Chronological Olympic Collections
If you are a traditionalist who likes a well laid out path to follow, then you may enjoy developing a chronological collection by Olympic year. If more than a century of Olympic Games is too daunting a task, then selecting a specific period may be preferable. The Olympic Games can be divided into roughly four “philatelic” periods:
Classical period: First Modern Olympic Games at Athens in 1896 to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Mint examples of these early issues, particularly from the 1896 and 1906 Games, may make quite a hole in your budget. But many stamps in acceptable condition can be had for reasonable prices. Added to the mix are the many intriguing Olympic postmarks and machine cancellations from the 1920s and 1930s.
Post-War period: During the years of World War II, Olympiads XII and XIII were cancelled. While there are some philatelic items related to the host cities of those cancelled Games, they are rare and highly sought after. The post-war period really begins with the 1948 London Games and continues to around 1960. It is easy to build a collection based on this period as fewer than 50 sets of stamps were issued. First day covers and some additional postmarks and cancellations will add further interest.
Modern period, 1960-1980: This period is characterized by soaring public interest in the Olympic Games, accompanied by virtually unrestrained growth in the number of new Olympic stamps issued by postal administrations which realized there was money to be made. This plethora of issues continued through the 1970s, so beware collecting for completeness in this era – it can be a daunting task.
Modern period, 1984-Present: The Los Angeles Games of 1984 showed that it was possible to hold this massive quadrennial sporting event without the host city going bankrupt. The key was corporate sponsorship. The IOC instituted procedures for approval of stamp issues that used the now tightly controlled Olympic Rings and word “Olympic.” While we still have a flood of new issues every four years, it is a comparative trickle compared with the deluge of new issues in the 1970s.
There are some other ways to place limits on a chronological Olympic collection.
Winter vs. Summer: Perhaps the summer Olympics isn’t your cup of tea, why not explore collecting the Olympic Winter Games? Take for example the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics: though there are only 27 different stamps issued worldwide for this snow and ice extravaganza, there are plenty of interesting items to add to your collection such as publicity cancellations, meters, special postmarks, and slogan machine cancels.
Host Nation: Collecting material from the host nation is one rewarding route. Host postal administrations can usually be counted on for a varied selection of stamps issued prior to and during an Olympic Games.
Participating Country: A second option is to collect stamps from only participating countries. But this approach tends to work best with the winter Games, as even the smallest nations now send an athlete or two to the summer Olympics.
Another approach to organizing your collection that limits the scope while still permitting you to sample from many Olympic periods is topical/thematic collecting.