Bhutan - “Talking Stamps" and Other World Firsts!
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, situated between Tibet and India, was a “closed” nation until the 1960’s; her opening up to the outside world was largely lead by a stamp production program that began in 1962.
Stamps have played an important part in Bhutan’s modern development. Prior to the 1950’s very few people other than explorers entered the country. One notable visitor in 1951 was the American, Burt Kerr Todd – who had been invited to the Royal Wedding by Her Majesty Ashi Kesang Choden Dorfi, having known him as a fellow student in England. In 1954 Todd returned to the county for his honeymoon, the newlyweds forming a lifelong love of the country and its people.
As a friend of the Royal family Todd was asked by the King to find out how the country could join the United Nations, so he travelled to New York. After various enquiries he was turned down by the World Bank, but on leaving in the elevator he learned that Bhutan could issue its own stamps to help fund the National Treasury; at that moment he decided to promote the country through unusual postage stamp issues.
Todd travelled extensively to find new and exciting printing methods of stamp production, and Bhutan became well known for its “firsts”, and as a result the Revenue earned from the sale of stamps helped fund a programme of development including new roads, schools and hospitals.
Bhutan was the first country in the world to pioneer 3-D stamps, steel foil stamps, silk stamps, and indeed scented stamps; so to continue the trend of innovative firsts, they issued an incredible series of stamps that talk, which were considered by the Government to be ambassadors for the country. Issued in 1973 (April 15th) the Phonograph Records self- adhesive set (listed by Scott catalogue as 152-152F), were playable at 33RPM on any record player, and would give the listener a flavour of the Bhutanese culture, language and history. These incredible stamps are even known on covers, though in any form remain scarce.
The set of seven (incl. two airmail values) comprise a 10ch yellow on red (Bhutanese History), 25ch gold on green (Royal Bhutan Anthem), 1.25nu silver on blue (Bhutanese History in English), 3nu (air stamp) silver on purple (the Bhutan Anthem in Bhutanese and folk song 1), 7nu silver on black (Folk song 1), 8nu red on white (Folk song 2), and 9nu (air stamp) black on yellow (a History in English and both Folk songs.)
Todd, who died in 2006, was responsible for the creation of many designs over the years, and in keeping with tradition, his daughter Frances, achieved another world “first” in 2006 by producing the worlds’ first CD-ROM postage stamps for Bhutan, this time containing documentary videos about the nation.