A Catalogue of Stamps
On 6 April 1896, the first modern Olympic games opened in Athens, Greece, accompanied by the release of 12 commemorative stamps. These were the first in the ever-expanding field of Olympic philately. The International Olympic Committee’s official catalogue lists some 26,300 stamps in five volumes. There exist a wide variety of postal products including postage stamps and stamped postal stationery (postal cards, aerograms, etc.), circular date stamps, commemorative cancellations, postage meters and other postal service matter all of which either paid postage or helped in some way to carry the mails. Some philatelists also like to include non-postal ephemera such as vignettes or labels, privately-produced cachets, postcards, artwork, essays and proofs in their collections.
This listing illustrates the stamps issued to commemorate the 2020 Summer Olympics, officially the Games of the XXXII Olympiad (第32回オリンピック競技大会, Dai Sanjūni-kai Orinpikku Kyōgi Taikai) and also known as Tokyo 2020 (東京2020), scheduled to be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Originally scheduled to take place from 24 July to 9 August 2020, the event was postponed in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will not allow international spectators. Despite being rescheduled for 2021, the event retains the Tokyo 2020 name for marketing and branding purposes. This is the first time that the Olympic Games have been postponed and rescheduled, rather than cancelled. The Summer Paralympics will be held between 24 August and 5 September 2021 after the Olympics. The first stamps to mark Tokyo 2020 were released by Japan in March 2019.
There are a few Olympic-themed stamps that were issued between 2019 and 2021 that I included in this listing despite the fact that they do not pertain specifically to the XXXII Olympiad. These include issues by Hungary (anniversary of their Olympic Committee), Cyprus (past Olympic heroes), Isle of Man (British Olympians), and Spain (Women gold medalists). I have not included several that depicted general sports themes (i.e., the circular sheets “Sport Color Passion” from France and the athletics issue from San Marino are not considered to be Olympics stamps) nor have I included any personalized stamp sheets, whether “official” or private.
Belgium — Team Belgium: Faster Higher Stronger
Cyprus — Marathon Runner Stelios Kyriakides
Germany —New Olympic Sports
Hungary — Hungarian Olympic Committee
Slovak Republic — Paralympic Games
Spain — Women In Sport: Olympics
United Nations — Sports for Peace
miniature sheets of 8 stamps in 2 denominations for each office: New York, Geneva and Vienna; 1 souvenir sheet for each office
DESIGNS NOT YET ANNOUNCED
The partnership between the Olympic Games and philately is as old as the Games themselves.
In 1895, the Organizing Committee was faced with a lack of funds to complete the construction of the last venues. Two Greek philatelists/numismatists proposed that the Greek government issue a series of commemorative stamps, the proceeds (or part of the proceeds) from which would go to the Organizing Committee of the Games to finance these last venues. Fifty percent of the estimated revenue (200,000 drachmas) was released before the issue date and the remainder was guaranteed with a seven percent bank loan. The series of 12 stamps was issued on the inaugural day of the first Games of the Olympiad, 6 April 1896 (25 March according to the Julian calendar then in use in Greece).
There are numerous resources for the collector of Olympic philatelic and postal history items. The official stamp catalogue approved by the International Olympic Committee comprises five volumes and lists more than 26,000 stamps in its most recent edition. Schwaneberger Verlag GmbH, the publishing house of Michel catalogues, published the second edition of a topical catalogue devoted to Olympic stamps in December 2017.
The International Association of Olympic Collectors or Association International des Collectionneurs Olympique (AICO) promotes Olympic collecting related to the cultural and historic aspects of the Olympic movement. This includes Olympic philately, Olympic numismatics and Olympic memorabilia.
An excellent source of information about each of the Olympiads, including details about many of the stamps up until the 1964 Tokyo Games, can be found on the pages of the Olympic Games Museum — a private website maintained by Juergen Wagner of Germany. The Olympic World Library is simultaneously a library catalogue, an information portal and a search engine for Olympic knowledge. Via this portal you can access the unique collections of the Olympic Studies Centre, with all the official Olympic publications, and also find books, articles and selected dissertations produced by academics and professionals from all around the world.
Another excellent resource is Sports Philatelists International and their quarterly Journal of Sports Philately. SPI website includes numerous links to additional websites of interest to the Olympic philatelist including a free download of Ernest Trory’s 1960 work, A Philatelic History of the Olympic Games. Finally, there is the German organization Internationale Motivgruppen Olympiaden und Sport and a website dedicated to poster stamps and labels of the Olympic Games from the beginning through 1972.
Mark Joseph Jochim
9 July 2021