Forty years ago every schoolboy (and most girls too) collected stamps as a matter of course - at a time when new issues were few and far between and designs were mostly monochrome. Today, relatively few kids collect stamps, yet stamps themselves have never been more visually exciting.In recent years several postal administrations have put a great deal of effort into encouraging young collectors. In Britain, for example, there is the Stamp Bug Club, promoting the hobby through lively cartoons.
In Belgium and Austria, however, they have gone a step further, by issuing stamps in support of youth philately. Recent cartoon stamps from Austria have featured various characters from the Philis (junior philatelists), while Belgium has released a number of stamps portraying Stam and Pilou, the heroes of the Stampilou cartoon series.
Stampilou was born on 1 January 2000 as a club for budding collectors in the 8 to 13 age range, providing starter packs as well as a series of comic books in French and Flemish editions. In October 2001 Stamp Day was marked by a special Stampilou booklet containing five circular stamps and matching stickers featuring Stam and Pilou.
Now a miniature sheet has been released for Christmas, containing 10 stamps forming a composite picture of Stam and Pilou, Opa Fons and other characters from the comic strip in a snow scene teeming with winter merriment and reminding one of a painting by Breughel. The artists of Studio Max, creators of the cartoons, were on hand at the Antwerp and Courcelles stamp shows recently to meet their young fans. This pro-active approach has apparently been extremely successful, so let’s hope that other postal administrations take note.