1979: International Year Of The Stamp Designer


Last week in his My Brilliant Career review, David Ashton reminded us that 1979 was the International Year Of The Child. You may remember that many supermarket chains contributed by giving away children at the check-out – although this often led to car-parks full of discarded children that people had been too polite to turn down in the store. A lot was learned from this experience – Woolworths, for one, announced they would not be repeating the offer during the International Year Of The Disabled Person.

International Years are usually designated by the UN and since 1959 they’ve been using them “in order to draw attention to major issues and to encourage international action to address concerns which have global importance and ramifications”. That’s why 2008 has been the International Year of The Potato. No, really, it has. 2009 is the International Year of Natural Fibres, which should at least make for good T-shirts.

While obviously not as exciting as International Space Year (1992), International Year of the Ocean (1998), International Year of Rice (2004) or International Year Of Microcredit (2005), International Year Of The Child was a very important year for a group that often feels ignored and powerless – stamp designers.

As we always say at The Outland Institute, philately will get you everywhere. In 1979 every country wanted to have a Year Of The Child stamp. Some got their best designers on the case – others just rushed something out in their lunch break. Most were probably relieved it wasn’t International Year For Action To Combat Racism And Racial Discrimination (1971), or  International Year Of Mobilization Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia And Related Intolerance (2001) – not only would they be much harder to represent pictorially, it would also be near impossible to fit all those words on a stamp.

So let’s step back in time, and take a look at some of the stamp designs from around the world.



Stylish Qatar.



Faroe Islands go all arty.



India goes all Ghandi. Which is a bit odd, as he’d been dead for 31 years by the time these came out.




Antigua, possibly misunderstanding the design brief, released a number of Disney character stamps.



Oh, Australia. Can anyone be more tediously literal than you?



Yes. New Zealand.




It can get lonely on the Isle Of Man. I think these are the most unsettling of all the stamps, and I’ve seen Sweden‘s.



Life is colourful in Papua New Guinea.




This stamp just screams “West Germany“, doesn’t it?



Not much fun in Greenland.



Afghanistan, where everyone gets along!



Oh, Nepal, you’re  just not trying.



Same goes for you, USA. That’s all you’ve got? Monochrome literal representations of children? Why can’t you be more like…



Hungary? There’s a country that knows how to do colour and expression. Or possibly LSD. And check out…



Mongolia. They’re so crazy they make their stamps go diamond-shaped.





The UK sticks with the classics. Literally.


It’s unclear exactly how these years are chosen and supported within the UN, so I’d like to put forward a few ideas – the International Year Of The Kitten, International Year Of The Ironically-Retro Moustache, International Year Of The Bad Science-Fiction Remake, or maybe International Year Of The Gently Satirical Arts Blog. Or perhaps The Irish Post had it right when they suggested “International Year of the Token Gesture”.

14 Responses to 1979: International Year Of The Stamp Designer

  1. What about International Year of the Year?

  2. Dan Cardone says:

    International Year Comprised of Individual Months?

  3. outlandinstitute says:

    Do you think there’s Domestic Years as well? Like, Domestic Year Of The Underwhelming Pseudo-Art-Movie?

  4. Dan Cardone says:

    What were the West German’s thinking? A child in a cage, with a depressing council estate stairwell in the background. This was their ‘happy image’? Do you have an example from East Germany?

  5. Anne-Marie says:

    I remember it well…And now that horrible “care for kids” song has found it’s way into my brain.

    I wonder if the WG kid survived 10 years of Stasi interrogation.

    Of course the greatness of the 2008 “year of” can’t be dismissed. I don’t hear anyone complaining or being sarcastic about International Year of the Potato? Remember the giant spuds in Fed Square?


  6. outlandinstitute says:

    Dan: Can’t find an East German one, but it’s a very good question. I found the Swedish one once but the image was too small and now I can’t find it again, but it appeared to show a child getting their head caved in with an axe – truly, truly frightening.

    Anne-Marie: I had totally forgotten that Care For Kids song. Until now. “Care for kids – there’s a lot you can share with kids…”. Damn you.

    Incidentally, the stamp at the very top of the article – which I personally think is hilarious – is not from the year of the child. It was in fact issued in 1999 as part of the US “Celebrate the Century” series, as representing one of the most significant technological advances of the 20th Century. I like the fact that it looks like it’s about to kill that small child – as part of the “Heavy Machinery Decimates Kids” series. It’s “Duel” for the 21st Century!

  7. Sam says:

    Thanks Anne-Marrie, though as kids we used to sing ‘care for kids, chuck ’em over the West Gate Bridge….’

  8. Louise says:

    I remember the giant potatoes at Fed Sq, oh yes. Nothing says ‘I honour your contribution to the world’ than an oversized replica with a fork sticking out the top.

  9. lyndal says:

    snaps to Sam – we used to sing the same lyrics about chucking them over the West Gate Bridge. I fact, I can’t even remember the real words…

  10. Dallas says:

    “Oh, Australia. Can anyone be more tediously literal than you?”

    I take umbridge at your statement, Mr Outland Institute. I LOVED this stamp. LOVED it. COLLECTED it in my miserly tween philately collection. For me this stamp represented EVERYTHING I desired in childhood yet did not have; sibilings, green grass AND fixed items of entertainment. I made do with dried banana chips and an elderly tricycle…


  11. Dan Cardone says:

    Also in the Australia stamp’s defence: the kids are having fun and all sun-bronzed. No skin cancer for them! Whereas in the New Zealand stamp they are all wearing unflattering chunky knits and doing something educational. I rest my case.

  12. LORI says:


  13. Stefan Yamauchi says:

    I relish, result in I found exactly what I was looking for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  14. H. Handle says:

    Concerning Germany’s stamp–an explanation. Germany was recently voted the least happy country. No laughing allowed.

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