Monday Morning Brief | Stamps in a sardine can

May 2, 2021, 2 AM

Watch as Scott catalog new-issues editor Marty Frankevicz discusses the clever packaging for Portugal’s new set of six stamps honoring its fish-canning industry.

Full video transcript:

Good morning and welcome to the Monday Morning Brief for December 12, 2016.

I have a fish story for you. It’s not a big fish story, about one that got away, but a little fish story that can still be caught.

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One of the things that is fascinating about postage stamps is the many ways they can communicate ideas. Of course, stamps often pay homage to a country’s great historical figures or political leaders or express a country’s high ideals. But they can also bring attention to commonplace things that most people don’t see as particularly important. And that’s where the most interesting stamp stories usually can be found.

Last week, I found on my desk what looked to be a can of sardines. Because it is Christmas time, I figured that it was a gift from someone. Now, I like good food, but just thinking of a small school of stinky fish with bones in them swimming in oil in their little steel mausoleum makes my stomach do flip-flops.

But as I picked up the can, I realized sardines weren’t inside, because packed sardines don’t rattle around. No, this was an ingenious way of marketing stamps.

On October 31, Portugal issued a set of six stamps commemorating its fish-canning industry and someone in their marketing department brilliantly thought outside of the box.  And they did that by getting the stamps packed in a can just like the ones that stinky fish are stuffed into.

The special decorated tin shows pictures of various stages of the fish packing process from fishing boats bringing in the catch, to the army of Portuguese women cleaning and cramming the little pilchards into the cans. The sealed can has a lid that can be peeled off to reveal the contents. I’m not going to open the can now, because I don’t want to be like Dan Aykroyd doing his impersonation of Julia Child bleeding out. Warning: sharp edges!

The stamps inside show other images of the fish-canning process along with images of various fish so preserved. At least they thought better of scratch-and-sniff stamps or flavored stamp glue.

The canned stamps, which sell for 4.25 euros, were packaged by Conservas Ramirez, the oldest fish cannery in Portugal, which has been in business since 1853. And thankfully, someone had the smarts to tell them to hold the olive oil.

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