Essential Vermeer 3.0
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Vermeer on Stamps (1)

from the collection of Vitaliy Demin

Stamp collecting has become one of the world's most popular hobbies since the first postage stamp was issued in 1840. Given the great variety and availability, collectors of any age and financial means can indulge in collecting stamps. Some members of the British royal family are known to have been collecting stamps by 1864. The first serious royal collector was Prince Alfred, the son of Queen Victoria, who sold his collection to his older brother Edward VII, who in turn bequeathed it to his son, later George V. Since the 1890s, monarchs have employed curators to assist with the management of the collection.

The first representations of artworks and paintings on stamps date back to the nineteenth century. They consisted mostly of engraved portraits of famous people and monarchs. In the 1940s and 1950s, reproductions of drawings and paintings on stamps became widespread, and by the 1960s and 1970s, high-quality color stamp sets with reproductions of well-known masterpieces were being issued all over the world on a regular basis. Collecting stamps with artworks became very popular, and new issues flooded the market.

Several thousand stamps currently in circulation are dedicated to the works of famous artists, such as Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rubens and Rembrandt. It is almost impossible to collect all of them; one must pick and choose in order to assemble a thematically coherent collection. Vermeer, one of the most intriguing artists in history, is an ideal candidate for a small collection. I compiled a complete list of all the stamps with Vermeer's works that are in circulation all over the world, and even with all the perforated/non-perforated varieties, first day covers and maximum cards, it was fewer than 400 items. It took me about three years to acquire all the available items except a few non-perforated varieties which I will add later.

As you may know, some countries allow to order personalized stamps, where customer picks an image in a predetermined stamp format. Personalized stamps are not very collectible but they are legitimate stamps. One collector of maximum cards from Netherlands have ordered a set of stamps with all Vermeer's paintings, purchased post cards with the same paintings from Vermeer's Center in Delft and post marked them in Delft on December 15, 2011 (Day of Vermeer's funeral). I couldn't resist and bought all of them. It is pretty neat to see the 'View of Delft' maximum card with Delft post mark. There are a few more personalized stamps in my collection.
Vitaliy Demin

A collection consisting solely of individual stamps may look somewhat bland. There are a number of collectible items that will make a collection more appealing and unique. Below are descriptions of such items that are popular with stamp collectors.

  • Souvenir sheets – one or several stamps printed on a single sheet of paper, often without perforations and with a wide margin containing a text or design that is dedicated to a particular event. Various parts of a souvenir sheet can be torn out and used as postage stamps.
  • Sheetlets – small sheets with 20 to 24 stamps issued with a large border that may include a part of the stamp design or theme.
  • Miniature sheets – very similar to souvenir sheets and contain a small group of postage stamps printed together on one sheet.
  • First day covers – (FDC) – envelopes with stamps attached and canceled on the first day those stamps went into circulation. The FDCs with specially designed envelopes, related to the theme of the stamp issued, are called "cachets."
  • Maximum cards – postcards where the stamp is placed and canceled on the same side as the picture. All three elements: card, stamp, and cancellation must be thematically related.
  • Postal stationery – includes postal cards, aerograms, letter cards, wrappers, envelopes, etc., that have a legitimate stamp printed on them.
  • Special cancellation – is the imprint on the postage stamp that invalidates it against future use that was designed to commemorate a particular event. Special cancellations usually applied for a limited time or just one day like in case of Firs Day of Issue of a particular stamp.
  • Personalized stamp - is a postage stamp, with (or without) an adjoining label, on which, for a fee, an image and/or text of the purchaser's choosing may be placed. Not sold to general public.
  • Stamps in personalized stamp format - postage stamps issued by postal services to promote personalized stamps. Sold to general public.
  • Block - is a group of four or more un-separated stamps. Blocks are of interest not only because they are rarer than individual stamps, but they also preserve relative positions of stamps as they were originally printed, information that is crucial to understanding how the stamps were produced.

How to consult this collection

Each page of the Demin collection usually has a dominant painting. Pages are designated with two numbers, such as "7-2." In this case, the first numbers refers the EV catalogue number of dominant painting, while the second number the sequential number of the pages dedicated to that work. Thus, the number "7-2" refers to the second page dedicated to The Milkmaid. When one painting has more than one page dedicated to it, the most valuable stamps, from philatelic stand point, are placed first. For example, French stamps with The Lacemaker are more valuable than from Burundi or Fujeira and therefore are placed first, unless they issued recently.


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