media

Marty Frankevicz

Monday Morning Brief | Propaganda, stamps, and North Korea

August 14, 2017 08:00 AM

North Korea and its recent anti-American stamps have created quite the stir in the media. Scott catalog new-issues editor Marty Frankevicz explores this phenomenon and offers some much-needed philatelic perspective.

Full Video Transcript:

Good morning and welcome to the Monday Morning Brief for August 14, 2017.

Well, they are at it again. For the second time in the past month, we have seen various reports in the mainstream media about North Korea stamps. The latest story, which broke August 8, brings to light new North Korea stamps commemorating the various missiles that they say have been successfully tested and which might be pointed at targets in the United States.

Obviously, some reporter, in these tense times, is closely monitoring reports coming from North Korea’s state-run media, which, oddly, tell of the release of the new stamps. The basic stories are picked up and reworked in slightly different versions by each news outlet.

An earlier story broke on July 16 about new North Korean stamps with anti-American themes. On July 17, I received a call from an editor at Fox News who was looking for further information so that she could generate a story about these stamps for the Fox audience.

The editor didn’t know an awful lot about stamp collecting, but asked plenty of questions. I said we did not have the newly released stamps yet and that we were not likely to obtain them any time soon because new North Korea stamps are difficult to obtain from United States dealers. Even though the purchase of North Korea stamps is not prohibited outright by a Treasury Department embargo in the way that Cuba and Iran stamps are, new-issue dealers here don’t stock them, and they are even hard to find in the stocks of foreign dealers.

Because I mentioned the difficulty in obtaining the stamps, the editor must have assumed that they were valuable and rare, and began to inquire about that. I commented that rarity does not always translate to a high catalog value, because some expensive stamps are not all that scarce, and that while these North Korea stamps might be hard to find now, and perhaps in the future, it does not necessarily mean they are rare or in demand.

What surprises me the most about the various clickbait news stories echoing across the internet about these North Korea stamps is that the writers don’t fully understand that for every country stamps are miniature propaganda devices that narrate history; promote special people, places and things; trumpet successes; and espouse and reinforce national goals.

U. S. stamps have depicted Moon landings, Hollywood stars, and civil rights struggles. North Korea’s stamps have often deified the Kim family and its militarism, and now they crow about missile technology achievements made despite harsh economic sanctions.

Anti-American stamps have been produced on a regular basis by North Korea for almost 60 years, so reporting on a new one is pretty much like reporting that water is wet. But North Korea is not alone in anti-American sentiments. Anti-American stamps have been produced by Iran and Libya in the past 30 years. And other countries have had international political squabbles take center stage on their stamps.

Nonetheless, deliberately using stamps to bash another country and inflame tensions is, thankfully, a rather infrequent event. While it generally is wonderful to see new stamps being reported by media outlets outside of the philatelic world, we certainly do not wish to see reports pointing out stamps as being a possible burning fuse to set off a horrendous nuclear conflict.

For Linn’s Stamp News and the Scott Catalogues, I’m Marty Frankevicz. Enjoy your week in stamps.