The Language of Stamps

Have you heard of the Language of Stamps?

I was just reading an article from The Postal Museum on How to Write a Postcard and it mentions the Language of Stamps. This isn’t something I had heard of before, but according to the article it’s a way of sending a hidden message to the recipient of a postcard via the stamp. You do this by angling the stamp in different directions which gives the stamp different meanings.

For example, rotating the stamp 90 degrees anti-clockwise sends the message ‘Answer at once’. You can click here to view the other variations and their meanings mentioned in the article.

Is this something you were aware of and have you ever used this secret language to send a hidden message on your postcards?

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To have a secret language means both the sender and recipient need to understand the same vocabulary and rules of grammar and usage. Maybe in the days where repressive parents kept lovers from each other (i.e. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde) there were such agreed on signals. Or maybe spies would send hidden messages in seemingly innocuous letters.

Personally I have an eyesight problem and sometimes end up rotating a stamp 90 degrees if it has small print and an ambiguous image. Like the US internal postcard stamps of coral reefs, which could be sideways and nobody would notice, and the Forever is in tiny type. So if you were to receive a sideways stamp from me, there would be a clear message that I didn’t have my glasses on when I stamped the card. :woozy_face:

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I might actually visit this postcard exhibition at the Postal Museum,

Apparently in the UK, it is illegal for you to place a stamp with the reigning monarch upside down on an item of mail. One of those obscure out-of-date laws that is no-longer policed.
If it was, I’d be sent to the Tower long ago! :nerd_face:

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Very interesting history, but I’d be terrible at it - I’m still trying to find the trick to get some stamps on straight, lol - never mind some other specific angle!

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It was common school kid knowledge when I was a boy that if you put the stamp upside down it meant “I love you”.

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I believe it, I found my parents old love letters when I was a kid, and I remember they had the habit of putting the stamps upside down

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Sometimes I have to rotate the stamp 90° because I have already written the address and it wouldn’t fit otherwise. No secret message intended :grin:

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Me too!
And sometimes I had rotate it for 180° degrees, because some of the stamps have a really fine writing on it and a picture that could go both ways…

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Never heard of this before :hushed:
The only “secret” message my stamps may be conveying is that I don’t like right angles and perfect order :smiley: When there’s enough space, I will usually turn them at some random angle - different angles when I use several stamps… For postcrossing, however, I often use many different stamps - for the sake of the collectors among us - and then I have to cram them into their half of the postcards, “nice” and orderly into the very corner - so as not to waste any writing space…

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Me too, the exhibition looks really good.

How interesting! If it was still policed, using commemorative stamps would be a good way around it!

I’ve honestly never even thought about putting a stamp any way other than upright. All the stamps I’ve ever used have been square or rectangular and align perfectly with the corner so that’s the way I’ve always put them. Maybe i’ll start playing around with angles, especially if I am using more than one stamp.

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When I was a little girl, I was about to put a stamp on an envelope & my mother noticed it was upside down. “Stop! Don’t do that - - you’ll scare them silly!”

Apparently, putting a stamp upside down was a sign of mourning - - it meant you were sending news of a death in the family.

P.S. @Zeero62 - - my mother was Dutch, so it may be a cultural difference in the language of stamps? But I’d never heard your version! Several other people have said they knew about the “mourning stamp” position, though.

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I was looking into this yesterday and it seems there are variations in meanings between different sources.

Here is an image with some variations from the version above, and here is a different one again.

Spoken languages often vary from region to region, so it’s plausable that the variations may come from different countries and cultures.

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Ha! You beat me too it, I was doing some reading this morning before work, as the subject got my interest perked up,



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According to the second picture, I’ve been asking people to be mine with my wonky placed stamps :laughing:

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Yes, upside down meant love! I remember that one!

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An interesting subject, from my collections here’s another one, sent from within Cornwall in 1906 the stamp was in the correct upright position so I guess the answer was " Yes". For interes, Postcards were also sent using “The language of flowers”, hers an example from the early 1900’s.
Best Wishes, D


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I once found a vintage postcard where the language of stamps is explained in German and sent it via postcrossing:

Edit: It’s interesting to see, that some hidden messages are the same in different countries, while others are not. Don’t mistake the right-angled stamp in english and german-speaking countries. At least check if it’s the right angle. :smiley:

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I don’t know where it came from, but it was a school kid thing. I don’t think it was that “cultural”.

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i was gonna say i’ve been giving a lot of kisses to everyone :joy:

i was just looking up that third photo, i have a card of that. been waiting ages to send it to a stamp fan and then i sort of forget i had it until i saw this topic :sweat_smile:

it’s very interesting though. never heard of it. i feel like it’s mostly used with secret love letters and all? though now i am wondering if people have been giving me secret messages through postcrossing.

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