Tuesday 20 August 2019

Would a more conservative stamp issuing policy be better for us all?

Unless you collect the stamps of the country represented by this logo, or you are familiar with the language, you probably won't guess which country it is.

It's a small country in terms of size and population, although it attracts many tourists - about 6.5 times as many people who actually live there.  They don't issue many stamps - 25 this year - and those are singles, miniature sheets of 2, or sets of 4 at most.  It's a good issuing policy, although because postage rates are quite high the cost of the stamps alone is about £52, but again that's not too bad.

Here are their Europa stamps for this year (national birds):

By now you will have worked it out, and those who knew anyway may well have thought - "just a minute, their logo is red, not black."  Well, today it's black here, because this year's Christmas stamps might almost be the last ones, or at least the last ones which are easy to get:

Why? Because their Stamp and Philatelic Department (Postphil) will be abolished at the end of this year. Here's the announcement from their Head of Philately, VILHJALMUR SIGURDSSON.

Dear Friends

Iceland Post, Stamp and Philatelic Department (Postphil) will be abolished at the end of this year after about 90 years in operation.

We still have two stamp issues left this year, on September 12th and October 31st, but when they are done the department will be closed down for good and will stop serving stamp collectors, domestic and foreign, altogether.

The fact that the number of our philatelic customers have constantly been decreasing year after year has lead to years of deficit for Postphil.

Iceland Post has got a new CEO Mr. Birgir Jonsson, who is cutting down everything that is not profittable in this company, including Postphil, and that is due to the fact that Iceland Post currently has severe operating difficulties.

Today, August 20 Iceland Post is laying off about 50 people throughout the company.

The current management of Iceland Post Ltd., prefers if possible to stop issuing new stamps altogether, but on the basis of current law, Iceland Post cannot unilaterally decide to do so.

However, there is some uncertainty as to how these matters will be handled in the future and the company is waiting for answers from it´s owner, the Icelandic state.

If the company must keep on issuing new stamps in 2020 and onward the number of new stamps will be very few each year and there will be no service for stamp collectors.

According to CEO Mr. Birgir Jonsson this task of producing and issuing new stamps could be given to outside contractors.

I will leave Iceland Post Ltd, in September after 20 years in charge of Postphil.

From October to December there will only be 3 people working at Postphil so operations will be at minimum

Kind regards,



TEL: +354 580 1050 | DIRECT: +354 580 1051 | MOBILE: +354 825 1051 | STAMPS.IS | facebook.com/icelandicstamps | vilhjalmurs@postur.is
STORHOFDI 29 | 110 REYKJAVIK | ICELAND | TEL: +354 580 1000 | FAX: +354 580 1059 | POSTUR.IS |

So there you have it.  A conservative stamp issuing policy doesn't guarantee success if you don't have enough customers - philatelic or otherwise.  Of the 2.3 million tourists who visit each year many do so for weekend or 5-day breaks, as we did in January.  We sent no postcards, although there are many on sale and we bought a few.  With the cost of postage being £1.65 (US$2, €1.80) that was a step too far.

The country is hi-tech. We didn't use any cash, and bought all meals and coffees (and postcards) using a credit card (debit cards also welcome).  I think it's safe to assume that the population is equally as happy to use email and text messaging (and social media) for social and business communication wherever possible.  Last year the postal service tried a 'next day delivery' service for letters which cost nearly £4 for a 100g letter.  It ceased after 10 months.  With a population of less than 340,000 (and that's all of them including the children) I guess they don't need very many stamps: you can drive from one side of the country to the other in 10 hours (weather permitting).

It's something to think about.  Sure, in the United Kingdom with a much bigger population there will always be a postal service that needs stamps.  It's just not that easy to get from Tresco to Haroldwick (about 36 hours by road/sea: your letter will do it in the same time for 70p).  So there will always be a need for some method of showing that postage has been paid.

Something to think about 2.
Should you be wanting any stamps from Iceland, for example if you are collecting all the Europa stamps this year, or if you collect bird thematics, it might be an idea to put an order in now.  You may have to actually visit Iceland to get them after Christmas.


  1. I suggest Iceland Post approaches Stamperija to issue stamps for them. Only joking!

  2. Thanks for this information ! This is a great pity the more so as Iceland has produced some stunning stamps over the years. In 2018 we visited Iceland twice en route to and from the US and spent over a week there on each occasion. The Reykjavik Central Post Office had an excellent small Philatelic counter with very helpful staff and a surprising back catalogue of several years available both stamps and MS although not all issues. They were also extremely helpful in hand stamping covers in situ.
    I for one will miss their new issues which reflected the Icelandic Land and Culture and had "thought" put into their designs never overboard and financially manageable for collectors.
    Hopefully Greenland, Aland and the Faroes wont go down the same path.

  3. Do you know if they will retain their membership of EUROPA and SEPAC?

    1. What you see is what we have. Undoubtedly they will remain members of PostEurop but that does not force them to produce Europa stamps.

      Whether they retain membership of Sepac is more problematic, given that one of the conditions for membership is that:
      "The postal administration must have a small market with more than 50% of its philatelic customers living outside the country."

  4. Very shortsighted of Iceland Posts's CEO, Mr. Birgir Jonsson, to close down everything which is "not profitable."

    Shortsighted, or perhaps an admission that he considers it too much like hard work to do anything to bring profitability to the relevant service(s).

    1. On this topic short term profitability excluding philately: at last French Philatelic Congress in June, French philatelic service director (a La Poste employee) announced he will launch a market study on philately. It seems he must prove to some quarters of La Poste that his direction (i.e. designing and printing stamps) is of profitable interest to the whole group.

      I remember the awful previous decades when Directions inside La Poste started competing between each other to be profitable alone: the Post Office Direction tried to avoid selling stamps because it would mean giving back part of the profit to the Stamp Direction... Corporate capitalism at his worst.

    2. I'm sorry that I missed this comment and have only just published it (a month late).

  5. Iceland should continue to issue new postage stamps and put the cost (Loss!) down to
    public relations, in other words advertising this unique island and all it has to offer
    to the rest of the world in commercial business and as a tourist destination.
    Think again,to discontinue issuing stamps is not a good idea.

  6. Abandoning this important element of their national cultural heritage and disregarding the ambassadorial role of postage stamps in the world.. in the name of profit. Very worrying!
    One can only hope this is not the thin end of the wedge.. domino effect etc..


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