Photo Essays

These are archive photographs of stamp proposals entered in the stamp design competitions of Deutsche Bundespost. Non-accepted artwork was given back to the artists, so the authorities took photos and archived them. The administration chose their favorite design from the original stamp designs.

Why collect them?

Unlike other Western European countries, such as France, it appears that designers were asked to make a proposal for each issue of West Germany and Berlin. This practice existed in other countries but was stopped in the 1950’s when only usually one designer (often the same person that would then engrave the stamp) was asked by the administration to produce a design. For some German issues up to 10 different designs are known! For topical collectors, there is plenty of material to choose from, just like in other collecting areas such as First Day Covers.

What to collect?

Like everything in philately, you can collect whatever you want. Some collectors look for completion, so having a “complete” collection of all numbers known would be quite an accomplishment. For topical collectors, there is plenty of material to choose from. For advanced topical collectors, it is really interesting to see how each artist interpreted a subject, so having a wide selection of the same issue can be very interesting and quite a challenge! Some of these photo essays exist with a different face value than the adopted face value.

Can you use them in philatelic exhibits?

You should mainly be concerned If you are exhibiting them in FIP competitions, we consulted the former chairman of the FIP commission for thematic philately Mr. Damian Läge who stated, "the FIP team leaders for thematic philately qualify them as "borderline material". In other words, they should only be used if a subject matter cannot be illustrated with another item such as an issued stamps, stationery or postmark.

Depending on your topic, there are often quite a few thematic elements that cannot be illustrated with regular material. So here is your opportunity to use these photo essays, they must be properly described and, of course, do not reward any points for rarity.

These photos derive from boxes which were put aside when the responsibility for stamp issues changed from the Postal Ministry to the Ministry of Finance and the government moved from Bonn to Berlin.

The known material starts in the late 1950s and reaches until mid-1970s. Usually, about 5 copies of each proposed design were kept in the archive. The reason for doing so was probably purely "good administration behavior":

Better make a copy and file it because you never know...

The original designs (and only them, not black-and-white photographs) were on hand when the German stamp selection board made its decisions, and either these originals were handed back to the artist or they were bought by Deutsche Bundespost. In both cases, they were no longer available to the administration so there was a reasonable purpose for keeping a copy "just in case". Photocopy machines were not available at these days, so a photograph was taken and filed. Negatives were either not filed or destroyed when moving; at least there is no sign that they survived.

Philatelists are fortunate to have these photo essays at their disposal because rejected designs very rarely come to the market. Again each country has a different policy, and for example with a few exceptions, all the adopted and unadopted designs for France were supposed to be kept by the Postal Museum in Paris.