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Shady Stamps: Why Would Kyrgyzstan Pay Homage To A Fetish Illustrator?


Bloggers have been speculating about a new set Kyrgyz postage stamps that appears to pay homage to the work of idiosyncratic fetish illustrator Eric Stanton.

Bloggers have been speculating about a new set Kyrgyz postage stamps that appears to pay homage to the work of idiosyncratic fetish illustrator Eric Stanton.

There are many comic-art aficionados who would welcome the publication of a set of postage stamps celebrating the legacy of cult artist Eric Stanton.

Most nations, however, would balk at franking personal letters and business correspondence with work by the notorious bondage and fetish illustrator, who specialized in depicting scenes of female dominance.

Stanton is very highly rated in some artistic circles and is even said to have been a source of inspiration for Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko.

Nonetheless, it is unlikely that artwork from underground comic-book classics such as "Rita's School of Discipline" or "Helga's Search for Slaves" would be an obvious choice of postage-stamp art for most national mail services.

Consequently, the blogosphere was set alight late last month amid reports that the predominantly Muslim country of Kyrgyzstan had decided to pay tribute to Stanton's oeuvre with a set of postage stamps in his honor.

Naturally, there was some intense speculation about what would motivate the conservative Central Asian republic to take such a move.

Or, as one blogger put it:

"Why the heck would a country issue postage stamps with the bizarre fetish illustrations of Eric Stanton on them? Especially a country called Krygyzstan??? (sic) I know there are some tough women over there, but really."

The most obvious answer, however, is that the stamps are total fakes.

The Kyrgyz markasy, a subdivision of the Transport and Communications Ministry that is responsible for issuing the country's postage stamps, has confirmed that the Stanton series is not authentic and is not included in any of its official philatelic catalogues.

According to the director of the Kyrgyz markasy, Abdykadyr Abdyllaev, it is actually very easy to check the validity of such items.

"Since 2008, each published Kyrgyz stamp is certified by the Universal Postal Union (UPU)," he told RFE/RL. "Therefore, every self-respecting collector can check the UPU database to see whether the stamp in question is genuine. With each [fake stamp] case we informed the UPU and all other relevant authorities."

Like most countries, Kyrgyzstan usually only publishes stamps commemorating prominent historical figures like athlete Kaba uulu Kojomkul or the country's sites of natural beauty, such as Sary-Chelek Lake.

However, the Central Asian republic is one of several countries to fall foul of a boom in fake stamps, which began to proliferate on the philately market with the collapse of the U.S.S.R., where profiteers took advantage of those confusing times to create a flood of fictitious stamps for supposedly independent ex-Soviet territories.

Since then, naive stamp collectors have been duped by unscrupulous vendors selling various counterfeit Kyrgyz stamps celebrating such unlikely figures as Harry Potter and Pope John Paul II.

Abdyllaev can only guess as to why Kyrgyzstan seems to be so popular with stamp forgers.

"Perhaps those who circulate fake Kyrgyz stamps think that collectors do not know about a country called Kyrgyzstan and this enables them to produce and sell fake Kyrgyz stamps," he says. "Each and every self-respecting stamp collector, however, will check the UPU and our database and numerous official websites with the official catalogue of all stamps published in each member state of the UPU."

Despite the ease with which the provenance of stamps can be verified, it appears that there is still no shortage of gullible buyers.

And the Stanton series is just the latest in a long line of lucrative forgeries.

A set of these stamps posted on eBay on September 29 has already been snapped up by a "collector" who presumably has more money than sense.

-- Coilin O'Connor, Bakyt Azimkanov

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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