Canadian Stamps Marked Montreal Olympics
by John Burnett (ESC7)
Originally published in Linns Stamp News
I have been approached by many parents
asking “what can my child collect, how do we start?” First let me say there is
no wrong way to collect stamps, collect what interests you or your child. Many
kids love sports, maybe collecting a form of sports on stamps might be a way to
get started in this marvelous hobby. Let’s look at one possibility, The 1976
On July 17, 1976, the 21st
modern Olympic Games opened in Montreal, Quebec. This global event allowed Canada to strut its stuff before the world, as the nation hosted most successful Games.
Years before the Olympics were held a lot
of folks were sitting around meeting rooms scratching their heads and wondering
how the heck they were going to pay for this world class extravaganza.
Then-mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau had
the brainstorm of adding a surtax to stamps commemorating the event, with the
revenue raised used to defray the cost of staging the Olympiad.
Thus were born Canada’s first semi postal
stamps (only one other stamp has had surtax, the 1996 literacy commemorative
stamp). (Scott B1 – B12), characterized by some, including myself _ as Canada’s greatest philatelic fiasco.
Figure 1 shows the first of these 12 stamps
at left – an 8˘ + 2˘ stamp from a set of three issued on April 17, 1974. All
three stamps were perforated gauge 12 and show the stylized logo of the
Montreal Games, known as the COJO symbol, after the “Comite Organizations des
Jeux Olympiques (Committee of Olympic Games Organizations).
Figure 1 - The logo of the Montreal Olympics appears on of the twelve semipostal stamps issued by Canada Post to defray the cost of the event (left)and one of the first two regular Canadian stamps for the 21st Olympiad (right)sold nearly three years before opening ceremonies.
The 10˘ stamp paid the 8˘ domestic postage
rate plus 2˘ surtax going to the Olympic Games. The other two stamps in this
first set of Canadian semi postal stamps were the 10˘ + 5˘ paying the standard
letter rate to the United States and the 15˘ +5˘ paying Canada’s standard international letter rate.
All the other Olympic semi postal stamps
three sets of three stamps - commemorated various sports activities of the
The second trio (B4 – B6) issued February
5, 1975, showed stylized depictions of water sports, swimming, rowing, and
sailing. A third threesome (B7 – B9) issued August 6, 1975, pictured so called
combat sports, boxing, fencing, and judo.
The final Montreal Olympic semipostals (B10
– B12) which saw the light of day January 7, 1976, displayed the sports of
basketball, vaulting and soccer.
All of 1975 – 76 semipostals were
perforated 13. None of these stamps is uncommon mint or used, but if you see
any of these stamps on cover, used in period paying proper postage, grab it.
You see what made these semipostals a
fiasco was that most folks in Canada didn’t take kindly to the idea of
underwriting the city of Montreal’s cost of hosting the Olympics. Canadians
showed their displeasure with this idea by treating these stamps as if they
carried the plague.
The stamps were eventually withdrawn with
very few of them actually seeing use in the postal system. I often wonder if we
aren’t seeing a modern rarity in the making when I come across one of these
turkeys, used correctly in period on non philatelic mail.
But the semipostals are only the best known
(and most notorious) of the many stamps by which Canada Post commemorated the
Montreal Olympics. In fact, the first two of these stamps predate the
semipostals by six months.
Figure 1 on the right shows the higher of
these two first Montreal Olympic issues (623 – 524), released September 20,
1973 – the better part of three years before the games were to begin. These
regular issues, like the first semipostals, also depict the COJO logo of the Montreal games.
These stamps were but two of what would
become a total of 35 stamps issued by Canada to commemorate the 1976 summer
On March 14, 1975, two embossed high value
stamps were released showing Olympic sculptures by Robert Tait McKenzie. These
stamps are hard to find with legible cancellations because embossed slick paper
didn’t take ink very well.
Figure 2 shows these stamps both of which
were issued in miniature panes of eight. I have seen these stamps used on
parcels more than anywhere else.
Figure 2 - Bronze sculptures of athletes by Robert Tait McKenzie. The Sprinter (left). And The Plunger (right) furnished the designs for these unusual embossed 1975 $1 and $2 Canadian stamps.
The $1 stamp (656) reproduces The
Sprinter and is perforated 12˝ by 12, while the $2 stamp (657) showing a
sculpture titled The Plunger is perforated 12 x 12˝.
June 11, 1975 saw the issue of three large
format stamps honoring track and field. (664 – 666). These attractive stamps
were perforated 12 x 12˝ the 50˘ value showing womens hurdles is shown on the
left in figure 3
Figure 3 - A Hurdler crosses the fence on a Canadian 50˘ Olympic stamp issued in 1975 a year before the games (left) while a 1976 20˘ stamp salutes communications as part of the cultural series dedicated to the Olympics.
On February 6, 1976, the Olympic Fine Arts
and Cultural Program also was honored with three large format stamps (684 –
686) also perforated 12 x 12˝. These to are very good looking stamps and
finding them used properly and in period will greatly enhance your collection.
The 20˘ high value stamp from the issue
honoring communications is shown on the right in figure 3.
Prominent sites of Montreal itself, host
city to the Olympics were the subject of another pair of high value stamps
issued March 12, 1976. Issued in miniature panes of eight like the earlier $1
and $2 sculpture stamps, the Montreal stamps are shown in figure 4
Figure 4 - Two more high value stamps issued by Canada for the 1976 Olympics: A $1 stamp showing Montreal’s Notre dame church and the towers of Place Ville Marie, and a $2 depictingdepicting the cities futuristic Olympic Stadium and Velodrome.
The $1 stamp (687) shows Notre dame church
superimposed on the gleaming high rise towers of downtown Montreal’s Place
Ville-Marie, printed in silver.
The $2 stamp (688) shows the futuristic
design of Montreal’s new stadium and Velodrome which cost a fortune to design.
Were never completed as illustrated, and contributed greatly to Montreal’s monumental post Olympic debt) Flags above the stadium are printed,
appropriately enough, in gold.
The final issue of the Montreal Olympic
series (as reckoned by most collectors) is a set of three that was placed on
sale June 18, 1976 (681-83). These stamps which show the Olympic ceremonies,
were perforated 13.
Figure 5 shows the 20˘ stamp from this
issue – Canada’s moment in the sun as team members carry the Olympic flag for
its lap around the stadium at the opening of the games.
Figure 5 - One of the high points in any Olympiad, here Canadian team members are shown proudly carrying the Olympic flag through the stadium during opening ceremonies on this 20˘ stamp of 1976.
But that’s only 27 stamps where are the
other eight stamps for the Olympic Games?
The final eight are two 1974 se-tenant
blocks of four 8˘ stamps promoting healthy family living. Referred to as Canada’s “Keep Fit” stamps, one block was issued in blue in March (629 – 634) and the other
in red (644 – 647).
What makes these stamps noteworthy ( and
includes them in our list of Montreal Olympic stamps) is the manner of their
engraving, in which the images are rendered in alternating horizontal and
The effect of this is that when you hold
the stamp in the middle with a pair of tongs with the top towards you the COJO
logo can clearly be seen.˘˘