The First Christmas Stamps

Those who celebrate Christmas traditionally send Christmas cards, so why shouldn’t there be Christmas stamps, too?

It’s a little unclear what country made the first Christmas stamp, but it was most likely Canada, though it’s not the most festive stamp around – it’s only considered a Christmas stamp because of the inscription “XMAS 1898” near the bottom. The stamp features a map highlighting the British empire in red, with the words “Canada Postage” at the top.

The reason for the “XMAS” addition to the stamp reportedly comes from a story of quick-thinking on William Mulock’s part: he proposed the stamp be issued on November 9th to “honor the Prince” (the Prince of Wales). But Queen Victoria asked “What Prince?” in a critical tone, and Mulock countered with “Why, madam, the Prince of Peace.” That’s some quick thinking, Mulock.


Austria issued its own Christmas stamps in 1937 featuring a rose and zodiac signs. And in 1939, Brazil issued its own, decidedly more Christmassy, stamps featuring the three kings, a star, and an angel. The first Nativity stamp emerged from Hungary in 1943.

The U.S. had its own Christmas stamp debate in the 1960’s. To that date the country had never issued stamps honoring the holiday, and the USPS hesitated due to the separation of church and state. But high demand for Christmas stamps won out. The USPS printed 350 million four-cent stamps with a wreath and two candles. The stamps quickly sold out. By the end of the print run that year, a billion of the stamps had been issued, the most special stamps printed at that time.

Christmas stamps are popular among collectors. There’s no doubt that holiday stamps have made a mark in the stamp world.

Do you collect Christmas stamps?

Brazil’s Bull’s Eye Stamps

The first-ever stamps issued by Brazil were released on the first of August in 1843. This was especially notable because, at the time, the only other country-wide stamp issue came from Great Britain. There had been other stamps, but only confined to specific regions within countries.

The Bull’s Eye stamps had the values of 30, 60 and 90 reis. They came out during the International Exposition in Rio de Janeiro, some issued in a special souvenir sheet.


The stamps got their name because of their shapes. The value of the stamps lay inside ovals inside the square stamps; added to their arrangements on the sheets, the stamps mimicked the eyes of a bull. Later, smaller designs were named snake’s eyes and cat’s eyes, and similar blue stamps were called goat’s eyes.

Brazil printed over three million Bull’s Eye stamps. As a result, they’re not the rarest stamps in the world – but they’re still notable in the field of philately.

The famous sheet of four 30 reis stamps Brazil, sold in 2013.

The famous sheet of four 30 reis stamps, sold in 2013.

In 2013, Hugo Goeggel, an expert in the field of South American philately, sold his collection of Bull’s Eye stamps. Just Part 1 of the auction raised over $1 million U.S. The main item of the auction was the block of four 30 reis Bull’s Eyes that had passed through many collectors’ hands since its discovery in 1950.

Goeggel has won multiple awards for his collections of Brazil, Ecuador and Columbia stamps.