend to be more recent issues.

In addition, stamps can be found applied to postally used mail and first day covers. First day covers are specially-cacheted (decorated) envelopes with postage affixed and a cancellation from the local postal authorities. These cancellations were most often "fancy" or unique to celebrate the first day of issue for a particular stamp and include variations of "first day of issue" (in its native language) and the date of the first day of issuance. Most of the time these first day issues were cancelled to commemorate a special anniversary or event, which makes these first day covers a special and fun thing to collect.

The fascination with covers and used stamps is in the story that they tell. The covers sometimes have a return address in addition to the addressee, so you can trace its journey across lands and timeframes. While most all covers were sent via standard mail delivery, you'll find envelopes sent via airmail, train and Zeppelin. The clues to their delivery method are in the cancellations or extra marks. First day covers were produced to satisfy the philatelic souls, and are prepared with some thought and creativity, thus the envelopes typically do not hold any actual contents. However, envelopes sporting non-commemorative automotive postage are also collectible, and can sometimes even include original contents. I've discovered parts orders to automotive suppliers and other interesting documents inside these letters.

Most of the Ferrari stamps are primarily commemorative in nature and are based on events like the Mille Miglia, Formula One in general, the 100th birth anniversary of Enzo Ferrari or the 2nd running of the Safari Caledonien (where did that come from?). In addition, governments have chosen to feature the drivers themselves such as Wolfgang Von Trips, Gilles Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher, Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni. As a rule, the older stamps feature drivers and events. New issues tend to highlight particular car types or events such as the 100th birth anniversary of Enzo Ferrari. Yes, there are still countries still celebrating that milestone.

For featured Ferrari models, the Dino variations are the most abundant. Easy to find stamps feature, among others, the Dino 246 F1, 156, 206SP, 206, 246 GT and GTS. Equal numbers of race and road cars abound with numerous versions of all Formula One cars represented. The first Ferrari cabriolet and 1949 Geneva show car, 166 Inter Cabriolet S/N 011S is even mentioned by serial number on its souvenir sheet for Grenada / The Grenadines. Other cars featured include several 250LMs, 250P, Boxer, TR, the prototype P6, 212 Export Spyder, 250 MM Spyder, the King Leopold Cabriolet, 195S, several 250s & 64s, 250 GT SWB, 340 MM, 275 GTB, 365 GTS, 250 GT/L, 250 Testarossa and more.

Stamp "serial numbers"

Just like Ferrari automobiles and factory literature, stamps carry identifying numbers for their type. There are two authorities that track all the different types and variations of most all stamps, Scott and Krause-Minkus. Typically a stamp would be identified with both a Scott and Kraus-Minkus (Minkus) number, but the Scott number is much more widely used and is most often quoted when describing a stamp. There are other cataloging companies such as Michel from Germany, Stanley Gibbons from Great Britain and Yvert & Tellier from France For example, the Ajman souvenir sheet featuring two stamps carries Michel numbers 369 & 374.

Stamp grading

There are two other important general features that affect the value and desirability of any collectible stamp: condition and grade.

Terms of condition apply to the physical state of the stamp. Damage, such as creases, scuffs, tears, holes, paper thins, stains, gum disturbance and so on, affect the condition of the stamp. The worse the damage is, the less desirable the stamp. Additionally, the condition of the stamp is effected by whether or not the stamp has been previously mounted in an album via an item called a hinge. A hinge is essentially a small piece of paper material formed into a hinge shape that attaches on one side to the back of the stamp via adhesive, and the other to an album. The hinges will cause damage to the gummed surface of the stamp that usually can't be fixed. Hinge removal fluid does exist, but just as it can remove the adhesive from the hinge, the stamp itself will probably be damaged from this procedure. There are a myriad of options available to protect, preserve and present your collection without damaging the stamp. Avoiding the "hinge maneuver" by pasting your finds into an album is optimal and will decrease the stamp's chance of being further damaged from exposure.

The grade of a stamp is determined primarily by its centering. Some authorities also add that the appearance of a cancellation may affect the grade of a postally used stamp. The centering on a stamp is determined by the position of the design of the stamp in relation to the outer edges of the stamp. On most individual postage stamps there is an unprinted area of margin around the outside of the stamp design. A stamp is perfectly centered when the space in this margin is exactly the same at left and right, and exactly the same at top and bottom.

Single stamps also have the potential for damage on the perforations. Perforations are the holes punched between the rows of stamps in a sheet to facilitate separation. Usually the perfs are round, but may be square, rectangular or diamond-shaped. Mint stamps will have no damage to their perforations.

You will also run into stamps defined as "imperforate" which are stamps produced without perforations. These are similar to the current day "self-adhesive" stamps with a gum-backed surface. Imperforate stamps are much rarer than their perforated brethren, thus have a drastically increased price.

Prices

Prices for Ferrari-related stamps tend to follow the pricing for other commemorative type stamps. Like any collectible, the pricing is based on the supply and demand. Single stamps can run anywhere from 15 cents to $100, where souvenir sheets start at about four dollars to again over $100 for a mint, never used and never hinged sheet. The values for the new stamps are based on the actual value of the postage on the stamps, plus a somewhat blue-sky add-on for unique design, rarity, location of the country producing the stamp, condition, color, whether or not its been used or if it has been mounted to an album with a hinge. Hinged stamps typically bring the same value as a used stamp, regardless of whether or not the stamps are new or used.

Don't pass by used stamps even though their value is typically half that of a post office fresh issue. These stamps still have value especially if they are cancelled cleanly and you can locate a complete set.

Covers will run anywhere from $5 to $75 depending on age, condition, markings or cachets, whether or not it was a first day issue and if the cancellation was struck cleanly, thereby depicting the location and date of the mark on the envelope.

Just like the Ferrari (hopefully) in your garage, when in doubt, purchase the best example of the stamp you can find. The better stamps both in condition and presentation will always bring more money at the end of the day. And as fewer of these stamps remain in circulation in the future, eventually the "best of the breeds" will be the better long term collectible.

How to locate your stamps

Ferrari stamps can be found on the Internet at various sites such as eBay, through stamp dealers (retail and mail order), at stamp shows and in philatelic publications such as Linn's and Scott Stamp Monthly.

eBay allows you to participate in the bidding process for interesting items. Even though it is a good resource, heed caution on high priced items here. Like any auction, the excitement of the process can get you to pay more than the piece is worth.

Linn's is a weekly publication devoted to stamps of all kinds. It covers weekly new releases which is very important for tracking newly released Ferrari stamps by country. In addition, Linn's has regular columns covering all subjects such as collecting, protecting, determining fakes, pricing, etc. Scott's is a similar newspaper but is published monthly.

Linn's Stamp News http://www.linns.com 800-340-9501
Scott Publishing Co. http://www.scottonline.com 937-498-0802

Other Automobile

In your search for Ferrari-related stamps you'll notice many tremendous automotive-related stamps that feature other brands of cars, races and events. Monaco, Italy and Germany have some particularily stunning stamps with subjects such as the Monaco Grand Prix and Monte Carlo Rally, The Mille Miglia, The Torino Auto Salon, and the Coppa Florio of 1908.

Other automobile subjects range from production cars to race cars, drivers and company founders. In addition, you may find automotive-related cancellations which are called perfins, which are holes punched in a stamp to form letters of a design, used to advertise or to prevent theft. I have examples of these from GM, US Tire, Goodyear, B.F. Goodrich and Firestone.

Ferrari philatelic collecting is a fun and entertaining hobby. The breadth of information and stamps available make it worthy of time and attention, and creating your own window on history through these tiny panes is akin to building a miniature version of the garage you always wanted. Have fun!