By Wayne Chen
Austria Post is truly a pioneer when it comes to innovative stamp material and printing methods.
Not every new issue from Austria is innovative, but Austria Post puts out one or two stamps each year with a nontraditional printing method or made of an unusual, nonpaper material. These stamps usually bear high denominations.
This year, on June 10, Austria issued an impressive stamp made of glass. It presents the reverse-glass painting tradition of the municipality of Sandl in Upper Austria in the miniature scale of a postage stamp.
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The reverse-glass painting is of a cross and pieta (a subject in Christian art depicting the Virgin Mary holding and weeping over the body of her crucified son Jesus).
The stamp has a face value of €6.30, close to U.S. $7.
The Vienna Porcelain Manufactory Augarten (Neue Wiener Porzellanmanufaktur Augarten GmbH & Co KG in German) printed the stamp by the silk-screen method on glass.
Among the new-issue stamps I purchased from the Austria Post booth at the World Stamp Show-NY 2016 (May 28-June 4) was this special glass stamp. It came with a presentation box that made it easier to display.
What I did not realize at the time was that the stamp was not issued in Austria until June 10, so I had purchased it at the show more than a week before its official issue date.
The stamp’s “perforations” were back-printed on the glass; therefore, the stamp has a smooth rectangular edge. However, one must wonder how does this stamp receive a cancellation?
Austria Post sent me an image of the first-day cover it has for sale. The glass stamp is affixed on a generic Austria Post envelope with a black pictorial postmark canceling a corner of the stamp.
My guess is that the postmark is digitally applied, but I wonder if the smooth surface of the stamp would allow someone to scrape off a postmark without too much effort?
Though this might be the first postage stamp entirely made of glass, I have several other three-dimensional stamps in my unusual stamp collection. The most similar is a porcelain stamp made by the same printer and issued March 20, 2014, by Austria Post (Scott 2492).
The entire stamp was made of porcelain, and the floral image and the 5.90 denomination were printed as one would find on decorative porcelain ware. Like the new glass stamp, it came with its own box, which I placed next to it on a display shelf.
Additional three-dimensional stamps from Austria and other countries include embroidery stamps, fabric (including silk and leather) stamps, metallic printed or etched stamps, and stamps printed on unusual materials, such as cork and wood.
Lenticular printed stamps have a higher relief than traditional paper stamps and often show three-dimensional moving images. I wrote about this type of stamp in July.
One of my favorite three-dimensional items is a souvenir sheet issued by Singapore April 8, 2008 (Scott 1316), from a set featuring the Peranakan Museum collection.
The sheet is shaped like a traditional pouch, and it has a $5 stamp that was handcrafted using beads. The beads reflect light in a splendid, almost jewelry-like fashion.
Austria has issued similar souvenir sheets made with Swarovski crystals, including the 2006 Fireworks joint issue with Hong Kong (Scott 2060).
To me, looking at such stamps provides another dimension of viewing, and I cherish and appreciate each one like an artifact.