The Philatelic Vexillology Society
For collectors worldwide of Flags on Stamps.

Number 1 - end of 1999

To all our members - greetings. Thanks to everybody who has taken an interest, and thanks also for the various email messages. A couple of members have followed up the suggestion of sending me something for my troubles .... it's ok, everybody else, I'm not too bothered, and not at all insulted !
At the time of writing, we have thirteen members worldwide. Our high spot was on Wednesday 27 October, when we got two new sign-ups in the one day. We are slowly gaining links in other websites (either as I ask for them, or as they are added by people who have visited our website). I am sure that in the fullness of time, more and more philatelic vexillologists will find their way to our society.
It naturally always feels that the bigger the numbers, the better the society, and numbers in our case will certainly do no harm. Ours is an interesting development - as far as I know, it is the world's first internet-only philatelic society. To date I have written nothing by way of publicity, notes or messages other than that which has appeared on the website or been sent by email. We are therefore quite different from many societies, where large numbers of members mean extra expense (of meeting places, of postages, of printing); the only difference between sending this newsletter to five people or five hundred is the time spent, and the minimal cost of a longer period on-line sending emails. To date, there are no expenses - I suggest we keep it that way as far as possible !

Reproduced here are some of the comments from members' email messages;
I visited your site following your message to the Flag of the World ml and I would like to join the Philatelic Vexillology Society.  BTW, is being able to copy and paste the name counts for qualification #1-?....
I'm a serious philatelist, but I don't collect flags - my interest is in heraldry. I have a large collection and an international-level exhibit that
you can see at
Flags and heraldry are related subjects, and since I found my FOTW membership to be very beneficial, I would like to join the  Philatelic
Vexillology Society as well. 
From: Nahum Shereshevsky, Israel
My interest is on stamps, and the significance of each issue.
I have started collecting flags just recently.  And became curious on what the country symbol means.  Thus, I would like to know more of the flag
details.  I thought the more I learn about people in other countries, the more I could understand humanity.
I was in Edinburgh before, summer of 1980.  The place is serene, peaceful and conducive to thingking; and the people are very friendly and
accommodating.  I hope it has not change much, after these years.
From: Dr. Jose Peralta, Philippines
(The last bit may not be of particular interest to members, but I cannot bring myself to delete such praise for my home city ! RM)
Flags have interested me for over 45 years so when I started collecting stamps it was natural for me to collect flags on stamps.  I have at least 
3000 different.  It is difficult to say just how many because inventorying them is so complicated.  Currently I just keep a list in the standard 
want-list/inventory style.  I haven't done anything on the computer, but would like to.  Perhaps someone out there in cyberspace can recommend the best method/software. 
From: Hank Gardner, USA
I have been collecting national flag stamps for three years and already have some collections. I now want to hear from somebody who can give me some advice on how to arrange my collection and of course I can exchange some stamps with him to enrich my collection.I'm now very interested in former U.S.S.R and now C.I.S.countries' national flag stamps.It will be grateful if you can help me on this theme.For your information,I'm also interested in state flags of a country(I already have U.S.A,    Canada and most of Brazil's).Do you know any other country which have issued state flags stamps? Your any suggestion or advice will be very helpful for me.
From: Zhang Xun, China
I am interested in all aspects of vexillology but I am especially keen on sub-national flags (you know, provinces, counties, states ..).  That is why
I am bugging the authorities here in Australia to put out an issue of the various flags of the Australian States and Territories (you know, similar to
the flag issues of Canada, USA, Brazil) and to tie this issuance especially for the 100th anniversary of Federation (or COmmonwealth, as we refer to the link-up of the States in 1901) which will occur in January 2001. ......... (My wife thinks I am mad - she has not change her opinion in the last 27 years!)
I look forward to hearing from you and await anxiously for confirmation of my membership status.
Yours Philavexly or is it Vexilatelically
From: Tom Koh, Australia

Organisation. Are we all happy with the way things are at present ?  Should we change the set-up now, should we wait until we have a few more members, or should we change nothing ?  Should we spread jobs around a bit - chairman/boss/president/moderator, membership secretary, newsletter editor, promotion/link searcher, cyber-auctioneer, new issue monitor, listings editor, for example ?

One of our members, James Carson of Glasgow, Scotland, has sent a fine general flag-stamp-collecting article. He says that he submitted it to Linns Stamp News, but apparently they said it was too "flaggy" and not "stampy" enough. It appears further down the newsletter - click here to go straight to it.

On our web page the following "ideas" section is floated. The Mysteries and Queries section has been very successful - although only three queries have been posted, all have received good replies, and I would suggest that the section has a future. The other ideas (world listings, club auction, and club competition) need our members' comments. Other ideas are of course welcome.
1. World Listings. Perhaps members would like to take on, country by country, listings of any stamps of that state, correctly identifying and noting any relevant background information. This would then become a useful resource for other collectors. 2. Mysteries and Queries. I know that I have a number of stamps that show flags, but I'm not sure what flags they are (or in fact if they are maybe just "makie uppie" flags in the first place). These could be posted here with images, in the hope that others could recognise them. HELP WANTED ! 3. Club Auction. Could we run a sale (once a year ?) (permanently running ?) of members' surplus material ?
4. Club Competition. Computer-originated pages, viewed by other members, and voted on. Virtual medals for winners ?

"Themescene", the journal of the British Thematic Association, is due to carry a mention of our new group in their December 1999 edition. I quote from the editor, Margaret Shaida's, message; "Look out for your letter in December, and I hope it results in an amazing rise in membership. If so, (and if not, too) perhaps you should join the British Thematic Association as a Group Member.  We should be absolutely delighted to welcome our first Cyberspace Group Member.
Best wishes,
Margaret Shaida"


It's hardly surprising that flags should feature so prominently and so often on stamps.  Easily identifiable, highly symbolic, with
vibrant colours, a flag can be the answer to a designer's prayers when searching for just the right illustration to represent a
stamp's theme.  Few images can bring an idea to life so vividly and few symbols can convey  a message so directly.  Flags signal
authority, independence, liberation, celebration, , mourning, possession and pride;  some represent the achievements of nations
and the aspirations of entire peoples.

All of which has not been lost on postal administrations around the world.  From Iceland in the North Atlantic to Nauru in the
South Pacific, barely a month passes without further additions to an already long list of flags on stamps.

Fine examples of the inventive use of flag designs include: 

     Spain and Portugal, 1986: the entry of the Iberian countries  to the European Community is dynamically illustrated by the
     Spanish and Portuguese flags zooming in to join those of the existing Member States; 
     Denmark, 1992: an explosion of red and white Danish flags captures the jubilation which followed the country's
     unexpected victory in the 1992 European Soccer Championships 
     Israel 1976: with the stars and stripes superimposed on a giant figure 200, can this be anything other than a
     commemoration of the U.S. Bicentennial? 

The frequent appearances  of flags on stamps is simply a reflection of their ubiquity in the wider world.  On land and at sea, in
the air and on the internet, on public transport, private cars, government buildings, company letterheads, in advertising and on
television, flags are almost everywhere - they can even make the news.  This year alone, we've seen:

     flags at half mast to mourn the passing of King Hussein of Jordan and the Emir of Bahrain 
     American and Palestinian flags welcoming President Clinton to Gaza 
      Spanish, British and Chilean flags used both to celebrate and oppose the house arrest of former President Pinochet 
     the flags of NATO and its member states serving as a backdrop for the daily news conferences covering the crisis in

Whether reviled or revered, flags are clearly part of our modern landscape. 

But although their application is contemporary, the origins of flags can be traced back to ancient times.  The Roman Empire saw
the development of a cloth standard which was carried on a wooden staff.  This "vexillum" not only gave us the small
beginnings of what today we call a flag, but also provided the term now used for the study of flags - vexillology.

The close relationship between vexillology and the medieval art of heraldry can be seen in many modern-day flags.  Heraldic
influences are clearly at work in the flags of Quebec, Wales and the state of Maryland.  Some countries - such as Afghanistan,
Mexico and Paraguay - have absorbed heraldic coats of arms into the designs of their modern national flags.

It was the American and French Revolutions which themselves revolutionised many of the flags we know today.  We can't be
sure if George Washington really did ask a Philadelphia seamstress called Betsy Ross to create a flag for the new-born United
States of America, but we do know that the design has become one of the most influential and familiar designs in history.

The Stars and Stripes motif has been adopted by several American states, as well as places further afield, such as Chile in South
America and Liberia in West Africa.  But the geometric design and colours of the U.S. flag have also been the inspiration for
many other flags.  Norway, for example, chose red, white and blue as its national colours in deference to the U.S., whose ideals
of democracy and freedom the Norwegians wished to emulate.  Other flags, from Greece to Togo, Malaysia to Uruguay, bear
more than a passing resemblance to the American design.

The French tricolour has been arguably even more influential.  Born in the revolution of 1789, the red, white and blue flag was
firmly established under Napoleon Bonaparte and has since become an unequivocal symbol of France.  The revolutionary and
republican ideals associated with the tricolour have inspired flags from places as far apart as Ireland, Chad,  Belgium, Mali,
Senegal, Romania and Italy (the green in the Italian flag is said to have been chosen by Napoleon himself). 

Just as historical influences may be identified in flags,  shared regional, cultural and religious links can also be detected: 

     Many Arab countries use the black, white, red and green  colours adopted by young Arabs earlier this century when
     revolting against Ottoman Turkish rule; some, including Pakistan, Mauritania and the Maldives also use the crescent and
     star symbol traditionally associated with Islam 
     Most Central American states employ blue and white in their national flags as a reminder that they were once part of the
     United Provinces of Central America 
     Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador were also part of a united federation, and their yellow, blue and red tricolours bear witness
     to that shared history. 
     The pan-African colours - red, green and yellow - stem from the flag of Ethiopia, one of the first African states to gain its
     independence.    Many African states have absorbed these colours into their own flags, with some adding local
     features.    Ghana, for example, chose a tricolour of the pan African colours, adding a black star to the central stripe. 
     The flags of Scandinavian countries are instantly recognisable.  All use variations of a cross, with the vertical bar
     off-centre, towards the flagstaff.  The oldest of these is the Danish flag, chosen by King Waldemar II in 1219.  Shortly
     before leading his army to victory against the Estonians, he saw a white cross in the red evening sky.  Still in use today,
     the Danish flag is said to be the oldest national flag in the world. 

Another important "family" of flags belongs to the slavic nations of eastern Europe.  The Russian tricolour of white, red and
blue was chosen by Peter the Great in 1799 and its striking similarity to the flag of the Netherlands is no coincidence.  Peter was
a great admirer of all things Dutch, even designing St Petersburg along the same lines as Amsterdam.  He adopted a variation of
the Dutch colours in 1799, but they were replaced by the red flag after the Russian Revolution.  In 1991, the imperial colours
made a comeback and Peter's original design is now firmly established as the flag of the Russian Federation.

Many of the peoples of eastern Europe look to Russia as their cultural home, and this is reflected in their flags. The pan-slavic
colours are evident in the flags of Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Yugoslavia. 

 Flags have played centre stage on some of the most spectacular stamp issues of recent times: 

* During the 1980s, Brazil issued a series of stamps featuring each of the state flags of the country's federation 
* In 1980, the United Nations postal administration began an unprecedented philatelic project covering the flags of every
member state.  Nearly twenty years later, the series was still going, with revisions taking account of political changes, such as
the newly-independent states of the former Soviet Union, the break-up of Czechoslovakia and the entry to the UN of new
members, such as San Marino.

* Canada's provincial flags took pride of place for the 1979 issue marking the country's national day.  The same flags were used
last year for a set honouring provincial premiers. 

Canada's national flag has also appeared on many definitive and commemorative issues, notably on its debut in 1965 and for its
25th and 30th anniversaries.  The distinctive and unmistakeably Canadian maple leaf flag emerged from a long and, at times,
heated debate on what should replace the red ensign, with its strong British connections. 

Like the Canadians in the 1960s, the Australians in the 1990s have been debating whether they should have a new national flag. 
With the exception of New Zealand (where a similar debate is ongoing), Australia's is the only national flag to include that of
another nation (Great Britain).  Many Australians now feel that their flag should represent the country's present and future
rather than its past and there have been numerous suggestions for a replacement. 

Change could come as early as this year.  In December, Australians will vote on whether to move closer to becoming a republic. 
If the majority agree, Australia could have a new flag in time for the opening of the 2000 Olympics, when the country plays host
to the world's biggest sporting occasion.

The Olympic movement, of course, has its own flag.  Designed by the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de
Coubertin, it was first hoisted at the Antwerp games of 1920.  Its five interlocking rings on a white background represent the five
continents linked together in peaceful competition.  Each ring's colour appears at least once on every national flag of the world. 

The Olympic symbol has become one of the most universally familiar, and few postal authorities can resist the opportunity to
use it when issuing Olympic commemoratives.  Olympic stamps often feature the flag alongside that of the issuing country or
the host nation during Olympic years, but in 1994 an additional flurry of Olympics stamps appeared, marking the centenary of
the modern Olympic movement. 

There appears to be quite literally no end to the outpouring of flags on stamps. European Parliament elections, for instance, have
seen  further additions to the body of stamps on a European theme, many featuring the European flag, with its twelve stars on a
blue background.  Another blue flag, that of NATO, has also appeared on a number of stamps this year, to commemorate its 50th
anniversary and to mark the entry of three new countries - Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary - to the alliance.  NATO's
flag has, of course, was a prominent symbol in news coverage of the Kosovo crisis.  The compass at its centre and the blue
background are intended to represent  both the North Atlantic and the members of NATO on either side.

Clearly, there is much to interest collectors who chooses flags as a philatelic theme.  For as well as adding to their stamp
collection, through flags they will gain a better knowledge of the world which they represent.

James Carson 
[email protected] 

of The Flier, Issue 1

This edition compiled by Robert Murray, Edinburgh, Scotland, Wednesday 29 December 1999
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